Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Vintage Lawnmower in Smithsonian Museum

I'm a sucker for an enthusiast of cool machinery.  Mostly this means classic cars, but I also have an appreciation for certain motorcycles (BSA, Norton) and generally fine or clever stuff.  Here's a case in point.

I spotted this incredibly cool power mower, probably dating from the 1940s, in the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  This is a classic example of a functional design.  I did a brief amount of research on lawn mowers and found that one Edwin Budding invented the 'cylinder,' or reel, mower in 1827.  In America, Colonel Edwin George began manufacture of gas-powered mowers in 1919.

This particular mower in the Smithsonian is pretty neat.  It's branded "Pennsylvania" and combines the classic reel mower with the legendary Briggs and Stratton air-cooled one-cylinder engine in a simple, rugged (well it looks rugged, I couldn't actually try it), and easy to maintain design.

If you're familiar with this type of engine on a rotary mower, you'll see that the engine is turned 90 degrees from that mounting location to drive the blade.

The piston goes up and down vertically, and the crankshaft connects to a small pulley on the side of the engine.

Then a belt drives a larger pulley (a higher gear to increase the drive speed), and that second pulley drives a shaft with a sprocket which in turn drives a chain connected to the blade.  Simple, clever, and super easy to service.

The only drive part that would need any sort of regular replacement is the belt off the crank.  The chain would last for years, and the engine itself lasts for decades.  I had a Toro with a B&S engine that was still going after 35 years.  I only junked it because the handle was rusted in half.  The engine would have easily gone another decade.

Here's the service instruction plate on the engine.  Everything you need to know is right there.

I'd bet all the money in my wallet that with some minimum tweaking, this puppy would fire right up and be able to cut my lawn.  A great testament to a timeless design, good engineering, and quality construction.

Today's Safety Nuts would have a field day about the exposed drive belt and chain.  I say, well, don't touch 'em when it's running!  I suppose it could throw a broken belt or chain, so then you just put a shroud over them.

What a wonderful piece of machinery.

 
 
 
 

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  • Anonymous said...
    April 12, 2013 at 8:41 PM
    dude i have this exact lawnmower!!! its missing the air cleaner assyembly. the cables are rusted froze. i cleaned the fuel pickup tube.(that by the nway just goes right down in the tank. there nis no "carb bowl or float" very clever just using an adjustable mixture jet. i got it running after freeing a stuck open intake valve.IT MOWEDMY YARD AWESOME! but ni need it sharpened! LOL

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