Infernal combustion

Husband has always considered it his job to mow the lawn. Most of the yard is flower beds, vegetable gardens, and strawberry and raspberry patches. There isn’t much to mow.

I usually mowed the lawn when I lived with my parents after about Grade 6. It was easy. The lawnmower was always well maintained by my father, who loved tinkering and was very mechanically minded. I, too, am very mechanically minded and love to tinker, but while he taught me basic car maintenance, like how to change the oil on my car, Dad never taught me the finer points of small engine maintenance.

My husband is a very scholarly fellow who can write and reason with the best of them, but who was never taught how to fix things. His father was very unhandy. So was his uncle, who somehow was an engineer in a nuclear power plant in Ohio. (He had trouble replacing blades in his own razor.)

We have not had good luck with our mowers. I imagine sitting in the garage all winter without any preparation or winterizing, and then being expected to burst into action in the spring with just a little oil added isn’t the best way to deal with these engines. Last weekend, Husband tried to mow, but the thick smoke pouring from the mower was so noxious for us and the neighbors that he stopped in disgust. We had even had it looked at last fall by a small engine repair guy, but it was not helpful.

We made a trip to Menards and Husband bought an old fashion reel mower, what I would call a push mower. Today he assembled it all by himself while I was at work, and mowed our lawn. No more smoke. No more anxiety every spring if the lawnmower will work. We just have to figure out how to sharpen the blades.

How are you at fixing things? How do you maintain your lawnmower? What are your experiences with reel mowers?

32 thoughts on “Infernal combustion”

  1. reel mowers are great but sharpening them is a challenge. if you don’t run over sticks and wire it should be ok.
    if you allow your lawn mower to run itself out of gas in the fall before you put it away it will start in the spring when you put new gas in. if you forget and leave the gas in a new spark plug and a splash of starter fluid in the spark plug hole will usually do it. if it doesn’t fix it the carburetor need attention. i used to boil it in a pressure cooker to get the junk out but a guy who knows told me putting an air compressor hose on the gas line will blow it clear
    i love feeling successful after a repair but it always takes longer than expected. you are an expert the second time you do it so you have to cut yourself some slack the first time
    i have been enjoying the blog but havn’t been able to get my entries to post because i write them then go to deliver the next guys groceries and they disappear. i had a ditty written for bens farm/idea thing yesterday i wrote on fir a while then it went to vapors
    i hate it when that happens
    my wife would say i’m good at meaning to get it done when i set it in the gonna get to it pile but not great at getting it back up too quickly
    i’d love to be able to hang out in my workshop garage and do stuff
    maybe when i get old …

    Liked by 6 people

  2. I am fair at fixing things. What I have learned over the years is it the higher the stakes if I fail makes it no fun. So things like the hundred-year-old plumbing in my bathroom, I just called the plumber. I think I told you guys already about last summer replacing a post on my fence in the backyard? It got done but it was torture. The second post I called a professional.

    The fun thing that’s happened here in terms of lawnmowing is that YA has decided that she likes cutting the grass in back.I think part of this is that we have a new lawn mower. My 30-year-old Toro finally bit the dust and we replaced it with an electric. She cuts the grass without me even having to ask her!

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Oh yes. I got that mower when I first moved into this house and used it all through these years. Over the years it got less and less use as there’s got to be less and less grass. When I couldn’t get it started anymore and it had holes in the in a couple of places, I put it out on the boulevard with a note saying I couldn’t get it to work anymore. It was gone within the hour so hopefully it’s getting used somewhere else by someone who can tinker better than I can.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. One thing Husband successfly “fixed” yesterday was sourdough bread recipe that he tinkered with to make two utterly perfect loaves.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    I am a pretty good fixer when I need to do that, but I am really good at making something out of a little bit of nothing (i.e. clothing, curtains, pillow covers) which is a family trait. I had a reel mower when I lived in St. Paul where the lawn was the size of a postage stamp. (This house was around the corner and across the street from Steve’s house on Juliet). The mower would sometimes balk when pushed, but once I got it started it cut the grass.

    The more memorable reel mower was the one Grandpa had at “the house in town.” This was the house our Grandparents moved to from the farm upon retirement. This yard was large for a town lot, but small compared to the farm yard where they lived for years. Grandpa hauled the old, old, never-maintained reel mower out of the barn and took it to town. It was rusty and never lubricated or sharpened. Maintenance of machinery or relationships was just not Grandpa’s thing. So he expected the grandchildren, of which he had many, to mow the grass with this thing. I could not even move it and I never successfully cut one blade of grass with it. Their yard was never overgrown, so someone cut the grass with some mower somewhere, but it was not me.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. We have a push mower that was in the garage when we moved in, bless their hearts – since this is a postage stamp size yard. We had one when I was a kid, too, and I love the sound they make.

    I am pretty handy if I put my mind to it – have fixed minor glitches on a manual typewriter once, and my very simple old sewing machine. But like Jacque, I enjoy that “making something out of nothing” if I have the time to be creative.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I bought a reel mower once that required some assembly. I brought it to Sears for some help when I couldn’t get a couple of the parts installed properly. There were two little rings, a little bit open on one side, that had to be forced onto a groove in the the posts on each end of the roller assembly. I kept trying to force them into position and they kept sproinging away from me. The guy that helped me with it said those are called Jesus rings, because when they do that, you say “Jesus! There goes another one!”

    They are also called retaining rings, when they are behaving as they should.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. In lighting, on ‘C-clamps’ (a thingy that holds lights onto a pipe; not like the shop C-clamp you’re thinking of) there is a little bolt called a ‘F**k-it’ nut’ because that’s what you say whenever you have to adjust it. 99% of the time no one does.
      Newer clamps have eliminated that bolt…

      Liked by 3 people

  7. I used to be pretty good at fixing things, then I married Mr. Fix-it-all. His core beliefs about what women can and cannot do are pretty outdated and bear no resemblance to reality. He IS pretty handy, I’ll give him that. What’s more, even when he has trepidation about something, he doesn’t acknowledge it until after the project is done. Sometimes years after it’s done.

    I love reel mowers. They are a thing of beauty when they are sharp and well maintained. At one point in my life I was a sucker for reel mowers at yard sales. Mr Fix-It-All asked if I intended to open a museum, I had so many. The trouble was that most of them had been sharpened so many times that there was nothing left of the blade. No matter how much you adjusted the position of the blade, it just couldn’t reach the grass.

    As a teen it was my job to cut our lawn with a reel mower. For this I was paid the princely sum of 50 øre. Occasionally, I hired a neighbor boy to do it for me, and paid him 25 øre, but mostly I did it myself. I still feel a little guilty about hiring Alex. He was a fat kid and a bully. In retrospect I wonder if he was teased or in other ways felt left out, I never really Knew him or hung out with him.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. My experience with reel mowers has been with the old heavy ones. They work best when you have mostly open unobstructed yard so that when you get moving you can make a full pass. In a yard with a lot of trees or beds or irregular-shaped segments it’s hard to get up to speed before you have to stop. That may be less of a problem with newer reel mowers. I had an electric mower for while. It worked fine until it didn’t. The battery gave out and I couldn’t get a comparable replacement.

    I don’t do much with small engines. I empty out the gas in the fall (or spring in the case of the snowblower), change the oil once in a while and the spark plug when necessary but usually they don’t give me much trouble.

    I try to fix most of the things around the house myself, if they’re worth fixing. I’ve never had to hire a plumber or electrician except once years ago when I had the service to the house increased.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Hi- I fix a lot of things. The beauty of YouTube these days is that you can look up anything before (or in the middle of) fixing it.
    Rule 1 of fixing stuff is you can’t be afraid to try things. But knowing when to stop before you break something is a valuable and tricky part of rule 1.
    As tim said, the second time always goes faster.

    Last night I replaced the transmission / hydraulic reservoir and changed the transmission / hydraulic oil and filter on our lawn mower. Today I’ll sharpen the knives, grease everything and put the mower back on.
    I’ve never taken a small engine fully apart either, but I’ve taken a lot of carburetors apart. Beware of springs and other small parts. Pay attention and take photos if needed.

    One of the theaters I work at has a reel mower. The grass is just a narrow boulevard, and a narrow strip next to the building so it isn’t much. I used the push mower once last summer. (It’s just not my job to cut the grass there). But the guy who volunteered to cut the grass this year asked me to look at the mower because “It pushes so much harder than the one I used as a kid”.
    Well, hmm, Maybe it’s because you’re 75 yrs old now?? I didn’t ask him that… but I thought it!!
    I have no experience with them so I don’t know if it should push easier or not…

    Liked by 4 people

  10. OT – This just in:
    “He was beloved by millions of parents and children. Eric Carle, author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and dozens of other children’s books, has passed away.”

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Renee, perhaps by now you have looked up reel mowers on YouTube. I grew up with them, I love them.
    Later……well you know what, I started describing how to sharpen one. I was here ages, and still was in the preparation stage, you no doubt HAVE looked it up on YouTube, and easily watched how to do it, that’s why no one has attempted to tell you. I made it sound far more complex than it is, as verbal instructions tend to. But n the unlikely event you still need to know, I’ll start again.


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