Sunday, November 22, 2009

Adventures with Lawn Equipment

I think a guy flipped me off, today.

I was driving my contraption down the strip of grass alongside my road, in front of my house, picking up the last bits of leaves, which I'd blown there with my walk-behind leaf blower, through the slats of my picket fence. Just the remaining scraps, really, and 90% of their shredded remains were being captured inside the box on my trailer. The rest, along with some grass clippings, but surely nothing heavier were being blown out through the slightly bowed-out rear door on the box (an unfortunate shortcoming of the design of the current door, which isn't reinforced along its full height). Possibly miffed that he had to drive his car through some blowing leaf bits, he slowed, extended his arm across his passenger's chest and I think gave me the universally accepted North American symbol of contempt. Or maybe he was just saying "Hello." In fairness, I'm not certain.

But assuming he gave me the bird, it's funny what makes people indignant. This car no doubt travels down the highway at 70-80 mph, with sand, stones, errant bits of hardware and truck tire bits plinking off the paintwork at speed. In that context, are some airborne grass and leaves, driven through at maybe 20 mph, really cause for outrage? I was, after all, vacuuming the leaves up, not blowing them into the road and calling them removed (which would have been obnoxious and deserving of said gesture).

Anyway, no harm done. And in truth, this does highlight one of the shortcomings of my leafer box design -- it's not particularly well sealed. That's one of the things I need to fix for the next time I use it, whenever that proves to be. Here's a list of stuff I should improve upon:
  • Stiffen the rear door. This will be easy -- I just need to run some strapping down the full length of each side of the door, and then put an angle brace on the top to connect it to the strapping already running across the top. This should keep the door from bowing out and letting so many leaf bits escape. And whatever cracks remain should seal pretty quickly with grass and leaves.
  • Better door hinges. The ones I used are flimsy, and I need something stronger, along with a better mounting approach.
  • A better top seal than I've got today. Today I have a length of strapping running along the top of each side panel, and I screw the top panel into the edges of the strapping (an error prone process, given how narrow it is. The top is relatively flimsy and blows up with air pressure. If I relocate the strapping to the top panel as a stiffener along each internal edge, and then mount a 2x3 to the top edge of each side panel, just underneath the relocated strapping, I'll end up with both a stiffer top and a wider screw target for reassembly.
  • Better seals around the top vent and input chute. The T-shirts I'm using work great as seals and dust filters, but I need to sandwich them between layers of strapping to make them a bit tighter.
  • Brackets to hold the truck loader in place on the trailer. I just strap it down, now, and it drifts a bit -- sliding left and right with vibration (mostly right). Not a big deal, but I'd rather it moved around less.

And that's really about it. Otherwise, it's proven to be a pretty effective design (though the word "design" may be a bit grandiose for something that was cobbled together mostly by eye). The tractor needs some love, too:

  • A ring job. Or a new engine. Neither one really makes much sense from a cost-benefit perspective, of course. Oil is much cheaper. But I don't like blowing the stuff up into the sky, and I really don't want to cook the engine on this tractor
  • Some patching of the mower deck. Fiberglass cloth and resin should do it. Though maybe I should buy a welder and learn a new skill?
  • A new transmission brake strap. The one on there is feeble at best. Though I have to say that I didn't otherwise miss the independent brakes from the 430 the past few weekends. The tractor climbed just fine and never lost traction.
  • Repair to the lift. There's something broken in the linkage. Not sure what, but I'm guessing it's a worn or broken pivot bolt.
  • New drag wheels for the deck. I just need a pair of metal mower wheels to replace the ones on there (one of which is nylon and the other of which really belongs on my grill).
  • A new tube in the left rear tire. It loses air in a week's time. I suppose I could Slime it first, to see what that achieves.

Over the holiday weekend, I'll see to some of these things (mostly the box upgrades) before tearing it all apart and stashing the components until next year. Or until I move -- whichever comes first. As I disassemble the leafer, I need to use some care in organizing the contents of my barn. With any luck, I'll be able to fit everything on the main floor. I'm trying to empty the basement out, because if I sell it after snow lands, getting stuff out of the basement then will be much, much harder.

I'll also spend some time working on my little $200, 20" edging mower, assuming the parts I ordered today arrive by then. I've got major surging going on, which some Googling indicated is due to a deteriorated fuel diaphragm. It was a great mower the first season I had it, but it's been useless this year. Parts are on order, including a new oil cap for the leafer.

All for now,


No comments: