Old Stuff

My riding lawnmower is deep into its second career. It worked for many years as the mower for the cemetery up the road from our house. It is a John Deere 210, which is a vintage mower by anyone’s definition. About 15 years ago, the mower had enough hours on it that the cemetery association decided to sell it and buy a new one. Through an intermediary, I learned about it, bought it, and brought it home. I’ve had my issues with it, but it has served me faithfully for all these years.

The mower deck has taken a beating, however. Mowing a cemetery can not be an easy life for a riding mower, but mowing the two acres of roughly landscaped lawn surrounding our home is harder. The large wheels of the rider bounce over the bumps, but the little wheels on the mower deck rattle over every bump. The back wheel next to the discharge on the deck has been repaired several times, and unfortunately broke on me about half way through my mowing job the other day. I drove the mower into the garage, jacked it up, and decided to try a quick weld to repair it. I tried to keep mowing, but it broke again almost right away.

So I put it back in the garage and decided I’d tackle it again in the morning. When I jacked it back up again the next day, I decided I couldn’t assess the problem without removing the deck and putting it on the bench. This is a big job that is best avoided unless necessary, but I decided to tackle it. When I got it off and cleaned up, I saw a puddle of bubble gum welding on the offending joint. It appears to have been repaired numerous times, and each time broken again. I had to get the cutting torch out and cut away some of the previous repairs before I could even bend the wheel up into the position it was supposed to be in. Once I did that, a jagged gap opened up in the metal which was too wide to bridge with welding.

At this point, I reassessed my position. A serious repair was required here involving hours of labor. On the other hand, a new John Deere zero radius riding mower costs over $4,000. Looking at my old mower, I figured the dealer would be doing me a favor if he gave me $250 for it on a trade in. That clinched it for me. I have almost nothing to lose by attempting this repair, and will gain $4,000 if I can keep it working.

I found a scrap piece of 3/4″ angle iron I could heat and shape into a patch for the broken place on the deck. Using the torch and angle grinder, I smoothed off the previous 5 repairs well enough that the patch would lay relatively flat. I then welded the patch in place. I flipped the deck over, and welded the patch from the top through the crack. Then I added a small chunk of 1/2″ rod to the piece of tube that allowed the wheel to adjust. I think this last addition was what will do the trick. The critical stress area of this wheel is now supported below and above, allowing a transfer of compression and tension that should make this repair tougher than the original.

I finished cutting the grass, and swear the mower was working better than it had in many a year. Oh yes, and while I had it on the bench, I noticed I’d installed the blades backwards the last time I’d sharpened them. Doh!

I do like my shop and the tools I’ve accumulated. Had this mower been new, I would not have attempted this repair, and would not have gained the satisfaction I did. It suddenly made sense to me to try to keep the old equipment going. It is good for the environment to keep serviceable equipment running as long as possible, and good for the soul if you can occasionally use your tools to repair something that might otherwise wind up in the dumps.

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