Saturday, July 3, 2010

Piston broke...

Actually, it was worn rings. But I couldn't resist the old pun, which accurately describes my status a good deal of the time from age 17 to about 21 or 22.

The smaller of our two lawn-mowing devices had started blowing smoke. This was a problem for us, since there is one small stretch of lawn in front of the house which we like to keep neatly trimmed. Aimee likes to play with the dogs, and I like to sit in the lawn chair and drink a cold soda or beer after work there.

Most of the rest of the time we use our sheep to keep the grass short. Even that hadn't worked for us that well earlier this summer, since the weather up until recently was perfect for grass growing and all of our paddocks and lawns had gotten away from us. So earlier I dismantled, refitted and reassembled the old Bolen's lawn tractor mowing deck, and made it work a good deal better although it still tends to hit dirt from time to time.

But while I was working on that problem, the little mower started to blow smoke pretty badly. I priced up new ones, and also looked around for a second-hand one, and didn't much like the prices I saw. Piston broke may not be quite the correct moniker for the Womerlippis these days, but with all these last minute air tickets to the UK for family emergencies, one item of the couplet is at least close to the truth.

So on a whim I tore down the mower one afternoon, to discover that the primary visible wear was on the piston rings. Bearings, valve train, and piston and cylinder seemed fine. The price for new rings from Briggsy Stratton was $25 including shipping, which was a good deal cheaper than the $180 required for a new 4-horse mower, or the $50-100 required to take over someone else's, probably worn-out, secondhand mower.

Remembering my earlier adage, "read my lips: no new equipment," which will surely haunt me the rest of my days as I keep rebuilding and rebuilding all these sorry machines until I die, I opted to try a new set of rings.

This was almost purely recreational engineering, I have to say. As engines go, lawn mowers are light and easy and require little in the way of special tools. I had to drill out one bolt that attached the engine to the mower deck, and I needed to adapt a 4-inch hose clamp for use as a piston ring compressor, but other than that it came apart and went back together quite nicely.

Other people do jigsaw puzzles.

What was funny was what Brian at the hardware store said as I bought the quart of clean oil that was needed to refill the sump:

"I didn't know anyone still rebuilt those things."

But some folks do. Mostly old men in their garages, I notice, here in Maine. I can tell you of two or three small lawn mower businesses within thirty miles of here where an older, probably retired, guy tinkers with lawn machines for a business.

I must be getting old.

Anyway, it didn't quite start on the first pull, and it ran too fast for a minute until I adjusted the carb, and now it needs a new spark plug wire end because the old one falls off, but it runs and doesn't blow smoke.

Funny too, how much better the blade cuts when it's on the right way around! I can't remember if I ever removed that blade, or if it hadn't been touched since we got the machine second hand from a co-worker at the college who was retiring and moving into an apartment, but it sure was on backwards.

Since we bought the mower for $25 and I replaced the pull cord once for about $5 and the piston rings cost $25, we're now $55 into this thing.

I'm cheap enough to say I think I need at least a couple more summers out of it now.

But we'll get the new spark plug wire end. I'm not that cheap.

Aime now has names for the piglets. According to the WIC/names (ex RAF types will immediately guess what this acronym stands for), they're now titled after the three Roman fates.

Here's your obligatory wikipedia link so you can see what they are. Of course, no one save Aimee can tell them apart right now, so I wouldn't bother if I were you.

As I mentioned to sister Carol earlier, I'm not sure what it says about the Womerlippis that you need a wikipedia reference to understand the names we give our piglets.

Since WIC/names was working on triplets in literature and mythology, I had offered up "Faith, Hope and Charity," but the authorities demurred, on the obvious grounds that the ultimate and inevitable end would be that Mick slaughtered and ate Faith, Hope, and Charity.

Which is worse, being piston broke or killing faith, hope and charity?

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

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