The last time I mowed our reasonably sized lawns (nothing like yours, James!) I used the electric cylinder mower. Now if I were to cut them every few days, I would be fine with the lack of grunt from the electric, but I'd still have to put up with the damned cable dragging around and catching on the plants, taking the flowers off them.
So, I resolved to get a cheap petrol mower. It had to be a cylinder type because I like my stripes and I find rotaries to be vulgar.
Well, I hunted around and was sent to see overpriced broken down things, or no price forthcoming or even rotaries when I'd specified cylinder, so I gave up and resolved to continue with the electric thing.
Then, a new chum rung and actually gave me a decent price for his. It turned out to be an earlyish Suffolk Super Colt. Not sure what's super about it, but it is all made in England including the little 78cc sidevalve engine.
I knew it needed a new petrol tap due to leakage from the old one, so I ordered a new one which is a better rotary style tap, rather than a push-pull. The new one comes with a sintered brass filter which sits in the tank and a couple of feet of clear pipe. I also had to get a new exhaust gasket as the old one fell to bits when I removed the exhaust can for a clean. Put all together, new fuel from a new can and pulled. And pulled, and......then I realised I hadn't turned the nice new fuel tap on! Did that and pulled.....and pulled.....and.....Ah, I haven't tickled the carb., so I tickled till it leaked and pulled and pulled and....Nothing, not a peep.
So I removed the plug and tried that...no spark, the Suffolk complaint. This requires removal of the flywheel to clean and adjust the points. I have neither three hands or a flywheel puller.
So, I ring up son-in-law and ask for his help for half an hour. No problem...heart of gold, young Ian. He brings a gizmo that lights up if there's any chance of a spark. It didn't. It stayed dark. This is where the third hand came in. Whilst Ian gave the removed and lightly re-fitted crankshaft nut a sharp crack with a copper faced Thor hammer, I twisted a stubby screwdriver in the convenient gap behind the flywheel. Pop!, it just tumbled off.
All reading on forums had led me to understand that the Suffolk engines used a coil and condenser. Knowing how unreliable those components had become these days, I feared the worst, but on removal of the flywheel we were faced with a large black blob with magnets sticking out of it! We had a magneto. The whole thing was satisfyingly clean, but clearly hadn't turned for a long time. Magnet shaped marks were on the inside rim of the flywheel and some powdery crud was all round the points. Using a feeler gauge to further clean the gap, after we'd ascertained the lobe that operates the points, we then slid a folded piece of 1000 grit wet and dry twixt the points and gently sanded this way and that. Checking the admittedly rather tapered gap we decided that the average gap was, more than likely 20 thou. on the feeler gauge, so left it well alone.
Put everything back, tightened nuts and bolts, turned on fuel, tickled, choke on and pulled the cord. It fired and ran! In fact it nearly went off across the lawn on its own! Very shortly it ceased to turn its cutting blades and then stalled. We checked it for stiffness. Much too much effort to hand turn things, so off with the guards and we found the chain from engine to cutters was way too tight. We loosened it and oiled the chain and things felt much better. Started (no problem) and off it went, but kept stalling. It transpired that my efforts to find a motor mower had resulted in the grass being a wee bit higher than ideal. So we adjusted the front roller down and the machine finally trundled along cutting a beautiful fine grade of cuttings.
Problem is.....the engine needs maximum choke to run, then it runs fast, but won't answer the throttle. Close the choke and fiddle with the throttle lever and it dies. Now, apparently this means that the settings are lean, potentially dangerous, so all that remains is for experiments in further, deeper cleaning of the carburettor and adjustment of it's needle valves until we have a smooth idle and some degree of control from the throttle lever.
BUT....we have a mower that now starts, runs and mows. Once I can do the whole lawn it will look wonderful! But before that, I have to pick all the mushrooms on the front lawn and carefully get rid of them without spreading their spores further still.
Older mowers, with English bits are a joy. The engines, once adjusted and looked after are bullet proof. The rest of the machine will have been made of Sheffield steel and therefore will last forever.
Over Winter when, I assume, the grass will give me a break for a while, I will strip it and repaint, so it looks better than new, next Spring.
And then I will start looking for a British Anzani Lawnrider.