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post #1 of 13 Old 08-16-2019, 10:00 PM Thread Starter
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Lawn Tractor 46in Deck vs Bush Hog

This is just a general question that came to mind recently.

I've used my JD180 with hardened blades for many years. I recently shaped up the edge of a wooded area adjacent to the lawn by cutting back small branches, soft vines, twigs and general overgrowth on a variety of large bushes to clean up the area...but also to give me more clearance so the brush wouldn't clobber me and knock me off the mower.

Given the recent heat wave...I just wasn't that inclined pick all that stuff up to haul away....instead, I put the 180 to use and chopped it all up.

Wasn't a problem...just an unusual application for the 180.

Is there a blade drive difference between a bush hog and a lawn tractor to do that type of work. I ask because I'd like not a ruin the mower deck if abusing it like a liteweight bush hog is suicide to the equipment.

Thanks!

Dan Lazy Turner
Conyers Ga
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post #2 of 13 Old 08-16-2019, 10:49 PM
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Re: Lawn Tractor 46in Deck vs Bush Hog

Not sure what the difference is, but I've done what you did with my JD 48" deck and my Cyclone Rake. Also each fall, I have a lot of Poplar tree sticks and twigs that come down in the yard. They are up to about half an inch in diameter, and can be couple feet long, that I run the mower over. It just sucks up almost everything except some 3/4" or larger stuff. It doesn't do any damage to the deck that I can see. The JD deck is pretty heavy steel and the blades are a lot thicker than standard deck blades.

I'd guess that there might be more stress on spindle bearings so weekly greasing is mandatory. If they are not greased bearings, then you might be taking a risk by subjecting them to heavy matter on a regular basis.

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post #3 of 13 Old 08-16-2019, 11:06 PM
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Re: Lawn Tractor 46in Deck vs Bush Hog

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Originally Posted by Dan Turner View Post
Is there a blade drive difference between a bush hog and a lawn tractor to do that type of work. I ask because I'd like not a ruin the mower deck if abusing it like a liteweight bush hog is suicide to the equipment.
Other than the blades being MUCH thicker on a brush hog, the primary difference between a brush hog and mower deck is the way the blades are mounted.

On a brush hog instead of one blade on the spindle there are actually two half-blades which are free to pivot on the mounting bolt. This allows them to pivot out of the way and absorb some of the energy as they beat on thick brush. A conventional mower blade is rigid and when it encounters something difficult to cut there is nothing to absorb the energy.

A brush hog also typically has a "stump jumper" disc in the center of the spindle to allow it to ride up over stumps and other immovable objects. A conventional mower deck will risk breaking the spindle when it hits a stump.

See photos below of a conventional mower deck and a brush hog.
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post #4 of 13 Old 08-17-2019, 06:18 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Lawn Tractor 46in Deck vs Bush Hog

Thanks JG!!

I did not know about the bush hog set up....but it makes sense with the pivoted mounts rather than the hard mount single lengths on multiple spindles. I had recently replaced the spindle, mandrel in the center of a 46in JD mower deck. Would have been an easy replacement with the exception the 30 year old mounting bolts weren't willing to give up their jobs without a lot of effort on my part....and time. The cost for each assembly was just around $90...plus carriage bolts & nuts.

At this age...I oughta just let her continue doing what she's been doing very well with the grass. The two photos spell it out for me. Thanks again!

Dan Turner
Conyers, Ga
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post #5 of 13 Old 08-17-2019, 06:45 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Lawn Tractor 46in Deck vs Bush Hog

Thanks!

I can probably get away with some of what I was doing....but keep tabs on the wobbling blades with bearings on the way out.

I had recently replaced one of the three spindle assemblies that destructed not too long after mowing through the clippings from the edge of brush and bushes. It failed pretty fast...but must have been ready to go as after I shut down the PTO to take back to the garage; parked her outside...went into the shop to get something, but found ball bearings on the floor where I usually park it.

The time and expense to replace that one mandrel raised my question about chopping anything up but fescue or bermuda. The failed spindle had sheared a large chunk of the side of the chuck where the blade is mounted...enough to let the bearings drop out.

I don't think the brush that I was able to cut from the overgrowth on bushes...cut with reciprocating hedge clippers btw...would do that kind of damage. Having said that, there was the only serious blade strike that I've ever put it through when I crossed over a ground level street main valve cover what is low enough for me to have cut all these years. However this time was a bit different as one of the drift wheels pushed down on the cylinder shaped valve box and the other side of the cast iron lid popped up right into the middle blade. That was something to experience...once.<G

the end result...everything looked good even though the impact was enough to spin out the bolt to allow the blade to sail away about 10 feet. That "Gator" blade was dead...but the deck and spindle appearance was solid, but I get the idea that the spindle chuck cracked when it happened two years ago and finally gave up everything on the inside of mandrel and chases a few weeks ago. I wish the spindles had zerks to service greasing up...would make life easier.

I don't see chopping up minor stuff like clippings or small branches that could be chopped down by a gas hedge clipper on a stick to be a major concern as long as I check the blades for wobble every so often. If I lose another spindle...I'll find another way to take the lazy way out rather than picking up and hauling small clippings away.
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post #6 of 13 Old 08-17-2019, 08:29 AM
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Re: Lawn Tractor 46in Deck vs Bush Hog

jgayman has it, and one other difference is blade speed; a bush hog's blades typically rotate more slowly than a mower. Their cutting ability is dependent more on inertia of the much heavier blades than on a lighter, sharper blade spinning faster. A mower deck does have a small shock absorbing ability, through the deck belt, either in slippage of the belt on the sheave or by the belt tensioner. A bush hog has no belt between the drive source and the blade, so the blades being free to 'give' or bounce out of the way is all it has to cushion driveline shock, unless you have a slip clutch or shear pin, either is highly recommended.

I've used my mower deck often for clearing light brush, nothing bigger than my ring finger. You do have to be more careful that you don't run over a hidden stump and damage a blade or the mower's transmission. When cutting brush, I always keep my deck as high as it will go.

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post #7 of 13 Old 08-17-2019, 08:31 AM
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Re: Lawn Tractor 46in Deck vs Bush Hog

I dont run over wood with my lawn mower. The potential repair cost to me doesnt justify doing that to a finish mower. I think your hedge clipper rule is a good one and largely what I follow as I dont like to rake any more than the next guy. I do think the far bigger risk though is any time your lawn mower leaves the lawn.

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post #8 of 13 Old 08-17-2019, 08:49 AM
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Re: Lawn Tractor 46in Deck vs Bush Hog

I have been working on clearing about 1/4 acre for the past two or three years and I have to tell you, my little Poulan Pro 38" deck did a lot of "brush hogging" in the early stages of that process. Had I a lot of money invested in that machine I wouldn't have attempted it, but I paid just $100 for it so I took my chances. I ran over anything that would bend enough to let me do so, making a heck of a noise in the process, but it got 'er done. I ended up breaking one blade on this machine after they finally bent enough to be weak. The bearings are all still fine.
Not sure I'd suggest doing it like I did if you have a nice machine or deck though.

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post #9 of 13 Old 08-17-2019, 09:14 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Lawn Tractor 46in Deck vs Bush Hog

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Originally Posted by KHodges View Post
jgayman has it, and one other difference is blade speed; a bush hog's blades typically rotate more slowly than a mower. Their cutting ability is dependent more on inertia of the much heavier blades than on a lighter, sharper blade spinning faster. A mower deck does have a small shock absorbing ability, through the deck belt, either in slippage of the belt on the sheave or by the belt tensioner. A bush hog has no belt between the drive source and the blade, so the blades being free to 'give' or bounce out of the way is all it has to cushion driveline shock, unless you have a slip clutch or shear pin, either is highly recommended.

I've used my mower deck often for clearing light brush, nothing bigger than my ring finger. You do have to be more careful that you don't run over a hidden stump and damage a blade or the mower's transmission. When cutting brush, I always keep my deck as high as it will go.

I've chipped up enough small dia. limbs in the way...but most of the time they were in the way because they were rotted enough to fall off of the branch nearby to the edge of the lawn vs a ring finger sized green.

Neither type slow the deck down and pretty much turn into a mulchable sized debris trail. Anything still in the way on the next cut...is pretty much chewed down.

A few years ago I chose to pull out my 30 gallon pull behind sprayer while doing the early Summer hosing of the Round Up. I'm a corner lot with some acreage so I used a bit on the curb line where the concrete and asphalt mate up but leave enough of a crack for weeds to settle in...about 1500 feet of curb, driveway joints, around the foundation....as well as hosing down poison ivy and kudzu starting to creep. I had about 5 gallons of the concentrated strength...so I hosed down around the brush line to stop anything from progressing forward or up.

As soon as I finished that perimeter of about 500ft....I get whacked on the back of the head by a POed wife who ran down to stop me when she saw what I was doing. Yelling and making a scene...with my ear plugs in, I didn't hear a thing...which only made her more mad. I'm not sure why she cherished those bushes and brush but I got the impression NOT to herbicide that area again.

I could understand if I went in and hosed down her garden....but the brush line? Anyhow...fast forward to recent time, what grew back I have to trim down. NOT for shape mind you...only to protect my arm, bare knees and face from trying to do my job in cutting the grass up to the brush line. I'm sure we've all bent down to get around a lowering branch only to sit back up and get that branch hidden behind the lowering branch smack in the face or chest. I know every sq.ft. of the lot....but some of these things sneak up on you between seasons.

I remember fussing through cedar branches that stretched out beyond the bed...with my head down so I didn't catch one of those spears in an eye. By the time I lifted my head back up....WHACK...right into a limb that wasn't going to move....so it made ME move by knocking me off the mower. The seat switch did what it's supposed to do and stopped the blades but I still had to get up and chase down that runaway Deere.<G

Be that as it may....I'm thinking the mower can handle the junk brush, twigs and small dia. shoots. If the hedge trimmers won't cut it....the John Deere doesn't need to deal with it. Saw it off and toss it in the middle of the brush and move on. The 1988-89 JD 180 is built like a tank...it just has the age on it that gives me a little concern....but if recip. hedge trimmers can cut it down...the 180 can chew it up.

Thanks!

Dan Turner
Conyers, Ga
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post #10 of 13 Old 08-17-2019, 09:22 AM
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Re: Lawn Tractor 46in Deck vs Bush Hog

Long story short, a brush hog is MUCH heavier built, and the front is wide open so it doesn’t just bend or stop the machine when you encounter a large object - it just by design destroys whatever you hit. My rule of thumb with my 5’ brush hog is about 3” diameter woody stuff or smaller.
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post #11 of 13 Old 08-17-2019, 09:27 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Lawn Tractor 46in Deck vs Bush Hog

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Originally Posted by kklowell View Post
I have been working on clearing about 1/4 acre for the past two or three years and I have to tell you, my little Poulan Pro 38" deck did a lot of "brush hogging" in the early stages of that process. Had I a lot of money invested in that machine I wouldn't have attempted it, but I paid just $100 for it so I took my chances. I ran over anything that would bend enough to let me do so, making a heck of a noise in the process, but it got 'er done. I ended up breaking one blade on this machine after they finally bent enough to be weak. The bearings are all still fine.
Not sure I'd suggest doing it like I did if you have a nice machine or deck though.
This one is paid off many times over from the purchase price 30 years ago. It's still a brute...just old and cantankerous at times. The hardest part about working on it...it's just flat out heavy. Every component has some bulk to it. If I had the proper shop...life would be a lot easier, but so far garage floor Gomers gets it done each time....with a lot of cussing the John Deere name. The cussing stops once I'm finished with the fix and crank her up.

I'll probably keep the 180 on the grass and just drop the new growth straight down and chew it up.

thanks!

Dan Turner
Conyers, Ga
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post #12 of 13 Old 08-17-2019, 09:34 AM
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Re: Lawn Tractor 46in Deck vs Bush Hog

Bush Hog® is a registered trademark of the Bush Hog company: Over 65 years of proven performance!

Brush Hog seems to be a more generic name for rotary cutters made by other companies.

A lawn mower deck is neither and for the reasons posted above should not be used as such. Aside from a few odd sticks and twigs hidden by grass, the most I've run over is some blackberry vines that had already been cut down with a rotary cutter field and brush mower.

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post #13 of 13 Old 08-17-2019, 03:54 PM
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Re: Lawn Tractor 46in Deck vs Bush Hog

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Bush Hog® is a registered trademark of the Bush Hog company: Over 65 years of proven performance!

Brush Hog seems to be a more generic name for rotary cutters made by other companies.

A lawn mower deck is neither and for the reasons posted above should not be used as such. Aside from a few odd sticks and twigs hidden by grass, the most I've run over is some blackberry vines that had already been cut down with a rotary cutter field and brush mower.
You are correct. It's like calling all facial tissue "Kleenex".

I guess a more generic term would be "Rough Cut Mower" or "Rotary Cutter".
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