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Discussion Starter #1
Hi,

I want to ask general questions about lawn mowers of the post-Golden Age period (1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s). And when I say post-Golden Age (meaning after August 1945, the date we declared victory against Japan, ending World War II), this means the start of the Baby Boomers era.

And while I have June 30, 1982 as the general cutoff date for purposes of this subject, I can allow discussions here on mowers made up to four years (to 1986) after the cutoff date.

When I say June 30, 1982 as being the general cutoff date, that refers to the day the CPSC required safety devices to stop the blade by way of a deadman's bar on the handle (whether it's zone start, BBC or electric/zone start, or even electric start/BBC). Prior to this enaction, only a few mowers had such required devices (having been produced and sold as early as circa 1978; see Honda's HR21 for example) and were obviously more expensive than mowers which didn't have them. Commercial-use lawnmowers did not adopt the CPSC's 1982 rules until about 10 years later.

So ... starting back to 1946, what do you think of the aesthetics of the designs of the rotary lawn mowers and their engines?

Of course, I can say rotary mower sales didn't really take off until Briggs & Stratton perfected its aluminum vertical shaft engine in the early 1950s.

Here is a mower from 1968 with the old-style B&S 92502 3 HP engine (Choke-A-Matic carby; would be replaced by an automatic choke version that August):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qhYVgbiqX0
(Not mine, obviously, although I wish to obtain one of these of this vintage)

~Ben
 

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you must be a youngin if you consider that vintage. I got t-shirts older than that.
 

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I dont miss them. I started mowing the lawn about 1958. The Craftsman mower was pretty beat by then. I didnt know much or care much about its upkeep. It was a total PITA to start. I dont miss points, but they are easy on a Briggs and hard on a Tecumseh. I much prefer Electronic ignitions. Knowing what I do now, I could keep that ol cast iron B+S 3 1/2 horse going forever though. It was simple and well built. I consider my later stuff flimsy by comparison. IIRC it had a wooden handle
 

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1958? Craftsman? Was it a Power Products 2 stroke engine on it? I don't have one of those, but I have a Goodall and a Foley of that vintage with Power Products 2 stroke engines.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Hi,

I also want to ask: does anyone know exactly what years (start and end) represented the "golden age" of rotary lawn mowers and numerous other power lawn equipment such as string and hedge trimmers and brushcutters?

Also, what cutoff date do you guys here give as to the golden age of rotary lawn mowing (again, list start and end)? 1972 could be one of them for that was when the CPSC was enacted. Prior to that date lawn mowers did not have many of the safety amenities such as discharge chutes and trailing shields on the rear of the mower. But the reason I say 1982 is my preferred cutoff year: the deadman's control, which largely took away sales of lawnmower engines with V-pull starters (such as Briggs & Stratton's "Pull & Go" engines, model 92908 and 110908, for example).

And the reason I want to find another lawnmower with a V-pull engine on it (hopefully those with the aforementioned B&S P&G units), is because pulling the starter up rather than from its side means less effort. My 1984 Toro 20672's Tecumseh engine has the V-pull starter.

Another reason I favor such classic mowers is due to some of them having decorative shrouds covering the engines to quiet them down. Better mufflers on the more expensive mowers also were a part of reducing engine loudness.

~Ben
 

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I think the "golden age" of mowers will be a matter of opinion of what ever that person likes.

To me the golden age would be from roughly the mid 1980's to about 2000 +/- when there were several choices of really good quality homeowner mowers.

I really like the quality high end homeowner models of those years..... M series LB's, Toro's with the 2 & 4 stroke Suzuki's, Honda only made high end mowers during these years and only used their commercial engines (no price point engineered garbage), and of course the awesome JD 14sb series and variants thereof. It was also during these years OHV engines came into the main stream and the quality of the Suzuki's, Honda's and Kawasaki's were the highest quality homeowner engines ever produced.

An honorable mention would be the Commerical Snappers with the WR 2 strokes..... love that engine

OLMM81, I see your point with the safety garbage, and I will say the first thing I did with my dad's early 80's snapper was to tape up the deadman bar so it was always on LOL. But I have become a big fan of BBC's and have had them on my last two mowers (current 14sb & Suzuki 2cyc Toro prior).
Now that my kids have started mowing to the lawn I have done a pretty much 180 when it comes to safety features..... What I used to think of as intrusive nonsense when it was just me........now, I'm glad its there for my kids sake
 

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I think the "golden age" of mowers will be a matter of opinion of what ever that person likes.

To me the golden age would be from roughly the mid 1980's to about 2000 +/- when there were several choices of really good quality homeowner mowers.

I really like the quality high end homeowner models of those years..... M series LB's, Toro's with the 2 & 4 stroke Suzuki's, Honda only made high end mowers during these years and only used their commercial engines (no price point engineered garbage), and of course the awesome JD 14sb series and variants thereof. It was also during these years OHV engines came into the main stream and the quality of the Suzuki's, Honda's and Kawasaki's were the highest quality homeowner engines ever produced.
I generally agree with everything you said here. I read an article written by some engineering professors in the mid-90's that said the three best lawn mowers ever produced were the Lawn-Boy M21BMR, the John Deere 14SB and the Honda HR215. I now have the Honda and I'm been looking for the other two for several months. I haven't seen a mower built before the mid-80's that I think is worth $25 to me. Of course I'm a user, not a collector.

OLMM81, I see your point with the safety garbage, and I will say the first thing I did with my dad's early 80's snapper was to tape up the deadman bar so it was always on LOL. But I have become a big fan of BBC's and have had them on my last two mowers (current 14sb & Suzuki 2cyc Toro prior).
Sooner or later I disabled the deadman on every mower I've owned (with one exception, my Honda). That took all of two or three minutes. The deadman wasn't expensive for manufacturers; a satisfactory zone start could be mass produced for a few dollars. The BBC on my Honda is the first one I've owned and I'm also a fan now. I can see that it's probably expensive to repair but the one I have is over 15 years old and apparently never had any work done on it.

That Honda I bought a month ago is a prime example of what I consider a Golden Age mower. It has the first small engine I've ever seen that's truly easy to start. Hot or cold it's never taken more than a soft half pull including the day I had the choke/throttle adjustment all messed up. The previous owner said it sat for two plus years with gas in the tank but even with a partially clogged carburetor it took only one soft pull to start it.

As far as pulling the starter cord up rather than from the side the Honda manual shows about a 45 degree angle which is how I pull it. I've never had or I guess even seen a mower where the recoil pulls up. The first mower I owned, one made about 1950, had a separate wrap around rope that pulled straight out.

In short, in my opinion, mowers from 1946-1982 seem crude and cheaply built. Just like Model T's they belong in museums, scrap yards or in the hands of hobbyists who like to tinker. The Golden Age of Mowers was when an ordinary homeowner was willing to spend $700 or more for a quality machine. The Golden Age ended about ten years ago when lawn mowers became disposable appliances like toasters.
 

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I was mistaken about what this part of the forum was for. I want to make mine a show piece,not a daily user.
 

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I was mistaken about what this part of the forum was for. I want to make mine a show piece,not a daily user.
This forum section is for all aspects of walk-behind mowers. Many posters here are interested in restoration of old mowers. Some here are more interested in advice on buying a new or used mower for daily use. Some here are only looking for help in repairing a specific single mower. Some are here to buy and sell mowers and mower parts. Some here collect already restored show piece mowers. Some here operate commercial lawn mowing businesses. Some here own mower repair shops. Some here just want to discuss lawn mowers and might not even own one. Although no one planned it this way as a practical matter this section is primarily a Lawn-Boy forum with well over half of the posts about Lawn-Boys.

My comments above were about the "Golden Age of Mowers" which means something different to everyone.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
And how many of you remember all these oldie mowers out there with white engines on them? Rust would show up on these more than on mowers whose engines were, as the Rolling Stones would sing, painted black.

Also, besides the usual recoil starter that is either top-mounted side-pull or side-mounted top-pull, there were also those engines with impulse, or wind-up, starters. Impulse starters failed to catch on due to some people leaving the starter spring in the open position (the spring should be in the locked position until you decide to use the product) and then some prospective intruder would then release the spring causing the starter to wind back at a fast rate (and of course the engine would be running), which is potentially dangerous, especially if his/her hand or foot was near the blade as a result of the engine running. This type of starting method was discontinued in the early 1970s.

And also, how many of you have replaced an old Briggs & Stratton 60000 or 80000 series V-shaft engine (cf. 60501, 60502, 80502, 80902, 82902) on a pre-1965 mower with that of a newer 92902/93502, 92908/93508, or a 110908 engine? The 92900 and 93500 are both 3.5 hp, while the 110900 is 4 hp. The ending digit 2 is top-mounted side-pull rewind starter, while the 8 is the P&G ("Pull & Go") side-mounted top-pull starter.

~Ben
 

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And how many of you remember all these oldie mowers out there with white engines on them? Rust would show up on these more than on mowers whose engines were, as the Rolling Stones would sing, painted black.
Yesterday I was offered a free mower (otherwise known as a pile of junk) with a white engine. It had less rust than I would have expected after setting out in the weather for 35+ years. The man said it was running when he parked it. I politely declined although the solid rubber smooth tread wheels were tempting.


Also, besides the usual recoil starter that is either top-mounted side-pull or side-mounted top-pull, there were also those engines with impulse, or wind-up, starters. Impulse starters failed to catch on due to some people leaving the starter spring in the open position (the spring should be in the locked position until you decide to use the product) and then some prospective intruder would then release the spring causing the starter to wind back at a fast rate (and of course the engine would be running), which is potentially dangerous, especially if his/her hand or foot was near the blade as a result of the engine running. This type of starting method was discontinued in the early 1970s.
A couple of months back I looked a 2004 Cub Cadet SR621 with a wind-up starter. It had a key to prevent some prospective intruders from messing with it. Some other MTD brands had the same Briggs starter system called Touch-N-Mow. When you release the deadman bail the remaining engine revolutions wind the starter spring automatically or you can wind it up by hand. The one I saw didn't work consistently; sometimes it would start and sometimes it wouldn't.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Yesterday I was offered a free mower (otherwise known as a pile of junk) with a white engine. It had less rust than I would have expected after setting out in the weather for 35+ years. The man said it was running when he parked it. I politely declined although the solid rubber smooth tread wheels were tempting.



A couple of months back I looked a 2004 Cub Cadet SR621 with a wind-up starter. It had a key to prevent some prospective intruders from messing with it. Some other MTD brands had the same Briggs starter system called Touch-N-Mow. When you release the deadman bail the remaining engine revolutions wind the starter spring automatically or you can wind it up by hand. The one I saw didn't work consistently; sometimes it would start and sometimes it wouldn't.
Interesting they'd brought back that method of starting in, say, 1995 or 2000? Of course, I was referring to Briggs & Stratton's "Shock-Free" impulse starter, which was on the market from 1960 to 1971.

~Ben
 

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Don't miss the old mowers. Use JD 820A for my personal use. Have a JD 60 riding mower
that isn't running that I could use some information on the placement of the diode
rectifiers. After checking I found one of them open and wonder which direction they
face. At $50 each Can't be blowing them guessing.
 

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I agree with mowersnob and gravelpit on this one. I think the "golden age" started in the early '80s and ended in the mid '90s. Within that time period, there were so many premium, consumer-grade mowers to choose from. You had the big Toro w/ the 'Zuki engines, the Honda Masters line, the 14SB, the LB M-series, and you also had Snapper in there as well. In fact, Snapper is the only one that hasn't cheaped-out that much (well, the "real" Snapper, anyways). All of the brands I just mentioned are now just former shells of themselves. Look at Toro for example. It's hard to find a Toro from 20+ years ago that doesn't have a BBC. Now they have, what, two models with a BBC? There's nothing in Honda's line-up today that comes close to what the Masters was, except maybe the commercial HRC. JD's machines are all cheapos now, probably just MTD's painted green. Don't even get started on the state of Lawnboy now!

I think there's not enough people who mow their own lawns anymore, so they have no idea how cruddy most consumer lawn equipment is these days. I'm hoping that there'll be another "golden age" again soon. It wouldn't take any radical effort from most manufacturers. If they just went back to the models they sold about 20 years ago, they'll already have something worlds better than what they sell now.
 

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I'm hoping that there'll be another "golden age" again soon.
Sad to say but I think the days of a quality homeowner mower are gone for good. I would say the three biggest reasons we'll never see quality homeowner mowers again would be the postage stamp size lawns of new homes, lower prices of the disposable mowers, and finally the fact that consumers DON'T DEMAND anything better..... at least in large enough numbers.
 

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You're probably correct. You bring up a good point about lawn sizes. I live in a newer subdivision myself, the interior lots are really small. I live on the corner, so I have a little more lawn to mow. Even with all of the dinky little lawns, I'm just about the only person on the block who mows their own lawn. I think that's what astonishes me the most, the number of people who use lawn services now. When I was growing up (which was only 20 some-odd years ago), it was unheard of to pay someone to mow your lawn, unless you were rich or something. Nowadays, at least in DFW, every third vehicle is a truck pulling a trailer full of lawn equipment.

Oh well. As for me, I'm going to keep my Toro going for as long as I can find parts for it. We can all form our little "black market" of quality, used mowers!
 

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I think the point is valid that many people choose to simply contract out their lawn care, so demand for long-lasting mowers isn't as high as it might used to have been. Even still, you've always been able to buy inexpensive mowers, riders and walk-behinds. And you can still buy quality mowers today, riders and walk-behinds. Just as you can buy cheap and expensive cars, cheap and expensive BBQ grills, cheap and expensive children's swing sets, etc. It's all what you're into.

A co-worker of mine has some big fancy BBQ grill. I don't know who makes it, but I guess they're all hand-made, or at least custom-made to order. I think he paid like $1500 for this thing. I have a 4-burner Char-Broil that I got on clearance from Big Lots for 150 bucks. He grills steaks and I grill steaks. He gets a satisfaction out of using a $1500 grill that I don't get. So it works.

Same with lawn mowers. A lot of people at work (okay, every one of them) can't fathom why someone would "need" three walk-behind mowers (and a rider). My neighbors mow their yards with $99 Bolens and Yard Machine mowers. Their grass gets cut as does mine. I get a satisfaction out of using quality mowers that they don't get. And it works.

I think the shift from expensive mowers (if there has been a significant one) may simply be a shift in our society. One that has gone from sitting on the front porch in the evening watching the kids play to sitting on the couch in the evening watching the kids play...Guitar Hero (or insert the latest video game here). There seems to be less personal satisfaction now in home lawn care. Folks work longer hours, have busier schedules, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I think the point is valid that many people choose to simply contract out their lawn care, so demand for long-lasting mowers isn't as high as it might used to have been. Even still, you've always been able to buy inexpensive mowers, riders and walk-behinds. And you can still buy quality mowers today, riders and walk-behinds. Just as you can buy cheap and expensive cars, cheap and expensive BBQ grills, cheap and expensive children's swing sets, etc. It's all what you're into.

A co-worker of mine has some big fancy BBQ grill. I don't know who makes it, but I guess they're all hand-made, or at least custom-made to order. I think he paid like $1500 for this thing. I have a 4-burner Char-Broil that I got on clearance from Big Lots for 150 bucks. He grills steaks and I grill steaks. He gets a satisfaction out of using a $1500 grill that I don't get. So it works.

Same with lawn mowers. A lot of people at work (okay, every one of them) can't fathom why someone would "need" three walk-behind mowers (and a rider). My neighbors mow their yards with $99 Bolens and Yard Machine mowers. Their grass gets cut as does mine. I get a satisfaction out of using quality mowers that they don't get. And it works.

I think the shift from expensive mowers (if there has been a significant one) may simply be a shift in our society. One that has gone from sitting on the front porch in the evening watching the kids play to sitting on the couch in the evening watching the kids play...Guitar Hero (or insert the latest video game here). There seems to be less personal satisfaction now in home lawn care. Folks work longer hours, have busier schedules, etc.
Interesting point: My dad and I each have one gasoline-powered walk-behind mower, but in my arsenal, besides my 1984 Toro 20672, I also own a 1983 Sears Craftsman deluxe twin-blade electric lawn mower (made by Aircap/Mastercut) and a 2006 Sears Craftsman LT3000 lawn tractor (with a B&S 20 hp AVS OHV engine), the latter of which I use only in my backyard.

~Ben
 
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