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MTD Blower Power Lift Mod using JB Jr Actuator [pics & vid]

9514 Views 8 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  APinNY
Well, took me long enough but I finally upgraded from my winch-based power lift to a linear actuator (below).

Lots of pics below, but if you want to jump right to the video here it is.

Video is about 7 minutes long and walks through the actuator mounting including float provision, operation of the lift, and a short stint in the driveway. Sorry about the quality of the video in the first half.. used my cheap eyeglass camera at first. It gets a lot better in the 2nd half when I switched back to a regular digital camera.

Now, on to the pics..

Here she is, under the knife. Yes, that's a worklight bungied to the cab roof. Worked great.. lots of light (1000w halogen), and a bonus is it provided heat also in the chilly garage (more on that in the video).

Started by sketching out some of the geometry. This is when I was still trying to fasten the actuator to the rotating lift handle mount. That arrangement didn't work out.. plenty of places to mount the actuator to connect to the lift lever but I always needed either more or less stroke than the actuator provided. More is not possible, and less would work but would waste stroke and add undue stress on the actuator. So I got creative and ended up mounting the actuator between to movable parts of the frame.. as you'll see in the pics.

I needed to fabricate a clevis type mounting bracket for the back end of the actuator to avoid any bending forces of a one-sided mount. I started with two L-brackets like this one, taking advantage of the existing bend and then adding another bend to make an "S" shape. The brackets are 3/16" steel.

Here are the two halves of the bracket, after drilling the 1/2 holes for the pin, and "forming" them (which basically was putting them in a vice and bashing on them with a roofer's hammer). Have no press, will improvise.

Here's what it will look like when in place

Pinned to the actuator

From above

Will use 3/8" bolts to attach to the blower frame

This is a shot of the inside of the blower frame where it attaches at the front of the tractor. I'm standing on the left side of the blower and the tractor is to the right. The shiny grey thing in the middle is the built-in heat shield in the blower frame. I had to notch it out where one of the actuator bracket bolts will go. The other actuator bracket bolt hole is at the top of the photo, slightly left of center.

This shot is from the other side of the blower, showing the same two holes (in reverse from this angle). The big rusty bar to the right is the old manual lever where I had mounted a pulley (part of the former winch lift mod) which I never removed because it's very handy to put the blower in different positions to check all my angles during actuator planning and installation

Here's the actuator rear bracket after bolting it to the blower frame

Now with actuator attached

Here's about where the actuator will lie (front end of actuator not yet attached)

Now, for the front actuator attachment, a trailer stake pocket bracket ended up being just about what I needed. I forgot to take a "before" photo before starting to bash on it in the vice, so here it is a little bit bashed, but close to the "before" appearance

Here it is after forming. Will need a repaint at some point. Paint doesn't hold up too well to roof hammer bashing.

Adding holes for more 3/8" bolts to bolt to the auger housing

Finished bracket (well, before painting)

Since the front mount will be sustaining quite a bit of force from the actuator, and since it's just mounted to the auger housing skin, I wanted to reinforce the attachment point from below. So I used leftover bits of the original L-brackets to make essentially big rectangular washers.

I gave them a slight bend to conform to the inner curvature of the auger housing

Then I had to fabricate the fixed pin for the front mount. I used 1/2 steel stock and drilled out two holes for cotter pins.

Did somebody say cotter pins? I might not have enough...

Here's the actuator front mount bracket fastened in place. The "legs" that point up are ridiculously taller than they need to be and a bit of a snag hazard, but I left them this way on purpose, anticipating I might need to reinforce this bracket later if it started to wiggle under the actuator load. It turns out it's pretty solid.

Yeah, the bolt holes didn't make a perfect rectangle. I don't have a drill press so it's hard to keep the drill bit on center and they seem to go where they want.

Here's a shot inside the auger housing showing the reinforcing bars. They're cattywampus because they followed the goofy bolt pattern.

After inserting the fixed pin

Here I'm preparing the square stock "slider" that the actuator shaft (shown above) will slide into. The square stock only has a round hole at the left end in this shot, but that hole later becomes an elongated slot to enable float (lots about that in the video). Here, the actuator shaft is shown at it's full extension, showing that it will still clear the fixed pin with a little room to spare

Same shot, a little further back so you can see the whole actuator in position

Here I've got the actuator shaft inserted in the square stock to check angles and alignment

Same shot further back

Here I am coercing a slot to exist in the square stock. This stuff is too thick for tin snips, and I didn't want to fight it trying to drill a bunch of holes in a row. So I drilled 2 holes and used an angle grinder to slot out as much as I could

Then followed up with a rotary tool with a high speed cutting bit to smooth out the slot edges. Came out fine. This will need painting too eventually.

Square slider (now slotted for float) back in place and pinned at both ends

Closeup of the slider

Here's a shot from the front end facing rearward

Another closeup of the rear mounting just for completeness

Final installation shot, actuator extended (blower up)

Final installation shot, actuator retracted (blower down)

And my ever-professional looking switch installation. Yeah, I'll get those mounted sometime too. Only using one of them right now.

So that's it. This is the culmination of many nights sitting on my shop stool staring at the side of this blower trying to figure out the geometry problem of making the most of the full stroke of the actuator while also having some float capability. And I wanted all actuator mounts to be balanced to avoid bending forces. Seems to do the job. Check out the video to see it in action.
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Bump... :bump9:

One of my more prolific picturefests (with video no less!) and no postings after almost a week? *sniff*

Ok, so yeah, it's basically a big multimedia love-in about some brackets.

That's at least mildly interesting, isn't it?

Maybe I need to get out more..
Creative work toolin. The first set of actuator support brackets made from the steel angle almost look factory. And I like the way you achieved float operation. The JB actuator makes quick work of raising the blower. :thThumbsU
Creative work toolin. The first set of actuator support brackets made from the steel angle almost look factory. And I like the way you achieved float operation. The JB actuator makes quick work of raising the blower. :thThumbsU
Thanks mbrun. Yeah, I'll spend 3 evenings making something by hand instead of 10 minutes on the computer ordering a part. I guess it's more about the journey than the destination. Plus this way I know it will fit.

The float mechanism turned out pretty well I thought. I wasn't 100% sure I'd have all the dimensions right and I didn't want to have to redrill holes in the auger shroud if I had to adjust the geometry, so using a piece of square stock as a single part with all the critical dimensions meant I could just redo that one part if I needed and leave the actuator mounts right where they were. Turns out it was just right the first time.

That actuator is JP's Turbo Dump actuator. It almost runs *too* fast. It's a little tricky to get it to stop right where I want it for maximum float up and down.

It's got me thinking of changing the actuator control circuitry to have an "auto float" setting where I would use limit switches near the ends of the float slot that would run the actuator back in the direction of the middle of the slot if it reached the limit. Then I could put it in float mode no matter where the blower or actuator was in the stroke and it would just lower itself to the ground and then float over any level until I switched it back to manual. Should be fairly simple to do. Only issue would be avoiding oscillation. If it oscillates I might have to actually introduce a motor controller to get variable actuator speed. Anyway, a project for another day...
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You know regarding the speed of actuators I am surprised there are not readily available digital speed controls for them. They make them for RC hobby vehicles. They handle high current dc very well. I can see them being adapted to allow much finer control over our actuators. In addition they offer electric braking which could afford cause it to stop when and where we want. Guess we will need the actuator companies to say they can handle the braking action.
I registered to this forum just so I could thank you, Toolin, for you post. I followed your design and it works great! I'm not sure I would have believed that it would work at the angle that you have to position the actuator if I didn't see your video of it working. I foolishly tried to place it lower for a steeper angle only to find out that it gets in the way of the blower as it rises. Even seeing yours working it was difficult figuring out the dimensions and angles so everything would align and work smoothly. I know this would have been a lot more work for me if I didn't have your plan since I obsess over details and often take forever to make a decision. In the end it only took me two weekends. I've used it twice already - saving me time, elbow and shoulder pain. Thanks so much for you post!!!
Dwayne, I hope Toolin sees your thank you message, but he hasn't posted in over a year. You might try sending him a PM. ;)
I registered to this forum just so I could thank you, Toolin, for you post. I followed your design and it works great! [...]
Hey Dwayne, thanks for the kind words! I'm flattered you'd join MTF just to say thanks. But having joined, I think you'll find it worthwhile to stick around and even post your own thoughts and fun projects. I certainly learned a lot from the other members over the years. What comes around goes around!

As for the actuator location, yeah it seems like a weird angle but as you found out it works! Before settling on that arrangement I spent many evenings just sitting there staring at the blower and mocking up various alternate actuator positions with long narrow wooden rod and masking tape.

I knew how much stroke I had available with the actuator I planned to use (4") so my theory was to look for any two points on the blower that increased in distance from each other by that much when the blower moved from full up to full down, then mounted the actuator there to drive the same separation forcibly.

Having used it for almost 3 seasons now I can report that it's still going strong. Definitely saved me a lot of arm wear. However I should also point out that the blower attachment has developed a bit of a list due to the asymmetrical forces on the blower created by this actuator given where I mounted it.

The left side of the blower (when viewed from the driver's seat) sags about an inch lower than the right when the blower is in the full up position. The left edge still clears the ground enough to maneuver so it hasn't been a big issue, but if I had it to do over again I might spend some more time trying to figure out how to get the actuator to move the leftover lift arm mechanism itself, which already connects to both sides of the blower to provide lifting force evenly on both sides. That actually was the plan initially but I gave up on that arrangement when I couldn't settle on a satisfactory mounting point for the other end of the actuator.

Anyway, glad it worked out for you. If you get a minute, come back and post here with some pictures of the final result.

APinNY - yeah, the rumors of my demise have been somewhat exaggerated! But I do still have email notification turned on when there is a new posting to one of my threads so I happened to see Dwayne's posting and moseyed on over to check it out. Thanks for keeping an eye out though.
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I'm glad you're still with us Paul! :thThumbsU
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