by alan

Lawn Fertiliser Spreaders

March 25, 2024 in Articles, Machinery

Lawn Spreaders - but why the green frog....

You may be wondering why there’s a picture of a stuffed green frog in this article, but more about that later…

I’ve concluded that nearly every garden, certainly those with a lawn, will have felt the presence of a garden lawn fertiliser spreader at some point. In particular, one of those plastic spreaders given away if one purchased a significant amount of granular fertiliser. Several of those plastic freebie spreaders had the unfortunate ability to block up if there was even the slightest bit of moisture on the grass that got onto the distributor. But some adverts worked in reverse where the fertiliser was free when a spreader was bought; and others just offered a free loan of the spreader.

Over the decades there has been a significant number of push lawn spreaders, plastic and steel, which have promised to give the perfect amount of lawn care product to lawns. They all work on much the same principle of non-slip wheels, a hopper, some sort of regulator to distribute the goods evenly, and a handle.

Cunningly, as with most of these domestic spreaders, there was often a range of weed and feed products that also went with them (not forgetting that some of the cheaper spreaders were calibrated for their own products) – and once one had the spreader then it would be easier to keep buying that manufacturers’ products year after year and trust that the system of looking after the lawn worked….and it did work, a foolproof way to look after the lawn with ease.

Briefly, here are a few companies that sold lawn spreaders:

Sisis started to produce a range of their Truspred models in the early 1960s – Click for advert image. These were available in 20″, 24″, 36″ and 36″ Super, although the range was of a professional quality and often aimed at sports pitches and the like. A smaller more domestic-friendly 15″ model was advertised in the late 1960s for £8 15s. Many models were promoted for ‘accurate, consistent spreading of seed and modern fertilisers’ regardless of manufacturer. They were also good for applying lawn or surface dressings and rock salt to de-ice drives and paths in winter.

ICI Lawn Plus Spreader 1970

ICI promoted their ‘Plus’ Lawn Spreader in the 1970s. Often a 12″ model, it was priced at 45s in 1970, but if the gardener had signed up for the ICI Garden Savers Plan there was a 6s refund. By 1980 ICI was selling a 12″ lawn spreader for as little as £8.

Wolf produced different spreaders in the 1970s and ’80s – Click for image. The model WE 16″ distributor had a curved metal hopper with a tough green-coloured stove enamel finish. The WE 18″ had a PVC hopper, while the WD was all steel. In the 1990s, Wolf produced the 17″ WE251 (Illustrated, below), sold in B&Q priced at £29.95.

Fisons is a popular name in the gardening game. The range of chemical products in the 1970s included the Evergreen 80 for a weed-free lawn, also Lawn Food, Lawn Peat and Velvetone Spring Dressings. Accordingly, Fisons also had a lawn spreader, sometimes in a blue paint scheme – Click for Image. But they also had a budget 12″ spreader advertised in 1970 for only 35s when bought with a combined purchase of Evergreen 80 and Fisons Rose Food – an odd combination but maybe the rose food wasn’t a big seller?

Wolf Lawn Spreader model WE251 in 1990

PBI had lawn spreaders through the 1980s, but they could also come coupled with a product. In 1989 the spreader came with a free pack of their Toplawn 600sq feet pack of Weed & Feed for £16.

In the 1990s both Levingtons and Scotts spreaders appear in advertising. Scotts models being the Accugreen and Evergreen. And today, a vast range of spreaders with different branding are marketed.

And what about the stuffed green frog shown at the top of this article? Well, who remembers the Fisons Evergreen TV adverts from perhaps 20 years ago, with a cartoon gangly-legged frog sprinkling some lawn feed around? I think the song went ‘If the lawn is a farce, and the weeds a right pain in the grass….‘. I bought some lawn feed, got a free lawn spreader (which is gathering spiders and dust in the back of the barn), also filled in and sent off a form, and amazingly this stuffed Fisons Evergreen frog turned up in the post – forget expensive vintage sales merchandise and paraphernalia because I’ve got a stuffed green Fisons frog…now that’s proper advertising!

by alan

VHGMC Machinery Log Sheet – Download

January 17, 2024 in Articles, Club News

Here we are at the beginning of a new year and it won’t be that many weeks until the shows and events start. The first main event is Tractor World at the Three Counties Showground at Malvern on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th of February – more information:

If anyone needs a log sheet for their machines for any show – whether a main event or just a local show – then they can be downloaded from the VHGMC.

The VHGMC log sheet can be either filled in online and then printed, or can be downloaded to your computer.

The logsheets can be found in the member download section at:

Often members of the public will spend more time looking at an exhibit if there’s a log sheet that provides more than basic information. I recall watching members of the public perusing the horticultural exhibits at Newark tractor show a few years ago, the exhibits with interesting log sheets with date of manufacture, place of origin, a bit of background, and perhaps a story to tell, held the attention of the viewer far longer than those that just showed a basic machine model and name. We also saw that people take a photo of a log sheet as well as the machine it’s attached to. Remember that you can always add a page or two of restoration photos or extra information to go with your log sheet.

Horticulture Display at Malvern 2016

by alan

Quiz 2023

November 25, 2023 in Club News

Here are twelve questions for a short quiz.

These very random questions relate to horticultural items; technical knowledge is not required but a bit of guesswork might be useful.

A pencil and paper is handy to write down the answers.

As always, the answers (which are sometimes much longer than the questions) are at the bottom of the page.


Q1: What colour were Dixon machines in the UK?

1: An easy question to start with: All sold in the UK, the vintage Dixon ZTR (zero turn mowers) and the Ford and Homelite ranges of lawn and garden tractors used what paint colour?

A: Blue
B: Green
C: Yellow

Q2: Wolf rechargeable tools?

2: In the 1970s, Wolf Garden Tools were advertising their Power Pack System. This consisted of a rechargeable battery that could be used with a range of attachments – a very popular system used by major manufacturers today but appears not to be a new idea as Wolf was advertising it fifty years ago. Items were a shrub trimmer which could have a long handle attached for also being a grass trimmer, and a 35cm double-sided hedge trimmer. A third item that used the same rechargeable battery was also sold – but what was it?

A: Torch
B: Powered secateurs
C: Garden sprayer

Q3: Who did Allen buy in 1983?

3. After Flymos’ hover mower patent ran out, many manufacturers started to produce similar machines. Allen Power Equipment Ltd, which is known for making numerous models of horticultural machinery, eventually included hover mowers. In 1983, which manufacturer of hover mowers did Allen purchase?

A: Crown
B: Flymo
C: Black & Decker

Q4: What did Westwood sell?

4. Before starting to manufacture their Gazelle lawn and garden tractors in the 1970s, which American-made lawn tractors did Westwood Engineering Ltd import and sell in the UK?

A: Countax
B: Wolf
C: Dynamark

Q5: Which decade?

5. Electric strimmers/trimmers seem to have been around for a long time and early domestic models have been made by Black & Decker, Qualcast, Toro and AL-KO. But in which decade did Flymo decide to join the game and introduce its first electric trimmers? The models were the Mini-Trim and the Multi-Trim. And for an extra bonus point, can you name the exact year?

A: 1960s
B: 1980s
C: 2000s
……………………..and in which year?

Q6: What did Zundapp make?

6. The German company Zundapp made a range of motorbikes, scooters, microcars, and outboard motors that were sold in the UK in the 1950s and ’60s. But in the 1970s they also made which horticultural item that was sold in the UK?

A: Lawnmowers
B: Woodchippers
C: Hedgecutters

Q7: What colours are Bolens machines?

7. Starting in 1959, Bolens lawn and garden tractors and rear-engine riders have been available in the UK. But what colour schemes have they been painted?

A: Red and white
B: Gold and white
C: Green and white
D: Green and Yellow

Q8: What was the Huff-N-Puff?

8. Bob Andrews Ltd, The Garden Machine Centre, Sunningdale, Berkshire retailed a varied range of labour-saving machines. These included the popular Cyclone lawn spreader, the Spintrim lawn edger, and the Spurspike lawn aerator (it had a bucket at the front which could be filled with stones or sand etc to give added weight). In the late 1970s, Andrews sold a machine called the Huff-N-Puff, but what was the Huff-N-Puff ?

A: A petrol-powered outdoor vacuum that could suck up leaves and blow away litter.
B: A handheld electric leaf blower that could convert to suck up leaves into a barrow or trailer.
C: A pedestrian-pushed rotary brush that created a blowing effect as it swept.
…..Three intriguing answers above, but which one seems most likely?

Q9: What was the Farmer 300B?

9. The AL-KO Farmer 300B, Texas TV3, and Mountfield M1 Gardener are all examples of what type of machine?

A: Strimmers
B: Garden cultivators
C: Powered barrows

Q10: What year did Honda launch their mowers in the UK?

10. In which decade did Honda launch their first range of lawnmowers in the UK? And for a bonus point can you name the year?

A: 1960s
B: 1970s
C: 1980s
……………………..and in which year? Have a guess!

Q11: What was Spearwells’ lawn rake called?

11: In the late 1960s, Spearwell Tools Ltd (a combination of the companies Brades, Elwell and Spear & Jackson) were advertising a hand rake that was used for scarifying a lawn – it had curved tines (as in the image). This tool was pushed and pulled through the lawn to remove dead and matted grass and thatch. What was this lawn rake called?

A: The Scrake
B: The Moss-Boss
C: The Thatcher-Catcher

Q12: How much did this Texas hosepipe cost in 1980?

12: We probably all remember the DIY superstores called Focus DIY, Great Mills, Do-It-All and Texas DIY; it doesn’t seem that long since we were shopping in them. The domestic garden machines and products they sold are immortalised in archives of newspaper and television adverts. In 1980, Texas DIY was advertising many things including the £14.99 Yeoman Ballbarrow which was a small galvanised barrow with a football-sized sphere instead of a solid tyre – these barrows will now be 43 years old! They were also selling ‘Texas Reinforced Hosepipe’ which came in 50′ lengths. How much did their 50′ hosepipe cost?

A: £3.49
B: £10.99
C: £15.49


1: A: Blue. Dixon, Ford and Homelite all used blue as one of their main paint colours although all three also used white/cream for other tinwork and wheels.

2: C: Garden Sprayer. The rectangular-shaped sprayer could hold 3 litres and had a lance and nozzle much like a normal pressure sprayer. Complete with a battery and charger it cost £52 in 1978. The battery could recharge in 40-60 minutes.

3: A: Crown. Allen purchased Crown Horticultural Equipment Ltd, manufacturers of 2-stroke, 4-stroke, and electric hover mowers, in a £500,000 deal in May 1983.

4: C: Dynamark.  Westwood sold the USA-made Dynamark lawn tractors in the UK in the 1970s. The range included the 32″ cutting width D32R, 36″ D36R, and D36E and D1036E with electric start. There were also rear-engine rider models, though none appear to have survived in the UK – but the top-spec 8/36E with electric starter and headlights was £365 in 1973. For answers A and B, neither are USA makes, Countax being UK and Wolf being German…although Wolf did sell USA Yard-Man riders and lawn tractors rebranded as Wolf in the UK in the 1970s.

5: B: 1980s (1987). Flymo introduced their first electric strimmers in 1987. The models were the Mini-Trim and the Multi-Trim. The Multi-Trim could be converted to a lawn edger by twisting the cutting head. With an investment of £500K, the two models had taken three years to develop.

6: A: The German company Zundapp branched out into making lawnmowers. Several models of their two-stroke and electric-powered mowers were advertised and sold here in the early 1970s, but none seem to have survived. The mowers had yellow mower decks, red engine covers, and chrome handles.

7: A, B, C, and D: All the answers are correct. To mention a few: the Husky 800 and some Ride-a-matics were painted gold with white wheels; the early Ride-a-matics were green with yellow wheels; the Estate Keeper and Lawn Keeper were white with red wheels and detailing. Later Bolens were white and green.

8: A: The Huff-N-Puff was a petrol-powered pedestrian-pushed vacuum leaf collector – a mini Billy Goat vacuum for the smaller garden. It sucked the leaves or debris into a rear grass bag that hung from the handles. An optional wand (a flexible pipe that attached at the front end) enabled suction in confined spaces; the wand could also be attached at the rear, instead of the bag, and then it would be able to blow puddles off driveways and paths or “dislodge stubborn litter from shrub beds”. The Huff-N-Puff was £199+vat in 1979.

9: B: Garden Cultivators. In the 1980s, the AL-KO Farmer cultivator was available as a 3.5hp petrol or 1000-watt electric model; the Texas cultivators were advertised with 3hp – 5hp Briggs & Stratton engines, and the Mountfield M1 Gardener was shown with 3.5hp and 4hp Briggs & Stratton engines.

10: B: 1970s (1978). Honda launched their first mower, the rotary HR21, in the UK in August 1978.

11: A: The Scrake. Spearwells’ lawn rake was called the scrake – a portmanteau of the words scarify and rake. However, I think they should have called it the Moss-Boss, they really missed a marketing trick there. In 1968 the scrake was priced at £2.13s.6d – but the Moss-Boss name would have commanded a greater price.

12: A: £3.49. 50′ of reinforced hosepipe from Texas DIY in 1980 cost a bargain £3.49, and had been reduced from £3.99. Currently, in 2023, B&Q are selling a similar product for £19.95, I guess it’s all relative.

Phew! They took some compiling!

by alan

Kubota Premises – Then & Now

July 16, 2023 in Articles, Machinery

Recently I have been looking at the history of Kubota tractors in the UK. Although the tractors were sold in many countries in the 1960s, the first Kubota tractors didn’t arrive in the UK until the early 1970s, and the range has continued to grow and develop over the decades.

Many newspaper adverts from the 1970s showed the 14 hp B6100, 16 hp B7100, 17 hp L175, 24 hp L225 and the 25 hp L245. Additionally, the popular and compact B6000 in the 1970s had a 12.5 hp water-cooled diesel engine, four-wheel drive with six forward and two reverse gears, a three-point hitch and a three-speed PTO.

Kubota Tractors (UK) Ltd in North Yorkshire originally sold the tractors, but eventually, Kubota set up their own division in the late 1970s and, in 1982, moved to Dormer Road, Thame, Oxfordshire.

Photographs exist of the original Dormer Road premises with the ‘Kubota’ name proudly on display. The premises still exist and (in 2019 with Streetview) look almost identical, even the planting with conifers and trees are the same – although they have grown! The 2019 image shows the premises occupied by another company, however, Kubota is shown across the road in a fantastic modern warehouse.

The location is:

The early Kubota premises on Dormer Road, Thame, Oxfordshire. Newer offices and warehouse are now across the road,
The same premises in 2019

by alan

Wolf Tools – Then & Now

May 5, 2023 in Articles

Tools and equipment made by Wolf are popular, both the vintage ones and the modern equivalents that can still be purchased. I have several modern Wolf tools and they are excellent.

This ‘Then & Now’ post features the Wolf factory at Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire. This group of buildings, as shown in the third photo, is now known as the Wolf Business Park and still has the familiar Wolf logo on the signs.

The Wolf family had their new premises built on the junction of Gloucester Road and Alton Road, these opened in 1963 and included trial grounds and a demonstration and instruction centre for the trade and users. The first photo, in black and white, is from a report in 1964. The Google Maps link is:

As shown in the second photo, which was taken from almost the same angle, the premises still exist, although they appear to have a different business trading from there.

The third photo, from 1977, shows the front of the main building on the left looking onto the front lawn – the large glazed windows showing a display of Wolf products. The same view is shown in the last image, which is from 2022.

by alan

Quiz 2022

December 6, 2022 in Articles

Here are twelve questions for a short quiz. These questions relate to the names of tools, machines, brands or slogans; technical knowledge is not required, if in doubt just take a guess at the most obvious sounding answer! See how many you can get correct!

Below are the twelve questions. As always, the answers are at the bottom of the page. 


Q1: What slogan advertised the Groundhog cultivator?

1. In 1975 Westwood was advertising their Groundhog cultivators. Which inventive headline did they use to promote these machines which were ideal in the vegetable garden? 

A: Cultivata-Potata!
B: Veg-U-Like
C: Remove toil and slog with a Groundhog!

Q2: What unusual name did AL-Ko give one of their mowers?

2. AL-KO produced a range of lawnmowers, they can be found in a yellow or red colour scheme and as push, electric or petrol powered. In the 1980s a small red electric rotary mower with a steel deck was made by AL-KO in Germany and retailed by AL-KO Britain. It was given a really unusual model name; what was that electric mower called?

A: Gerald 18
B: Sidney 21
C: Cuthbert 32

Q3: What Allen machine was advertised as famous for performance and reliability?

3. In 1973 an Allen outdoor power equipment price list detailed many machines. Which of their popular machine of which we see many and cost from £199, was described as “Wherever a man can walk, this rugged machine will cut, famous the world over for performance and reliability“? 

A: Allen Motor Scythe
B: Allen Challenger MK.V commercial mower
C: Mayfield Tractor MK15 with optional 3 ft scythe unit. 

Q4: What was Westwood’s hedge trimmer trolley called?

4. In the early 1970s Westwood Engineering were selling the Rockwell electric hedge trimmer. They were also selling a two-wheel trolley (shown in the grainy image) that could power and store the hedge trimmer. The trolley had space at the base for a 40w battery to run the electric hedge trimmer. The trolley handle was a long box shape that contained oil; the hedge trimmer could be stored there with the oil inhibiting rust. But what animal name did this trolley have? 

A: The Frog
B: The Hedgehog
C: The Newt

Q5: What were the yellow-painted French garden tractors called?

5. In the 1980s in the UK, Hyett Adams LTD of Gloustershire were selling a range of yellow-painted 6 hp garden tractors that carried a French machinery company’s name, logo and decals. This French company also made engines that also carry the same French name. But what was the name of this French company? Was it:

A. Barrett
B. Bobby
C. Bernard

Q6: What did Yard-Man name some of their early tractors?

6. Yard-Man mowers and lawn tractors are often seen in a very distinct green and yellow colour scheme, but the 1960s models were painted red. The red colour was inherited when Yard-Man took over the George Garden Tools Company of Illinois in 1967. Apart from the colour, what name did the early Yard-Man tractors use from the George Garden Tools Company? Did they both call their lawn tractors the…

A. Lazy-Bird
B. Lawn-Bird
C. Easy-Eagle

Q7: what did Bob Andrews call their three-wheeled barrow?

7. Many companies have made trucks and barrows to help gardeners transport plants, tools and materials around the garden. In 1988 Bob Andrews LTD was busy marketing a three-wheeled barrow (pictured), more accurately, it had two wheels on a central axle and a third was a castor at the rear. It was lined with a polypropylene box that could be lifted out for emptying. Using a plant-derived name, what was this barrow called? 

A. Willow 
B. Bizzie Lizzie
C. Fuschia

Q8: What did Allen call a range of wheeled vacuums?

8. Allen Power Equipment Ltd in Didcot sold wheeled, walk-behind garden vacuums with large collecting bags at the rear supported from the handles, they were similar to the Billy Goat vacuums. In 1987 Allen had a new 21″ and a 27″ push model powered by 3.5 hp or 5 hp engines, the models could be converted from a vacuum sweeper to a blower in seconds. There was also a 30″ wide self-propelled model. But what did Allen call their range of wheeled vacuums? 

A. Scavenger
B. Grazer
C. Sucker

Q9: Who helped to advertise the Wolseley-Webb mowers?

9. In the mid-1970s which TV personality gardener was helping to advertise the Wolseley-Webb hand, battery and motor mowers including the Wizard range of mowers? 

A. Bayleaf the Gardener
B. Geoff Hamilton
C. Percy Thrower

Q10: “Grass Disappears Like Magic” with this Allen mower!

10. Another question regarding Allen Power Equipment LTD…In 1989 Allen was advertising machinery in newspaper adverts. One product was a 19″ lawnmower that would mulch the grass clippings, it was powered by a 4 hp Briggs and Stratton engine. The advert headline said that with this mulching mower the “Grass Disappears Like Magic”, not surprisingly the mower was given the name of a magical person. What was the name of this mower? 

A: Houdini 
B: Merlin 
C: Potter

Q11: What did VIA LTD name their range of mowers in the 1980s?

11. Lawnmowers have been given many different names to make them sell. In the 1980s a company called VIA LTD were selling several mower ranges in the UK. Below are three lists of names, but which one is a genuine list of VIA mower names? 

A: Beaulieu, Blenheim, Hatfield, Arundel, Sandringham
B: A-4SP, A-5SP, B-5SP, B6-SP, C-3PO
C: Derby, Devon, Dorset, Kent, Rutland

12. In horticulture, Honda may be a name we can associate with making rotavators, mowers and associated items. Also, a vehicle they made was a small pickup and van in the 1970s, ideal for the gardener on their round or a smallholder going to market with their produce.  Below is an advert for the Honda TN7 pickup which was advertised by Honda (UK) Ltd, Yardley, Birmingham.  In 1977, including the VAT how much was the pick-up version advertised for? 

A: £799.99
B: £1286.28
C: £3110.08


1: A: Westwood Engineering was using the headline ‘Cultivata-Potata!‘ in the mid-1970s to advertise their range of Grounhog cultivators. The advertised range included the G/3 (3hp Briggs & Stratton), G/4 (4 hp Aspera) and G/5 (5 hp Briggs and Stratton). They were priced from £110+vat with adverts saying they were “a real investment [when considering that] an average family spend up to £3 per week on vegetables“.

2: C: Cuthbert 32.  A strange name for a mower but it was Cuthbert with a cutting width of 32cm The model was manufactured by AL-KO Kober GmbH in West Germany and sold in the UK. 

3: A: The Allen TS Motor Scythe was described as “Wherever a man can walk, this rugged machine will cut, famous the world over for performance and reliability“. Although available decades earlier, by 1973 the Allen scythe prices started from £199 with the TS fitted with a Villiers Mk 15 engine and standard cutting assembly. The Kohler K91T engine-powered Allen Scythe cost £232. The 22-inch Allen Challenger Mk. V commercial mower cost £139. The Mayfield Tractor with a Villiers F.15, 3 hp engine was £149 with an optional 3 ft scythe unit at £54.50. 

4: B: Hedgehog. I don’t know why the Rockwell hedge trimmer holder was called the Hedgehog, any ideas? The 40 watt battery and a 1.5 amp charger that the Hedgehog could accommodate were optional extras. Three Westwood/Rockwell hedge trimmers were advertised alongside the Hedgehog, these were 13″, 18″ and 23″ and were double-edged which enabled left and right cutting at 1300 cuts per minute.

5: C: Bernard. Although the tractors had Bernard engines, the tractors were actually made in the USA and were a similar design to Dynamark and early ATCO ride-on lawn tractors.

6: B: Lawn-Bird. The early Yard-Man liveried tractors carried over the Lawn-Bird name and the red paintwork of the George Garden Tools Company Lawn-Bird tractors.

7: B: Bizzie Lizzie. In 1988 Bob Andrews Ltd was advertising the Bizzie Lizzie three-wheeled cart. It was said to be tough, versatile, capacious and outstandingly manoeuvrable. It could make heavy tasks possible and could be stored tidily on a wall peg. The internal box was available in either red or black and the whole apparatus was £39,96 including VAT and delivery. Bargain! 

8: A: Scavenger. Allen called their wheeled vacuums the Scavenger. They were designed and built in the UK. In 1987 the 21″ 3.5 hp model cost £299+vat, the 27″ 5 hp model was £399+vat.

9: C: Percy Thrower appeared in newspaper adverts for the Wolseley-Webb range of machines. Bayleaf the Gardener was a character from The Herbs which was a childrens stop-motion animation in 1968

10: B: Merlin. Allen called the mulching mower they were advertising the Merlin. Shown in newspaper adverts as a mail order, it was priced at £299.95 including free delivery in 7-21 days. It was advertised as having superior quality, was precision made and had a specially designed cutting chamber that helped the mulching process.

11: A: Retailed by VIA LTD. were the mowers called Beaulieu, Blenheim, Hatfield, Arundel and Sandringham. Other models were Apollo, Mercury, Neptune, Jupiter and Saturn. More than likely they were made by Concord Meccanica based in Varese, Italy. These mowers were standard pedestrian machines powered by either electricity or petrol. The petrol engines seem to be mostly Briggs and Stratton but the 53cm wide Saturn mower had a 4.4 hp BETA two-stroke engine and was priced in the UK at £580 in 1985. Note: In answer option B, the listed model C-3PO was a robot character in Star Wars. 

12: B: £1286.28. Yes, an obscure question for horticulture but I managed to get in a gardening reference or two! 

Did you get all twelve correct?

by alan

The Cultivator Magazine – April 2021

April 17, 2021 in Club News

Landing on VHGMC subscribers doorsteps shortly will be the April issue of ‘The Cultivator’.

This issue contains articles about the Gravely 430 tractor from Marcus Stephens, the British Anzani Iron Horse from Bryan Garnham; Gutbrod tractors from Steven Little, and part four about the Villiers Engineering company from Ian Barnes. Plus the events diary, classified adverts, and more. 

Members who have paid their yearly subscriptions can log in and download a digital version from the Members Download tab at the top of the page. 

by alan

The Perils of Collecting…..

November 22, 2020 in Articles, Machinery

Whatever you are collecting the machine may be out there!

We are possibly all guilty of wasting time looking through classified adverts in the tractor or vintage magazines or browsing online auctions, this is usually done under the guise of ‘research purposes’ even if we sometimes just accidentally end up purchasing the item. The purchase can then be further justified as saving another piece of history and the item joins the ever expanding collection without any sin being committed.

These are my personal thoughts on collecting all things horticultural. Easy and from the comfort of one’s own home, one of the best places to find things is online. But I find online auctions can sometimes be a complete muddle of contradictory statements. For instance a heap of rust for sale doesn’t correlate with its dubious glowing description of a machine needing nothing more than a bit of TLC, or the fact that the engine is scattered between several Tupperware boxes doesn’t necessarily constitute an ‘easy DIY repair’. Other adverts can bring a smile to the face of the people who know the seller is trying to big up their merchandise like a street trader hustling items from a suitcase, making it sound like it’s a once in a life-time opportunity, which it rarely is. Conversely, some rare or unusual machines have passed under the radar, sadly their sales description letting down the unknowing seller from getting a better price or a potential buyer missing out on finding that desired machine.

My favourite online auction machinery description to justify the potential that a machine is still in working order is: “Was working when last used”. Quite frankly, I hope it was working when last used! I often wonder if the rest of the selling statement could be ‘…but not working now’ or possibly ‘…but we cannot get it to start/run/move since it’s been sitting in the shed for thirty years’, which rather puts a damper on the auction.

There’s a huge range of machines out there – but will they run and work as intended once they’ve been brought home?

In this Northern household we take the view that anything with a petrol engine isn’t going to run when purchased, accordingly “Was working when last used” is taken with a pinch of salt. If it does run then it’s a complete bonus and we celebrate by taking the whippet for a pint down’t pub.

I’ve also been dismayed when clicking on a garden tractor advert that’s still at its 99p starting bid only to find that the seller is actually selling the machine for spares. Acting like Arthur Daley of the mower world the seller cunningly announces one is bidding “for a wheel nut only”. I’m always tempted to ask to buy all the wheel nuts, thus hopefully leaving the buyer with a wheel-less and immovable machine in the middle of his garage floor that he can fall over for the foreseeable future.

Having a machine that is moveable is pretty important. It reminds me of a trip one spring to somewhere south of a great metropolis to collect a non-running garden tractor that turned out to also have a couple of flat tyres. Google Street View did a tragically poor job of warning us of the front-garden-cum-municipal-tip-devastation we had to extract the tractor from. We knew we were in trouble when even the owner went out for the day and left us to sort it out for ourselves. A challenge wading through a sea of pizza boxes, beer cans and half a scrap yard, including the ubiquitous car up on bricks and a safe with the door jemmied open, and all at the front of a semi-detached house. I’m told it’s called character building but I’d call it unfortunate; yet we did rescue a tractor and that means it’s another guilt-free purchase.  

The tractor we rescued had one additional label, it was that of an auction. Over the years we have had a few machines that have obviously been bought for tuppence at a local sale and then put online in the hope of bagging a magnificent profit. I’m all for enterprise and if people can find a bargain then sell it on for a profit then good for them and I wish them every success. It’s possible that many machines that are now in collectors hands may have been sourced from agricultural sales, house clearances or free-ads before filtering down through online auctions. I wonder how many machines and tools have been saved from the scrap man because they ended up on online auctions, their last chance of rescue before being dismembered or going to the crusher?

Perhaps collecting hand tools would be an easier option?

But this collecting lark is not without perils. If you are into collecting hand tools with no moving parts then you are very sensible and on to a winner, probably spotting all the bargains I blindly overlook. The most problematic that simple hand tools can get is rust, broken welds or woodworm. However, if any collectable has an engine, gearbox or anything of mechanical importance to the machine actually working as intended, then the money can start flowing and all hopes of saving up for that holiday in the Maldives vanishes. Who needs a foreign holiday anyway? Hours wasted whilst sat idly at an airport when instead one could be back at home trying to source no-longer-available parts for a knackered Tecumseh engine!

Of course the machines we collect are getting older and for some the original spares are getting rarer and some aftermarket reproduction parts can be a potential gamble. Sometimes this can mean turning to the lucky dip put forth by the internet and sticking our oily hands into the digital bran barrel of parts that may or may not fit. I’ve found that cross-referencing part numbers between different machines and manufacturers is a skill, it’s almost an art form; I’m getting good at it.

Once parts have been identified and ordered it’s at this point that doubt could set in, especially if the confirmation email says that the parts aren’t located in the UK after all, the website plainly lied. Imagine if Google Street View comes up trumps this time and, with glee, informs the buyer that indeed the heavy crankshaft for the twin cylinder engine isn’t coming from a seller in a picturesque Cotswold village, instead it’s coming from a bedsit in a backstreet in China that looks scary even in daylight. Will the purchase turn up? Estimated delivery time: Eventually. Plus the frightening thought of import duty and VAT. But that’s a story for another day.

by alan

Engine Replacement Guide

October 25, 2020 in Machinery

Sometimes it’s necessary to change the engine on a machine, usually this is because the existing one, often the original, has come to the end of it’s life and parts are no longer available or it’s just not cost effective. A new replacement engine is the obvious choice and there’s many brands to choose from including the ‘knock-off’ copies of many. Also as important is if the machine in question; a garden tractor, ride-on mower, lawnmower, tiller, etc is required to still look the part and have an age-related engine rather than new in which case a second-hand engine is an option.

From 1985 I have a useful brochure detailing a replacement engine guide from the Engine Division of ‘Autocar Electrical Equipment Co. Ltd’ at the time based in Barking Essex. This guide, which is actually a piece of marketing, details both vertical and horizontal engines between 2hp and 11hp from Briggs & Stratton which can be used in place of Honda, Kawasaki, Kohler, Robin, Suzuki, Aspera, Tecumseh, Villiers, Mag and Kubota.

It is interesting to see across the board how different engine specs relate between differing manufacturers. I’m sure there will many other engine replacement guides available.

For research purposes, this guide can be downloaded or opened on your computer as an A4 or A3 PDF, you can use the PDF controls to zoom in, often in the bottom right of the PDF screen, on the data.

Download A4 Replacement Engine Brochure

Download A3 Replacement Engine Sheet

by alan

Build a DIY Tractor

May 17, 2020 in Articles

There are plans for many machines, including this petrol-powered shredder in 1966

I’ve found many references in various online archives referring to home made garden machinery. Interestingly there’s many plans for garden tractors including both the two and four wheel variety. I suppose this should be no surprise as with a bit of inginuity, some workshop skills and a pile of parts, namely an engine, gearbox, wheels, and some means of steering or control, then anything is possible. 

I’ve also found a book from 1951 which looks like it could be of use….

….But before getting excited about sticking mechanical parts together in some sort of over sized Meccano kit experiment, lets  scrutinize carefully the advice given decades ago about concocting a tractor from bits…

1: The 1951 book advises that  the parts required may actually be a greater cost than buying a second hand machine, it quotes that a home made four wheel machine should cost no more than £25.0.0 and a two wheel machine about £5.0.0. Considering that at the time a new two wheel Farmers Boy started around £58 and a Gunsmith about £178, a considerable saving could be made. 

2: Spare parts may not be available in the future for the parts that the home made machine is compiled from. It was advised that it would be prudent to keep a stash of spares for when (not if) the home made machine breaks down. A spare engine and gearbox was suggested.

3: The home made machine may not (probably not) have the equipment and devices to keep the operator safe, like guards and easily accessible controls. This is referred to nowadays as an accident waiting to happen. 

Having satisfied ourselves that the project may be possible, we next need to have a suitable workshop. I’m reminded of a family story where a young person in the 60’s decided to overhaul his motorbike. Having nowhere suitable he decided the spare bedroom would be a solution. Revving the engine and attempting to drive upstairs was not a happy outcome when, in cartoon fashion, the stair carpet was ripped from it’s mountings whilst the motorbike remained at the foot of the stairs. The calamities did not end there as the eventually bedroom’ed motorbike was treated to a through clean, the result being spilled oil and petrol seeping through to the ceiling below. Outdoor space is therefore advised, plenty of room being a must for the intended project, unlike a long ago neighbour who had to remove the end of his garage in order to extract the trailer he had made.

Just like a cookery book, the 1951 book gives a list of ingredients but in mechanical form, yet doesn’t divulge any way of attaching one to another.

But if we want to jump in at the deep end and proceed with our 1951 book and muddle a machine together in an ad-hoc manner then it recommends the following parts for a four-wheel tractor, but no instructions:

An engine (7hp), gearbox, clutch, radiator, steering (modified), front axle (inverted), and a shortened chassis (4′ 8″) all from an Austin 7. A rear axle and differential from a Wolseley Hornet, 19″ rear wheels from a Trojan, and two 8″ wheel barrow wheels for the front. This would create a 6′ 5″ long tractor. 

A two-wheel tractor would again require scavenging parts from an Austin 7, these would be the engine, gearbox and clutch. The chassis would be home-made from angle-iron. The wheels would be 19″. This would give an 8′ long by 3′ wide machine. 

Without plans this may turn out to be a big challenge, but help is at hand to help us achieve a home-made machine, at least in the USA anyway….

1944 Shaw tractor advert

….Through the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond In the USA many adverts appear ( try Popular Mechanics magazines) providing plans and diagrams to build a garden tractor, these would be a great idea as, presumably, many others have followed the plans with great success. 

The Shaw MFG. Co. of Kansas (image on the right) were offering plans for their tractors at $1 in 1944. This was due to the war limiting production of their own machines and therefore you could follow their plans and build your own using old car parts, and powered by a 3hp Briggs and Stratton engine. A two wheel garden tractor that was powered by a 1/2hp to 3hp engine could also be made. Apparently a machine could be constructed in a few hours, that is if the parts were readily available. 

Build your own battery lawnmower in 1947

Or how about creating something futuristic from 1947 and building a battery powered lawnmower? Advertised as an ultra-modern rotary mower it could be made from inexpensive parts and an old motor, it looks interesting, and at just 35c I may enquire. 

We could also make something even more amazing like  the tracked Mini-Dozer or Mini-Beep lawn tractor in the style of a Jeep from Struck in the USA in the 1960’s. I know I’ve caught several peoples attention with the Mini-Beep pictured in the advert, below!

The Mini-Beep was a 4/5 scale, DIY kit of a WWII Willy’s Jeep. It was made out of plywood and had a mechanical 2wd or 4wd system. More impressive is that the Mini-Beep plans are still available to buy from the company today and the Mini-Dozer is available in kit form, too. The Mini-Beep would be a great project to undertake, especially as it can be fitted with a dozer blade or have a trailed mower for cutting the paddocks. Without a doubt, for me, I’d end up with a superior result rather than hacking an old Austin 7 to pieces!

Note: Images/media are used for research/illustration purposes for non-profit only with copyright held by respective publishers where and as applicable.