How do I sharpen my lawn mower blade? Getting prepared – Part 1 of 3.

Keeping your lawn mower blade sharp is important to both your lawn mower and your lawn. Those of you who sharpen your own lawn mower blade have 2 options – sharpen the blade while it is on the mower or remove the blade and sharpen it off the mower. In this blog post, I will go through the detailed steps needed to prepare to sharpen your mower blade – either “on” or “off” your lawn mower.

Albeit much faster to sharpen the blade on the mower, removing the blade allows you to do a much better job at sharpening the blade and making sure it is balanced. Regardless of which way you wish to sharpen your blade, there are a few things you need to pay close attention to before you start.

First – safety. Make sure the mower engine start control is set in the “off” position and the spark plug wire is taken off of the spark plug and grounded to the engine. Failing to do this might allow the engine to try and start while you are trying to sharpen the blade or while you are trying to remove it from your lawn mower. This can result in possible bodily injury and damage to your lawn mower. A simple tool called a “Piston Locking Screw” *requires that you remove the engine spark plug so that this tool can be installed. There is now no way your engine can start while you are working on it. Also, this tool prevents your engine crankshaft from turning which makes it much easier for you to remove the blade or sharpen the blade while on the mower.

 

Using this tool, there will be no no chance of the engine possibly starting, you can now safely work on your lawn mower. If you have a fuel shut-off valve, turn it so that the fuel flow is off and tip your mower on its side with the carburetor side being up. This will help prevent fuel leaking into your engine and flooding it.

Next, and very important, take a close visual inspection of the blade, blade mount, and all blade retaining bolts. Is anything loose, broken or damaged? Is one side of the mower blade bent differently from the other side? Are there large deep “dings” in the blade edges (more than 4mm)? If you find any of the above issues, then you should take your lawn mower to be serviced by a trained technician. If not, then you are now ready to sharpen your lawn mower blade.

Stay tuned for my next 2 blog posts where I go into detail on how to sharpen your lawn mower blade “on” or “off” your lawn mower!

Work safe!

*  For engines where the spark plug is located directly above the engine piston.

Making a 3:1 Mechanical Advantage for Pulling Trees

Occasionally some back leaning trees need more help than a few wedges. With a rope installed high in the tree to be pulled, an arborist can add mechanical advantage easily with a few simple pieces of gear.

To build this 3:1 system you will need:

– 2 x micropulleys

– 2 x rated carabiners

– eye to eye prussic cord

– way to anchor base pulley to the tree (IE sling, piece of rigging rope)

To set up the system: 

1. Choose a strong anchor (usually another tree) in the direction you want to pull the tree to be felled. Attach one of the micro pulleys to this anchor and feed the end of your pull rope through the pulley.

 

2. Tie a VT or French Prussic knot on the leg of the pull line between the tree to be felled and the anchor pulley. Attach the other carabiner and micro pulley to the VT knot and feed the end of the pull rope through this pulley.

3. Slide the VT knot towards the tree to be felled until you have enough space in the 3:1 system to pull the tree over. At this point, I usually pre-tension the pull rope and tie it off on the anchor above or below where the pulley is attached. If you cannot move the top of the tree at this point, do not proceed with the cut, as you probably need more pulling power.

 

Fraser Teeple ( http://fraserteeplearborist.com ) is an ISA and Ontario Certified Arborist who provides blog posts and product reviews for Cutter’s Choice.

How to clean carburetors without harsh chemicals? Build a “Soda Blaster”!

That’s right make a soda blaster and blast the grease and grime off your parts. We all know that the chemical cleaners are not what they once were and most still use harsh chemicals that you can’t rinse down the sink.  A Soda Blaster is basically a sand blaster using BAKING SODA – completely safe and harmless and cheap! We all likely have some baking soda in our kitchen cupboards already!

The Soda Blaster uses a simple venturi tube (piece of plastic tubing) on the end of your compressor air gun the other in the box of baking soda. The Low pressure created in the venturi draws the baking soda up the tube where the high pressure air fires it at the target – safely blasting away the grime. Any residual baking soda is simply rinsed away as it is dissolves in water.

The following link has a great step by step guide to making a Soda Blaster, check it out.

http://www.aircooledtech.com/tools-on-the-cheap/soda_blaster/

As with any device that uses compressed air – proper safety protection should always be worn.

Installing 10 mm Spark Plugs – be careful!

How tight you install any spark plug into an engine head is critical. Small engine spark plugs come in different sizes with the most common being 14 mm, 12 mm, and now even 10 mm.

Many newer lawn and garden engines now take the tiny 10 mm spark plugs. The body wall thickness of these spark plugs are deceptively narrow. Once installed these spark plugs have to come back out eventually and over tightening them can cause them to snap off at the threads because a spark plug, like any bolt, requires more torque to remove than to install.

Plug manufacturers have preached for years about using a torque wrench when installing these 10 mm plugs and for good reason. Removing a broken over tightened spark plug can be a big expense. You shouldn’t rely on just the “feel” of tightness – either use a torque wrench or a “seated rotation” guideline to ensure the proper tightness of any small engine spark plug that you install.

 

What size grinding wheel do I need for sharpening my chain saw chain ?

A lot of customers get confused on the thickness of the grinding wheel to use on their chain saw chain when it needs sharpening.

Most chain saw bench grinder sharpeners have two thickness of grinding wheels available for grinding chain saw ‘cutters’ and chain saw ‘rakers’.

 

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TYPICAL CHAIN SAW CHAIN “CUTTER”

For the cutters, the 1/8” thick wheel is used for ¼”, 3/8 LP ( Low Profile) and .325 pitch chain while the 3/16” thick wheel is used on standard 3/8 and .404 pitch chain.

There is a lot of confusion out there because of the sharpening round file sizes and the thickness of a sharpening grinding wheel. For example – a .325 pitch chain uses a 3/16” round file but a 1/8” thick grinding wheel. I can be confusing but if you always check before you sharpen you won`t get it wrong!

Later I will have a blog on using a grinding wheel for the chain saw chain ‘rakers’.

Happy sharpening!

Why Won’t My Snow Blower / Lawnmower Idle At One Speed?

If your lawn mower or snow blower refuses to have a smooth constant idle speed and tends to repeatedly speed up then slow down – you have what is known as a “ Hunting and Surging” idle. This is a common occurrence with snow blowers and lawnmowers. With snow blowers this is usually because they sit all summer long stored in some hot garden shed with old gas still in their carburetor and fuel tanks. With time, the gasoline fuel will start to break down leaving a residue that can plug the small fuel circuits in a carburetor. With lawn mowers the “ Hunting and Surging” idle is usually caused by dirt getting into the carburetor as these engines operate in a much dustier environment. However, you can have the same issue if your lawn mower has bee sitting all winter with unconditioned gasoline in its tank and carburetor too!

There are 2 main fuel circuits in a small engine carburetor – the Low speed fuel circuit and the High speed fuel circuit. When one of these fuel circuits becomes partially plugged the engine no longer receives a constant fuel flow. The fuel flow becomes variable which results in the engine idle speed ” Hunting and Surging”. The only thing to do is “get the dirt out” – and that means you will need to clean the carburetor!

When cleaning a carburetor I always try to use something like “Mechanic In A Bottle” first. Just add a cap full to a tank of fuel and let the engine run for 10 minutes. If the residue isn’t too bad you will actually hear the idle smooth out and the “Hunting and Surging” will stop.

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If this this does not work then you will need to remove the carburetor from the engine, disassemble it and then allow it to fully soak in “Carburetor Cleaner” for a night. The next day you will need to replace the internal carburetor parts with new parts from an appropriate Carburetor Rebuild Kit.

 

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Okay, now that you have done all this work and finally got your carburetor clean and engine running with a smooth idle – you can prevent this issue from happening again next season by using a FUEL STABLIZER additive. Simply add the recommended amount to your gasoline and your small engine should start first pull next season!

Hope this helps !

Larry Laser

Why do I need shear pins – can’t I just use a regular bolt in my snow blower?

Yikes! Never use a regular bolt to replace a “shear pin” bolt!

Some shear pin bolts look a lot like regular bolts while others look similar but with “relief” cuts recessed in their shanks or are fitted with special spacer collars.

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The main fundamental difference in the design of a shear pin bolt to that of a regular bolt is that a shear pin bolt is design to fail. That’s right! As weird as that may sound, shear pin bolts are designed to fail (shear off) at a specific level of shearing (sideways) force. It is with the failure of the shear pin bolt that potential damage is not extended to your snow blower drive train system. The shearing of the shear pin bolt releases all force off the snow auger allowing it to no longer be driven but to spin freely. The blower drive train still continues to spin but with a sheared pin the snow auger no longer turns. The brass driven gear is damaged because the use of a regular bolt allowed the full force of a stuck snow auger (caused by a rock that got caught between the auger and the lower snow scraper bar) to transfer back to the brass driven gear causing gear tooth breakage and other damage. Unfortunately I have had to replace a few expensive brass driven gears that were damaged beyond repair because the owner used a bolt instead of a shear pin!

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Using the correct shear pin bolt will only cost you a few dollars but this little special bolt was designed to save you having to spend much more on repairs!

How to Install a Branch Saver Dynamic Cabling System.

Dynamic cabling systems provide an alternative to the steel (static) cable systems that an Arborist can use to support trees with poor structure.

There are several advantages to a using a dynamic system:
1. The supported stems are allowed to move (within healthy limits) since there is some flex in the rope — this movement stimulates “Reaction Wood”, which will strengthen the joint.
2. Installation requires less tools and is faster and easier than steel cabling.
3. The splice and abrasion sleeve used as an attachment point are less invasive than a j-lag or eye bolt.
4. The materials are less expensive, providing good value to the customer.

That said, there are limitations to a dynamic system:
1. It should not be used when the tree’s structure is compromised. For example, if a visible crack has developed in the joint, or if the wood supporting the joint is decayed, steel cable and a support rod should be installed or the complete removal of the tree should be considered.
2. Arborists must inspect the eye splices every 2-3 years to make sure they are not choking the tree.
3. Synthetic material does not last as long as steel.

Below is a picture of the tools I use to install Branch Saver – I just carry everything in a bucket while in the tree. Tailor’s shears work best for cutting the abrasion sleeves. A long thin stick can be taped to the black rope to feed it through the abrasion sleeves in the tree. The small pointed stick can be fed into the end of the rope and taped to work as a splicing fid — although just taping a point works well enough.

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When installed in the tree the cable should be taut, but not torquing the branch union. The way I set this up is by securing one end of the cable, then moving over to the other side of the tree and attaching a short piece of rope to the cable using a Blake’s hitch. Slide the hitch out an arms length and set up a 3-1 mechanical advantage to pull on the cable. Tie off this rope to hold tension while splicing the cable, and release when you finish.

Here is a picture of the mechanical advantage setup. Running a rope straight through the carabiner instead of a second pulley seems to prevent over torquing the union.

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Here are a few pictures of some systems I’ve installed recently. Note that the splice loop should be resting on a branch to keep it from slipping down the trunk.

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Fraser Teeple is an ISA and Ontario Certified Arborist who provides professional product reviews for Cutter’s Choice.

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