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Collection, Preservation and Display of Old Lawn Mowers

Webb 14" AB Series - Cutting too short

Hi guys,

My first post here - thanks for taking the time to read.

I had new lawn laid at my house at the start of spring, and I needed to buy a new lawnmower.

Whilst searching I came across an old Webb 14 inch, AB Series, with a 2hp Briggs and Stratton engine. I can't tell you how delighted I was when I found it, as my father had had one of these lawnmowers for many years as I was growing up. My fascination with all things mechanical meant that it was the first engine I ever decided to Strip down (even if it only involved taking head off and having a poke around with a screwdriver - I was about 8 years old at the time!).

Delighted with my new purchase, I brought the lawnmower back home and promptly set upon my first attempt.

Something very strange happened; the cut was very patchy and seemed to be extremely low, and as the grass was already quite long it almost appeared to be tearing up the grass.

After doing a little research I decided that the blades must have been blunt, so set about trying to sharpen them and adjusting how close the cylinder is to cutting blade.

I've also adjusted the Front roller so that it is on its maximum height setting, i.e. With the rollers pushed as far down as they can possibly go. Even at this setting, the cut still seems to be extremely close, and when I cut the lawn, it looks brown afterwards. 

When I used my new lawnmower (a rotary with a collector) even on its lowest setting it does not go as close as my old lawnmower cuts on its highest setting.

What other options do I have in order to raise the cutting height? Thank you all for your help.

Over the winter I will be completely stripping it down for a full rebuild and re paint - cant wait! I will report back.






doubleg Sun, 02/11/2014

Very short cut? You can see the setting of the front roller is set to cut at the highest length (ie the rollers are pushed all the way down - raising the cut height).

I am worried this is so short it could kill the lawn. It is considerably lower than the lowest cut set when I use my modern mower.


Roller setting - VERY short cutt

Very patchy 1st cut, before I adjusted the cylinder. Odd!

Patchy 1st cut before blade adjustment



Jon Sun, 02/11/2014

Hello, Regarding the cutting height. Firstly I am not familiar with this model of mower. However It could be that the front rollers may not be original and have a smaller diameter than what what intended for this machine, therefore reducing the cutting height by lowering the front of the machine. I have replaced the front (rotten) wooden rollers on several Atco's with a smaller diameter rollers (Wilkinson's rolling pins, v cheap) though there is more than sufficient adjustment on the mower to cope with this. By the looks of the lawn from your cutting I suspect the cylinder needs sharpening and setting up to the bottom blade. Is the cylinder damaged or bent from hitting stones and is the bottom blade looking straight? Will it cut a piece if paper?

hillsider Sun, 02/11/2014

From the pictures of your patchy grass it looks as though you may be experiencing a number of factors that are affecting your lawn.

1. Even at its highest setting the Webb mower cuts lower that the rotary mower that you have been using. This can be confirmed by measurement using a straight edge spanning between the front and rear rollers and measuring to the top side of the bottom blade on the Webb and from the ground to the blades on the rotary machine when stood on a hard flat surface.

This would cause the grass to be cut closer to the ground exposing the pale or even white undergrowth that is not normally exposed.

2. It is possible that your grass has a proportion of thatch that is making the above look worse than it could be.

3. The cylinder and bottom blade of the Webb mower are actually tearing at the grass rather than cutting it cleanly, This would not affect the height of cut but would exacerbate the patchy and torn effect. The only true remedy for this will be to have the cylinder and blade re-ground to bring back a good clean cut. 

Good luck with the restoration and please keep us posted with progress, I have no personal experience of the model of mower that you have but the problems that you describe could easily apply to many makes of cylinder mowers.




wristpin Sun, 02/11/2014

After doing a little research I decided that the blades must have been blunt, so set about trying to sharpen them and adjusting how close the cylinder is to cutting blade.

So how did you go about the sharpening? Unless you had it done professionally, either with the cylinder in-situ or removed from the machine and the bottom blade refaced, the machine is unlikely to be cutting cleanly.

From the images, I would respectfully suggest that considerable work is needed to the lawn before it will be suitable for cylinder mowing. Depending on how well drained your lawn is it is probably too damp and late in the season to set about any remedial action but I think that you should draw up a plan for getting it into "cylinder mowing condition" in the spring. Start by making sure that the blade on your rotary is good and sharp and clean out any accumulation of soil or dried grass from under the deck. If it has a fabric grass bag put it somewhere where it will dry out thoroughly and then give the inside a good brush out with a stiff scrubbing brush. This will allow the fabric to breath and help air to exhaust through the mesh ensuring good grass collection when you start mowing in the spring.

Once there is a minimal risk of frost in the spring, work the grass down to the minimum height with the rotary, possibly around 1.25" and in a dry spell borrow or hire a scarifier; then have a go with the sharp and properly set up Webb.



hortimech Mon, 03/11/2014

Totally agree with everything posted so far, only information that I can add is, it is not an 'AB series' mower, it is just a 14" Webb, the 'AB series' was the one with the horrible plastic handles. The cylinder belt is incorrectly fitted, the guide rod that is shown 'inside' the belt, should be 'under' the belt and adjusted so that it is just clear of the belt when the belt is under tension i.e. engaged.


hillsider Mon, 03/11/2014

Whilst viewing the side view of the mower to try to see what hortimech is commenting on (IPads are great at zooming photos) I noticed that the front roller height adjusters appear to be in the middle of their adjustment range so more adjustment should be available to overcome the scalping.


hortimech Mon, 03/11/2014

I think that you are mistaking the clamp bolts as the limiting factor, there is a small stud riveted to the side frame, the slides are fully down on these studs.


wristpin Mon, 03/11/2014

Also as a result of Hortimech drawing attention to the belt keeper, it looks as though the top one between the primary drive (top) pulley and the tensioning jockey pulley is also incorrectly positioned!

I can't find a user manual to check but from memory it should be turned through 90 degrees and just be just clear of the belt with the drive engaged. When the drive is disengaged the slack belt touches it and is sprung clear of the top pulley. With the drive engaged it should not be pressing on the belt as yours appears to be.

The attached image of the similar setup on. Webb 24 shows both keepers correctly positioned.

Sorry, usual problem posting image from iPad. Will post from PC later.

Later !!

hortimech Mon, 03/11/2014

Your eyes must be better than mine, but now I have peered more closely at the photo, yes you are correct Wristpin, that keeper needs to be adjusted as you suggested, otherwise the belt will tend to creep when disengaged and if the other one isn't adjusted, the belt will wear out in no time.