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Collection, Preservation and Display of Old Lawn Mowers

Ransomes Marquis 18 cutting cylinder removal

Recently I had the chance to pick up a Ransomes Marquis 18 Mk4a mower (probably from between 1978 and 1980).

It's looking in ok condition, some touch ups are needed here and there, but these will be done in a later stadium.

The one thing which is really essential at this time is to get the cutting cylinder and bottom blade sharpened. When I put a piece of paper between the blades, it just folds them, even though the space between the cylinder and the blade is actually good.

I've read there are several ways to get the cutting cylinder out, but I'm looking for the best and easiest way. I can then bring the cylinder and blade to a local Ransomes/Jacobsen dealer and get them sharpened (that alone seems to be quite expensive).
I can easily see that I need to undo the 2 bolts on each side, but then the cylinder will still be stuck with the chain on the other side. Do I have to remove the chain wheel attached to it? If so, how do I remove this? Or do I really need to loosen the chain at the clutch (with the special Ransomes tool)?

Thanks for the help with this :)


hortimech Tue, 05/07/2016

OK, the cylinder drive sprocket is going to have to come off, it is screwed on with a lefthand thread, this means you turn it in the opposite direction to a normal nut to undo it. How you turn it is up to you. You will need to jam the cylinder with a solid piece of wood, so that it cannot turn, then use a chain wrench or similar to turn the sprocket, once you break the seal, it should unscrew easily.

Once you have the sprocket off, remove the concave (aka deliveryplate, throwplate) from behind the cylinder, this is retained by the small plates at each upper corner. You should now remove the two bolts at each side, at this point the cutter unit should drop out, though you may have push it out downwards.

Totally unscrew the adjuster bolts to remove all pressure on the springs and lever them out. You now need to lever off the bearing housings, but they will probably be tight and will require a bit of force.



hillsider Tue, 05/07/2016

Do be aware though that the springs are liable to take flight as you lever them off, a piece of rag laid over the spring as you lever it off should limit its travel and keep you safe.

wristpin Tue, 05/07/2016

Interesting about "the several ways" to get the cutter unit out. As far as I know, there's just one way as detailed by Hortimech who quite rightly points out that the bearings can be tight on the cylinder . A good pair of long tyre levers are my weapons of choice.  

You will see that the bearing carriers pivot on bosses st each end of the bottom blade carrier or sole plate. If the machine has not been apart for a while the carriers can be tight on these bosses so that when levering them off the cylinder you need to ease them off these bosses at the same time. Sometimes an old screwdriver or cold chisel tapped between the carrier and sole plate will facilitate this together with a dose of penetrating oil.

Taking the cylinder and bottom blade to the local Ransomes agent is likely to cost top dollar . Grinding the cylinder etc will never be cheap due to the cost of the equipment needed to do the job but the cost can be contained by using the services of a local mower shop or asking around to find a man in a shed with the necessary equipment. The Ransomes agent is likely to have the latest all singing and dancing equipment to deal with professional and golf course equipment and will charge proportionally.

Netborg Wed, 06/07/2016

Thank you for the detailed information on how to do this :) This will surely get me going!

@Wristpin: About the several ways... I thought I'd read that you could just drop the cylinder and leave the complete cutter unit in. (the adjuster springs stay in the machine and just the Cylinder drops out, but that might have been from a different cylinder cutter).

Now I'll get me a chain wrench... You do say: "once you break the seal it should unscrew easily". Do I need to replace anything on the sprocket then when bolting it back on? Or don't you actually break anything?


wristpin Wed, 06/07/2016

No, you don't actually break anything. It will just be ****** tight but once you've overcome the initial friction the sprocket should just spin off..  

Chain wrench. The sprocket will need a fair amount of force to shift it so the wrench will need to be fairly substantial or capable of having a bit of pipe slipped over it fo extra leverage. You could try improvising using the machine's own chain and a bit of timber, just depends on ingenuity and what you have around .

Netborg Wed, 06/07/2016

@Wristpin: I've just read the following you typed in another Marquis thread:

A few points to check . How well does it fill the grass box, does it throw the grass well forward into the back of the box? No? may just be a matter of adjusting the throw plate or possibly that the cutting cylinder has been reduced in diameter by repeated regrinding and is no longer capable of throwing the grass forward. How much adjustment is left between the cylinder and bottom blade, how compressed are the springs , and how much lip is left on the bottom blade.


I had the issue of the grass box not being filled that well. I had to constantly empty it, because grass wasn't thrown all the way back and get accumulated between the cutting cylinder. Also the springs are quite compressed (I'll post an image of the springs later this evening).

Would it be better just to replace the cylinder then? And if so, can I still get these new somewhere?

Here's an image of the mower in its current state.


hortimech Wed, 06/07/2016

Always hard to tell from photos, but your cylinder looks ok, but the bottom blade is another thing, it should have a pronounced lip, yours looks flat, could somebody have fitted an auto-certes bottom blade ? or is it just worn out ?


hillsider Wed, 06/07/2016

I agree the cylinder seems to have some life left in it yet but an end on shot would help to decide about the bottom blade. Like hortimech, at first I thought it may be fitted with a shaver blade but it does seem as though the leading edge has the remains of a radius that would have been part of the raised lip.

From your photos the springs don't appear to be fully compressed so a replacement lipped blade and a regrind of both cylinder and blade should see you cutting well and throwing the grass into the back of the box.

Just out of curiosity the front roller arrangement looks strange, for some reason I don't remember the roller supports pointing straight down as your seem to be, I thought they were angled more to the front of the mower. A quick look at a parts list should clear that up though.

wristpin Wed, 06/07/2016

The cutting cylinder blades  are fairly worn but not as bad as some that I've seen and the springs are not compressed  solid - another good sign. I think that you might improve the grass throw by adjusting the throw plate / concave. From the look of your first image it looks as though the concave is set back from the cylinder. Ransomes suggest that the clearance at the back of the cylinder, in line with its centre shaft should ideally be two to three mm.

On machines where the reduction of cylinder diameter has reached  the limit of the two adjusting brackets I've seen home made brackets with longer slots fitted to achieve the desired clearance but by that time nothing short of a new cylinder will correct the problem of not getting the grass to the back of the box.



wristpin Wed, 06/07/2016

The angle of those front rollers is definitely odd , I think that the bracket has gone over centre so that the roller shaft is tucked under  toward the cylinder rather in a leading position.

Netborg Wed, 06/07/2016

I'll post a picture of the blade some time tomorow.

The front roller may look odd because the machine is now set on its highest level ?  For some reason, I can't get the blade higher than 3 cm. (difference between ground and blade). The machine can vary from 8mm to 3cm, but nothing higher than that. With my previous mower I was used to cutting at 4cm. 
What you can't see from the pictures is that there's also a bolt on the left hand side which leans on the front roller adjustment. Is that default on these mowers?

wristpin Wed, 06/07/2016

Yes, that peg was to limit the movement if the height adjustment mechanism.

Typically English formal lawns would be cut to less than 25mm so your 30mm is not so  surprising.

Netborg Wed, 13/07/2016

Finally had the time for those extra pictures.

There is definitely no lip on the blade, is has a water drop shape (just a sharp edge).


I took another look at the front roller as well. Took it down, couldn't see anything strange to it, explaining the way they look different then they should. The only thing I could think is that is look strange being at its highest point.

This is the mower at its lowest:


This is at its highest:


I am looking for a way to get it up to 4 cm if possible. For some reason, my grass is not happy with the cut at 3cm (looks all dried out after a day or two).

What are the additional holes in the sides for? Can I change the front roller to the lower hole on the side? (will need a bigger nut then to fill that hole, or maybe a bigger front roller?) And what is the arc shaped space for on the side?

wristpin Wed, 13/07/2016

The early Marquises did not have the one point threaded height adjuster , just a pivoted quadrant on each side moving in that curved slot . Your machine may have been built around the time of the change over and they were using up pre-built chassis or possibly a conversion from the old to the new system.

I believe that your issues with the quality of cut arise from asking the machine to operate in an environment that it was never designed to perform in. The Marquis is what would be termed " a fine turf mower"  with a cutting range of less than a centimetre up to around two centimetres . Grass of that length will stand up to be cut . Over that length , even with the machine set up higher , will be "floppy" and will tend to be pushed over.

hillsider Wed, 13/07/2016

As pointed out by Wristpin the Marquis is intended to work with grass that is shorter than you are cutting. However if you are prepared to experiment you could try making a pair of replacement front rollers that are of a larger diameter than the existing ones this would raise the mower up and give you a higher cut, just how high would depend upon how large you can go with the new rollers.

You can also gain a few millimeters of height by replacing the bottom blade with a lipped blade as this will raise the cylinder up a bit. 

Just a couple of thoughts about the browning of your lawn when cut with the Marquis, a side effect of mowing with a blunt cylinder and blade is that the ends of the blades of grass are torn and bruised causing the grass to appear damaged rather than it being cut cleanly with no damaged to the tips.

Also cutting grass lower than its normal length can uncover the lower brown stems of the grass that are normally down out of site, this situation can happen with any length of grass.

Netborg Wed, 13/07/2016

The grass type is indeed something I was thinking about. I have something they call "playing grass" (excellent for kids and sports). What I would need is finer breed of grass. 

I will have a look in getting the mower a bit higher.

Where can I buy the lipped blade? Any online dealers? Or should just visit a local lawnmower shop?

wristpin Wed, 13/07/2016

The lipped blade is the standard blade for a Marquis, Ransomes part MBA7016 or from an after market supplier such as Central Spares Pt No 51635 or from Garfitts. I think that the effect of fitting a lipped blade will be marginal but as Hillsider rightly points out sharp blades giving a clean shearing action will leave the grass looking fresh cut for longer.

I'm sorry to labour the point but I cannot see a Marquis as ever being a satisfactory machine for leaving a decent cut finish of over 3 centimetres, as even if the cylinder can be persuaded to cut say, 4cm of grass, down to a finished height of 3cm the rear roller is going to flatten it for a while leaving a very untidy effect. As for using a fine grass mixture, it would be a total waste of time and money if left to grow to 3 to 4 cm . Sounds like you have what we would term "utility" grass which is really one step up from meadow grass . More or less what I have, mown to a constant 2cm, looks fine and puts up with the grandchildren, dog and anything else that comes along.


hillsider Wed, 13/07/2016

Not wishing to sound as though I am changing my mind re my suggestions for your mower but Wristpin is quite correct in explaining his fears about stretching the operating range of your Marquis.

My thoughts are that fitting a new blade and regrinding the cylinder and the blade will only ever improve the way that you mow and experimenting with the oversize front rollers will not change anything that cannot be reversed back to original. and re cutting at the increased height it will either work or it wont with no harm done, the important thing being that you will see the results first hand.

Without seeing your grass It is impossible to be precise but it is quite possible that your grass could get used to a closer haircut cut given time.

stevecross Tue, 09/08/2016

Just a comment on the photo posted by Netborg on 13/07 and the response by Wristpin of the same date:

I was looking at a Mk 4A outside a lawnmower shop in Stevenage Old Town a few days ago. This also had the threaded adjuster and the redundant slots in the chassis side plates. I think Wristpin is correct in that Ransomes must have been using up existing chassis. I wonder if later Mk 4As had different plates without the slots and bolt holes.

On another matter, what was the thinking behind only having the two outer front rollers (my Mk 4 has a set of four, across the full 18 inch cutting width)? As these would tend to flatten the grass away from the cutting cylinder, whereas the grass between the two rollers would more or less stand up straight, wouldn't this produce an uneven cut? And isn't it also more difficult to cut up close to the edge of a lawn when there is a risk of dropping one of the rollers over the edge and thus scalping the grass?


wristpin Tue, 09/08/2016

I think that it goes without saying that using the high cut option will not give the standard of finish to be expected with a full roller set and as you have observed there is the possibility of a loss of stability. However it does mean that if you only have the one mower you can at least " hack" the grass off and then come back for a finishing cut.

It may not be immediately obvious but the standard front roller spindle has a drilling at each end, the width of the outer roller in from the outer ends to accept a split pin or R clip to position the small standard rollers. That said, your machine appears to have a specific high cut spindle and rollers.