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Collection, Preservation and Display of Old Lawn Mowers

Allen Scythe eccentricities

Having written this little 'nugget' I thought that it might be worthwhile, to someone, to share it.  During a discussion regarding an 'Elfin safety' issue I was reminded of our old Mk1 Allen which we used to have on our small holding when I was a lad. These days you probably wouldn’t be allowed to drive one unless you were at least 18 and had been on an approved course! :)

It was the early two stroke version we had and although I used it, proudly, from the age of 13-14yrs (Keeping the long grass in check was one of my ‘chores’).  I grew to love the idiosyncrasies of the machine and became rather good at using it and as a youngster was proud of my mastery of it!!  I've always loved mechanisms and machinery....weird isn't it!
Luckily I was a strong lad and you could get into situations where you needed to be. However it was a truly marvellous machine which was VERY effective at doing its job and was an absolutely key machine in keeping the place tidy.
On that model there was one VERY important trick you had to learn in order to, reliably, disengage the drive to the wheels otherwise the thing would propel itself onwards and goodness me, due to the low gearing, it did have a huge amount of torque at the driven wheels and took some stopping!!    The oddity was that in normal motion you could not disengage the drive by pulling in the clutch lever!!  The lever appeared to be locked and would resist all attempts to force it. To disengage the drive I discovered that the trick was to synchronise the pulling in of the clutch lever with a sudden downward movement of the handle bars (around 6” or so)!! This action enabled you to move the clutch lever!
Because of this characteristic you had to time this ‘procedure' carefully as you approached anything solid; especially if it was made of something soft like wood! If you mis-timed the clutch release and ran into the object, the sharp tines, on the cutting bar, would dig into the wood and then you were stuck! 
The reason was that in order to disengage the clutch, using the trick I mentioned (moving the handlebars down), the cutting bar obviously needed to move up and, of course, if the tines were buried in the wood you couldn’t!   You were stuck with the machine trying its hardest to penetrate the wood even more with the wheels spinning on the grass sap!!!   The only solution was to lift the handlebars to minimise contact with the ground (or floor as they say these days...Grrr!!) and drag it back bodily, against the propulsion of the wheels! (I said you had to be strong!! :) It actually relied on the low friction of grass sap for its operation!
I’m 65yrs old now but I know that I could immediately drive an Allen, even now, as the characteristics of machines are programmed into the brain forever. Oh yes, the two stroke engine could be a bit of a pig to start as well as the British engineers of the day, shamefully, never mastered the design and/or production of good ignition systems and the best you could hope for was a spindly thin yellow spark on a closed down plug gap!! :) Thankfully this is easily cured these days by solid state ignition add-ons.

I hope this helps!!