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Collection, Preservation and Display of Old Lawn Mowers

Take the 7 minute challenge.

I bought this lovely little 10”  Ransomes New Automaton at auction recently. As you can see from the first few photographs it looked pretty sad and a possible case for total restoration. However armed only with a can of WD40 and a car cleaning cloth it took just 7 minutes to end up in a very presentable state. The front rollers need replacing which I have already sourced and will add later. I have found time and time again a mower offered for sale in what is a seemingly awful state is infact just a lot of dirt, grease and dust built up over time. I would offer some caution when using WD40 to clean very old paint as sometimes it can remove some. However I would recommend anyone who might have seen a mower they quite like but are put off by the possible work involved to bring it back to a presentable condition to take the 7 minute cleaning challenge. Don’t be afraid to use plenty of WD40. I would be interested to know if any one else has had the same experience.  Before and after photos offered. The cleaned mower is far from mint but is now in a very presentable condition. Enjoy photos.

stonethemows Fri, 05/08/2022

You have exactly ' hit the nail on the head ' here Sean. I too discovered this phenomenon some while ago although as some will know I was invariably reluctant to get involved in re-painting for various reasons. Not least of which is that these older machines usually, in my opinion, look much better for being more or less original.

Over a long period of time I have experimented with various ' cleaners ' and methods; be warned you have to be particularly careful with aged original transfers. The quality reproductions the Club Shop sells by the way are a little more forgiving.

My standard equipment incudes old knives, small worn out screwdrivers, old toothbrushes, small fine wire brushes and fine steel wool. An oily rag, preferably with clean light lubricating oil, can't be beaten. Don't forget an infinite amount of elbow grease, which is really the key to it all. You've got to be interested, motivated and patient.

Your seven minutes is perhaps a little optimistic ! I often spend hours on some of these machines but I also find it somewhat therapeutic - well most of the time.


Messorestore Sat, 06/08/2022

Thank you for your comments Colin. The seven minute thing is how long I happened to spend. More time and it would have looked even better. I absolutely agree with you about being reluctant to repaint. If at all possible I avoid this and indeed replacing parts for shinier ones. If you fit brand new handles grips to a mower where you don’t repaint or you happen to replace parts with shiny new bolts without repainting then they look completely out of place. I can understand the overpowering urge to repaint and restore an old mower to ‘as new condition’ but then what ? Obviously worn out or damaged parts need replacing or repairing but you cannot restore history or patina into an old mower. Every old mower has a history and a story to tell. To me preservation is the key, to intervene as little as possible to have a mower that functions properly, is perfectly presentable but retains its lovely old look and feel. I know I will have now annoyed many members but I say each to their own - I like an old mower to look old, loved, used and above all speak about its past. 

stonethemows Mon, 08/08/2022

Excellent. Effort may well be an apposite word for it. What did you use on the grassbox wood ?

Messorestore Mon, 08/08/2022

You will never believe that I used two soaking coats of WD40 and a gentle rub to clean. Finally a coat of cricket bat Linseed oil. The WD40 cleans off the dust. The paint on the box was like it had been rubbed over with car paint TCut. If you have ever used TCut it completely dulls the paint which you have to bring the colour and shine back with polish. In this case the oil cleans and puts some body and brings colour back to the paint.The WD40 is too thin and evaporates too readily taking the paint back to dull within a few hours. The linseed keeps the shine and body of colour.  Can I suggest you take your grottiest wooden box that still has some paint on it and try a small patch. You’ll be amazed. 

stonethemows Tue, 09/08/2022

I've been a fan of linseed oil for a long time. Use it on all sorts of things, including the house.

Incidentally, have used it to good effect on the very tired composite/plastic handgrips of later Webb Miniatures. It adds ' body ' and firmness, as well as bringing back the colour.