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Collection, Preservation and Display of Old Lawn Mowers

Unusual? Atco mower.

Atco mower1

I spotted this 20” Atco mower on eBay last week, and bought it. Principle reason, the 5hp B&S should fit one of my many enginless Merry Tillers. Anyway, a trawl of Google turned up no results for this machine which, I assume, would make it as rare as rocking horse droppings. So have I bought a rare and important piece of Atco’s history, which deserves full restoration as a museum piece, or a load of old junk? 

The vendor told me he was parting with it as the blade is at it’s last regrind, so it isn’t going to be doing much more mowing. I suspect few people use these cylinder “mulcher mowers” these days anyway. It must have been a useful machine, for him to have worn it out. What age is it, and would it have had a 5hp B & S engine when new? I suspect this 1998 engine will be a replacement. 

I doubt if I will ever get round to doing anything with it, other than removing the engine, as my Merry Tiller collection never gets less. Anyone fancy restoring the “missing link” between Atco lawnmowers and their “thee gang mowers”? 


hortimech Sat, 27/05/2017

I can remember putting these together during the mid 70S and yes, you could describe them as a mini gang with an engine, or is the other way round ?

wristpin Sat, 27/05/2017

It's an Atco Toughcut and as Hortimech  says it does share quite a lot of components with the Atco Mini Gangs. If you are going to use the engine and dispose of the rest you may find that, if the gear rings inside the wheels are in good condition, a Mini Gang owner will  be a ready purchaser, as the early gangs had a habit of chewing up the gears. Later versions had an additional reinforcing bracket  to stop the wheel spindles flexing and the gear rings self destructing.…

merryman Sun, 28/05/2017

So the vendor was right, he called it a Tough Cut, and said it was based on the three gang mowers, but as nothing came up on Google, I assumed he had got the name wrong. On entering Toughcut, a few entries do come up, mostly linking back to this club website. The seller reckoned cylinder mulchers were better for his contract mowing work as they spread the cuttings evenly behind as they go, whereas rotary mowers leave a thick line at one side. Is that a BSA engine atop of the deck in the brochure, or a MAG perhaps. I guess my example will be a late one as it has a guard over the clutches.

wristpin Sun, 28/05/2017

Strictly speaking the Tuffcut and the similar Ransomes Antelope are not mulchers but "cut and drop"  machines . That said, both had optional grass collectors in the form of a sort of " hammock" suspended below the handle bars.

The history of the Atco machine goes right back to a yellow painted Villiers two-stroke powered machine from the 1950s , then with  a Villiers Lightweight four stroke or a Villiers/BSA " Sloper" four stroke.( the one on the parts book). The final version was Briggs powered. 

Other similar machines were the Suffolk Corporation and Squire.

Here's my Antelope






hortimech Sun, 28/05/2017

One of the problems with a mulch mower is that nobody ever uses one correctly or even understands what one is. If you can see the cuttings dropped behind you, you are either not using a mulch mower or you are not using it correctly!

A proper mulch mower has to be a rotary mower with a high dome deck with no exits. The cutting blade, along with the normal cutting edges, will have various extra cutters on its top edges.

So how are you supposed to use it ?

You must wait until the grass is around three inches long, then take off no more than about half an inch, yes, you just 'top' the grass.

When you cut the grass, first the blade tips actually cut the grass, there are vanes on the ends of the blade that throw the grass up into the high dome deck where it drops down onto the extra cutting edges and is pulverised into very small pieces, it then drops down into the remaining grass and is hidden. The worms etc then drag it underground where it decomposes.

That is how you are supposed to use a mulch mower, but in this country, they are normally used just like any other rotary mower and instead of topping the grass, they are used to cut the grass down to about half an inch, people then complain about them clogging up and leaving large balls of grass.


wristpin Sun, 28/05/2017

As Hortimech says, mulching is not a lazy man's answer to not collecting the grass. I used to tell customers that "Mulching must be managed" and the rule of cut one third and loose it into the standing two thirds applies  - so long as it is mulched and not just cut. At this time of year (with normal rainfall) successful mulching probably requires a 5 day mowing cycle.

Buryan Sun, 08/09/2019

Hortimech and Wristpin - thank you very much for explaining 'mulching'.