General Identification Advice
Identifying an old lawn mower does not need to be complicated or difficult. Experienced collectors can often tell just by looking at the mower who made it and when. For everyone else, many mowers can be identified by making a note of wording found on the machine and searching this site for references. Look closely and there is often a wide range of information you can find that will help.
Castings: many mowers, particular those made before the Second World War, have castings which include information such as the manufacturer's name, the model name, serial number, and the cutting width.
Badges: many sidewheel mowers had a separate name badge that was attached to the wooden T handle. These were often intricate or attractive designs which incorporated manufacturer or model name. These badges can sometime be missing, perhaps because the handle was replaced, they got knocked off during use, or because they were deliberately removed by badge collectors. Nevertheless, when present, they are very helpful for identification of the mower.
Wooden T Handles: some sidewheel models had information on the wooden T handle. This can include transfers or painted or stencilled wording. Sometimes this information is very faint or has been partially damaged through abrasion or corrosion but it can be a useful aid to identification.
Identification Plates: many motor mowers, in particular, carried identification plates that included information such as the maker's name, serial number, date of manufacturer (sometimes coded), and cutting width. These are typically cast iron or aluminium or brass plates with etched or stamped details.
Stamped/Engraved Information: some manufacturers stamped serial numbers directly onto the mower's frame or chassis. This can easily be obscured by paint, accumulated grime, or when the mower was repainted.
Decals/Transfers: mowers have carried transfers (sometimes called decals) since the late Victorian era. Some were applied to the frame or chassis but for most mowers they were on the grass box. These transfers were often highly decorative and ornate, typically incorporating an illustration of the mower's name as well as the model and manufacturer's details in words. Manufacturers who had a royal warrant would also display a coat of arms with the King or Queen's name.
Grass Boxes: when present, the grass box is a useful for identification. Many will have a decal but these can be damaged through wear and tear or obscured completely by overpainting. Some older designs, especially boxes with wooden sides, often had cast iron handles and mounting brackets incorporating the mower's name or some casting numbers.
Thrower Plates: detachable thrower or deflector plates were supplied with side wheel mowers to divert the grass clippings from the rear of the machine over the cutter and into the front-mounted grass box. These devices often carried casting numbers as well as the mower's name and cutting width.
Engine Numbers: engines on motor mowers often carry a serial number which can help date the machine. It is normally possible to date common engines such as Villiers and JAP using these numbers. There is always the caveat with using engines to date a mower: the engine could have been replaced at some point. That is entirely possible, of course, but on the basis that most mowers have not had their engines replaced it is a good place to start.
If you are unfamiliar with old lawn mowers the name of the manufacturer is not always obvious. The manufacturer's name is often found on castings, badges, nameplates, and transfers. Our Directory of Mower Manufacturers has a comprehensive list and is a good place to search for information.
The majority of manufacturers gave names to the models they produced. The manufacturer's name is often found on castings, badges, nameplates, and transfers. Our Directory of Mower Manufacturers has a comprehensive list and is a good place to search for information.
The cutting width is simply the length of the cutting cylinder (sometimes called the reel), the cutter bar (for finger bar machines like the Allen Scythe), or the length of the rotating blade for rotary mowers. This is not the same as the width of the mower itself which is generally larger for cylinder and rotary models and lower for finger bar machines.
Most old cylinder mowers made in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand will be measured in inches, including odd and even numbers. Models are known in sizes ranging from four inches up to 48 inches. Mowers made in European countries, such as Germany or France, are more likely to have sizes in centimetres - common sizes include 30cm (approx 12 inches) or 35cm (approx 14 inches). Recently, metric measurements have become the standard in most countries (except for the USA).
The majority of older hand mowers are in the 8 - 14in ranges with slightly larger models designed for two person operation with one pushing and one pulling. Larger machines were designed to be pulled by animals such as ponies, donkeys, and horses. Animals such as camels, oxen, and elephants were also used.
Other Numbers, Letters, or Codes
It is not uncommon on older mowers, especially those with castings, to find other numbers. These are typically part or casting numbers added by the manufacturer to help identify them during initial assembly or when supplying spares. These numbers are useful because they can help identify the mower if no other markings are present. They are also useful when identifying mowers made by one company but available in many different names (such as with "catalogue" or "badge engineered" mowers). This is because the base mower will be the same (from the same manufacturer) even if the names found on items such as the wheels, handle, or badge are different.
Many manufacturers used serial numbers that helped them identify the machine for servicing and when supplying spares.
Records exist for some of the larger and better known manufacturers and are an ideal source when identifying when a mower was made and other information. We can point you towards these sources.
Some manufacturers included serial numbers in a form of code. Depending on the manufacturer, one of our marque specialists might be able to provide a date using this information.
With some mowers it is also possible to give an approximate age based on the serial number and/or known points in the evolution of the design.
Sadly, the records for many manufacturers have been lost over the years. However, we can often give an approximate age for a mower based on knowledge and experience and by cross referencing against information such as brochures and adverts.