General Hand Mower Advice
Hand mower components such as T handles and rear rollers for sidewheel mowers and hand grips and front rollers for roller mowers were often made of wood. These inevitably disappear over time through damage, rot or wood worm and replacing them with original parts can be almost impossible. We generally recommend asking a local woodturner or hobbyist to make up new parts using what remains of the old ones as a pattern. There is usually someone in most towns who knows how to use a lathe and they are often only too happy to help with this sort of thing. To find them, ask in the local ironmongers or wood yard as they are likely to be known there. Yellow pages is also a good place to look. When you have found someone, ask them to use ash, beech or elm for the greatest authenticity. As a guide, hand-grips on Greens roller mowers were normally of beech, but Ransomes used ash up to the late 1930s, when they too started using beech. T-handles on side-wheel mowers made in the UK were usually ash up to the 1930s, when beech came in. American side-wheel mowers often have maple handles, though Pennsylvania handles (UK and US) are usually ash.
Grass boxes inevitably go missing or simply disappear before your eyes due to rust and rot. In fact, many side-wheel mowers may never have had a box in the first place as it was normally an "optional extra" for these machines. As might be expected, finding a replacement box is virtually impossible. It is occasionally possible to find spare boxes at car boot sales, junk shops and especially at mower repairers but the chances of matching the right box for a particular mower are slim. Boxes for mowers such as the Ransomes Ajax, Webb models from the 1950s and a few other machines can still be found in this way with a bit of persistence.
For all other mowers there is no simple answer as making one from scratch is often beyond the capabilities of most enthusiasts and the cost of asking a professional engineer or carpenter to do the work can be prohibitive. However, anyone with the right skills should be able to copy an existing box using the original as a pattern or basic dimensions supplied by another enthusiast. Early boxes can be relatively easy to fabricate because they had simple wooden sides with the box formed by a thin sheet of steel. The box mounted on the mower by simple brackets that can often be easily copied (if those from the original are no longer available) and made from steel or aluminium rather than cast iron. Once painted nobody would be able to tell the difference.
The original block chain used on many hand mowers before 1914 cannot be supplied and we know of no current source. The only way to replace a missing or broken chain is to use a redundant length from an old "donor" machine.
Cast Iron Components
Most early mowers were made using cast iron components. While original replacements for these are no longer available copies can be made using modern castings. Although decreasing in number there are still many small iron foundries around the country that can make castings in small numbers to order using originals as a pattern. Members of The Old Lawnmower Club have, over the years, managed to obtain items such as chain sprockets, gears, gear covers, handles and grass box handles/brackets made in this way. It is sometimes possible, and usually cheaper, to make the casting from aluminium rather than iron and there are more foundries that can offer this service. An alternative method is to machine a copy using steel or aluminium.