As an experienced (meaning, I've been bleeding to the emergency room a time or two) do it yourself-er when it comes to mowers two philosophies have developed: buy Craftsman stuff because parts are available for eons, and the tractor, engines, steering system and whatnot all remain in decent shape while the actual mower deck starts rusting away the moment you buy it.

The mower builders run the same scam as the cheap-printer expensive-ink-cartridge syndicate.

Every big lawnmower I ever bought was second-hand. I up-cycled, re-cycled and re-purposed way before it was cool. Some seasons I even cobbled together a few parts into fire belching hulking Frankenstein-like riding lawnmowers that frightened small children and Chihuahuas throughout the neighborhood, but left a nice smooth finish over the zoysia grass and dollar-weed patches.

In the process people that know me came to understand I'm pretty good at tinkering with small engines. Much like Karl Childers I have a knack for it, plus I like fried taters as well.

Save The Deck - Save The Machine

Just prior to Hurricane Harvey and his gully washing flooding, I had a nice accumulated (behind the pump-house mostly out of sight) stock of my own lawn tractors for parts purposes all five of whose decks were long gone memories. The flooding destroyed my personal parts bin, none of which had operable deck parts anyway, so off they all went to the scrapper.

It was a sad day for a semi-lawn mower hoarder. I lay awake nights fearing at any moment I'll need a headlight switch for a '97 Murray and I'd just let one slip through my fingers at precisely the wrong moment.

I've realized for years the decks go first, but was always too lazy to really do a nice deep PM (periodic maintenance). So every few years I'd rather fork over seven or eight hundred dollars for a Great Condition - Starts, runs, mows, good, new belts, recent oil change, garage kept type of mower. I know you've seen those ads.

Over time as the decks rotted, I'd remove them from the machine and have another yard mule and ever increasing supply of parts. That's how it started.

Photo: LG - Most of the steel is in good condition

Home Made Penetrating Oil

Knowing these parts have been on here a few years I drenched everything that should move in my special homemade penetrating oil made of exactly half a light organic compound, a colorless, volatile flammable liquid, and the other half is an optimized red oil specifically formulated for friction-less machine operation. Yeah, acetone and transmission fluid, you guessed it.

Photo: LG - Home Made Penetrating Juice

Still Ordering Parts But Costs Are Still Well Within Respectability

Starting out I ordered a basic rebuild kit, but digging deeper the bearings on a couple of the belt idler pulleys are a lil rough, and a source of squeaking on occasion, so while that was being added to the original list I went ahead and ordered new mandrel pulleys so the fresh mandrel ends would mesh nicely.

All told with paint, undercoating and parts I'm still just under $100. This does not include my unskilled hourly labor as this is a fun hobby for me and it's relaxing in a hard to describe mechanical way. You know how some people love to cook? I like to skin my knuckles and occasionally jab a slipping screwdriver into my palm.

Photo: LG - Package of New Parts

Next time I get around to catching up on this subject, the parts should all be in. The deck is already cleaned up and painted with 3 undercoating coats and 3 enamel coats. Went with red, and you'll see those photos and maybe even a strip of mown grass next time on Tales From Under The Shade Tree.

After the Flood The Old Ponies Lined Up For the Scrapper

Photo: LG - The Old Ponies

After the flood, some of my friends and family were utterly impressed with my spare parts collection. Well, I say impressed, they say shocked at the junk in the back of your yard is a more accurate description. Hey one of these things was once a racing lawnmower, for real. We built one, but that's another story.

The one at the bottom of the photo was a magnificent V-twin 23 HP beast with a two-speed trans-axle. It would mow anything I could drive it over including small china-berry trees and thick decorative landscaping shrubs along a property line. I'm glad those neighbors finally moved.