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25/01/2013 at 00:09

Hi,

I'm a keen gardener but also a mature student in my final year of a product design degree.


I am going to re-design the lawnmower because I feel it has some fundamental flaws in the way it was designed and has never been changed or adjusted, just modernised.


The main problem I see with the current design is its manoeuvrability and its inability to move in any direction that isn't forwards or backwards in a straight line.

Does every one have straight edges of their garden or flower beds, doing that silly dance at the end of your garden to turn it round. This dance consists of a 20 point turn or struggling to drag the mower round to head back down your garden. Would it be a good idea to have a lawn mower than can go in any direction, maybe turn on the spot or move like a car or one of the large expensive lawn mowers?

Other flaws i believe the lawn mower possess:
Electric mowers wire trailing behind
Cleaning and maintenance
weight of the mower
Turning the grass into a useful source for gardening such as mulching and cutting down on the amount of garden waste we create as a nation (this option would reduce the weight of the mower because you wouldn't be carrying any grass cuttings around in a box on the mower)
cutting close to trees, ponds, flower beds or any garden ornaments

Could you please list any problems or issues you have with lawn mowers as they are now, in appearance, the use of and maintenance and cleaning and power source?

Please could you contribute any ideas or features you feel a re-designed lawn mower should posses.

Any ideas or comments you have on this would be greatly appreciated

25/01/2013 at 18:41

As my lawn is tiny and plugging the very twisted curly lead into an extension is a pain in the neck, I would love a very cheap, tiny, cordless lawn mower.

25/01/2013 at 19:03

Everytime OH mows the grass and turns at the ends he knocks the plants and I have my heart in my mouth as he gets to the border and pushes the edge of the mower into the border so that the blades get to the edge, so yes please to a redesign.

It takes up a lot of room in the shed, any ideas to solve that would be appreciated.

A quieter engine?

25/01/2013 at 19:09

HI Luke

I was going to say robot lawnmower then remembered that they already exist and just did  a search and the cheapest seems to start at £900-ish

I agree with artjak that cordless would be good. I have big areas to mow and need an extension cable too.

I am very good  at cleaning my mower after use but it is a pain and tho' I use the tool that came with and a funny little brush thing I bought myself for the fiddly bits it takes  a while - would love to know your solution to alleviating that one.

Sure there are loads more suggestions for folks to make - good luck and maybe one day I will be buying something you have designed and produced!

Janet

25/01/2013 at 19:27

Hi Luke,

What a brilliant project you have set yourself. We have always had hover mowers so there is no problem in doing 'u' turns and going from side to side. I used to quite enjoy mowing occasionally (it's a designated 'mans job' around here). In fact I needed to give it a good going over every so often as it tended to look like it had had a bad shave. Now we have a petrol hover mower and it really is a 'mans job' as I can neither lift it nor start it.

On my wish list would be something simple to start, lightweight, easy to store hanging in the shed (you can't hang a petrol mower - too heavy and it might leak), cordless ( a friend of mine has a battery operated mower that she really rates) and one that's equally happy on slopes as it is on the flat. Anyone who has tried mowing on a wet slope with a heavy mower will know what I mean.

Good luck with your project and keep us all posted.

Carly

25/01/2013 at 19:29

I have two "issues" with my current mower (a Hayter) and wish I'd tried it out for myself before buying it. 

1.  It's electric (key) start as well as having a pull-cord,  and I find it really difficult to connect the tiny 2-pin plug from the charger to the mini-"socket" on the machine itself, and it's just as difficult to separate them once the battery's charged. 

2.  The grass box is extremely awkward to detach from the mower.

I gather that these days the motors are designed to cut out for safety's sake when you take both hands off the controls.  However, it's impossible to detach and empty the grass box with one hand!  I've had to resort to being dangerous (!) and wind a stretchy cord between the handles/controls to keep the motor going, otherwise I'd have to re-start the wretched thing every five minutes.

26/01/2013 at 10:28

Bosch offer some battery powered mowers. They use Lithium-ion batteries, which are lightweight, and have a high power output. It's a similar type of battery used to power the electrics on the Boeing 787.

28/01/2013 at 17:53
luke browning wrote (see)

Hi,

I'm a keen gardener but also a mature student in my final year of a product design degree.


I am going to re-design the lawnmower because I feel it has some fundamental flaws in the way it was designed and has never been changed or adjusted, just modernised.


The main problem I see with the current design is its manoeuvrability and its inability to move in any direction that isn't forwards or backwards in a straight line.

Does every one have straight edges of their garden or flower beds, doing that silly dance at the end of your garden to turn it round. This dance consists of a 20 point turn or struggling to drag the mower round to head back down your garden. Would it be a good idea to have a lawn mower than can go in any direction, maybe turn on the spot or move like a car or one of the large expensive lawn mowers?

Other flaws i believe the lawn mower possess:
Electric mowers wire trailing behind
Cleaning and maintenance
weight of the mower
Turning the grass into a useful source for gardening such as mulching and cutting down on the amount of garden waste we create as a nation (this option would reduce the weight of the mower because you wouldn't be carrying any grass cuttings around in a box on the mower)
cutting close to trees, ponds, flower beds or any garden ornaments

Could you please list any problems or issues you have with lawn mowers as they are now, in appearance, the use of and maintenance and cleaning and power source?

Please could you contribute any ideas or features you feel a re-designed lawn mower should posses.

Any ideas or comments you have on this would be greatly appreciated

Luke,

When I read your post I was reminded of the classic Dragons' Den line: "I think you're trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist"

Among other things:

1.There's a lot to be said for a potentially dangerous machine like a mower to have a certain stability/inertia based on sitting squarely on the ground like a car. You don't want a mower that is easily overturned. If you use a Dyson-type ball roller, it's got to be stable on slopes and turns. Not everyone has a flat lawn (particularly round here!)

2. There comes a point where, if you can't handle a mower that's built to get through a lot of hard work, maybe it's time to get someone to do the job for you, rather than blame the machine for the fact that you are struggling.

3. Ditto in relation to cleaning.

4. Cordless mowers are bit like electric cars - the new technology doesn't do the whole job.

5. I don't really get your point about mulching: you've either got to leave the cut material on the lawn or take it somewhere as it won't just conveniently disappear. Not everyone wants their lawn mulched.

I can't really think of any reasonable feature that you can't buy, at a price, on a mower. There are good mowers and not-so-good ones, but having seen people buy cheap mowers and expect them to work like a tractor, I think there are more problems with the user than the mower.

Look forward to your reply,

Joe

28/01/2013 at 18:02
We have one that mulches joe , very convenient , saves collecting and disposing of the grass.
29/01/2013 at 09:59

As I said, bunnysg, you can get mowers that do all sorts of things, including mulching, but not everyone wants to do that - for instance in wet conditions.

30/01/2013 at 20:29

Well you have some good points there Joe but unless there are people out there like Luke who approach any project with imagination and flair we wouldn't get anywhere. I was in India not long ago and at a tourist attraction two women were each cutting the grass with a small knife, they gathered the clippings into a  basket.

Personally I'd happily go back to the old push mowers and hedge shears. The noise pollution from modern gardening equipment is atrocious- now there's a refinement that would go down well Luke,a silent lawn mower

30/01/2013 at 20:37
You might cut your grass in wet conditions joe but I don't .

Yes curlycarly silent !!! Lovely .
30/01/2013 at 21:24

CurlyCarly, I agree about the need for silent tools; the same technology could be used for vacuum cleaners.

30/01/2013 at 21:26
Silent neighbours too
31/01/2013 at 09:58

Carly,

I make a living out of doing people's gardens; I don't think they'd be very happy to see me on my hands and knees with a pair of nail scissors! And those women in India were probably being paid about one rupee a day. Same principle applies to shears and push mowers. (My granddad used to cut lawns with a scythe back in 1910, but that was because (a) the landowner was filthy rich and could afford an army of serfs and (b) lawn-mowers weren't that good.)

I agree that noise from machines is bad - it's even worse when you spend quite a lot of the week causing it! Unfortunately, we have got to the position where people demand neatness and tidiness and there is no alternative to doing that by machine. Your plane to India was much quieter than 50 years ago, but it's still very noisy, polluting and irritating to people near airports.

Two-stroke engines, essential for hedge-cutters, strimmers and blowers, are naturally noisy and silencing them would make them heavier (try waving a 7kg hedgecutter around all day) and more unwieldy.

Mowers could be made quieter, but again at a price that people may not be willing to pay, because they only use it for 30 or 40 hours a year. Most people buy the cheapest mower they can get away with, which is a good approach if you've only got 20 sq m of lawn.

I've no problem with Luke wanting to look for innovative ideas, but he did invite comments, so don't shoot the messenger.

31/01/2013 at 10:03

bunnysgarden,

I have to mow in the wet or I wouldn't get round all the jobs, and two of my lawns are almost permanently wet, so if I left the cut material the lawn would be impossible to deal with after a month.

31/01/2013 at 10:49

I always have trouble changing the height of the cutting blade - the lever is stiff and then all of a sudden it moves - not always to the right position.

31/01/2013 at 11:11

I don't mind about mowers making a noise!  However, what I'd like would be as follows:-

easy to attach/detach the battery charger plug. (mine has electric/key as well as "pull" start facility)

fuel tank designed so that it was easy to refill from the normal type of plastic fuel containers.

grass box easy to detach from the mower with one hand.

mulch facility (which mine already has)

some means of using the mower to trim lawn edges - additional blade which could be engaged as required, maybe? - plus I find it quite difficult to mow close/parallel to lawn eges without the machine (Hayter) falling off into the flower beds because the wheels are rather narrow & there's no rear roller.  Wider front wheels would help a bit, I suppose.

grass chute which didn't clog up when the grass is damp.

rear rollers + some weight - not just because of "lawn stripes" but also because it would help keep the lawn surface more level and even.  Problems arise in my garden because of mole tunnels, rabbit latrines etc.  My old Atco used to deal with this really well, but the Hayter doesn't.

 

31/01/2013 at 13:43

I am still reading all of your comments and this is the exact research I need to justify my re-design. Your comments are helping me to think about soloutions and features which have never crossd my mind.

Thanks

Luke

31/01/2013 at 15:16

Hypercharleyfarley,

I've only ever used one Hayter and it was a bit of a pig. The 'skirt' round the blade was too low and the grass box was very low-slung, so these two things meant it scraped or jammed on any ground that was even slightly uneven. And it was a bit difficult to get the grass box in and out compared with other mowers. (By the way, I wouldn't recommend your elastic loop round the dead man's handle to keep the engine running. I see people doing it and pray that they never have an accident.) There's obviously a need there for a better design of electric starter.

I've never had any trouble fuelling a mower; surely, provided you use the nozzle pipe that is supplied with the petrol container, there's no problem?

I don't know how keen manufacturers would be to put a side blade on a mower - I can see there might be some nasty accidents. I use edging shears, which seems perfectly easy.

Rollers are probably a personal preference. Unless they actually drive the machine, there will always be conflict between the setting height of the roller and that of the driving wheel. Driving off the edge of the lawn occasionally is an occupational hazard and I find I just have to take extra care. A wider front wheel would have to be so wide that it would flatten a lot of grass in front of the blade and it would become less effective going round a curved lawn edge.

Was your Atco a cylinder or a rotary? I'll bet it had an engine with really good torque and weighed a fair bit. The other problem with rollers, which can weigh a heck of a lot, is that they can compress the ground over time, depending on the soil type.

Clogging is quite a problem and it would need a lot wind tunnel experiments to design the optimum profile for the chute. I suspect that most of the better mowers have already come to somewhere near to the optimum by an iterative process. Cleaning after every mow obviously helps a lot, but I'm not sure that using, say, Teflon for the surfaces would help, because it would be easily damaged. Otherwise, if I'm mowing wet grass and the mower keeps clogging, I just resort to inaudible swearing.

 

 

 

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