Thursday, May 23, 2013

Praise for Owner's Manuals

After being exasperated about the rotary cutter's manual, especially its lack of clarity for a potentially expensive repair unless maintenance is done, I found a gem.

An old, but never used, Marlin 783 rifle with a nice Bushnell scope came my way. It's a varmit gun par excellence, in case Phyllis and her groundhog family manage to get past the Mountains of Mordor...I mean past the ramparts of what I am now calling "Fort Tomato."  Yes, cute as they are, I'll methodically yet with regret kill ever one I see if they begin destroying the garden.

That's another post I hope I'll never write, since for now, the groundhogs are cute and graze on clover.

Meanwhile, owner's manuals. Guns are even more dangerous than mowers, and though I'm familiar with long arms and pistols, I'm still thankful for this gem from the 1975 edition manual's section to load the weapons with "the bullet end toward the muzzle."

Shooters know what that means. Would a novice? Luckily, a handy photo shows a close up of loading the rifle.  Only a dunce--and there are dunces in abundance--would simply ignore the brief bit of advice and put, say, a bullet in backward. Yet I suppose it has happened, so it has spawned both The Darwin Awards and the titanic owner's manuals of our decade.

Such manuals bother me. By the time a reader wades through 20 pages or so of safety instructions, only then can a new piece of equipment be operated. My concern is that most won't read the manuals at all, facing such a daunting task.

I do read them, but then I wonder if I'm at all typical.

In addition to reading the manuals, I do Internet-based research, plus I chat with old-timers, before I begin with a new piece of gear. Thus I'm working on a chain-guard, common on the fronts and rear decks of newer rotary mowers, to add some protection for me when I pull an antique rotary cutter we have. It cuts grass like a master barber clips hair, but it not safe until modified with a chain guard.

There is no need to have one's name added to the Darwin Awards: read your manuals.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Read The Owner's Manual, Or Maybe Not?

Having convinced myself that I damaged the gear box on my rotary mower (machines commonly called by one brand's name, "Bush Hog") I opened the owner's manual.  Yes, I read them, partly to see the illustrations for what can go wrong on the farm.

I've a Frontier 2060 that cost us over $2000 new, and it's the sort of implement that one would expect to give many years of service. I've used these types of mowers for many years, without incident and without doing more than adding gear oil to the gear box or lubing a few grease fittings.

Little did I know, and little did the dealer tell me, that my new mower arrived with a slip clutch. It's a device that has gradually replaced an older technology, a protective bolt designed to shear when the mower hits a stump, big rock, or other obstacle. Lawn mowers have a tiny version of one, and even as a twelve-year-old clueless boy, I helped as a neighbor replace a little one-dollar pin that I broke on a sapling's stump. It's a simple procedure and a logical one. The operator using that sort of mower must sometimes hammer out the old bolt with a punch, but then the mower can be restarted and used.

Slip clutches, conversely, require maintaining, something not explained in my manual but only found online. The farmers at online forums seem to love the things, which can save a tractor or gear-box damage, if the clutch is adjusted and allowed to "slip" a few times a year. Otherwise, it seizes up.

Mine has, and I'm looking at a serious repair. But the antiques again beckon: I've an older rotary mower, with the bolt and not clutch in place. It is as safe to the operator as the new technology, so it will go back into service while the new-fangled one is in the shop.

The new one sure is pretty, but pretty is as pretty does. I may get so angry that I'll sell the new mower!  While old tractors can be dangerous, many old implements are not. Yet dealers do want to sell us new stuff, don't they?

I've got fields to mow, so our little family of groundhogs (Phil ended up being Phyllis, with three offspring) don't grow too brazen about coming near the new garden. Open ground being a farmer's first line of defense, there's cutting to be done.