Update 12/27/2008: If you have a Sensation mower, you might like to help maintain and expand the Sensation Wikipedia article or join the Sensation Mowers Users Group at Yahoo! for help with your old Sensation mower
For the first time in what seems an eternity, the clouds broke and there was some small amount of sun for periods of the day. Today also gave us a break in the humidity which has been near 99% for most of the past week, the high at mid-day being only about 78%. A gentle, and cool 5 mph wind, gusting to 10 mph made being outside almost pleasant. I like to keep track of my local weather using Terry’s BNL weather site since I can look at trend graphs of all the important stats. It’s been so long since I’ve had a chance to work outside and mow, trim and otherwise tend to things, I grabbed the opportunity to get some of it done. Before I could mow the lawn, I knew I had to do a little maintenance on the old mower.
I say old, because I have the original purchase receipt from April 23, 1983! which shows that Dad paid $475 for it new at that time. As a quick aside, wondering how much that $475 was worth at the time, I stumbled over to Economic History Resources for an idea. Although I have not investigated this site’s methodology, the figure it returns, a $858.11 value in 2002, seems reasonable. It’s still a workhorse, so it was a good investment. I assume my mom approved the kingly sum since it was built in Wisconsin, her home state.
The documentation says that the mower was made by Gilson Brothers of Plymouth, WI. A quick check of some internet sources showed that Gilson brothers was founded in 1932 and sold to Lawn-Boy, Inc. in 1988. Lawn Boy is a division of Toro according the “Founding Industries of Wisconsin Project” http://www.uwm.edu/Library/arch/FndIndst/FIDl.htm [dead link Jul, 2011] The Lawn Boy site http://www.lawnboy.com/about/history/index.html sums up the Gilson Bothers’ 56 years of industry in this curt synopsis:
1988: To expand the product line, Lawn-Boy purchased Gilson Brothers, thereby inheriting a line of garden tractors, single and 2-stage snow throwers, roto tillers, and space heaters. Lawn-Boy headquarters was moved from Memphis, Tennessee to Plymouth, Wisconsin
At least the Gilson Brothers workers probably kept their jobs, I’ve seen a lot of take-overs where the firm is bought and moved someplace far away.
The mower is an orange, Sensation Commercial model #11L4A with a 4hp Briggs & Stratton engine (model 110902, type 3168-01, code 03031004), its a walk-behind, power mower with a 20″ blade. The blade housing is cast aluminum, and so, has not rusted a bit over the years. I’ve removed the grass chute deflector which is (was?) not aluminum and which always gets clogged with grass especially when the grass is wet and I end up spending more time cleaning it out than mowing. Without it, the grass (and whatever I happen to run over) gets shot out behind the mower at just enough of an angle to not hit me or the back wheel. I wear machinist glasses and send the girls and the dog inside when I operate it this way because its pretty dangerous to be near.
I have developed a fondness for the old mower, and I would be loath to part with it for anything short of total mechanical failure. Although I am not a particularly mechanically minded person, I have a few maintenance rituals that I always perform with the mower. These include regular oil changes, replacement or cleaning of the spark plug as warranted, cleaning of the air filter every other mow (the air filter is a sponge type, not paper – so I clean it in soap and water and when its dry, I put a few drops of machine oil on it – something my dad always did, and so I do it, though I’m not sure why). I change the blade when the grass starts to look raggedy instead of cleanly cut, and I keep it in the shed (I don’t leave it out in the rain!).
I’ve learned that it might not start for
two three reasons:
- that I have no gas! Even though it looks like there’s enough in the tank, it may not be enough to get into the feed line. (Thanks to Mike Crivelli who found this out for me, much to my shagrin)
- that the kill switch on the front of the mower is connected to the safety bar by a cable and it basically grounds out the starter and won’t allow it to start sometimes even when the kill switch handle is held back. This is because slack in that cable doesn’t allow the kill switch to pull back far enough and disengage. (Thanks to Al Watson who discovered this)
- that gas isn’t made the same as it was in the early 80s. There’s ethanol now in the gas (and more coming) and it just doesn’t fire like it used to. If it really doesn’t start – dump whats in the can into the car and get a fresh gallon before pulling your hair out.