Monday, April 21, 2014

Pull-Behind Lawn Roller

Building a 44" lawn roller that I can pull behind my lawn tractor

Difficulty Level (Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane):

Ever since I've seeded my yard in 2009 it has been quite bumpy. Probably because the push lawnmower wheels sank into the soft top soil. Since then I've wanted to level it out and make it a bit more pleasant to walk on and mow.

My dad made a heavy-duty lawn roller out of an old water tank and filled that sucker up with concrete so it weighs about 2000lbs and makes a perfectly smooth (boccia ball quality). Although it would have been nice to make a really heavy one like that I opted for making one that can be filled with water. It's not as heavy and probably doesn't work as nicely but it's certainly easier to transport.

I've been on the lookout for a water tank and I was pricing out some old 48" long propane tanks but they wanted $70 bucks at the scrap yard and this project wasn't supposed to cost much because I didn't really "need" it...

A friend of mine who works at a plumbing store hooked me up with an old hot water tank so my son and I took it apart (always wanted to see what they looked like on the inside) and I was surprised at how large the tank actually was. There was only about an inche of polyurethane insulation, everything else was tank.

After I cut off the various protruding iron flanges off and welded the holes shut I drilled a 1-1/4" hole where I wanted to be able to fill the tank, made a tap (like in tap & die set) out of a black iron nipple, slapped an o-ring on a plastic cap and got started thinking about how I can pull it behind my lawn tractor.

As for the materials I used, a few weeks ago I burned out my treadmill (my wife had burned out the first treadmill a few years back). Back then, we replaced it with an identical Sportcraft TX390 treadmill we found on kijiji and I took the one she burned out to make a ball mill for my Home Foundry.

I still had most of the metal from the first treadmill frame lying around so I figured I could use that material with the material of the frame of the second treadmill to make a frame for the roller.

The only thing I had to buy was 5' of 1" solid round steel for the axle and two 1" bearings that were on sale for $6 bucks each at princess auto (love that store!).

A few hours of welding and it was done. Took it for a test drive on Friday and was actually able to do my entire lawn in about 15 minutes. Now it is noticeably smoother and all the rocks from the driveway I flung on the lawn during  my snow blowing are pushed into the grass now too which is a bonus...saves me from raking the lawn this year...


Inspired by dad's creation
After I got rid of all the insulation and patched up the holes
All the left-over metal from the hot water heater
doing a preliminary layout of the pull mechanism
welding the two treadmill arm rests into a puller
Here's the hole I'll use to fill up the tank with water later on
The plastic cap on the right and the hardened tap made out of a 1-1/4" iron nipple
Top view of the tap
The cap with an o-ring sealing off the hole
Support splines for the axle
The axle inside of the water tank heating hole
A view a little bit further away
After the axle was welded in I filled it with concrete to give it another 50lbs weight
Filling in the concave end of the water tank (the one that was at the bottom by the burner)
At first I was going to use nuts & bolts to make the arm removable but later changed my mind
Almost done, when I realized that it didn't look very nice
I ended up filling in the gap with some more square tubing and removed the bolted on pieces
Almost done
Measuring the cross brace
Close-up of the cross brace
My little helper
Filling it with 50 gal water
He did such a good job!
The grass reminds me of Saskatoon in the summer

Angle grinder
Measuring tape
MIG welder
Crow bar
Oxy/Acetylene torch to heat treat the tap
Knife to cut insulation
Socket set
Drill press

Old hot water tank
5' of 1" cold rolled round steel
Two 1" bearings
Parts of the frames of two treadmills




Works like a charm

Shop Heater Repair

Fix the Reddi Heater (165,000 BTU) diesel shop heater

Difficulty Level (Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane):

I've noticed for the last couple of times that the shop heater has been turning on/off somewhat sporadic and since it was still a bit chilly today I gave it another try to heat the shop. This time the heater was completely unusable since it kept turning on and off in about 5-10 second intervals so I figured I'd rather have a look at it now when it's fairly warm as opposed to during the next winter (no, I don't want to think about snow).

There are a couple of main components:

1. Diesel tank
2. Fan
3. Ignitor
4. Photovoltaic sensor
5. Control board

At first I thought it was the photovoltaic sensor because it was a bit loose in there and I figured the vibrations of the heater moved it off the little viewport but tightening it didn't fix it.

Next thing I thought that maybe the fuel filter was clogged up but that wasn't it either. After I tried those few things I took off the top half of the barrell and observed it while it was running and I noticed that the hot surface ignitor itself was turning on and off somewhat intermittent so I figured it must be something electrical.

I took the electrical panel off the heater and had a look underneath it and noticed that the main control module was completely covered with dust. I didn't think that was the issue but a good clean couldn't hurt. After I was done I heard a little "plop" and something fell off the main board. Upon further inspection I saw that one of the capacitors had fallen right out of the soldered board.

I've certainly never seen or heard of that happening but if that was the only cause, re-soldering the capacitors "should" fix it.

Off it came and out came the soldering gun. After a few minutes it was all soldered back together. I put the control module back in the heater, turned it on and wouldn't you know it, it worked like a charm.

Easiest fix ever. Now I just hope it won't happen again and keep working.


One of the capacitor just fell off. The other one ended up coming off too
The two culprits
Close-up of the capacitors
The heater with the main board removed
A close-up of the fuel atomizer
A view from the back
Soldering the capacitors back onto the main board

Soldering gun
Air tank to blow off dust





So far so good