Power Yard & Lawn Sweeper


This is another great contribution from Ken.  You can see his other creations, the Dirt Shaker & Power Barrow and the HomeMade Rotary Trommel Screen.  He’s got an amazing gift and we’re glad he’s willing to share it with us!   From Ken:

I have fun building machines from found objects, right now I’m looking for something to build, as I have several loose engines, including a 3 hp and a 5hp with the 6:1 speed reducer. I have a friend, Rick, who is going to have to move several tons of crushed stone and bedding sand, several hundred wall blocks and 160 paving blocks 40 feet from the front to the back of his house, along a steep 24 inch wide path. His is a narrow lot with no other access. We built a tramway and a trolley that can be winched up the incline, just waiting for him to save up enough to buy the materials, which may mean next spring.

The tram is made of a 2×6 frame about 22″ wide and 5′ long. For the wheels, we dismounted the tires from tractor supply 3×10 wheels, mounted on 5/8″ axles. The rims ride on the top of the rails, which are made of used 2×6 pt lumber standing on edge. At the lower end of the track, we cut one side on a downward slope and fastened the cut wedge to the other rail, so that if the trolley breaks loose, it will be flipped over and not run loose down into traffic. Rick wanted to use a barrier attached to the rails to stop a runaway, I suggested the flip, as a loaded runaway trolley hitting a barrier could damage the rails, rip them apart. The trolley won’t go far on its side.

It really doesn’t require much of either, you just go about it. Surely, for a lot of what you have done, you started with no experience and little practical knowledge on the subject. If you make a false start, or a mistake, consider the cost as tuition, as you have learned something in the process. Even though I have welders and can weld, I lean towards bolted assemblies, so nothing is irrevocable.

I like using used materials, so even if what I build doesn’t work out, there is little money lost, and the time is never lost because of what I learned in the process. When I built the shaker-screener, I moved the oscillator 3 times, looking for the best action. Likewise, the leg positions were changed several times to get the best angle, without having to lift the loaded shovel too high while still getting garden trailers or wheelbarrows under the discharge end.

On the donkey, I had to add the underside counter-shaft to lower the ground speed. That was an afterthought. I found I had to add 40 pounds of dead weight on the front to give the steering wheels enough traction to turn the loaded machine, as there is no differential on the rear driving wheels so the wheels, with chains, had to slip when turning. The first front wheels I used were to big around and would hit the frame as the front axle tipped and rocked on rough ground.

The sprockets I used came from tractor supply, they are flat plates which you have to weld ot their hubs. Rather than weld them, I clamped the hubs and sprockets together, then drilled and tapped them, centering the 2 holes 180 degrees apart on the circumference of the hole in the sprocket, and installed set screws that hold them together and act as keys to transmit the torque. That way, I can dismantle and reconfigure everything with a minimum of fuss.

One thing I should mention is that you should run a mower, preferably mulching, over the leaves to cut them up in little pieces. That will allow any sweeper to pick up about 5 times as much because, uncut leaves don’t pack well, too much air space.

Growing up, my father stressed his belief that “any fool can improve on something.” he also stressed that it was important to take on projects that I knew nothing about, that way I had a chance to learn something new. That way, when you have twenty years of experience, you don’t actually having only one year’s experience twenty times over.

When you have done something, it always seems you see where you could have done it better. That doesn’t mean what you did isn’t good, in product development, you first have to make a product to sell. Then you can make improvements and upgrades. You can’t wait until you have perfected the product, as you will always see ways to make it better. There are times “you have to shoot the engineer and go into production”.

Can you imagine a world where nobody manufactured computers, or any other product, until they were perfected?

As a product development consultant, I only took on projects the client had tried to develop and failed, and preferably in a field I knew nothing about. That way, I had a reason to learn a new discipline and had a chance to improve on the prior art. This approach always worked for me.

I made it a point to change fields every seven to ten years, or sooner if I felt I was just cruising on past accomplishments.

I was fortunate in that I was never in doubt of my ability to make a living, inflated ego, perhaps, but it worked for me and our family.

Back in the 60’s and 70’s, when I worked as a product development consultant, I would have designed a nice integrated machine to market. (I designed and held patents on automotive assembly tools and machines, air tools, including tools for building the manned lunar landers, an ultrasound imager that delivered a polaroid print and negative of 1/4 the cross section of a person or animal and one laser alignment machine that allowed a laser beam to be positioned through two points in space in less than 30 seconds.) All 14 patents were commercially successful, compared to about 1% to 3% of patents, worldwide.)

The patent office only digitized patents back to the mid 70’s, however, my patents have been referenced in newer devices and by searching references, they can be found, at least in an abstracted form.

Frankly, building stuff from found materials is more fun.

1 thought on “Power Yard & Lawn Sweeper”

  1. You are a genius!!

    I am a tinkerer myself and have been thinking of trying to build one of these for years.
    I have had tow behind sweepers for a long time and at some point they always jam which causes them to not pick up the grass and tear up the lawn.

    Any chance you would be willing to sell that one?


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