Leaf Mulcher and an Update

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Introduction: Leaf Mulcher and an Update

About: relaxed pic

I've always wanted to make one of these leaf mulchers since I first read this article decades ago, in a 1966 Popular Mechanics magazine. It's made using a reel style lawn mower. Over the years I've collected the parts needed and I finally found the time to build one. I attached a hand crank to it to power it, but soon it will be powered by an electric motor.

Here is a link to the original article for the Leaf Mulcher:

https://archive.org/stream/PopularMechanics1966/Po...

Warning this device has sharp rotating blades, If you attempt to make one you have to realize the potential hazards that exist with it. When I'm not using it, I put a lockable bar through the reel so that it can't turn.

Supplies

An old reel lawn mower, a 22 x 16 inch piece of expanded metal, wood or metal for the frame, sheet metal for the Hopper construction, wood screws and construction adhesive for a wooden frame, hand tools, cordless drill and an assortment of drill bits, sheet metal snips, tape measure, framing square, a marker and a pencil, wood saw, a Pop rivet tool, lots of 1/8" diameter by 1/2" long pop rivets and back up 1/8 washers and about 2 feet of #10 steel wire. Also a pad lock and some type of bar and hasp, to prevent unauthorized use. A pair of good leather gloves is a must.

Step 1: Plans and Inspiration

The first five pictures are of the plans with my notes scribbled on them. It took some figuring out, but I managed to get it done. I chose wood for the frame, since I don't have access to a welding machine (welder).

Step 2: Construction of the Frame

Since I used wood for the frame, the dimensions are roughly the same (as the metal frame) using 2x 4's and 2 x 6's. I used 2 1/2" wood screws and construction adhesive to fasten the frame together.

Step 3: Modifing the Reel Lawn Mower and Getting It Ready

I have several old reel lawnmowers, I chose one with the same reel width (16 ") mentioned in the original 1966 article.

One of the wheels had broken off some time ago, which helped with showing me how to deconstruct it, to get to what I needed.

Having gotten the mower ready, I was able to fasten the expanded screen with some effort ( it is very hard and awkward to bend). It is painted yellow, I painted it years ago when I managed to scrounge it from a former work place. I drilled some holes in the cutter blade to hold it in place using some # 10 steel wire. It was also fastened in place on the upper bar and I added a piece of steel to connect the other end of it and fasten with more # 10 wire.

Warning this device has sharp rotating blades, If you attempt to make one you have to realize the potential hazards that exist with it. When I'm not using it, I put a lockable bar through the reel so that it can't turn.

Step 4: Attaching the Modified Mower to the Frame.

The mower I used had a bit different frame than the mower in the article, so I had to do a bit of Macgyvering to fasten it to the wooden frame.

I used two Simpson metal ties, a 5 x 6 and a 6 x 8 shelf bracket. 1/4 inch bolts nuts, lock nuts and washers were used to fasten the mower to the strong ties. It's quite sturdy, but I'll have to re-evaluate this set up once I hook the electric motor to it.

Warning this device has sharp rotating blades, If you attempt to make one you have to realize the potential hazards that exist with it. When I'm not using it, I put a lockable bar through the reel so that it can't turn.

Step 5: Manufacturing the Hopper Assembly Parts

For the hopper I had gotten some flashing material from my neighbour, Thanks Jeff.

Following the plans and diagrams in the article. I drew out the pieces needed, some of the material wasn't quite wide enough so some parts had to be pieced together. You can really notice it at the top of the hopper.

Forming was done with a small 18" wide sheet metal brake that I have, some sheet metal pliers and some custom cut 2 x 4's for wider bends.

Step 6: Assembeling the Hopper

This took some figuring out. A couple of times I had bent a tab in the wrong direction so it had to be bent back, ( good thing the aluminum was forgiving at least once).

It was fastened together with several pop rivets and washers.

Step 7: Installing and Attaching the Hopper to the Frame

The completed Hopper was placed over the modified mower that had been attached to he frame. The front of the Hopper was fastened to the frame using two angle brackets, the rear of the Hopper was attached using two straps, the straps and the brackets were pop riveted to the Hopper and then screwed to the frame.

1 1/2" holes were drilled on both sides of the Hopper, lining up with the reel's shaft posts. I did both sides so that a hand crank could be attached on one side and a pulley on the other side for powering it by an electric motor. When the motor is attached the hand crank will be removed.

Step 8: Attaching Wheels to the Frame

Because of the size of the Mulcher and trying to move it any where. I needed to find some way of attaching wheels.

I found some they were, height adjustable wheels on another one of my old mowers.

I took them off and figured out a way of attaching them to the front legs of the frame, so that the wheels could be mostly retracted when stationary and put out when the Mulcher needs to be moved.

I also added a plywood platform at the front for when I get a motor for it.

Warning this device has sharp rotating blades, If you attempt to make one you have to realize the potential hazards that exist with it. When I'm not using it, I put a lockable bar through the reel so that it can't turn.

Step 9: Handle and Locking Device

I found a handle, lock and a hasp.

The handle is mounted at the rear of the frame.

The Hasp was pop riveted to the top of the Hopper on one side, the locking bar is from an old filing cabinet, ( it was part of a rail system that would hold up hanging folder holders in one of the drawers) . It already had a 90 degree bend at one end with a hole drilled in it. I had to slightly enlarge the hole so that the lock would fit through it. Pictured is how the locking bar goes through the expanded metal and the reel, this prevents the reel from turning when not being used. The locking bar is about two feet long.

I can't wait for more leaves to fall. When enough come down I'll do another video, also when I get a electric motor hooked up.
It was a challenging project, I'm glad it turned out quite well.

Warning this device has sharp rotating blades, If you attempt to make one you have to realize the potential hazards that exist with it. When I'm not using it, I put a lockable bar through the reel so that it can't turn.

Step 10: Motor Added and Moving Parts Guard

I added an electric motor, pulley and drive belt, with this current arrangement the reel turns around 800 RPM. I think that this is too fast to take the leaves. Currently I'm looking for a larger pulley 7,8 or 10 inches to slow down the speed of the reel. I've also added a belt, motor and pulley guard.

The belt guard is a piece of Wire shelving I picked up at Habitat for Humanity. I bent it over a clamped down 2 x 4 to make the top cover of it. To secure it I pop riveted two straps to the Hopper, added a 2 x 4 to the legs with pipe clamps and a piece of 3 inch wide plywood at the motor end.


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    12 Comments

    0
    brianchadorourke
    brianchadorourke

    9 months ago

    Nice! I'll have to find a yard sale and hopefully find one of those old reel mowers.

    0
    john pedersen
    john pedersen

    Reply 9 months ago

    Good luck brianchadorouke, I recently found one at a scrap metal drop off place, that's where the front wheels came from. Also try second hand and Thrift shops.

    1
    Kdemon
    Kdemon

    9 months ago on Step 9

    This is fantastic, I'm looking for a way to breakup my home composting, and I have a few old push mowers. Thanks for the great instable

    0
    john pedersen
    john pedersen

    Reply 9 months ago

    You're welcome Kdemon, I plan on trying it on my compost as well.

    1
    weblackey
    weblackey

    9 months ago

    Gee, I need one of these! I’d like to try making the mulcher bicycle powered.

    0
    john pedersen
    john pedersen

    Reply 9 months ago

    I'm glad you like it weblackey.

    0
    shalnachywyt
    shalnachywyt

    Question 9 months ago

    What else will this mulch besides leaves?

    0
    john pedersen
    john pedersen

    Answer 9 months ago

    Hopefully, twigs and plant stems shalnachywyt.

    0
    Davilyn
    Davilyn

    9 months ago

    Yes, please do keep us posted. I don't have too many leaves here in the desert, but I do have a lot of small brush - not even twig size. I don't need a $600 mulcher, I just want to break everything down so I could spread it under the trees as mulch. Leaf shredders (not mulchers), don't have good reviews - most say two things - the hole isn't big enough and you spend all day putting in a few leaves and that it doesn't really shred them, and, you can't use them on green leaves. It seems this idea, you could maybe make it variable speed, perhaps use hand power or a bicycle for general shredding, motor powered for pulverizing. Thanks so much for sharing this!

    0
    john pedersen
    john pedersen

    Reply 9 months ago

    You're welcome Davilyn, thanks for the nice comment. I plan trying to mulch twigs and small branches as well, once I get the motor installed. I'll take some pictures and let everyone know the results.

    0
    Dannlh
    Dannlh

    Question 9 months ago

    John,

    It looks like in the original Pop Mech article the screen doesn't wrap to the point where it covers the hopper opening at all. Its just on the underside. Did you design yours differently for a reason?

    Thanks,

    Dan

    0
    john pedersen
    john pedersen

    Answer 9 months ago

    Hi Dannlh, thanks for the question, after looking at the original article, I seem to have gone about an 1.5 inches extra over the reel. The expanded metal was quite hard to cut and bend. So I had made a rough measurement of what I needed using a metal tape measure of what I needed, cut it and tried to bend it the best I could. I'll take a measurement picture and let you know how wide the gap actually is. Hope this helps explain what I did.