Introduction: Ride-on Mower Rebuild + Homemade Grass Catcher Build!

Having recently bought a house with a lump of garden, I initially decided to build an automated mower using various salvaged parts from a small push mower and one of my hexicopters.

however... while.i was ordering parts and building, I realised that the only grass cutting device that I owned, was a push mower now without wheels....

as herself was giving me grief about cutting the grass, I parked the APM based mower build for the season and decided to reattach the wheels and use the push mower to keep the lawn at bay.

Unfortunately after two or three cuts, I realised exactly why it was that I wanted to build an automated mower in the first place... to not die pushing a damn mower around.

so then my attention turned to buying a second hand ride on mower and rebuilding ir to near its former glory.

I found that ride on mowers are just stupidly expensive. the cheapest functional one I found online was running at about €900. To be honest, having just bought a house, I simply couldn't justify the cost of buying one.

So I managed to compromise and found a not so functional one for €300.

so from there, I got to work..

thw mower is technically a John deere GR 1338. however, I've found that in the most part, it's actually a Castel Garden TC102.

trust me when I say it took me quite some time to figure this point out.. and a number of incorrect parts purchases..

they're all very much the same. Euro Pro, Sabre, Castel garden, John Deere. the old machines are basically the same.

so from this point forward I'll be buying TC102 parts.

Step 1: Buy a Second Hand Mower

Found a nice cheap mower which wasn't running on for €300.

Next was collection;

1. Borrow a jeep. (Thanks Joe)
2. Borrow a trailer. (Thanks Joe)
3. Drive over an hour away to collect it.

as you can see from the pics, the thing was in rough enough shape.

It also came without a Grass Collector Box, but I figured I'd just buy one of those nice and cheap at a later point, if I got the mower up and running.

Step 2: Get the Engine Up and Running.

I did the usual, new sparks, new filters, replaced the rotten fuel lines.

- Unfortunately I was having issues getting it to turn over.

- I then noticed that the freshly replaced oil levels were growing... which made me pretty concerned. I figured I'd a mower, which of course I told "herself" was fully functional when I bought it(tested on the day and all..), in which the engine was probably busted and the fuel was leaking from the combustion chamber straight into the crank housing... uh ohh.....

- anyhow, after much discussion with mates(thanks DV), one of the lads suggested that I clean the carburettor. that it was likely "varnishing". of course, not knowing a whole pile about varnishing carbs! I decided to do some googling. I managed to actually find a youtube video from some guy who actually worked on my specific mower carb, so I just followed his instructions and finished off the carb.

- then the big moment of truth. a full empty of the oil chamber AGAIN, and refill.

- she was good to go, purring like a machine that hadn't run in years... but she was my machine that hadn't run in years... it actually worked!

Step 3: Couple of Tweaks and Cut the Lawn.

Had to make a few minor tweaks;
- replaced the crossbar for holding the hood on. drilled the holes in the mount to make them a little larger, and used some threaded iron with some simple bolts on either end.
- **warning** had to disable the seat safety or "Dead Mans Switch" temporarily, in order to keep the mower running. The seat connection to it has gotten a little over stretched, and despite my weight, I couldn't keep it engaged.
-- I simply unscrewed the holding nut, hot glued a small nut inside it, and screwed the holding bolt back on, thus pushing down the button inside with the little nut held in place by the hot glue. crude but effective - also, **warning** do not try that at home, the dead mans switch is used to disable the blades if you fall off the mower and it lands on you!.
- Had to pump the tire - but as it was so old, I just bought a standard size tube for the wheel.
-- though with zero tools to put the tube in place, it was pretty damn hard... a couple of bent screwdrivers later, and she was good to go.

- And so, the mission to mow was complete - I started cutting the lawn.
-- I "even" managed to get an entire first cut done at one level, dropped a level and on the last stretch.. I heard some strange noises...
-- I then I noticed that the mower deck had entirely disintegrated... the blade on one end of the mower was actually sat on the grass... she was dead again...

Step 4: Rebuild the Deck!

so I managed to locate a deck shell online that was for a mower "like" my one. I said I'd take my chances and dolled out another €230 for a plain deck shell.

- Then had to dismantle the deck and rebuild.

- that was lots of fun, particularly when trying to take the blade boss off... I managed to snap it, and then took about three days of leaving it swim in WD-40, eventually I prised it off using a very handy tool, called the Bearing Puller which I picked up in halfords for about €35.

Once I replaced the two Blade Bosses (commodity part, something I hadn't realised initially), the deck was back ready to go...

or was it... I put the deck back onto the mower, went to check my desk one last time... and found a "spare" bolt.... realising it was from one of the pulleys on the deck, I had to go and rip the deck back out of the mower, tear the deck apart again... replace bolt, and put it all back together and back onto the mower then.

Step 5: Borrow Another Mower Temporarily..

and break it... this ladies and gentlemen, is what's known as "Murphy's Law"...
- it slipped off the kerb and bent the tie rod badly! see the pics.
- I tried to locate one from various local shops and couldn't, so found one online. Ordered that up, and while I was waiting, another mower shop kindly straightened the one I had for free. (granted I was buying various mower bits there).

Anyhow, got that mower back up and running, and returned it rapidly! at least that kept the lawn at bay for a while!dsd

Step 6: Build the Grass Collector Box

so I finally gave up on trying to buy an old mower box.

I found out that to buy each of the actual parts from manufacturer, would add up to probably over €360. yes... 360 euros... the hood was about 120(the small plastic hood of the grass box!), the frame was another 100 or so, and the netting was another good chunk.

I was wondering how I'd go about it... and wondered what I had int he house that I could possibly use...

- When we bought the house(only a few months prior), there were these two random metal poles(from some garden thing I guess). and then I noticed our daughters old high chair :D

Frame Build;

1. I started by pulling the high chair apart and noticed that the rounded legs would fit perfectly into the holding mechanism on the back of the mower for holding the original grass box.
2. I hooked up the high chair leg and held out the long metal poles, guestimated the length and marked it off
3. I got to work cutting the metal with my handy Dremel and then drilled to bolt them to the high chair leg.
4. Once that was complete, I held up the remaining metal pole and marked out where IW anted to cut for a vertical pole running down the inside next to the mower.
5. Again, trusty Dremel and some drilled holes later, the verticals were fitted.
6. I then had to come up with something to go out and strengthen the rear of the grass box. I had the remaining high chair leg and figured I could use that.
7. With the final two pieces of metal square tubing, I bolted them at each corner for the horizontal frame.
8. I also picked up some bamboo to use to strengthen the top and bottoms of the box.


1. I bought some cheap chicken wire at the local hardware store, which I figured would be good to give it some shape.
2. Next up was a finer mesh to ensure the grass wouldn't fall through. I found standard green netting that you use for inside garden fences. It was a nice fine mesh, which would allow air to flow, but not grass to exit.
3. Lots of cable ties later, the thing was together. pretty happy with myself at this point.

Step 7: The Road Test!

Time to test out the grass box! man I'm nervous... but sort of excited..

I fired up the mower, took her for a spin around the garden and said my prayers... engaged the blades... and WHAMMO!!!! it started cutting grass.. yep, bit too dramatic eh! anyhow... so yes, the blades were spinning... the grass as being cut... and to my sheer delight! yep, you guessed it... it was flowing perfectly into the grassbox without a drop on the lawn!

Delighted with myself is a massive understatement.. I think I actually did the Chandler dance at one point..

It worked.. hours and hours and hours of effort, from figuring out how engines worked, to carbs, to mower decks... man it was a rollercoaster at times.. but we got there eventually!

Step 8: Design Issues...

I said it would be best to flag this now, but then again, in hindsight, it's hideously obvious....

So I placed the fine mesh outside the coarse mesh... what did that add up to? well, grass collecting between the two layers, inside the grass box.

It's not the worst issue int he world, and I will put an additional green layer inside the box sometime, or simply remove the outer and place an inner.. not sure.. but to be fair, I'll get through this season happily with what I have, and take it from there!

Sorry if I bored you, and thanks for reading!