1956 Eclipse Rolloway - 25" gasoline reel mower - Lawn Mower Forums : Lawnmower Reviews, Repair, Pricing and Discussion Forum
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 06-13-2013, 08:54 AM Thread Starter
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1956 Eclipse Rolloway - 25" gasoline reel mower

I purchased my first reel mower, a 1956 Eclipse Rolloway, in June of 2012 from a fellow in Windsor, Connecticut. At the time I had been looking around for a vintage reel mower; namely an Ideal, Motomower, Coldwell, or an Eclipse. I just happened to message Austen about his Eclipse Speedway mower and he got back to me in short order with lots of imagery, information and factory spreadsheets. With some information and factory images in hand, it was not long before I picked up a Rolloway for myself. This one happened to be complete, and was only a few hours drive away!

When I picked up the mower, it had no spark, but turned over with good compression. Everything was present and in good shape except for the reel reverser which was missing entirely. The fellow who owned this mower said that his father used it to cut the grass from the day he bought it new until the day he died. I bought the mower from him with intention of fixing it up and restoring it. After a few months of ordering parts and fixing the engine, I had my mower working pretty nicely. I contacted the seller and sent him a video of the mower with hope that one day he would see and use it again. I have yet to show him the mower in person, but do keep in contact with him on a regular basis. One day when it is restored he will get a surprise visit from me and my machine.

So here is what the machine looked like when I bought it:












Chris
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 06-13-2013, 09:00 AM Thread Starter
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I spent some time cleaning the blower shroud, cylinder head, lapped and adjusted the valves, flattened the cylinder head, and basically took the engine down to a bare block to clean and inspect all of the parts. Everything looked pretty good, with exception to the cylinder which has its fair share of wear, but after I measured the ring gap up, it was still in spec! The crankshaft though, that is another story. I loosened up the flywheel retention nut by accidentally tightening it until the end snapped off. What a gratifying few seconds it is when you have an impact gun in hand set to loosen a reverse threaded nut! Pictures of that will be in the next post.











Chris
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 06-13-2013, 09:12 AM Thread Starter
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With the crankshaft successfully broken, I was able to get to the points and see what kind of shape that they were in. They were stuck open and rather on the pitted and corroded side of the spectrum. I filled them as best as I could, lubricated the push rod and adjusted them as best that I could. I reassembled and tested for spark, nothing. I removed the coil and tested it on one of my running 8BR6 engines. Nothing. I tried insulating the coil, because I would feel a shock if I held onto the engine block, indicating a short to ground. Insulating the coil did not work. I ended up ordering a new coil, set of points and a condenser. In the mean time, I filled the end of the crankshaft smooth, found the center, and drilled and tapped it to accept a 1/2-20 grade 8 bolt. I removed the crankshaft from the engine to do this, and ended up chucking it into a lathe to drill and tap the hole. Afterwards I brought the crankshaft to my neighbors house where we balanced it at 3600rpm.












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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 06-13-2013, 09:18 AM Thread Starter
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The new replacement coil, a Briggs 291617, is shielded with plastic rather than wax like the original coil. Once installed, I had a nice hot spark, and ran rather well shortly after I put the engine back together. I did have a problem with flywheel keys breaking. I went through at least a dozen aluminum keys before I managed to get the right taper reamed into the aluminum flywheel. After I got over that hurdle, I cleaned up the carburetor, set the governor at 3400rpm, greased up all of the zerk fittings, added some new Shell Rotella T1 SAE 30 oil, and tuned the carburetor. It ran pretty good, and always started on the first pull after that, but did not cut grass for anything.












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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 06-13-2013, 09:24 AM Thread Starter
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I removed the bed knife from the mower to see what kind of shape it was in. To my surprise both cast bosses on either end of the bed knife were cracked off. I suspect the machine hopped a few curbs too many in its past life. I cleaned up the ends of the bed knife and the bosses, and after heating up the knife and boss with an acetylene torch, I MIG welded the three pieces back together. After a little filling, the bed knife fits into its grooves and pivots like it should! To prevent further damage to the inherently weak bed knife casting, I drilled and tapped the bed knife pivot bolts so that they went another two inches into the bed knife. The further support should prevent the bed knife bosses from cracking again!












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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 06-13-2013, 09:39 AM Thread Starter
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After reinstalling the bed knife and trying to make heads and tails of the 6 point bed knife adjusters, I made my best guess and went about using my mower to cut some grass. It did such a terrible job! The reel on my machine was so dull and out of adjustment that it only really cut on maybe 4" of its 25" length. For the longest time I looked around for places to have my reel sharpened and lapped to its bed knife, with no luck. Every place wanted a minimum of $250 to do the task. With just $120 and countless hours invested into my mower, there was no way that I was going to spend double that to have the reel sharpened. Finally, I manned up and took my reel mower out of hiding yesterday to sharpen the reel by hand. I applied Permatex valve grinding compound liberally to each of the blades on the reel. After rotating the reel by hand in reverse for 50 revolutions, I adjusted the bed knife set screws in another 1/6th of a turn. I continued to do this until my three tubes of compound ran out and my hands got tired. After six hours of manually lapping, and moving the bed knife in more than 1/8", my reel is finally sharp! It cut paper along its entire length! What an improvement it was. I started the machine up, and started cutting some grass. Instantly I noticed a tremendous difference in the way it cut. It appeared to cut along 20" of its 25" length, with some stray grass blades slipping through. I took a short video of it in action, but it was not until then that I noticed that my reel was bent in the middle. The reel rocks up and down in the middle ever so slightly causing just 2 of the 5 blades in the center to come in contact with the bed knife. With such little adjustment still needed, I decided to lap the wear out instead of trying to bend the reel back to its original specifications. I choose this route because Eclipse for the most part skimped on metal with these machines. Although they are heavy and made of cast iron, all of the tube steel is very thin. I did not want to risk snapping an almost impossible to replace reel by forcing it. So another 3 hours of lapping went by. I had positive cutting with the reel on all 5 blades all across the reels length. I put the machine down on the ground. Well it fell a little hard because I was tired and the machine weighs some 250lbs, and it must have fell hard enough that the flywheel broke off its taper. The engine sputtered and the flywheel key sheared. I pulled the flywheel and went through my boxes of parts to find no more aluminum flywheel keys. I will order up a few more today and see about updating this with a new video. Hopefully it will leave a much finer cut than it did before!!! If it does not, I am going to see about changing the reel speed. I believe it spins far too slow based on how fast the machine actually moves. If I can fit a smaller gear to the reel, I should be able to get somewhere close to 50% more reel speed!












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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 06-13-2013, 12:59 PM
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Looks good! Looking forward to see how it comes out! Nice resto!

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