AMRC apprentice Jake is a cut above meeting the lawnmower challenge

09 October 2014

Not many 20 year olds would say they were "ecstatic" after being presented with a 40 year old lawnmower that had seized after standing outside, unused for a decade and told to get it working.

But, for Jake Martin, the ageing rust bucket, bought off eBay for a 'tenner' was just the challenge he had been looking for.

Jake is in the final year of his apprenticeship at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing (AMRC) and needed a project to complete his training.

"I'm a hands on sort of guy, so this as much better than sitting in front of a computer or turning a drawing into a single component," says Jake.

The challenge also fitted perfectly with ethos of the AMRC's Advanced Structural Testing Centre, where Jake is completing his training.

"We do everything in house. We're our own project managers, create our own procedures, make things and do all the testing," Jake explains.

He certainly needed all those skills to get the broken down sports pitch mower up and running.

"There were lots of problems. It was orange with rust inside and outside, the ignition coil needed significant parts replacing, a piece broke off one of the cast iron rollers when I took them apart and the crankshaft sheared the first time I started it," says Jake.

He managed to mend the coil, repair the roller so well that you cannot see the join and get a replacement crankshaft out of an old motorcycle engine.

Jake reckons the toughest job was making the gaskets by hand. Nowadays, gaskets are cut out by water jet or laser, but the engine Jake was rebuilding was so old that no off the shelf gaskets or digital designs were available.

Instead, he had to resort to traditional methods, fixing a sheet of gasket paper to the engine block, and gently tapping it around the edges with a hammer until the paper split, leaving the perfectly shaped gasket sitting in place.

"The block was aluminium, so I couldn't hit it too hard, which is why it took me 15 attempts to get it right," says Jake.

Now the £10 wreck is as good as a new machine costing several thousand pounds and Jake is planning his next challenge - machining a new crankshaft and flywheel to get the donor motorcycle engine working, too.

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