I am sad to report that the Jari mower bit the dust this weekend. I purchased it about two years ago from a guy upcountry, and put several hours into getting it running well. I sorted out most of the issues, including the frozen-up cutter bar and rotted gas tank, but the replacement tank never quite fit right – there was a slight intermittent gas leak between the top of the tank and the carb, and I never could figure out why. However, on Saturday it finally caught up with me. The mower ran out of gas so I shut it off, filled the tank, and as soon as I cranked it up a small flame started on the surface of the carburetor. I tried to bat it out with a mat of fresh-cut green grass, and it almost worked, but the flames persisted. I ran over to the neighbor’s and grabbed two fire extinguishers, and exhausted them on it, but by that time the metal was hot enough that it re-ignited after the powder stopped flowing.
I didn’t think it would explode, since the gas seemed to be escaping from the tank – at first through the leak, and subsequently through the zinc carburetor, which melted into a puddle on the ground. Still, I ran down the hill for some hoses, to tap the neighbor’s water. At peak the flames reached 6-8 feet high, but by the time we had the hoses up there the gas had burned itself out, and the fire was reduced to burning the rubber tire, belts, and the thermoformed plastic fairing on the front. Ben Wilkins tossed a couple of pails of water on the smoldering heap and the excitement was over.
Once it cooled off, Bodhi and Kieran rolled the machine down the hill and I took stock of the damage. The engine was pretty well baked (as I mentioned the carb had completely melted), the left tire and shroud were shot, and the belts were burned down to the fiber cores. But the frame was intact, and even most of the paint was still in good shape – I tipped the machine over on its side when it caught fire so the tank was up, and there wasn’t much to burn up forward. One of the idler pulleys looks pretty baked, so it would probably need to be replaced. Joshua and I toyed with the idea of doing an electric retrofit, since sickle mowers don’t use a lot of power compared to rotary machines, and using two separate motors would significantly simplify the mechanicals. Unfortunately, I haven’t got time to do a major rebuild (or an electric conversion), so today I bought another used sickle mower (Troy-Bilt make) from a nice retired couple in Cornish – I’ll tune it up next weekend and see how I like it.