Vintage Lawn-Boy Mowers
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"It was pretty well beat up," he recalls. "It was held together with baling wire, plywood and big old hardware stove bolts. Fortunately, the engine had not froze up, so I could use that."
Three weeks later, he was able to acquire another gold mower from a dealer. On that one, the engine was frozen, but the body was intact. So between the two, Nicholson had enough parts to begin rebuilding.
"My wife didn't know what to make of it when I bought and restored the first one," Nicholson says with amusement. "Now that I have 12 of them, she's completely confused."
Nonetheless, he's managed to inspire some enthusiasm for old Lawn-Boys in his wife, Cynthia. He has enlisted her help in scanning old magazines in the Enid public library for Lawn-Boy advertisements. That's for a Lawn-Boy history he intends to write in a few years, after he completes his research.
Writing a company history may sound ambitious; however, it wouldn't be the first such company history he's written. A few years ago he wrote and published a history of Santa Fe Railway timepieces.
His interest in that subject developed through several of his clock-making mentors who happened to work for the railroad. And when Nicholson moved to Enid in 1982 he himself worked with the railroad as a watch inspector.
Nicholson figures on spending another two to four years collecting research on Lawn-Boy's history. Meantime, he'll continue acquiring old Lawn-Boy mowers and parts.
The remaining mowers in Nicholson's collection need repair and restoration. Some are so badly deteriorated, it can take as many as four mowers to yield enough parts to make one working mower.
Nicholson keeps the old mowers he's collected in his garage, where he works on them during warmer weather. And in the winter?
"Every evening when I go home I open up the garage and have a look at them and think how nice they will look when they are restored," he says.
He also has boxes filled with parts he has scavenged and cannibalized from other Lawn-Boy mowers he's picked up over the years. He finds parts in unexpected places. For instance, he located some Lawn-Boy handlebars with a tree growing around them.
Nicholson once paid the original sale price for an old Lawn-Boy. Others he's picked up for between $ 10 and $25. Still others he's received for free. "But," he explains, "that doesn't mean it doesn't cost money to 'support my habit,' as I like to call it."
First, there's the labor involved. He completely tears apart every mower, then he begins rebuilding the engine. He replaces worn-out parts with authorized Lawn-Boy stock parts if he's got them. Parts that don't exist have to be machined, and that can be expensive.
"I've traded clock work for labor on a few occasions," Nicholson says. "I hate to think what the dollar value of that was. But being a clockmaker comes in real handy. So does having friends who are machinists."