Why not to mow the lawn while making pizza

This is perhaps an instantiation of Murphy’s Law, mixed in with a little bit of a rant.

Pizza is good. Pizza is the staple diet of geeks all around the world. Pizza is especially good when it’s home made. So I decided to make some.

Now, the dough takes time to rise, and the sauce takes time to simmer, and the lawn was in desperate need of mowing. What could possibly go wrong?

The obvious choices such as the dough rising too much or getting grass into the toppings didn’t happen. I did burn the sauce slightly after I was distracted before I turned down the heat, but after transferring the majority into another pan it was clear that a minor addition of barbecue flavour wasn’t going to do any real harm.

No, the real problem was that a third of the way through mowing the lawn, the lawnmower started making some strange rattling and screeching noises. It’s not a particularly expensive lawnmower, one of the Flymo range, but it’s only just over a year old, and it’s not like it gets heavy use around here. But of course, being over a year old, I figured it was unlikely to still be covered by a warranty. And even if it was, waiting for a warranty repair with a partially mown lawn didn’t exactly appeal to me.

So I took it apart.

First of all, I noticed that the plastic moving parts to which the blades are attached seemed to have blistered somewhat from heat. I found this a little alarming, especially as some grass had glazed onto some parts of the plastic. Also, there were some scrapes that looked a little alarming, as if something was grinding against something else, but I couldn’t see any evidence of this actually happening any more, so I put that one down to mystery and moved on.

A few screws later, and the covers were off. A flymo lawnmower is a very simple machine, consisting of a motor and some bits of plastic. This is no surprise, and it was clear now that there was a ring inside the motor which had come loose and was responsible for the rattling and screeching.

The motor was held together by two more screws, but not ordinary screws. Security screws. These are annoying, but weren’t the end of the world, as I do have a set of security bits. But the pointlessness of it struck me. These screws were already recessed deep into the motor and required a long screwdriver to reach them. There was nothing inside which was any more dangerous than that which you could reach on the outside. In fact, even before getting to these screws, all of the possible dangers were already there – moving parts, and exposed live wires and terminals. If you managed to wire it up, you’d be maimed or killed way before you managed to get the security screws open.

I did eventually get to the ring, though. It was the ring between the bearings and the inside of the motor. It wasn’t clear at first what was supposed to be holding it into the plastic hole where it lived, but eventually I saw that there were small bits of plastic protruding from the inside of the hole which were barely big enough to see, let alone hold a metal ring in place. But somehow, after some amount of gentle persuasion from a flat bladed screwdriver, the ring did indeed stay in.

Of course, by this point the armature had come right out of the motor. Thankfully, the motor seemed to be of a simple construction, so the hardest part of putting it all back together was pulling the brushes apart enough to get the armature back in.

Slightly alarmingly, when I put the lawnmower back together, there was one place which looked like it should have a screw in it. It’s usually the other way round – usually you have a screw left over and nowhere to put it. I racked my brains trying to think what should go in that hole, until I realised that I was certain that I hadn’t removed anything from it.

By this point it was time to beat the dough and get busy with the rest of the pizza, and I was lucky that I had enough time to finish the lawn off while the pizza was in the oven.

And that is why you shouldn’t mow the lawn while making pizza.

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