Custom Muledrive

Discussions regarding modifying your tractor

The image at left is Grummy's stretched frame and highly modified tractor.

Custom Muledrive

Postby bobneumann » Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:47 pm

I just recently finished reworking the mule drive on my mowing deck and the mount on my blade so that I can have both the mowing deck and my front blade installed at the same time.
  • I live in the south, and my tractor has never even been in the same county as a snowcaster, so the mowing deck can stay on year-round.
  • I've recently done a mod something like a Johnny bucket that I added to my front blade. It makes a really nice carry-all for hauling dirt/mulch/tools/wood etc. around the yard. But not if I have to remove the mowing deck first. It just isn't worth the trouble to take off the deck, put on the blade, take off the blade, put the deck back on. I want to have the mower on all the time, and be able to hook the blade up for a few minutes here and there.
  • It looks really cool. And John Deere can do it. Why should they get all the fun?

I'm writing it up here in case anyone ever thought about doing it themselves. The actual deck work I would rate as pretty easy, but cutting and welding the blade bracket was more of a challenge. (I am more in-love than ever with my Harbor Freight metal cutting circular saw. It cuts 1/4" steel like butter. On this project I even plunge-cut the steel plate on the bottom of the blade bracket. It amazes me every time I use it.)

Frame extensions:
What I'm really trying to do is to eliminate mower deck's mule bracket itself. So I'll be replacing it with bolt-on frame extensions that will serve as the anchor/pivot point for the front end of the mower deck carriage. I need to be certain that I attach these new frame extensions such that the pivot pin holes are in the exact same place that the old mule bracket had them located. I call these holes the "hinge" holes, since the front end of the deck carriage rotates at this point, like a hinge.
I cut a wooden template that fits snugly into the corner formed by the tractor frame and the lower bracket for the snap-fast pins. Then, with the original mule bracket installed, I drilled a 1/2" hole in the wooden template to "record" the exact placement of the original hinge holes. (This template works for either side.)

To make the new frame extensions I held a piece of flat stock in place (mine is 1/4" thick by 2.25" wide) and then cut it to the general shape I'm after: it has 45degree cuts coming to a center point on the upper end (with the sharp point chamfered off) and one big 45degree cut to the lower end, again with the sharp point chopped off. The overall length of my finished piece is 7.25 inches. Next, holding the piece of flat stock in the location/orientation it will be in, and holding my wooden template in position, I used the hole in the template as a guide to mark it, and then drilled the 1/2" hinge/pivot hole in end of the flat stock. (The end that has the one big 45degree cut.) Then I pushed a long 1/2" bolt through the holes in both the flat stock and the wooden template, so that the bolt acts as temporary alignment pin. With that bolt acting as an alignment pin, and holding the wooden template in position, this gives the precise placement and where the new frame extension (piece of flat stock) should be bolted. So I clamp the flat stock in place and then drill two holes through both the the tractor frame and the flat stock. I repeat the same process on the other side. Next I weld 1/2" nuts to the backsides of the flat stock at three locations: both holes on the driver side, and only the upper hole on the passenger side. The lower hole on the passenger side will have the bolt for the tie-rod coming out of it. Now the new deck extensions are complete and ready to paint.
They bolt in place with 3 1/2" bolts, 2 inches long. For the final hole, the one without the blind nut, I use the 1/2" bolt portion of an old tie-rod end. This tie-rod end will now be the upper end of the belt tensioner.

Belt Tensioner
Next I manufacture my new belt tensioner. The barrel nut for the original tensioner is 1/2" coarse thread. So I cut a piece of 1/2" all thread about 10" long. I drilled out the female socket end of an old tie-rod end to 1/2", so that my piece of all-thread can fit up inside it and spin freely. All I want the tie-rod to do is to act as a butt-stop for the all-thread. The other end of the all-thread is ground to a 3/8" hex shape, so I can turn it with a wrench or socket. With the all-thread dead-ended up into the tie-rod end, and the other end threaded through the barrel nut, the all-thread is now the hypotenuse of a triangle. As I tighten the all-thread (Spin it in a tightening direction) the hypotenuse gets longer, which forces the barrel nut and its bracket backward, which mimics the tightening motion of the old adjuster. It remains to be seen if I need a locking mechansm to prevent it from rattling loose during use. If so, I may have to drill a 1/8" hole in the all-thread somewhere and push a lock pin through it to prevent it rotating. Time will tell.


Blade Bracket
The trailing edge of the blade bracket has to be cut away to make room for the mower belt pulleys. The pulleys really can't be moved, since they need to lie in the plane directly beneath the PTO drive pulley. So the blade bracket has to be cut away. I ended up cutting out around 2.5 inches all the way accross, plus an additional rounded carveout on the driver's side for the belt tension spring.

In order to preserve the bracket's overall strength I added 1/4" plate reinforcements around the slots for the lower pins, which effectively doubles the thickness of the steel in that area.

You can see in the lower picture that I made these plates about 3/8" higher/taller than the old steel was, because I thought that the steel at the top of the old pin slots was pretty thin. Note as well that I elected to put one of the reinforcing plates on the inside of the bracket and the other on the outside, which makes the bracket 1/4" wider overall at the point where it attaches to the pins. It still fits without much effort, so I don't know why they had left so much play at the factory, but I'm thinking snugger is essentially stronger.

Lastly I welded in a new cross-wise brace to keep the whole thing square.

Generally, the mower deck will now be installed all the time. It's still pretty simple to remove the deck: loosen the belt tensioner and then remove the 1/2" pivot pin that runs between the new frame extensions. It does demand the extra tool, (3/8" socket to loosen spin the belt tensioner) but beside that it's not much worse to remove/install than before.

To install the blade, first lift the mower deck to full height and secure it there. (I haven't actually gotten that far yet, but I'm thinking a short piece of chain, one on either side toward the back of the deck.) With the deck locked in the up position, the lift arms can still freely travel up and down, but in use I may just pull the 1/2" pins that connect the deck to the lift arms, completely isolating deck from the lift. Again, time will tell, but it's not difficult to do either way.
With the deck now secured in the up position, the blade is attached and used as you normally would.
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Custom Muledrive



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