What's the Angle June 25, 2016


Figure 1

I have had a lot of questions about what angle should the bed knife be ground. The problem is that the angle the bed knife grinder is set to does not match the grind on new bed knives. One of the problems is that Toro recently changed the recommended top face angle on most of their Reelmaster units from 5° to 10°. The main problem, however, is caused by how much the grinding stone overlaps the edge of the bed knife.

All bed knife grinders cant the grinding wheel slightly in the x axis so that you only grind with the leading edge of the stone (Figure 1). When you then tilt the stone or the bed knife in the y axis, the leading edge of the stone is not a straight line but an elliptical curve. When you grind the front face of the bed knife, you will be very close to the center of the stone where the elliptical curve is almost a straight line. The angle you have the grinding head or bed knife set at will be the angle ground into the bed knife.



Figure 2

When you are grinding the top face you have to grind close to the edge. Now the angle of the tangent to the elliptical curve will subtract from the angle or the bed knife is set to. Older style bed knives had plenty of clearance so you could overlap the stone so that the inside edge of the stone was past the back edge of the bed knife (Figure 2). This would only add about one degree of error which would be within the tolerances allowed by the manufacturers.


Figure 3

As bed knives keep getting thinner, there is less clearance so you have to grind closer to the edge of the grinding wheel. If you grind right on the edge, you will add 3°-5° of error (Figure 3). This is greater than the tolerance allowed, so you need to compensate by increasing the angle of either the grinding head or the bed knife.

Some bed knife grinders allow you to adjust the cant of the grinding head to minimize this effect but too little cant may reduce the efficiency of grinding so be cautious if you take that approach.

Another factor which aggravates this situation is that as you grind, the leading edge of the grinding wheel will become rounded and worn. Frequent dressing is required with standard aluminum oxide grinding wheels which minimizes this effect. Ceramic stones require much less if any dressing in order to keep them clean but should still be dressed regularly to maintain a sharp leading edge on the stone. CBN (cubic boron nitride) wheels cannot be dressed and will, over time, develop a rounded leading edge. You need to be aware of this and adjust your angles accordingly.

Just remember, set your grind angle to match the angle on a new bed knife and make sure you grind from back to front on a used bed knife



Cheap Mechanic June 18, 2016



I was at a seminar a while back and saw this t-shirt. I vaguely remember someone giving me an example of this so I listed it below to the best of my recollection. What could your course do with an extra $45,000 each year?




An Engineer in Paradise June 11, 2016


I love museums, especially ones that feature history and technology. Three of my favorites are the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton Ohio and The Henry Ford in Dearborn MI where I just made my third pilgrimage. You would think that this would be a great car museum but it isn’t. The National Parts Depot in Ocala has a much better collection including the two custom Lincoln Continental Mark IIs owned by the Ford brothers. The Henry Ford does have all of the available presidential limousines, including both the one John F Kennedy was shot in and the one Ronald Reagan was shot by. The rest of the cars are pretty average and in mostly unrestored original condition. What they do have is a diverse collection of 18th, 19th and 20th century technology. One of my favorites was the massive last steam locomotive, the Allegheny, which has two sets of six articulated drive wheels and was used to haul coal from the West Virginia mines. My other favorite is the Newcomen atmospheric steam engine built in 1760 and used to pump water from coal mines. A new exhibit I had not seen before is a display where they disassemble and reassemble a Model T every day and guests get to help. I helped install the radiator and the left rear wheel.

We also took the tour of the River Rouge complex where they assemble the F150. It begins with two Disney like theater presentations including the shaking theater and then you take a self guided tour on a balcony overlooking the center section of the assembly line. The truck bodies and beds come in together after painting. The doors are removed from the body and all three go their separate ways. The doors and bed make a single pass the length of that section while the body makes about five passes back and forth. They all merge back together before they go the next section where they will be mated with a chassis. Amazingly they get the right color doors and bed back together with its original body. What I found most interesting is that each person on the assembly line had at least three jobs and that none of them appeared rushed. I suspect that they have found the right balance to eliminate repetitive motion injuries and stress thus ensuring high quality. All in all, a day well spent.




What you see is not what you get June 4, 2016


Since we introduced The Reel Height of Cut gauge (The RHOC) almost three years ago, we have gotten a steady stream of calls and messages from customers who can’t believe there is such a big difference between their old gauge and The RHOC. We even had one customer return the gauge because he couldn’t get his assistant to understand the difference so he kept setting the height of cut to the old standard.

One of the first was Mike from South Dakota who received one of the first from our pilot production run. He thought he was mowing at .125 when he was actually mowing at .140 so when he set his mowers for the first time with the RHOC at .125, he was actually mowing .015 lower and promptly scalped his greens. This prompted us to include a warning card with every gauge that you needed to check the difference between your old gauge and the RHOC and modify your settings accordingly.

About a year ago I got a call from Larry, the superintendent at a course in South Carolina, telling me that his greens looked fuzzy. First he wanted to make sure that they were not doing something wrong during the grinding process. Then he told me he thought it might be his height of cut. He had already lowered it to .120 and did not want to go any lower. I explained that other gauges did not always give accurate readings so he bought a RHOC. When he received it and measured his cutting units, he found they were set at .150, .030 higher than what he though. He reduced his height of cut over a couple of days to a true .125. He immediately received compliments from both the members and the board on the greens.

Last week, John from Georgia sent me the above photo showing the wear on the stem of his old gauge. He then measured a unit with his old gauge and compared it to his brand new RHOC and found a .021 difference. Where he had been telling the superintendents that they were mowing at .110, they were in fact mowing at .131. This is a huge difference in a superintendents mind. They will be apprehensive at going much lower when they think they are at .110 but at .130 they have significant wiggle room to change the height of cut in order to improve playability.

Twenty or thirty years ago when greens were between .190 and .250 inches, a .020-.030 variation was acceptable. Today’s height of cut at .125 or less demands much greater precision. If your superintendent is varying the height of cut in .005 increments to find the ideal cut, you need to have a gauge that is repeatable to within .002. John went on to have his two experienced technicians repeat his measurement with The RHOC and they got exactly the same reading he did. As the ultimate test, he then had his inexperienced intern check it and he got exactly the same reading also. John’s experienced techs were amazed at both how far off they were with the old gauge and how repeatable they were with the RHOC.

It used to be when I went to a course and the superintendent told me they were mowing at .095, I was impressed. Now, I think to myself “probably not”. If you are using an old style height of cut gauge, what you see with the gauge is not what you are getting on the course.




The Greatest Generation - Happy Memorial Day May 30, 2016


We have six large containers of family photographs that have been given to us because we never move. We live in the same house we bought in 1981. So I decided I should go through and organize them, a much bigger task then I had anticipated. I found a photo of my dad in the cockpit of his B17 right after he made captain. Intrigued, I started searching on line and found a wealth of information including details of each of his missions, the crews on those missions, the intended target, the results, and how much flak and enemy fighter was involved. They even had a picture of the plane he crashed.

His telling of the story did not make him sound too good. He was the pilot flying with Lt Colonel and Deputy Group Commander as co-pilot who wanted to log some combat hours. Dad thought that the colonel may have forgotten a step and Dad should have double checked him. Right after take-off and gear up one of the right engines caught fire. Before they could put it out, the second engine caught fire. With two engines out, the plane was loosing altitude. He jettisoned the bombs and belly landed in a field 12 miles from the air field. Dad broke his nose on landing and then evacuated through the left side window, the colonel was right behind because the right side of the plane was on fire. Dad did a quick head count and he was missing one crew member. He went back into the burning plane which was full of mud because the bomb bay doors were open when he landed. All he found was an empty boot. He went back out and recounted, still one man short. As he went back in the burning plane for the second time, he realized he had forgotten to count himself.


One man with a broken arm, one with a sprained ankle and his broken nose. Once the crew was settled, he started walking back to the base. They already knew he had crashed and had dispatched ambulances. The whole crew got to ride back and beat him there.

What was particularly unsettling to him was that the week before, the same thing had happened to the plane in front of them. They had not jettisoned their bombs and had apparently armed them before take-off. The plane exploded on landing, killing all of the crew.

A little on line research showed that an engine catching on fire would not have been caused by a missed preflight check but was probably caused by a mechanical defect. This plane was practically brand new and had flown only four missions in four days, never with the same crew. It then sat for three weeks before my Dad flew it. For a new plane to sit while they flew old shot-up planes is a little suspicious. Three days later, back in his old plane, he was flying again.

I want to thank all of our active duty military and veterans for all they have done for our country. I especially want to give thanks for all who gave the ultimate sacrifice.



Sweet 66 May 21, 2016


When my son, Karl, was 11, he and his sister helped with the restoration of our 1949 Ford F1 pickup truck, a project that is still not done. When he was 15, he bought a 1988 Ford Bronco for $100 that he fixed up and painted. It was one of the sweetest stock Broncos you could find. A few months before he graduated, on the day they went to daylight savings time, he didn’t see a truck on his way to school and totaled the Bronco. Fortunately, there were no injuries. Since he was going away to college, he waited a year to replace it.

He found a 1966 Mustang that had been a California car for 10 years, then a Florida car for the next 20 years. It went into storage for 15 years when a fellow who watched too many shows on Velocity thought he could restore it in a tent with a dirt floor. Karl bought it from him and even though it was running and the body was very solid, he decided to take a few months and put a nice paint job on it. He also added disc brakes and electronic ignition. The next year we redid the interior but not the carpet because it would leak like a sieve any time it rained. We had the windshield professionally installed and fixed a few other leaks, but the carpeting sat waiting for time and motivation.

The car was a little frustrating to drive because it leaked both gasoline and oil. We had the carburetor rebuilt a couple of times before we got it right so now the only thing left was the oil leak. First we replaced the valve cover gasket and the top of the engine remained dry but the oil pan was always soaked.

Finally, two weekends ago we pulled the oil pan, cleaned it up and replaced a poorly installed oil pan gasket. We also replaced all of the bushings on the sway bar since we had to remove it to get the oil pan out. But there was still a little seepage from somewhere. The fuel pump bolts were loose. So last weekend, I replaced the fuel pump gasket while Karl began installing the new carpet which had been sitting in our den for the last two years. After he removed the seats, I installed the custom cut Dynamat sound deadening insulation. We then installed and trimmed the carpet. What a difference in both the appearance and noise level.

This has inspired us to buy a bunch of new finishing parts for the interior which we will install this week. He also bought an air conditioning kit from Old Air Products which includes a heater/defroster and electronic controls, and that is how we are going to spend our Memorial Day Holiday. Check back in and I will let you know how it went.

I almost forgot, he also installed some really cool LED tail lights with sequential turn signals. Sweet.





Evolution May 14, 2016


We have been getting many request to build a groomer gauge and verticut gauge similar to our Reel Height Of Cut gauge. We were not sure if there would be enough demand to justify the engineering effort for even this fairly simple project, but sales of the RHOC have taken off, so it feels like a good time to add these two products.

It starts with talking to technicians and getting their input on the problems they have and what their expectations are especially for precision. We then look at our existing product and how we can reuse as many parts as possible. Then we put it all together and brainstorm what the first prototype will look like. The one at the top of the picture is our first prototype where we took an existing RHOC gauge bar and added standoffs. We did not like this idea so the project languished for a while.

I was walking through the shop a few weeks ago and a piece of scrap caught my eye. It was thin wall tubing that was the same width as our RHOC gauge bar but twice as deep. Instead of trying to reuse the existing bar, we would make a completely new bar. Even though it was thin wall, it was still thicker as well as being bigger which made it quite a bit heavier. So we added lightning holes. This reduced the weight to within a half a pound of the RHOC. Not great, but acceptable. Doing all of this may seem real obvious but only in hindsight.

When reviewing this concept with several technicians, we realized that we had way too much indicator travel. We were using all one inch of the indicator travel when we only needed about a half inch. We also did not need the full 18 inch length, so we transferred what we learned from the holy prototype on to a standard RHOC gauge bar. We reduced the depth of the cut out and reduced the overall length. This has the added benefit of reducing the weight to less than the RHOC gauge. Before we assembled it, we tested it for stiffness. All of the previous iterations had been fine, but this one could flex by .005 inches. Not good enough.

This lead to our final prototype where we reduced the depth of the cutout by another ⅛ of and inch and changed it’s shape to circular from rectangular. Now we can only get about .001 inch of deflection.

Standard analog dial indicators can be bought relatively cheaply but this gauge requires a reverse acting dial indicator. These are not cheap. We were able to locate the perfect digital indicator at a reasonable price (much less than the reverse acting analog) to finish the design.

We have been field testing a couple of prototypes which has been going well. We are now making a pilot production run of 10 more units. These can be purchased at a special price from Turf Addict. Once we have enough feed back from the pilot production units, we will go into full production.





Why would any one do that? May 7, 2016

Last week, I wrote about measuring off the reel shaft versus using a pi tape. John from Atlanta sent me this video of a QA7 reel. He set the unit up to spin grind. When he saw how much reel shaft runout he had, he called his crew over to show them. “This is why we don’t measure off the reel shaft.” he said and one of his crew exclaimed “Why would anyone do that?” Why indeed.





Garbage in, garbage out. April 30, 2016

Superintendent magazine just published an article about how much innovation has occurred in reel grinding technology where they interviewed my two main competitors. I was not quoted. This same magazine wrote an article in 2013, again quoting my competitor, about how grinding technology has not nor does it need to change. One would think after reading these articles that a major upheaval has occurred in the industry. What is that upheaval? Idiot lights. Instead of measuring with digital indicators, both competitors use digitally controlled lights to tell you how to adjust the grinder. This may sound innovative but it really just reduces the control the technician has on precision and instead relies on a computer to make the decision on how to grind. The problem is that even if you use the most advanced computer system, your results are still based on the data you input. In my competitors’ case, they either do not measure the reel or they measure off the reel shaft. I made the video above about eight months ago to show the problem with measuring off the reel shaft. The average reel shaft will vary by .010-.020 inches which means you have a pretty good chance of grinding your reels into a .010-.020 cone shape if you rely on reel shaft measurement. Since all of the mower manufacturers want their reels coned by less than .010 inches, you would be unable to consistently grind your reels within manufacturers’ specs. Worse, with idiot lights, you will never know.








Out with the old, in with the new. April 23, 2016


Larry is finally getting a new van, a 2016 Dodge ProMaster extended window van with all of the bells and whistles. Originally intended for conversion to an airport limousine, we chose the window van to give us better visibility at awkward intersections. While a window in the side door is an option on the cargo van, very few are shipped that way and lead time for a special order is about six months. We also opted for the V6 gasoline engine over the diesel for several reasons. The difference in fuel economy was only about 4 mpg and with diesel usually costing more, there was little savings, certainly not enough to justify the $5,000 premium for the diesel engine. Another issue was the diesel engine was only used in the ProMaster, so service and parts would be scarcer. Finally, the diesel engine comes with a automatically shifted manual transmission which was really weird to drive.




Compared to our old Dodge Sprinter, the ProMaster is 14 inches shorter in length, 2 inches wider and 2 inches shorter in height on the outside. The cargo area is 4 inches taller, 4 inches wider and 12 inches shorter in length. The cargo volumes are almost identical at about 510 cubic feet. The ProMaster feels bigger inside with the only drawback being you have to squeeze between the two grinders. Customer viewing and access is, however, greatly improved.




To finish the inside, we made our own lower side panels and painted them on the back side silver to match and attached with standard plastic clips. The ceiling was painted white on the back side and again attached with standard clips. Because it is so reflective, it looks silver. Cut outs were made in the ceiling panel to partially recess the led lights which can run off either external 110 volts or the vehicle’s 12 volt battery. The air hose and power cord coils are encased under the floor and are accessible from the outside. This was great when I had to do a demo in the pouring rain and could completely shut the doors. We built our own stepped partition from heavy gauge steel and a removable Lexan panel. This gives the driver more room and better visibility while not blocking the side door. The Ideal 6000 Bed Knife Grinder was placed behind the driver while the Peerless 7000 Reel grinder was placed all the way back behind the passenger. This allows for easy viewing from the front and both sides.


I took it on a two week shake down trip before turning it over to Larry. Here we are in front of F40 Motorsports, home to Wayne Carini’s Chasing Classic Cars. That is a 57 Buick convertible in the background. All of the bells and whistles were nice, back up camera with assist, large power mirrors with power folding and Bluetooth radio with Cirrus and TomTom GPS. The GPS is not very good so I relied on my iPhone GPS but I could not get the Bluetooth to connect reliably for the iPhone GPS voice directions. Also the trip computer always calculated the fuel economy as 4.7 mpg. The actual economy was 15-18 mpg. Not bad for a vehicle this size and weight. The fuel tank is only 24 gallons versus 26 on the Sprinter which averaged about 21 mpg. This reduced the effective range from 450 miles to 300 miles but gas is easier to find then diesel. All in all, we are very pleased.

I'm so excited April 16, 2016

Last week I was in New York doing training and demos. I was at a very nice, old course in the Buffalo area doing a demo. The equipment manager was complimentary of our machines, particularly their precision, so I pulled out our Reel Height of Cut Gauge. His eyes got really big as he said “I’ve got that gauge. It is the best thing ever.” He said it so enthusiastically that it got my wife’s attention as she was reading her book in the front of the van. He has the IGCEMA version which had no SIP identifiers on it so he did not realize we made one of his favorite tools. A little later, the superintendent reiterated how impressed they were with the RHOC.

This week I found out that the folks at Turf Republic and Turf Addict collaborated on the video above for the RHOC, our reel height of cut gauge. I have never spoken with the folks at Turf Republic or Howard Horne, the equipment manager featured in the video. Turf Addict is the on line store that sells our gauge. It is very gratifying to see this kind of unsolicited commentary on our product. I want to thank Howard, Turf Republic and Turf Addict for producing this video. It is very well done. This kind of customer response is what gets me excited.





What is wrong with this picture? April 9, 2016


In case you can’t tell what you are looking at, it is a photo of the grinding head of a Peerless 2000 Reel Grinder. In case you can’t tell what is wrong, the grinding wheel is worn all the way to the hub. In case you didn’t know any better, you are supposed to replace the stone when there is between ¼-½ inch of the stone showing above the paper label. Using the stone past this point will significantly reduce grinding speed. As the wheel gets smaller, the surface speed is reduced and less metal is removed per revolution of the grinding wheel. When compared to other grinders, it is less than a five minute job to replace the stone. The stone itself is the same exact stone as the competitor's at about half the cost. There is no excuse.

I take it very personally when a user calls us or our dealers and asks “What is wrong with this piece of s*** grinder?” A word of advice here. You will get better tech support if you don’t start off insulting the people who are going to give you tech support. As my father always said “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

Our dealer did respond quickly when he got that call only to find what you see above. In fairness to the technician who made the call, he had just started working at this course, he did not have a lot of golf course experience, he had been told that the grinder was working fine and he had no experience with the Peerless grinder. He did do one thing right. He called. After installing a new stone and a little training, the grinder is working great.

We have extensive on line support including videos, manuals and this blog. We also have free telephone support and on site factory or dealer support. If you have a question, please call 800-888-6658 or email.

This is a perfect example of why golf course superintendents should be requiring their technicians be certified by the program started by IGCEMA and continued today by GCSAA.

PS Happy Anniversary Michele. We have been married 39 years today.





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