By Lou Washington

Okay, I’m not going to talk about guitars, iPads or any of the other things that spring to mind when talking technology. Today, I’m going to share my techno-adventure in the world of yard maintenance.

Like everybody else in North America I’m finding my June chores now being moved up to late March thanks to all the SUVs, Aerosols, Styrofoam and other sins of the 20th century that have conspired to rob us of Winter. I was excited to get started early this year on my own climate destruction project which involves mowing my lawn at high noon.

I had two radically different experiences today with, well, let’s call them lawn machines.

First up is my Homelite brand electric chainsaw. I’ve used this thing twice and I have to say, it’s really kind of joke. It’s all plastic and shiny. It really makes me think of something Mattel would make, like Bobby’s First Chainsaw!It’s just like Dad’s!

I wanted to cut down some tiny stumps left over from clearing out some brush about a year ago. I’m talking one to two inches in diameter here.

So there I am with my 50 foot extension cord climbing around in my back yard. I select my first stump, fire up the mighty Homelite, and start cutting. Everything goes just fine. Stump number two things are different. I get about half way thru the stump and everything just blows up. The chain flies off and the motor shuts down.

I figure I can fix this. So there I am with toy chainsaw parts all around trying to figure out how it all works. It’s amazing when you open a machine up. You instantly can tell if they used engineers to design the thing or if they just kind of winged it. My toy was in the latter category.

The whole thing was held together by a plastic cover that doubled as the guide for lining up the chain drive sprocket, the blade adjustment and tension controller. The vibrations of cutting for more than few seconds was all that was required to cause everything to loosen up, the chain to jump out of the track and shut down the machine.

I rebuilt the saw three-time this afternoon, then I threw it away.

Who are these people kidding? This saw is a piece of junk.

After giving up on the stumps it was time to mow the lawn. My lawn mower is a monument to the concept of durability. This thing sits outside all winter, is not even covered, has never been to a shop for “seasonal preparation” or winterizing. I put oil in it 10 years ago when I bought it. I think the new price for the mower was no more than $150.00.

The only thing I do to this mower that is remotely like maintenance is to pull the spark plug every time I use it. I emery board the spark gap, spray starter fluid on the plug and into the plug socket. I have washed the air filter twice.

The mower deck is rusted through in several places and the starter cord rotted two summers ago. None of the control cables work any more.

But this thing starts on three tries every spring. It may only run on one speed, and when it’s time to turn it off, you have to pluck the spark lead from the plug, but, it runs all summer long and starts first time every time during the mowing season.

It’s a Briggs and Stratton motor, but the mower itself is brand-less. What a joy it is to know that the machines you use for the chores you like the least are going to be dependable and get you done with the chore as quickly as possible.

So, here’s to Briggs and Stratton. You guys are great and your product rocks.

As for the chainsaw guys, you really need to re-think your mission statement or value prop or something. Maybe, just hire an engineer.