The Odd and the Unusual

By Staff
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While the Reiter's overall appearance is familiar, its novel cutting system isn't.
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A close look at the Reiter mower rotary cutters and belt-driven spindles.

In June of 2002, I was at a show in Bowling Green, Ohio,
exhibiting some of my engines and smaller equipment when a fellow
came by and asked a few questions about my equipment. He introduced
himself and forwarded a business card, along with an invitation to
visit his farm and see some of his old ‘stuff.’

A few weeks later I took him up on his invitation and paid him a
visit. He had a barn full of old equipment, including a lot of old
mowers, and he called my attention to the fact that everything had
a price tag. I thought an old sickle-bar mower in his collection
would look good taking up some more space at my home but, as many
of us know, when confronted with these opportunities we can count
on having an empty wallet. I told him I had no money, and we parted
ways.

The Reunion

One year and one month later, I happened to think about the old
(1889) wheel-powered sickle-bar mower he had, and by golly I had a
wee little bit of money beginning to burn a hole in my pocket. I
made the 50-mile motorcycle ride to his farm, but of course he
wasn’t to be found since I showed up unannounced. But another
week and another trip found him working his garden. He remembered
me by name, and he remembered the mower I had taken interest in the
year before, which he still had. We talked a bit, and not only did
I purchase the old sickle-bar mower but four other interesting
pieces of small equipment, including a ‘Reiter Manufacturing
Co.’ mower.

The Stranger

Upon getting everything home I paid a bit more attention to
‘the stranger,’ a mower unlike any I’d seen before. Its
overall appearance resembles a push-type power mower, in that it
has a gasoline engine on top of the deck and a handle bar sticking
out the rear. But that’s about where any similarity with a
conventional mower ends.

Power comes from a 2 UP Model AU-7B Continental
‘slant-cylinder’ engine. The engine is original to the
mower, but it’s locked up solid from exposure to the elements.
The rear wheels are driven, with power supplied from the engine
through a small  transmission mounted on the rear axle. The
rear wheels and tires are 7 inches in diameter, and the rubber was
in bad shape, with one tire completely rotted. Luckily, I had
rescued a pair of 7-inch tires from a scrap yard years ago thinking
‘these just might come in handy someday.’ The front
‘wheels’ are simply a pair of 3-inch diameter caster
wheels. One was missing, but I was able to replace it from yet
another scrap yard.

The cutter blades are where things really get interesting: They
are not your ordinary blades. As the photos show, the mower has two
vertical spindles attached to the deck, which pass through the
mower from the upper side of the deck to the lower side, with a
cutter attached to the end of each spindle. Each cutter consists of
a stationary plate underneath a rotating disc equipped with five
knives. The best way to describe this arrangement would be to call
it a ‘rotary sickle-bar.’ Total cutting width is 24 inches.
Further, instead of being driven by a single v-belt, the spindles
are turned by individual v-belts running from the power-takeoff
side and the flywheel side of the crankshaft – and both belts make
a 90-degree twist in route to the spindles.

Reiter Manufacturing Co.

The only information about the mower is stamped on the
nameplate: Reiter Manufacturing Co., Holgate, Ohio, Model No. C-24,
Serial No. 104, Pats Pend. I live 60 miles from Holgate, so I took
a drive to the Holgate public library to see what I could learn. I
asked the librarian for information on the Reiter company, and upon
hearing my request she picked up the phone and made a call. Five
minutes later an older man walked through the door and introduced
himself. The man was Joe Biler, a nephew of the founder, owner and
sole employee of Reiter Manufacturing Co., Corbin Reiter, now
deceased. Corbin, Joe told me, started the company in the mid-1950s
working out of a small brick building on Squire Street in Holgate.
The mower’s design came out of Corbin’s head, and despite
the fact Corbin was a machinist, he didn’t put anything on
paper. Although the nameplate says ‘Pats Pend,’ Corbin was
never issued a patent, and in fact never even applied for one.

As best as can be recalled, Corbin built these mowers for about
five years. Some of the parts for the mower were manufactured in
Napoleon and Defiance, Ohio, and then sent to Corbin, who assembled
the mowers one at a time. He only built one model, and they were
expensive both to build and to buy. Unfortunately, Corbin was
building his mowers at a time when competition was tough, and
mowers were relatively cheap. He couldn’t compete, so he quit
building mowers and returned to his trade as a machinist.

Except for the engine, this mower is in surprisingly good shape.
Fortunately, I have an AA-7 Continental that is, except for
horsepower, almost identical to the AU-7B, and I plan to install
the AA-7 and restore the mower to the last detail. How many of
these were built is anyone’s guess, but if anyone knows
anything more – or better yet owns one of these mowers – I’d
love to hear from them.

AT A GLANCE, BUILDER: REITTER MANUFACTURING CO. HOLEGATE, OHIO,
MODEL NO: C-24, SERIAL NO: 1U4, ENGINE: 2 HP CONTINENTAL MODEL
AU-7B, BUILD DATE: CIRCA 1955

Contact engine enthusiast Marty Zirger at: 149 Ella St.,
Tiffin, OH 44883; e-mail: basco@bright.net

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