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Ingenuity builds a lawnmower that floats on a breeze

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Back in the early 1960s a backyard tinkerer in Sweden began playing about with a garbage-can lid and a propeller. Karl Dahlman had a small hovercraft in mind when it occurred to him that he could make the blade do double duty and cut his garden grass as well.

The net result was the world's first lawnmower that floated around on a cushion of air. It was an idea that earned the Swede a gold medal at a Milan, Italy, industrial fair for his "inventive genius."

About a decade later, a professional inventor in West Germany, Eugene Zinck by name, turned his attention and skills to the tiller and came up with a new approach: a tiller with a double row of counterrotating tines.

The net result of both of these ideas is two unique garden-aid products that have now hit the American market. The Flymo mower, invented in Sweden, perfected in Britain, and tested worldwide, is soon to be American-made in Kansas City. The Zinck Gardener rotary tiller is made in West Germany but powered by An American- made Briggs & Stratton gasoline engine. It is being assembled in Stockbridge, Mass., and ultimately will be totally manufactured on this side of the Atlantic.

I tried out the no-wheels lawnmower a year or two ago when a small consignment of the floating machines was sent over to test the US market. The grounds manager of the estate where it was being tried out praised it for its versatility and the remarkable ease with which it could be moved around, particularly on sloping banks.

In my hands it worked like a breeze, which is only appropriate for something that floats on air. There simply was no friction and the lightest push would propel the featherweight mower several yards on a level lawn.

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