Introduction: How to Make a Cutout Template for a Leaf Vacuum Hose Adapter
This tutorial will demonstrate how I created cutout templates for the leaf vacuum hose adapter used on my lawn mower. The process was easy, took very little time, cost almost nothing ($3 for a pack of 10” bamboo skewers) and was very accurate.
Getting a new pull behind leaf vacuum can be an exciting event, until you realize you will need to cut the universal vacuum hose adapter for the mower deck yourself. For some mower decks, you might be able to cutout a simple rectangular opening. For most lawn mower decks the task can be quite challenging. Unfortunately, my mower deck fell in the category of the latter – complicated – and thus the reason for this Instructable.
Since there are so many different versions and sizes of mower decks available, it would be near impossible for manufacturers to supply templates for mower decks. Thus, it falls upon new owners to figure out how to cut and fit the universal vacuum hose adapter that comes with the unit. The written instructions for this task are rather sparse and videos tend to be vague when it comes to the actual process. As a result, the process usually requires a lot of trial and error cutting cardboard templates and trying them for fit, and then repeating the process over and over until you get reasonably close or just get too frustrated and just use what you have up to that point.
This instructable will explain the process I used to easily create accurate cutout templates that you can then trace on to the universal vacuum hose adapter and then cutout.
This Instructable has four steps:
.....Step 1 – Determine the best deck location to mount the adapter
.....Step 2 – How to Accurately recreate the deck shape/profile
.....Step 3 – Position the templates correctly on the leaf vacuum adapter
.....Step 4 – Some other considerations...
Note: To view photos original size in this Instructable when uploaded, you need to select a photo, position the cursor near the bottom left of the photo and you should then see a "Download Original" icon. Simply press it and the photo will open to it's original size. If the photo is white in the bottom left corner, you may not be able to see the icon, but you should still see the "Download Original" pop up.
- a pack of 10” bamboo skewers
- stiff corrugated cardboard
Step 1: Determine the Best Deck Location to Mount the Adapter
Note: In my case it was easier to do the following steps with the mower deck removed; in the instructable I show the mower deck installed so that the reader can better visualize how it might look installed.
It is important that you first determine the approximate position/location where you prefer the adapter be mounted on the mower deck. To do this for my mower deck I simply held the adapter above the mower deck location I wanted and then marked lines and spots where the edges of the adapter crossed areas on the mower deck (photo 04 top right - purple line overlaid on the photo).
For example, the front deck position I marked with a line (photo 04, top left & bottom left), the intermediate points towards the back I marked with short dashes (photo 04, top left & top right), and the back deck position with a large dot (photo 04, top left & bottom right).
Be sure to allow enough clearance for the vacuum hose movement, wheel clearance, etc (photo 03 of Intro).
Step 2: How to Accurately Recreate the Deck Shape/profile
In order to recreate the contour (profile) of the deck, I created a simple tool for the purpose. I used some stiff cardboard and inserted 10” bamboo meat skewers through the holes in the cardboard (photo 05). For the contour tool, I made the width of the contour cutout about 1” larger than the adapter cutout area (between the two blue arrows in the top left, photo 05). I made the contour tool cutout height 1” higher than the highest point of the deck above the deck rim (about 6" in my case). I then inserted the bamboo meat skewers through the corrugated cardboard holes as shown in photo 05, top right.
Next, I cut a blank section of cardboard the same size as the face of the universal vacuum hose adapter (6 ½” x 21”). I then placed the contour tool on the deck rim over the line I initially marked in step 1 and adjusted each skewer down to the surface of the deck. The contour tool must sit on the rim of the mower deck since that is how universal vacuum hose adapters are mounted when attached. (In photo 05, bottom right, I show the contour cutout slightly above those points only so that you can see the deck markings.)
I then placed the contour tool over the blank section of cardboard and recreated the actual contour onto the blank (photo 05, right middle). Next, I cutout the blank using the traced line as a guide. You should end up with a nice template, something like that shown in photo 05, bottom left.
Finally, always check your results on the deck contour to make sure you’ve not made any errors.
For the bottom contour, I cutout a section of cardboard the same width as the universal vacuum hose adapter and placed it directly under the deck using the same marker points on the deck (photos 06-08). I simply traced the outlines using the deck and marked a dash line allowing for the thickness of the mower deck. I then cutout the bottom template using the dashed line (photo 08). As a reminder, all of the adapters are mounted so that they sit on the outer rim of the mower deck.
Step 3: Position the Templates Correctly on the Leaf Vacuum Adapter
First, make sure the profile cutouts match the profile of the deck surface where you want it to be positioned.
Using the templates, trace the templates onto the adapter surfaces. Double check that you positioned them correctly before cutting out the adapter.
Using a jigsaw, cutout the adapter openings along the lines you traced in the last step (photos 09 & 10). Do a test fit to make sure things matched up as expected. The final step is to install any mounting hardware the manufacturer supplied with the adapter. If yours was like mine, you will probably need to make a few modifications for just the right fit (photos 11 & 12).
Step 4: Some Other Considerations...
There were several other thoughts I’m including here that might be of interest:
1. Trailer hitch (photo 14). My leaf vacuum manufacturer recommended the hitch height be between 8-15” above ground. I added a hitch adapter that met the height requirement as well created a stronger pull rating in the process. The hitch I used can be found searching for “CNSY Universal Lawn Tractor Hitch 3-Way Garden Trailer Hitch with Support Brace Kit”.
2. Cotter pin modification on hose support (see yellow arrow in photo 15). All pull behind leaf vacuums I have seen have a vacuum hose support rod. The rods routinely pop out during use, so I secured mine with a cotter pin.
3. Longer, more rugged hose for vacuuming piles of leaves (photo 16) and place vacuum hose “markers” on ends and middle (photo 17, top photos & bottom left). According to the manufacturers estimate, the vacuum hose that comes with my unit should have been long enough for most lawn tractors. Unfortunately, my tractor has a sharper left turn radius than normal, so I needed a longer vacuum hose. They offered an extension, however it would have been too long and added unnecessary weight, so I just purchased a longer, more rugged, lighter vacuum hose instead. The hose I use is from (https://www.cyclonerake.com/flex-tube-pu-hose/). I also placed "markers" on the hose and attachments to make it quicker to put on and remove the hose each time when using or storing.
4. Box strap as a handle when using as vacuum hose (photo 17, bottom right). My leaf vacuum came with a quick release coupling to allow accessory hoses to be attached. I attached a box strap near the quick release end of the hose to use as a handle when picking up large piles of leaves.
5. Keep vacuum hose off the ground so it doesn’t wear out on bottom side (photo 16). Recommend the hose support keep the hose elevated to prevent unnecessary wear on the vacuum hose bottom. Many of the leaf vacuum units I seen installed by owners allow the hose to drag along the ground rather than keep it elevated.
6. I need to store my leaf vacuum in an outdoor shed, so when storing I remove the vacuum hose to conserve space. I use a duct vent cover to keep mice out of the leaf vacuum motor inlet while stored (photo 18).
I hope you find this Instructable useful.