This article is about how I built a lawn roller out of scrap-pile parts and a few items bought at the hardware store. While I call it a lawn roller, I actually used it in my Exposed Aggregate Patio Project, which is partly documented in the Exposed Aggregate Do-it-yourself page. A number of people have asked about the roller pictured there, so this is to answer their questions.

Of course, it could be used to roll out a new lawn, too, which I also did with it after the patio was built. It worked very nicely in both applications.

The roller overalll view This is a picture of what the roller looks like. This is just a drawing, so the one I actually built isn't exactly the same. Since a lot of the parts were rescued from the scrap heap, the exact measurements were never taken. The one part that was deliberately chosen was the roller itself. It was fabricated out of concrete, poured into a piece of those heavy cardboard tubes that are used as forms for concrete footings. It is 24 inches long and 10 inches in diameter. That works out to about 1.1 cubic feet of concrete, or about 150 pounds overall

To fabricate the roller itself, I cut two plywood disks the exact inside diameter of the cardboard tube form. Each disk had a hole in the center, the diameter of 3/4" EMT electrical conduit. The disks served to maintain the circular shape of the form, as well as to exactly center the axle tube in the forms. With the form standing on end and one of the disks positioned at the bottom, and the 3/4" conduit standing loosely in the hole of the bottom plywood disk, the form was carefully filled with wet concrete. The conduit was gently shifted to the exact center, and the top plywood disk was dropped over it. The disk was positioned flush with the top of the cardboard form, sitting on the wet concrete with the conduit sitting flush with the outside of the disk. After 48 hours, the cardboard form and plywood disks were stripped form the hardened concrete. What was left was a concrete cylinder with a hollow tube embedded axially.

A closeup of the hub These two images give some detail of the axle/hub assembly. The roller has a length of electrical conduit embedded, which is just a little larger than the solid steel axle. The axle slides easily into the tube, with just enough play to let some oil in for lubrication.
A U-bolt holds the shaft onto the frame. I placed a block of wood (a piece of hockey stick shaft) under the frame to provide a little more compliant material under the nuts, and to fill the unthreaded space on the U-bolts.
To prevent the axle from working it's way out from under the U-bolt, the axle has a hole drilled through it to accept a cotter pin (I actually used a bent nail), and a large fender washer.
The hub area, from below, showing nuts and washers tightened against a small block of wood.The roller hub, from below.

The frame was salvaged from an old bed frame that my wife was trying to send to the dump. The longest straight sections were cut out and drilled to accept the U-bolt and other fasteners. They are about 30" in length.. The handle is piece of 1" electrical conduit rescued from a dumpster and formed to fit the frame. If you have a conduit bender or an electrician friend, you will get nice smooth bends like in these drawings. Otherwise you will have a kinky roller like mine.

The frame has a diagonal cross brace that keeps the whole affair from twisting out of shape when you steer it around while in use. The cross brace and handle are fastened to the frame with 1/4" carriage bolts. I put one bolt through each flange of the angle iron frame members.

The complete rollerThe complete roller.
The roller from the operator's viewpointAn operator's view of the roller.
The roller in action. (click for larger view)Here, you can clearly see that the handle was bent without the benefit of a conduit bender. I was under pressure to use the roller right away, otherwise I would have waited until I could get my neighbor to help me do it properly.
Here are couple of pictures of the roller in action. You can see that the original version did not have the diagonal cross brace. This was added later to stiffen the frame. The fender washers on the axle were also added later.Another shot of the roller at work.(click for larger view)

All drawings by Kirk Nussbaumer.

This page last updated by Rod Nussbaumer, 11-July-2004.