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Earlier this year, I purchased a barely used 4WD Massey Ferguson 1529 compact
tractor which was in excellent shape. It was new enough, with just 90
hours on it, that it still came with a year's worth of factory warranty.
Aside from general yard type work, one of the primary uses for the tractor will
be getting firewood from our property and some of the surrounding land.
The underside of the tractor is woefully exposed when it comes to navigating
through the woods. Something needed to be done to help ensure the
tractor's survivability when off-road gathering wood.
When viewed from the bottom, the MF 1529 tractor has vulnerable fluid lines, linkages, and cable assemblies that won't take kindly to a piece of tree or brush being jammed into it. The main hydrostatic fluid line runs along the bottom of the tractor and should it get tangled up with a piece of tree stump or a branch, the tractor will no longer move until repaired. I needed to cover the vulnerable area with a skid plate, just like I did on my Jeep TJ when I swapped in the AW4 auto tranny.
The tractor has a sub-frame under it that supports the front end loader.
After looking at it for a while, I decided to see if I could use the sub-frame
as a mounting platform for the skid plate. After a few calls around town,
I found a shop that had a piece of 1/4" thick 6061 aluminum alloy. Steel
would have been much cheaper but I have limited tools for doing fabricating
work. I know that working with aluminum is easier than steel and my
previous experience with the strength of aluminum assured me it would be more
than adequate for the protecting the tractor. If I still had access to a
plasma cutter and a welder, I would have gone with steel plate without question.
My first step towards the belly plate project was to make a full size
template. Using some large pieces of cardboard, I fashioned a template
based on the outline of the tractor's sub-frame. I used my automotive
floor jack along with a small piece of plywood to hold the cardboard in place
while I traced the sub-frame's outline with a black marker. I then cut the
template from the cardboard, fitting and trimming several more times, until it
covered the necessary area under the tractor while fitting the outline of the
After tracing the template's outline onto the aluminum sheet, it was time to start cutting. I picked up a couple of extra metal cutting blades for my jig saw and started cutting using a bit of WD-40 for cutting fluid. Yeah, I know....that isn't what it is made for but after finding all of the search engine recommendations saying it works great for keeping the blade teeth clean, I used it. And for what it is worth, it worked great. And I only used the one blade, which is still in good condition.
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