How To Sharpen Reel Mower Blades

How To Sharpen Reel Mower Blades

While a lot of people opt for a powerful gas lawn mower or an electric model, some of us still enjoy the simple pleasure of a manual reel lawn mower. These tools are perfect if you only have a small patch of lawn and they’re far better for the environment. But taking care of them is a little different and you’ll need to get clued up on how to sharpen reel mower blades.

Fortunately, sharpening a reel mower blade is a simple process and as long as you have the right tools and follow safety precautions, you shouldn’t have too many problems. You’ll need to secure the blades, give them a good clean, and then file them to bring back that sharp edge.

If you’ve never sharpened a reel mower blade before then you’re in the right place. We have put together this step by step guide to show you exactly what to do. We’ll also answer some of your most burning questions; by the end, you’ll be an expert on everything to do with reel mower sharpening.

Sharpening your reel lawn mower for the first time can feel like an intimidating task. But it doesn’t need to be. We’d recommend getting everything you need together before you start so that you can just get on with the job at hand. Also, don’t forget that you’re working with blades that are (or will be) very sharp so it’s essential to take safety precautions.

Tools Needed

  • File
  • Broom handle
  • Wire brush
  • Gloves for protection
  • Eye goggles or glasses for protection

Safety Precautions

  1. Make sure to wear appropriate protective clothing such as gloves, long sleeves and pants and eye protection.
  2. Ensure that the blade is secured before you start working on it.
  3. Avoid touching the blade with your bare hands, even if you believe it is dull.
  4. Check the blade for signs of irreparable damage as this means you will need to replace them.
  5. Continuing to use damaged blades can be dangerous for both you and your lawn

Step1: Secure The Blades

Before you go anywhere near the reel mower blades with a file, you must make sure that everything is secure. For this sharpening method, there’s no need to remove anything from the mower; you can do the work without taking anything apart.

Make sure that you have a level surface on which to place your mower and lie it down flat. Something like a workbench is ideal for this.

Now take a broom handle and use this to block the reel which will prevent the bales from spinning as you work. Not only will this make the whole process a LOT safer, it’ll also make sharpening easier as the blades won’t be moving around all over the place.

Step 2: Clean The Mower Blades

clean the reel mower blades

When it comes to reel mower sharpening, you should use this as an opportunity to perform other maintenance. One important part of taking care of your lawn mower is keeping it clean so before you sharpen the blades, take a wire brush to remove any dirt or debris that may be present. If there is very stubborn dirt or rust then you can use some coarse sandpaper to get rid of this.

Step 3: File The Blade

Starting with the dull edge of the first blade, carefully press into the toothed part of the metal mill. Take your file and use this to scratch along the edge of the blade. It’s important that you do this in a back and forth motion and continue along the complete length of the blade.

You should aim to stay with the existing cutting angle of the blade and not attempt to create a new one. Also keep in mind that you aren’t trying to get rid of a significant amount of material; sharpening your reel mower blades involves nothing more than taking off a couple of millimeters at most.

Keep going over the blade edge until you achieve the level of sharpness you are looking for. Generally speaking, you’ll probably need to make around seven passes but this will largely depend on the condition of the blade, whether there are severe nicks and how dull it was in the first place.

Step 4: Repeat Steps For All Blades

One of the main differences between push mowers and reel mowers is that the latter has several blades. This means that you will need to sharpen each one individually so it can take some time.

When you have finished working on the first blade, take the broom handle out and move the cylinder so that you can reach the second blade. Now put the broom back in to hold everything in place and repeat the sharpening steps we discussed above. Continue doing this until you have worked on all of the blades.

How To Sharpen Reel Mower Blades Using An Angle Grinder

One of the great things about living in the 21st century is that we have access to an incredible amount of tools designed to make our lives easier. When it comes to reel mower sharpening, one of these tools is a special sharpening kit which works using a process known as back lapping.

This is a really efficient way of bringing those blades back to life and is super simple. So, even if you’ve never sharpened a reel mower in your life, the process will be amazingly easy.

These kits feature a handle as well as a sharpening compound. These compounds are used on the sharp edge of the blade while the handle, also known as a lapping tool, is used to turn the driving gears of the lawn mower. This happens for three to four passes in order to sharpen the blade.

Now, while these kits are good, they’re not quite as good as the file method we talked about earlier on. What’s more, you generally have to exert a lot more effort so it’s often not worth your while. That said, you have to consider that this is a much more precise method and will ensure that each blade is sharpened equally and to the same angle.

How To Sharpen Reel Mower Blades Using An Angle Grinder

How Often Does A Reel Mower Need Sharpening?

How frequently you need to sharpen your reel mower blades will vastly depend on how much use the mower gets. There is a general consensus that sharpening the mower blades for every 25 hours of use is the best option. But you should also consider the cutting conditions.

If you’re mowing very long, dense grass on rough terrain, this is going to put a lot more stress on the blades than if you were mowing a perfect bowling green lawn. Therefore, they’ll go dull a lot more quickly.

Most people would agree that you should sharpen the blades at the beginning of every mowing season although there are those out there that only do it every two years. Again, this is going to depend on how you use the mower and the best advice we can give you is to keep an eye on how the mower performs to determine if it needs sharpening.

How Do I Know If My Reel Mower Needs To Be Sharpened?

Oftentimes, we won’t need to stick to a strict sharpening schedule because our reel lawn mowers will tell us everything we need to know by how they are performing.

There are signs you can look out for that tell you when it’s time to sharpen your reel mower blades such as the mower becoming more difficult to push. Additionally, you may notice that the blades stop cutting the grass and start tearing it. It’s essential to sharpen at this point as this type of cut is unhealthy for your lawn.

How Do I Know If My Reel Mower Blade Is Dull?

You could just feel the blade but that wouldn’t be the most sensible idea since it could cause an injury. Instead, you can tell whether the blade is dull just by looking at it. When reel mower blades dull, they may start to develop small nicks along the edges and this is a clear sign it is time to sharpen. Of course, as we discussed above, you can also tell whether the blade is starting to dull by how it is performing.

Final Thoughts

If you use a reel mower then the process for sharpening the blades is slightly different to a push mower. However, it’s very easy and requires the use of just a broom and a file. While it will take a little longer to sharpen all of the blades, the results are clear and your grass will thank you since a sharp blade delivers a much more precise cut.

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Andrew Fisher

Andrew Fisher

Andrew is a dedicated father of three who really takes pride in his lawn and garden. You'll find Andrew behind the scenes of almost everything Edge Your Lawn produces. When he's not helping readers find all the information they need, he's in his backyard working on his lawn and garden landscaping. This year he hopes to build an outdoor deck and sort out his veg patches.

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