Gardening Tips and Tricks : How to Sharpen Your Reel Lawn Mower – Part One: When Should Your Blades Be Sharpened?
You’ve been using your reel lawn mower for a little while now and think that perhaps the blades aren’t as sharp as they should be. Or maybe you are wondering if the blades should be sharpened because you’ve reached the time the manufacturer recommended sharpening? How do you know when your blades should be sharpened?
Most people will notice that the blades aren’t cutting the grass as well as they were. You may see stragglers, or areas of grass which are missed, or laid down instead of cut. You might observe that these areas correspond to a certain point along the reel. You may also notice that the tips of your grass blades are browning – this may mean the grass blades are being torn, rather than sheared as they were when the blades were sharp. This is a definite indication that the blades are not sharp. Other clues that the blades need attentions are that the reel is noisier than it was, or when you examine the blades, they appear dull, nicked or bent. You can watch the blades as they pass over the knife blade or bed; there should be light contact between them. If not, then the blades definitely need adjusting and possibly sharpening.
To check the sharpness and/or adjustment of your blades, you will need a few items; a flat head screwdriver, your sharpening kit, and cut some strips of paper into approximately 2 inches by 6-8 inches. Newspaper will work okay but something with just a little more weight or stiffness works a little better. It will help if you have well lit area and can lay a sheet under your mower to collect any parts that may fall off while you are taking it apart. It is probably more comfortable if you can work with the mower on a table, but if you need to work on the floor that will be fine as well.
Some people recommend taking the handle off first, but with ours, we find that we like the leverage the handle gives us when we are turning the reel. You may have to experiment on which is the easiest way for you. Turn the mower upside down. Use the flat head screwdriver to pop off the wheel cover on the side of each wheel. This will uncover the axle or reel shaft. The wheel is held on the shaft by a E ring (some people call this an C ring). There should be a flat spot in the E ring where you can insert the head of the flat head screwdriver and pry it off. Make sure you put the E ring in a safe place. Slide the wheel off the shaft. Removing the wheel will expose the gear that sits on the shaft just inside the wheel. Slide the gear off the axle and keep it in a safe place. There is a small piece of metal called a pawl, that fits into the shaft just behind the gear. Be careful that it doesn’t slide out unawares or you may lose it.
Fit the sharpening crank over the shaft and pawl. Insert one of your pieces of paper between the blade and the knife bed at one end of the reel and turn the crank so the reel is moving forward, the same way it would be moving if you were mowing the lawn. You will want to continue the turning until all of the blades have had a chance to pass over the piece of paper so you can see if they are all cutting the paper smoothly. Repeat with more pieces of paper in the middle of the reel and then again on the opposite side that you started from. If the blades are not cutting the paper cleanly and easily all the way around then they need sharpening.
From here you can re-assemble your mower and have is professionally sharpened, or easily do it yourself.