Reel mowers are as eco-friendly as they can get, but the blades can still get dull. So knowing how to sharpen a reel mower if you have one can be a really smart skill to have.
They are better than their gas-powered counterparts that pollute the environment, and you get some exercise too. Additionally, they are small, easier to store and need very little maintenance.
However, mowing a lawn with a reel mower can become a strenuous task after some time. Over time, pebbles or rocks rub against the blades, due to which they wear out and become dull.
Though reel mowers need to be rarely sharpened, they must get their regular sharpening so that you can mow a lawn with minimum strain to your body and the unit.
Now, there are many ways to sharpen a reel mower, with each technique having its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some techniques that you can explore to sharpen you reel mover.
Back Lapping Technique
The back lapping technique is the most efficient and safest way of sharpening a reel mower. To implement this technique, you will need to buy a back lapping sharpening kit.
This kit consists of a crank to turn the blades and a lapping compound which is nothing but an abrasive mixed in a thick goo. Once you have the kit, you are ready to start “back lapping”.
Step 1: Remove The Wheel And Gear
Place the reel mower on a work bench and stand behind the mower. Remove the side cover of the left wheel with a screw driver when standing behind the mower. This reveals a ring, nut or a pin that holds the wheel to the mower.
Remove this attaching mechanism with a flat head screwdriver, and take the wheel off and keep it aside. Remove the gear that is now visible.
Step 2: Prepare The Mower For Cranking The Blades
Once the gear has been removed, you will see the shaft that runs the blades. Use the crank from the sharpening kit and attach it to the metal shaft. At this stage you would want to adjust the blades so that they are uniformly in contact with the bed knife.
Step 3: Apply Lapping Compound And Start Cranking
Use a small paint brush to apply an even thin layer of lapping compound on all the five blade edges. Use the crank to move the blades in a backward direction. Doing this causes the lapping compound to sharpen the blade edges.
Crank the blades for about ten minutes and reapply the lapping compound if needed. Continue to crank till you see a flat shiny surface at the edge of all the blades.
You may get tired while doing this, so take frequent breaks. You can also use a powered drill instead of a crank to save time and energy. Make sure that the drill is on low and running backwards.
Once the shiny edges are visible on the blades, clean the compound and check for any area that is left out and that needs some more lapping compound and cranking. Repeat the process until you are satisfied.
Step 4: Readjust The Blades And Reassemble
If you are satisfied with the sharpness of the blades, readjust the blades such that they are marginally away from the bed knife.Test the sharpness of the blades by mowing a piece of paper and adjust the bed knife until it does this successfully.
Next, attach the gear and the wheel back to the mower. Don’t forget to grease the components if they need it, while attaching it back.
This technique involves the use of a sharpening file, metal finishing sandpaper or an angle grinder that you would generally use for sharpening knives.
First, disable the machine, and make sure that the blades don’t rotate if they are not detachable.
Some mowers have gears to lock the wheel preventing it from rotating. If this mechanism is not present, use wooden blocks to jam the blades and prevent them from moving.
Once the mower is safe to work on, rub the tool of your choice against the angle of the blades around seven or eight times to sharpen them to the desired sharpness. Use gloves to protect your fingers and knuckles while doing this.
Alternately, the sandpaper can be attached to the bed knife and the blades can be rotated backwards, causing the sandpaper to sharpen the blades.
After sharpening, apply a coat of vegetable oil to the blades to prevent it from rusting and to increase its lifespan.
Manual knife sharpeners are risky compared to the back lapping technique. There is always a possibility of ruining the blades with over grinding and you may also hurt your fingers.
To summarize, use the technique that you feel is simpler and that suits your needs. Follow safety procedures and protect your fingers and hands from potential accidents. Maintain your reel mower and keep the blades sharp to enjoy mowing your lawn.