Keeping your reel mower blades razor sharp is essential for achieving that coveted clean, scissor-like cut on your lawn. But with frequent use, even the finest cutting edges gradually dull over time. So how often should you plan on sharpening the blades to restore peak performance?
Understanding optimal reel mower blade sharpening intervals helps ensure your grass always cuts cleanly and your equipment avoids unnecessary wear and tear. Let’s get your blades back in shape!
Reel mower blades should be sharpened after every 20-25 hours of use, or at least once a year, to ensure a precise and healthy cut for your lawn. If mowing in rougher conditions or encountering twigs, sharpening might be needed more frequently to maintain optimal performance.
Why Properly Sharpened Blades Are Essential
Before we get into sharpening timetables, let’s review why maintaining ultra-sharp mower blades is so crucial in the first place. Here are 3 key benefits:
Enhanced Cut Quality
Sharp blades make flawlessly clean cuts. Dull blades start tearing and shredding grass, damaging the leaf tissue and creating an unkempt lawn appearance.
When blades are razor-edged, the reel slices through grass effortlessly with minimal power input. Your mower glides rather than forces its way through the yard.
Reduced Stress on Components
Blunt blades demand more torque and RPM from the motor or operator. This strains the engine, gears, and overall chassis. Sharpening reduces mechanical wear and tear.
So clearly keeping your reel mower blades freshly sharpened pays big dividends for lawn care results and equipment longevity. Now let’s look at telling signs that sharpening time is due.
Warning Signs Your Blades Need Sharpening
Rather than sharpening on arbitrary timeframes, check for these signs that indicate your reel mower blades need some grinding:
Ragged, Ripped Cut Quality
Clean-sliced grass bends at a precise angle. Ragged tips signal a dull blade needing sharpened.
Yellowing at Cut Edges
A dull blade tears rather than slices each grass leaf cleanly, damaging the plant tissue and impairing health.
Bent Grass Blades
Properly sharpened blades cut grass so smoothly that each blade remains visibly upright after being cut. Dull blades cause bending.
Excess Power Required
If you’re straining and forcing the mower through the lawn, increased resistance signals blades require sharpening.
More Frequent Adjustments
When cut quality diminishes, you may find yourself adjusting mower settings to compensate for dull blades, including height, throttle, and bedknife.
When these signs emerge, it’s definitely time to sharpen or replace the blades before further mowing.
Recommended Reel Mower Blade Sharpening Frequency
Determining the optimal sharpening frequency for your reel mower blades depends on several factors:
- Smaller lawns (<5000 sq ft): Less frequent sharpening needed (~every 6-8 weeks)
- Medium lawns (5000-10000 sq ft): Moderate sharpening needed (~every 4-6 weeks)
- Large, acreage lawns (>10000 sq ft): More frequent sharpening needed (~every 2-4 weeks)
The more total mowing time required for your lawn, the faster blade sharpness will deteriorate.
- Tender grasses (bluegrass, ryegrass): Require sharper blades for clean cut, sharpen more often (~every 3-4 weeks)
- Coarse grasses (Bermuda, St. Augustine): More blade flexibility before sharpening needed (~every 6-8 weeks)
The texture and density of your grass type impacts blade wear rates.
- Mowing 1x per week: Sharpen every 6-8 weeks
- Mowing 2x per week: Sharpen every 4-6 weeks
- Mowing 3x+ per week: Sharpen every 3-4 weeks
The more you mow, the faster sharpening is needed. Adjust accordingly.
- Light use: Sharpen every 8-10 weeks
- Moderate use: Sharpen every 4-6 weeks
- Heavy daily use: Sharpen every 2-3 weeks
Frequency should align with your mowing schedules and patterns.
- Cutting at 3+ inch heights: Less sharpening needed (~every 6-8 weeks)
- Cutting at < 2 inch heights: More frequent sharpening needed (~every 3-4 weeks)
The lower you cut, the more stress on blades requiring greater sharpening frequency.
Regardless of rigid timetables, visually inspect cut quality and watch for signs of dulling like rough cut appearance, yellowing, and bent grass blades. Let these indicators dictate optimal sharpening timing rather than guesswork.
Properly balancing all these factors allows keeping your reel blades in prime sharp condition for flawless mowing. Adjust frequencies as needed based on real-world results.
Now let’s get into the sharpening process itself…
How to Sharpen Reel Mower Blades
When the time comes to sharpen your reel mower blades, you have two choices – DIY or hire a professional:
DIY Reel Blade Sharpening
With some practice and the proper tools, sharpening your own reel blades is entirely doable. Here are the basic steps:
- Backlash designed for your mower
- Grinding compound (240+ grit)
- Protective eyewear/gloves
- Cleaning rags
- Disconnect chain drive if possible
- Mount backlash over reel and secure tightly
- Apply grinding compound liberally
- Rotate reel slowly while gently pressing backlash against edge full length
- Repeat until sharp visual edge appears on full circumference
- Remove all compound thoroughly when complete
This widely works for standard blade maintenance. But for major damage, professional help is advised.
Professional Reel Mower Blade Sharpening
For reel units seeing very frequent use or with substantial nicks, bends or mushrooming of the blade edges, professional sharpening is recommended 1-2 times per year. Here’s the process:
What They’ll Do:
- Fully disassemble cutting unit
- Bench mount the reel for stability
- Utilize high precision grinding/sharpening machinery
- Meticulously true, grind and balance the reel
- Deburr and polish the edges
- Reassemble and test cut performance
- Truer precision from machines vs. DIY backlash
- Ability to repair major blade damage beyond home remedies
- Professional equipment leaves a smoother, lasting edge
- Experts can advise when blades need replacement
- Typically $40-$100 per reel depending on size
This investement is worthwhile to restore badly worn reels to factory new condition periodically.
Now let’s go over some key maintenance practices between sharpenings.
Proper Mower Care Between Sharpenings
To maximize the number of mowing sessions between blade sharpening requirements, be diligent about:
- Using a mower cover when not in use for rust prevention
- Lubricating axles, chain drives, and pivot points to reduce friction
- Adjusting the bedknife precisely to reduce wear
- Cleaning grass clippings thoroughly after each mow
- Storing indoors rather than outdoors exposed to moisture
- Drying blades completely if mowing wet grass
With attentive care, you can tally more hours of mowing before sharpening needs arise. But eventually the blades will require restoration.
Adjusting Sharpening Frequency by Mower Type
You may be able to stretch sharpening intervals slightly longer by using certain reel models:
Cylinder vs Rotary Reels
Some utilize rotating helical cylinders while others use radial rotary blades. Rotary models allow slightly longer intervals.
Models equipped with front or rear rollers that flatten grass before cutting remain sharp marginally longer.
Hardened Steel Edges
Aftermarket upgrades like heat-treated hardened steel or carbide overlay edges maintain sharpness longer than standard steel.
But for any model, inspecting cut quality and watching for dull blade warning signs overrides manufacturers’ recommendations. Let the real-world results guide your sharpening schedule.
When to Consider Simply Replacing Blades
Inevitably, after years of repeated grinding, even the best reel mower blades reach the end of their usable lifespan. At that point, replacement makes more sense than additional sharpening.
Here are signs it’s time for new blades:
- Mushrooming or deformity along blade edges from repeated grinding
- Long sections of pitted, gouged or rusted edges
- A very small fraction of usable edge remains along the blade length
- The reel cylinder is wobbling or vibrating at high speeds
- You need exaggerated bedknife adjustments to compensate for lost blade width
Periodic new blade replacement ensures your reel can run like new again after years of service. Re-sharpen the fresh edges as needed.
Key Takeaways on Maintaining Sharp Blades
Here are the critical points on keeping your reel mower blades surgically sharp through attentive sharpening:
- Inspect cut quality often for signs of dulling rather than relying on rigid timeframes.
- For average use, sharpening every 4-6 weeks keeps blades in peak form.
- Let signs of rough, yellowed or bent grass dictate when sharpening is overdue.
- Both DIY backlapping or professional grinding can restore sharpness.
- Proper preventative care maximizes mowing time between sharpenings.
- Eventually worn blades will require replacement after years of use.
Consistent sharpening is required to gain the full performance benefits of a reel mower. But the payoff of meticulous cut quality makes it well worthwhile.
Achieve Flawless Cuts Through Proper Blade Care
Reel mowers offer unparalleled precision cutting performance when the slender blades stay surgically sharp. But that factory edge gradually dulls with use over time.
Staying on top of routine blade sharpening every 4-6 weeks ensures your grass always cuts cleanly and the mower functions effortlessly. Letting blades lapse too long degrades lawn appearance and strains mower components.
Reference the tips above to learn optimal sharpening timing based on your usage levels. And incorporate preventative maintenance practices that minimize wear between grindings. Keep your blades razor-ready and your lawn flawlessly manicured all season long.
What’s your preferred sharpening process and frequency to keep reel blades piercingly sharp? Share your experiences and advice in the comments to help other readers maximize their mower performance!