How to Sharpen Reel Mower Blades

How to Sharpen Reel Mower Blades featured photo

Do reel mowers need sharpening? Can you sharpen reel mower blades yourself? Is it safe to sharpen reel mowers yourself? The answers to the above questions are Yes! Yes! And Yes!

Reel mowers are different from other forms of lawn mowers as they contain blades which spin from north to south in a vertical pattern.

It uses a scissors-like technique to cut grasses, thereby giving them a unique and beautiful décor that sets your lawn on a class of its own.

However, in the course of using the reel mower, the blades tend to get dull. This could be as a result of the blades’ contact with stones, rocks, tree trunks, and other forms of obstruction which can be as a result of overuse and so have to be sharpened from time to time to keep it sharp and functioning effectively; so yes, reel mowers do need sharpening.

You don’t need to pay a technician or a handyman to get the job done as you can sharpen your reel mower in the comfort of your home. I talk from experience when I say sharpening reel mowers yourself is safe as long as you follow the safety procedures, all of which will be discussed in this article. So sit back and relax as we take a ride and discover How to Sharpen Reel Mower Blades.

How to Sharpen Reel Mower Blades

There are several options to consider when it comes to sharpening reel mower blades. However, before the commencement of the sharpening, it is essential to take some safety precautions; they include:

  • Ensure that the reel is secure.
  • Do not place your hands on the cutting edge.
  • Avoid cutting your hands with the blades.
  • Try not to be distracted while sharpening the blade as this can lead to accidents.
  • Do not operate the machine or sharpen the blades if you are tired or on drugs.
  • While sharpening the blades wear close fitting clothes and no jewelry. This is because jewelry and loose fitting clothes tend to get hooked on the mower parts thereby leading to avoidable accidents.
  • Wear strong and non-slip boots as well as long pants to help protect your feet and legs from objects that may fall or be thrown. While sharpening the blades, it is important not to wear slippers, tennis shoes, sandals or any shoe that will expose your feet as this can be dangerous.
  • Wear safety glasses and a face shield: While sharpening, a lot of tiny metal particles will fly around, not only that but sand, stones and other particles as well. Hence, it is important to protect your eyes by wearing safety glasses or a face shield.

All these and more are geared towards protecting you from accidents while sharpening your reel mower.

In sharpening reel mowers, you have several options some of which include:

  • Use of files.
  • Use of regular sharpening kits.
  • Use of back lapping sharpening kits.
  • Use of power drill with a sharpening attachment.
  • Use of metal finishing sandpaper.

File As a Sharpening Tool

This is the most money efficient method of sharpening reel mowers. It is easy and helps you hone the edges of the blades until they are very sharp. However, before metal files can be used it’s essential to get rid of debris, stones, sand and other particles that may be stuck on the blade, as this is to enable you to work efficiently without obstruction. Lay the clean blade on a flat surface with the cutting edge protruding a bit out of the surface so that it looks a bit suspended in the air. While doing this ensure the wheels are secure with a piece of wood or stone to avoid movement.

Also, wedge the blades by inserting materials like a broom or any other similar material into the blade. This is to prevent the reel from spinning while sharpening the blades. Once done, use the file to scratch through the edge of the blade, ensuring you go forward and backward throughout the length of the blade.

Do this several times (up to seven times) on the same spot through the length of the blade until a sharpness that suits your taste is achieved. Once done, remove the wedge and position the reel so that it enables you to reach the back of the blade. Repeat the same filing process while ensuring that you keep filing until the edges are very sharp.

As you know, a reel mower comes with different sizes and numbers of blades; this sharpening process will have to be done on each blade using the same process. So, once done with the first blade, reposition the reel in a way that gives you access to the second, third and as many blades as the spindle has and file off the blunt edge until they are all sharp.

Once you are done sharpening all the blades, apply grease to avoid rusting of the metal blades. This can also be achieved by directly spraying lubricant on the blade or pouring the lubricant on a rag and then with the grease soaked cloth wipe down the edges of the blade. Either of these methods will prevent rusting of the metal blades.

How to Sharpen Reel Mowers Blades using a Sharpening Compound

The use of a back-lapping sharpening kit is yet another easy and efficient way to sharpen dull mower blades. The kits come with a handle and the sharpening compound. Sharpening compounds are grainy substances which when applied to the cutting edges of reel mowers sharpen them as the blades rub against each other.

This method involves attaching the handles of kit to the reel mower, then using a paintbrush rub each of the blades with the compound ensuring they are well-coated; this should be done for all the blades. When that is done, push the reel mower backward so that the blades rub against each other, this will effectively sharpen the blunt edges.

The reel can be driven back by using your hands, but this is a somewhat tedious process as it requires much effort. However, you have the option of using a power drill to drive it backward; this makes the process faster and less stressful.

How to Adjust the Blades of a Reel Mower

We often make the mistake of assuming the blades of our reel mowers are dull, and so require sharpening. But this may not be the case; it may be because of misalignment of the blades of the mower, which causes cranking of the blades against each other and makes it difficult for the mower to operate effectively. Fortunately, with the simple tips that will be shared in this section, you can realign the blades and get them to function properly once more.

Below are some tips on how to adjust the blades of your reel mower:

Step 1: Place your mower on a flat surface such as a workbench or a table top. Wedge the wheels to prevent movement.

Step 2: Spin the reel with your hands to determine the type of adjustment required (they are not always the same). If as you spin you notice a screeching sound, it’s an indication that you need to adjust the blades away from the cutting edge. But if it spins loosely, then you need to have the blades moved closer to the cutting bar.

Step 3: After discovering the type of adjustment needed to be done, if, for instance, the blades need to be moved closer, then place a flathead screwdriver in the screw hole found at the side of the reel and tighten the screws. But if the blades need to be pushed farther away, unscrew the bolts a bit until the desired distance is achieved.

Step 4: While loosening or tightening the screws, ensure it’s done a little at a time, if it’s too much the blades may be over-adjusted.

Step 5: Turn the screws of the cutting edge in the opposite direction to the reel screws. This should also be done as slow and easy as possible to avoid over-adjustment.

Step 6: Continue spinning to search out other adjustments needed to be done.

If this procedure is followed in the right order, then you should be able to fix any misaligned blade in an easy manner. If the blades are still blunt, then you need to sharpen the blades to get them working efficiently once again.


Why pay someone for a job you can do yourself and with less stress at that? It is totally unnecessary if you ask me. There are times when your reel mowers will get blunt. This is bound to happen if you use the mower often. Hence, the need to know How to Sharpen Reel Mower Blades by yourself is of paramount importance. When the time comes to have your mowers sharpened, you will remember you read this article, and you will be glad you did.

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