Sharpening Manual Lawn Mower

Hi,
We have a manual lawn mower. There is a place in town that will sharpen them but is it better long term to by sharpening tools and figure out how to do it ourselves? How often does it need to be sharpened (assuming we mow 2x a month, normal sized lawn).
Sonia Van Tassel
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Here is a site which discusses DIY sharpening: http://geography.hunter.cuny.edu/~mclarke/LawnMowerSharpening.htm
The site also mentions a simple method for testing the sharpness of the mower blades.
Below, I've cut-and-pasted some comments regarding why you might not want to try it yourself. Of course, this is from a company which sells the service that they recommend you farm out.
Good luck, Gideon
Welcome to our Do-It-Yourself Web Site and my Sharpening forum. Not really an art but it is a skill. Must be professionally sharpened. Best left to the pros to do. One of many difficult tools to sharpen. It takes a specially designed and built machine to sharpen reel mower blades. So much so in fact that the machine does only this sharpening procedure. Many sharpening shops do not have the machine. Most lawn mower repair shops should have such a machine but even this is not guaranteed. The machine is costly and takes up lots of space. On most of the commerical sharpening machines, the reel has to be removed from power reel mowers. Hand push mowers the mower is mounted upside down. A power grinder wheel is used to sharpen the blades. The bed knife must also be removed to correctly sharpen it. Once all blades and knives are sharpened and reinstalled, the bed knive has to be adjusted to the blade so the reel cuts against the bed knife like a scissors. The process is explained above so you and other readers of the question can understand the process and appreciated the labor required and costs involved. So everyone can realize that many claims can be made by other types of sharpening methods and machines but none can compare to commerical power sharpening equipment designed specifically for this purpose. In my professional opinion, no other method can produce the wanted and needed results. Reel blades and bed knives cannot be accurately nor properly sharpening by hand. It's worth every penny to have a reel mower professionally sharpened.
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Once a season (in the fall before storing) you have it professionally sharpened for about 25-30$ US it takes about 45 min of labor on machines costing $10,000 or more. In between you back lap the blades by using either abrasive strips or lapping compound while spinning the reel in reverse.
I gave away the machines to sharpen reels because my customers had unreasonable expectations regarding time and cost and don't care for their equipment properly.
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I've had mine for four years, I think, and I sharpen it with grinding compound once a year. Unless you are really rough on it, there should be no bent blades to deal with, which requires a special machine. If I recall correctly, mine cost about $100 new, so if I ever try to mow some rocks and damage the reel, I would probably just buy another mower.
The sharpening kit I got is very simple, and probably overpriced: just a piece of tubing to use as a wrench, and a tin of grinding compound. Grinding compound can be had at any auto supply store, so I would suggest you remove the drive wheel and see if you have something laying around the house that could be used to spin the reel backward. I use a socket on an extension that I chuck into my cordless drill, how's that for laziness?
Sonia Van Tassel wrote:

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It is not difficult to do. The hardest part may be removing the blade, which may be tough if it has not been done in previous seasons. Once the blade is removed, secure it in a vice or similar clamping tool. I take a good file and hone the edge of the blade with a smooth stroke, trying to keep a constant angle close to the original angle of the blade edge. Once a season should be enough to maintain the blade, unless it has been knicked up a lot with stones, etc. Be sure to retighten the bolts to the specified torque, so it doesn't fly off while the mower is running. Doing it yourself does save some money, and should be part of your regular proceedure for putting the engine away for the winter. I would take the blade to a professional only if it is in such a bad condition that sharpening it yourself becomes a big chore. I would also price the cost of a new blade at that point, to see if it pays to have someone else do it.
Sherwin D.
Sonia Van Tassel wrote:

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Hi,
I'll assume 'manual lawn mower' means manual push reel. If you look on Amazon.com, they sell two brands (or used to). If I recall correctly, The 16" American can be sharpened by hooking it up to a gadget which they also sell. Seemed pretty idiot proof. The Scotts 2000-20 can be sharpened by removing the reel and running it in reverse. The details I skimp, but if you have moderate mechanical ability, you should be able to do it. This is the model I have had for 1-2 years. It is still sharp despite leaving out in the weather (yes slap me with a wet noodle), however it isn't as sharp as when it was new ... you could practically take a jog (not recommended for safety) with the mower and be done really fast. The manual says it shouldn't need sharpening for 5 years, properly maintained. I am thinking of sharpening it, because of my noodle adventures, but haven't done so yet. If you just drug grandpa's lawn mower out of the back of the shed because you couldn't spare an arm or a leg for gas, or if what you really meant was that your lawn mower is some guy named Manuel, I don't what to tell you.
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