binding reel mower

Hello All,
I would greatly appreciate some help on this issue.
I was recently given a Mclean 20' 5 blade 3.5HP reel mower. I am totally new to reel mowers but love the idea of them. I am sick of the "crop circles" in my lawn from my rotary mower.
As expected a free mower comes with problems. When I adjust the blades properly the mower makes a horrible noise when I engage the reel. I tried back lapping with some valve grinding paste. I do not have a back lapping kit so the way I have to do it is apply the paste liberally to reel blades, engage the drive, and pull the mower backwards. This spins the reeel backwards. Now the racket is even worse ...and when I readjust the blades close enough to cut paper all the way across it is so binding that I can't do additional backlapping. I even tried filing the bed knife (also called the anvil?) at the edges where a ridge had developed from years of the reel striking the bed knife.
There is no adjustement for the bed knife, only up and down at each side for the reel. I don't think the mower is worth $50 (new bed knife) + $125 (sharpen reel professionally).
Any ideas on how I can fix this inexpensively? Am I doing something wrong?
Thanks much, -jack
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Jack Sprat wrote:

It is well worth that. Any thing less than having it done professionally will not be satisfactory. I've been around reel mowers for years and I don't try to adjust or sharpen them anymore. There is an art to it that is quite difficult to quite master.
--
Art

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You can buy it at Sears brand new for $560. The mower is seven years old. I also have to buy a $20 chain. My cost is up to about $200 now. When does it become not worth it?
Perhaps I should save myself some pain and trust your experience but I really want to take a crack at doing this myself.
Any suggestions on what I should look at or try?
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Jack Sprat wrote:

There is nothing that will cut as nicely as a professionally sharpened reel mower. The "well worth it" that I was referring to has more to do with the quality of cut on your lawn than the replacement cost of the mower. BTW - a professional sharpening will be much better than the factory sharpening on a brand new one.
The bed knife must be perfectly flat, the reel must be perfectly true with no slop in the bearings and each blade on the reel must be in excellent shape, ie - clean square edges with no nicks. If all that is good then it's a matter of adjusting the reel and knife so they work like scissors. Too tight and it makes a hell of a noise and puts a lot of extra load on the engine. Too loose and it's like trying to cut paper with child scissors.
From your description (without seeing it) I'd guess the blades of the reel are not in very good shape.
Beyond that I can give you no magic bullet advice other than to say again it should be sharpened by a pro.
--
Art

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Thanks Art. I have done a great deal of reading on this subject and went to see my local shop. Every source, icluding you, indicates that I cannot get it in working order myself.
I used it in it's poor sate to mow my lawn. I probably shouldn't have but wanted to see what kind of cut I could get before further investment. I thought I had a flat lawn. I now know better. It's amazing what a rotary at a 2.5" cut height can hide.
I am now faced with the need to top dress my lawn but can't do it until the fall. I hear having my blade sharpened is a waste if I mow on freshly top dressed lawn. Hopefully, next season, I wll be able to realize the value of my gift.
Since I am going back to my rotary for now, I may go ahead and do some light top dressing with final touches in the fall.
Thanks for the input, -jack
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