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
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.
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?
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.
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,
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