How to Sharpen a Reel Mower


Reel mowers have several curved blades arranged around the reel. The blades brush against the cutter bar, snipping off grass with a cutting action instead of the chopping action of gasoline-powered rotary mowers. Reel mower blades typically need to be sharpened only every few years. Most cutting problems with reel mowers are not due to dull blades, but to improperly adjusted blades. The adjustment in this case is the spacing of the blade edges from the cutter bar. If you have adjusted the blades and still have poor cutting, the next step is to sharpen the blades.

Step 1

Remove one wheel from the mower. Some mowers may have a hub cover you will need to remove first. Then remove the pinion gear from the reel shaft. The pinion gear is small and deeply toothed. It pulls straight off the shaft

Step 2

Attach the crank handle from the blade kit onto the reel shaft. It should mount by just pushing it into place over the shaft.

Step 3

Hold the crank to control the reel, and use the paintbrush to apply a coat of the lapping compound along every blade edge. Turn the crank so you can reach each blade edge. Paint a coat of lapping compound on the cutter bar on the back of the mower.

Step 4

Turn the crank handle backwards, so the blades move away from the cutting bar. At first the blades will make a scraping, gritty noise due to the lapping compound. Continue turning. The abrasive compound will hone the blade edges as you crank. Turning will become easier and the sound will be smoother as you continue to crank. It should take 100 to 150 turns.

Step 5

Paint a second coat of compound on all edges, and repeat the turning. Very dull blades may need a third time.

Step 6

Use an abrasive strip from the kit if the blades are nicked. Mount the abrasive strip on the cutter bar as directed in the kit. Crank the blades with the abrasive strip in place to remove nicks. Follow this with the lapping compound procedure to get a finely honed edge.

Step 7

Rinse the compound from the blades with a hose. Carefully wipe the blades and mower dry with a soft rag.

Step 8

Test the blade edges with torn strips of newspaper. Hold a long, 2-inch-wide strip of newspaper so it "catches" in the blades as you turn the crank handle forward in the mowing direction. If the blades cut the paper cleanly, they are ready to mow. If the paper tears or folds, the blade spacing needs to be adjusted.

Things You'll Need

  • Reel mower
  • Blade kit with lapping compound
  • Paintbrush, about 1 1/2 inches wide
  • Soft rag
  • Old newspaper


  • Sharpening a reel mower
  • Sharpening lawnmowers

Who Can Help

  • How to sharpen the blades on a reel mower
Keywords: sharpen reel mower, sharpen reel mower blades, sharpen reel lawnmower, lapping compound, sharpening lawnmower

About this Author

Fern Fischer writes about quilting and sewing, and she professionally restores antique quilts to preserve these historical pieces of women's art. She also covers topics of organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family. For over 35 years, her work has been published in print and online.