How to Sharpen Reel Lawnmower Blades


Many home owners use a rotary type mower. This is a mower where the blade turns parallel to the ground in order to cut the grass. However, there are still some people that prefer the traditional reel type mower. This mower is actually better for the grass because of the way it cuts. The mower cuts the grass more like scissors cut a piece of paper. This provides a cleaner cut and grass that retains a better level of health during the mowing season. This is the reason that the majority of mowers at a golf course are the reel type mowers. In order for the mower to cut the grass properly the blades on the mower must be kept sharp.

Sharpening the Blade

Step 1

Remove the center caps for both large wheels. The wheel axle ends will be in the middle of the wheel with snap rings on the end. These rings hold the wheels on the axles.

Step 2

Remove the snap rings with the snap ring pliers. Make sure the snap rings do not "pop" off the end of the pliers. Place them with the center caps for the wheels.

Step 3

Remove both main wheels. Behind on wheel will be a drive gear offset from the axle.

Step 4

Remove the drive gear. This gear uses the wheel motion to drive the reel.

Step 5

Attach the power drill attachment from the sharpening kit to the electric drill. Make sure the attachment is tight inside the drill chuck.

Step 6

Place the drill and attachment over the drive gear shaft and align. Most drive gear shafts will have a pin through them for proper alignment. This pin will fit in the grooves in the sharpening attachment.

Step 7

Run the drill on forward at low speed and look at the reel. If the reel is turning in the direction it turns to cut, then stop the drill and reverse.

Step 8

Open the container of lapping compound that comes with the sharpening kit. Lapping compound is abrasive grit mixed with water soluble grease.

Step 9

Run the drill at low speed. The reel should be turning opposite of the cutting direction.

Step 10

Apply the lapping compound to the reel. The best way to apply the lapping compound to the reel is with a paint brush while it is turning. Just dip the brush in the compound and lay on the reel while in motion. Move the brush from one end of the reel to the other to evenly spread the compound.

Step 11

Repeat steps 9 and 10 five times. The lapping compound will need to be reapplied when the mower reel stops making noise while turning.

Step 12

Turn the drill off and remove the attachment from the drive gear shaft.

Step 13

Wash the mower with a garden hose until all the lapping compound is removed.

Step 14

Check the cut of the mower with the paper. To perform this place the paper at the bottom blade of the mower and turn the mower reel by hand. The mower should cut the paper like scissors. If not the reel needs to be adjusted. See next section.

Step 15

Reinstall the drive gear on the drive gear shaft.

Step 16

Reinstall the wheels and center caps.

Adjusting the Reel

Step 1

Locate the adjustment bolts. They should be located near the back of the mower on each end of the reel. These bolts will be located in different places on each brand of mower, check the owner's manual for proper location.

Step 2

Rotate the reel by hand. if the reel spins freely the blade needs to be tightened.

Step 3

Turn the adjustment bolts clockwise until the reel turns with little tension. Make sure to adjust both bolts.

Tips and Warnings

  • After sharpening, the blades will be extremely sharp, use caution. Do not place hands or fingers in the reel while sharpening the blade.

Things You'll Need

  • Snap ring pliers
  • Sharpening kit--with power drill attachment
  • Variable speed electric drill--preferably one that plugs in
  • 1-inch paint brush
  • Sheet of paper
  • Adjustable wrench


  • Clarence White, Toro Certified Mechanic; Berlin, MD

Who Can Help

  • Reel Mowers Etc.
Keywords: reel mower, reel sharpening, mower blade