Best tools to cut sod: manual sod cutters

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Whether you’re laying fresh sod during the growing season or doing away with dead sod, having the right tools will make your job effortless.

Plus, you’ll spend less time to finish the task.

Below we look at some of the best tools to cut sod in all conditions for an even, more beautiful grass-covered surface.

We have included good, sturdy, and inexpensive hand tools as well as professional sod cutters build to help effectively restore large lawns and other expansive grassed areas.

There are a couple of intermediate options with great results too.

Take a look:

Best tools to cut sod: Your options

Of course, sod needs to be cut and shaped to fit around obstacles, corners, and to accommodate oddly shaped areas.

The following tools could help you fit sod into your lawn by yourself, saving some extra dollars:

1. Serrated sod knife

Unless you have a flawlessly straight lawn, you can trim sod around landscape beds to fit with a knife with serrated edges.

For amazing results, ensure that your pick has super sharp serrations.

And the good thing is you can sharpen the blades- a diamond file, sharpening steel, and even sharpening stones work well- if the sharpness doesn’t hold up.

Online retailers stocks these types of knives and most come at awesome price points.

Here is my most recommended serrated sod cutting knife from Amazon- it’s incredibly lightweight, extremely sharp, and comes with an ergonomic grip for enhanced comfort.

Above all, it cuts sod easily and so precisely.

2. Edger

Another accessory you can use to easily cut sod while leaving a nice looking edge is an edger.

The biggest advantage of this handy device is that it’s not energy-sapping.

Neither do you need any special skills to cut sod with edger- you simply push the edger into the ground along the perimeter then, lift it up and press it back again into the surface immediately next to your first spot.

You keep repeating this until you have cut the strip you want to remove.

Overall, an edger works very well for small projects.

To point you in the right direction, here is my best-loved sod trimmer/edger model.

You can also make a quick trip to your nearest home improvement store and explore the available models.

3. Sod cutting shears

When it comes to turf that’s a bit tough, classic sod cutting shears could be the best tool to cut sod.

These cut through difficult sod with ease using conventional scissor cutting action and are left unharmed thanks to their rugged construction.

For instance, the Corona ClassicCUT Grass Shear is made from fully heat-treated steel alloy blades for enhanced strength.

Another thing we love about sod shears is the friendly maintenance- for the most part, all you have to do is keep them clean and oiled.

4. Hook Knife

The design of hooked utility knives makes them ideal for cutting a huge variety of materials including sod.

The hook is especially practical and helps it easily cut up and pull sod forward.

And because the handles are commonly ergonomic, you can use the tool for hours on end.

Also, remember that it’s relatively straightforward to sharpen.

Check out the fantastic FatMax Hook Knife from Stanley if you would prefer this extremely affordable option over pricier alternatives such as the Ryan sod cutter.

5. Commercial sod cutter

If you’re after a monster tool with abundant power to handle demanding jobs, go for a motorized sod cutter (they’re mostly gas-powered).

A commercial sod-cutting machine is designed with heavy-duty components and makes quick work of a variety of sod-cutting jobs, from sculpting lawns to trimming ball fields.

And because of the typically sharp blade system, it brings a uniform thickness and a neat appearance in the sod.

The combination of exquisite cutting and enduring durability instantly makes this sod cutter an instant favorite among landscaping professionals or those running a sod cutter hire service.

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6. Shovel/spade

A good shovel or a regular spade can make a world of difference to how you cut sod on the pathways and patios.

You use the spade to cut the sod pieces the same way you trim the outer edges (of an area).

Just drive it straight down again – use your boot to create extra impact- along the marked perimeter lines to the correct depth (avoid digging too deep).

Then reposition the spade and cut through the grass layer around the whole outlined area.

Note that it’s best to use an edger – or any other tool that gives straight, clean cuts- to cut the sod if you’re planning to reuse the sod in another site around your garden.

Best tool to cut sod: Other common alternatives

There are other equipment, obviously, including tillers such as this, a pocketknife, and homemade sod cutters-you can construct one from local materials such as angle iron and steel pins.

Another possibility is creating an easy-to-use DIY sod cutter by sharpening the edges of a masonry trowel using a metal file.

Indeed, the sharpened trowel slices through the sod layers as cleanly as a knife and is pretty impressive.

You could even pick quality digging tools such as the popular Lesche Digging Tool and Sod Cutter (with right serrated blade).

How to cut sod

How to choose the best tool to cut sod

The type of tool you choose to cut with depends on how challenging is the job, what you wish to accomplish, and your personal situation.

Having said that, each tool has its pros and downsides and considering them will take you a step closer to the right decision.

Manual sod cutters –and you shouldn’t overlook their affordability- cause more operator fatigue than their motored peers.

The next issue you should focus on is the magnitude of the job.

And you probably know this: garden knives, shears, and shovels are fine for small jobs.

On the converse, it’s an open secret that the best sod cutting tool for large areas is anything powered by an engine because they don’t take a lot of muscle.

Perhaps the final consideration is whether you can use the tool for other tasks.

Tools like digging tools and utility knives are multi-purpose and you can put them to plenty of other uses around your home- cutting grapevines (knives), digging trenches (shovels), and more- rather than have them lie idle waiting for another sod installation project.

You lose out on this convenience with dedicated sod cutters.

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Tips for cutting sod

Now that you’re aware of the various solutions as far as the best tool to cut sod is concerned, we can turn our attention to things to have in mind when you want the grass to go.


  1. Do yourself a favor and locate potential obstacles (sprinkler heads, rocks, etc.) before operating a sod cutting machine. You don’t want your device damaged too soon. 
  2. It is worth to water the sod 1 to 3 days ahead of the set date- it will be easier to cut through when wet. Excessive sogginess will, however, make the soil muddy and more difficult to use tools like shovels in.
  3. Working smart is critical- a good rule of thumb is to cut the sod into smaller chunks to make removing it a breeze after cutting.
  4. Let’s face it:  most folks don’t bother with the manual, but believe it or not, it’s the best way to learn how to use the tools correctly. Start by looking over the instructions.

Final remarks

To make the best out of the tool you just bought, give it a little love and run the suggested maintenance procedures before using them.

Things like cleaning and sharpening are essential for many of the very basic tools.

Meanwhile, motorized tools need additional advanced procedures such as keeping the engine adequately ventilated and clog-free.

This way, your tool of choice will always be in tip-top condition.

And that means heaps of fun and peace of mind when on the job.

But do brand new lawn mower blades need to be sharpened if they don’t seem very sharp?

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