How to sharpen a reel mower with a file

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There are other options but sharpening a reel mower blade with a file is perhaps the easiest and most economical way of restoring your blade’s original sharpness.

Here we will show you how to sharpen a reel mower with a file in eight simple steps.

Of course, we all know that cutting grass with dull blades exposes your turf to destructive diseases not to mention that you’ll take more hours to trim grass.

Okay, reel mowers have a great advantage over other mowers because their blades can take ages before dulling but they’ll still lose their cutting edge over time making sharpening vital.

How to sharpen a reel mower with a file

Here is how to sharpen a reel mower with a file and bring back the sharp edge that makes your mowing sessions a thrill.

Preparation tasks

1.      Gather the tools you need

Besides a coarse metal file, you’ll need the following for this assignment.

  • Stiff wire brush.
  • Coarse sandpaper
  • Workbench or tabletop or any sturdy working surface.
  • Piece of wood (or stone).
  • Spray lubricant.

2.      Clean the blades

The first step is to scrap the reel mower blades clean in readiness for the chore.

It’s a pretty easy process as you only need to brush all settled grass, dirt, and other debris off the blades with your wire brush.

To make your life easy down the road, wipe the mower frame too- you want all potential obstructions out of your way.

Tip: You have the coarse sandpaper to help if there are materials that are too stuck to get off the blades.

How to sharpen a reel mower with a file- step by step

With the debris cleared, you may now proceed to the actual sharpening stage.

Precautionary measures:

Your safety comes first so wear your leather gloves (the blades may be dull yes but not too blunt to cut your fingers).

In addition, put on your safety glasses to keep the metal filings away from your eyes.


Step 1:

Lay the mower handle down flat on the workbench (or tabletop) to allow you easily reach the blades.

Safety tip: Chock the wheels by wedging a block of wood to prevent them from moving before tackling the remaining steps. There are plenty of other solutions you can apply here including a doorstop or even a piece of stone.

Step 2:

Push an old broom handle (or something similar) through the blades.

This ensures that the reel is blocked and won’t spin while you’re busy sharpening the blades.

Step 3:

A metal file is typically toothed on one side. It is this side that you want to hold down against the blade you’ll be starting with (press it down on the blade’s beveled edge since it’s the one you’re sharpening).

Step 4:

Align the file so that its angle will be perfectly consistent (or as close as possible) with the current angle in the cutting (beveled) edge.

Step 5:

To sharpen, scrape on the blade a couple of times (you hardly need to make more than 6 passes).

The whole idea is to wear off the dull metal meaning you’ll be pulling the file toward the extreme end of the angled edge to ‘eat’ it away.

Step 6:

Once you’ve filed up to the middle of the blade, remove the broom handle or whatever you had inserted to block the reel and turn it so as to access the unfilled part of the blade.

File this section – after securing the reel once again- just as you did the opposite end, up to the time you’re satisfied with the sharpness.

Step 7:

The first blade is now done and it’s time to handle the second blade.

Shift the reel to its previous position and repeat the process.

Redo this until all the blades have been cleanly filed.

Tip: It’s advisable to finish sharpening the first blade instead of jumping to the adjacent blade even where it’s possible to access it without rotating the reel. This helps you easily keep track of the blades you have sharpened.

Step 8:

Spray the lubricant to the edges of the sharpened blades to keep rust at bay.

Testing the set up

The final thing you can do after sharpening is to test how it cuts to be sure the reel and cutting bar are both configured as desired.


  1. Place a piece of paper or the newspaper (any other available paper would suffice) on the mower’s cutter bar.
  2. Now rotate the reel cage and observe how it cuts (remember to move the paper sheet up as it cuts).

If you have sharpened the blades properly and everything else is appropriately configured, the mower should slice through the newspaper evenly.

If there are problems, make a couple of adjustments to the mower blade settings and retry.

In most cases, moving one end of its cutting bar nearer to the blades and the other end an exact equal distance away from the blades helps.

The best way to approach this is by moving the bar in small increments then retesting until you get it to cut right.

Tip: For safety reasons, it’s important to be wearing the gloves while performing the test.

How to tell if reel mower blades are due for sharpening

One sure way is by visually inspecting the status of the cutting edges carefully.

Schedule a sharpening session if you observe unmistakable dulling on the blades, nicks, bends, or other deformities.

Other than that, there are several signs that tell you sharpening is necessary including:

  1. Poor cutting– The mower is not cutting grass as cleanly as it used to.
  2. Changed grass color– The grass might have brown tips or grow a dull appearance.
  3. Others- Streaks, stragglers, and such irregularities all point to likely dulling of the blades.

Blunt reel mower blades can derail your dream of owning the most beautiful grass in the neighborhood as well as waste your precious time.

Luckily, a file is both an easy and inexpensive solution to this issue.

Practice how to sharpen a reel mower with a file to perfection and take control of your lawn’s destiny.

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