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reel mower sharpening?

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Benjamin Day16/07/2018 16:27:48
50 forum posts
hi all, has anybody attempted using a lathe to sharpen a reel (cylinder) type lawn mower? im working on two at the moment, one Atco 17" deluxe petrol and t'other is a Suffolk super swift manual push along. I've so far tried "back lapping"using valve grinding paste (coarse then fine) and a power drill with limited success. well limited success with the manual mower and no "reel" difference on the petrol one! And even with the push along in order for it to cut, i need to adjust the reel way too close to the bed knife, which causes friction, and ultimately jamming the reel up! i do love these mowers, both well older than myself and would love to use them properly.....but only if they can be made to perform as im told they once did!
Well any help, suggestions, nostalgia welcome thanks alot!
Michael Gilligan16/07/2018 16:35:24
15434 forum posts
666 photos

Many years ago; in my innocence, I bought a secondhand lathe that had previously been used for mower blade sharpening.

Over its working length the bed was nearly 15 thou' concave. crying 2

Harsh lesson learned


Jeff Dayman16/07/2018 16:49:51
1787 forum posts
45 photos

If you enquire at a golf club the groundskeeper may tell you where they get their greens mowers sharpened. Be prepared for a shock to your wallet. There are a few people near me doing this type of specialty reel mower sharpening and they do a great job, and the sharp state lasts a long time, but naturally you have to pay for a professional's time and equipment.

Maurice16/07/2018 16:50:09
459 forum posts
50 photos

My wife used to work in a very comprehensive iron mongers' shop in Marlow, sadly, long gone. They had a department that just repaired mowers. It contained a machine to regrind the cylinders. It closely resembled a lathe, the cylinder being held between centres rotating"front upwards" i.e. contrary to normal lathe practice. On the front was a carriage with auto traverse, mounted upon which was a motorised grinding wheel about 2 1/2" across the face and about 5" diameter.It was rotating against the rotation of the cylinder. It would go back and forth for a while until the noise reduced indicating there was not much to grind, and then the operator turned a handle to put more cut on and so on, until you could hear that all the blades were being ground; quick visual inspection, job done. By contrast, the fixed blade was just resharpened on a bench grinder! The machine was installed in a corrugated iron building. If the mower was in a bit of a state, the prolonged did in made nearly drove the staff in there mad. The principal mower man had had many years of repairing mowers, and said that most people adjusted the bottom blade much too close to the cylinder. They aimed at cutting a piece of paper with the mower; he said that cutting a cigaret packet a better target.

John Rudd16/07/2018 17:01:43
1367 forum posts
58 photos

I personally haven't done it, but seen it done in our workshop....

The Mechanical Engineer did it, betwen centres on a large Colchester using a tp grinder....a slowish rotational speed and travel....

Benjamin Day16/07/2018 17:38:05
50 forum posts
15 thou over the bed! lots of grinding, and no clean up perhaps? hopefully I could sharpen just one or two cylinders without that kinda damage!? i had spoken to a few golfy types "in the know" about these things and the prices tossed around in those conversations for this kind of job were.....prohibative! and know one knew any details about the mystereous sharpening machine lol.....I was thinking along the lines of John's suggestion... putting it between centres and using some hand knitted tp grinder but wasn't sure if I was missing some clearance angle or some other mystical geometry! would I even need a tool post grinder? maybe clamping a sharpening stone to the top or cross slide? may take longer but should have the same effect? Or am i about to win a darwin award? remember im not wanting to start a new business hear, just a one-time(maybe two) regrind!
Thanks so much for the responses.....does anyone actually use one on the lawn at home?
Rik Shaw16/07/2018 17:40:14
1313 forum posts
352 photos

I have sharpened many cylindrical mower blades mainly on night shift and in the quiet hours but I did 'em all between centres on a variety of universal grinders. Foremen, supervisors and managers being my best "customers" I always turned down the odd ten bob or so as it ensured a look the other way when I wanted a "homer" doing!

I've never tried sharpening them on a lathe though (not a lot of point if a grinder was available). Bottom blades I did on something like a Cincinnatti T&C grinder using a universal tilting vice and a white cup wheel.

I have to admit though, I never heard of them described as "reel" until I read this thread.


Edited By Rik Shaw on 16/07/2018 17:41:14

John MC16/07/2018 17:53:36
272 forum posts
37 photos

Many years ago a neighbour wanted to sharpen his cylinder mower. He asked me to drill some holes in a file and remove the tang so he could bolt it in place of the mowers fixed blade. It worked very well, sharpened the cylinder blades once a year for many years.

I have also seen the cylinder blades from a "Dennis" mower sharpened in a lathe by normal turning, the blades not being very hard a HSS tool coped well.


Benjamin Day16/07/2018 17:54:29
50 forum posts
yeah, i guess if you have access to a proper machine for the job, why would you even think about other make-do methods! just so i know, is the cutting paper thing something to aim for? I just cant get it to cut with the recommended clearance between cylinder and bedknife...
have to have them touchinh/scraping!
Ive heared them called reel mowers, cylinder mowers, cassette mowers, greens mowers, even english mowers....
richardandtracy16/07/2018 18:02:03
938 forum posts
10 photos

A good few years ago I used a different brute ignorance & force method that actually worked rather well. I put an aluminium extrusion over the knife, and glued green grit paper to the extrusion, adjusted the mower to just touch the paper, ran it for a few seconds, adjusted the knife again and so on until the reel was all ground. Probably wouldn't work with big nicks out of the reel, but outherwise wasn't bad at all.



Alan Jackson16/07/2018 18:09:53
187 forum posts
78 photos

Years ago I tried to sharpen my Dad's cylinder lawnmower. Well it took me all day to dismantle it then place it on my old lathe to skim the cylinder and reassemble it. Eventually I devised a thin sheet of metal the width of the cylinder clamped to one of the cross bars that space out the bearing end plates. On the other end of the metal sheet I clamped a parallel, oval shaped sharpening stone that was used for sharpening scythes etc. The plate assembly was pushed up to the cylinder so that the sheet metal acted as a spring. Then by dragging the lawnmower backwards it sharpened the cylinder. This worked very well and I sharpened quite a few lawnmowers. I even thought about making and selling them but rotary blade mowers were becoming the thing. This way saved dismantling and reassembling the whole mower.


Edited By Alan Jackson on 16/07/2018 18:11:29

Dennis D16/07/2018 18:21:45
66 forum posts
2 photos

Looks like someone had the same idea as Alan **LINK**

I had one years ago when I had a petrol mower.

Benjamin Day16/07/2018 18:25:10
50 forum posts
that's a good point John MC the blades are un-hardened, a hss tool would cut, but how sharp would the edges be? how sharp do they even need to be!?
Jon16/07/2018 18:33:48
997 forum posts
49 photos

They have been around for 37 years to my knowledge the link above.
Tried carborundum nosing from work bolted to cutter, didnt work same as revolving the cylinder in a lathe you have no relief just ok for touch ups.

Proper job on a Suffolk Colt 14" in 1989 was £35 ex works and self fit etc.

larry phelan 116/07/2018 18:35:44
647 forum posts
22 photos

Buy a goat,simple,cheap and you can even sell the milk !

Might need to be careful with the washing though !

Mike Poole16/07/2018 18:50:16
2538 forum posts
60 photos

Are the blades just ground as a cylinder or do you use a tooth rest and grind a clearance?


Benjamin Day16/07/2018 18:54:52
50 forum posts
+1 for getting a goat :D
Benjamin Day16/07/2018 18:54:53
50 forum posts
+1 for getting a goat :D
Benjamin Day16/07/2018 18:58:17
50 forum posts
I was wondering about clearances....what is a tooth rest? what clearance grind is recommended? I can find people mention it, but cant find any detail
alan-lloyd16/07/2018 19:10:58
162 forum posts

I worked for a horticultural engineering firm on golf club mowers, to do it properly takes many passes of the grinding wheel until it stops grinding, you don't want the burr on the leading edge. the bottom blade will need to be sharpened at an angle so its cutting on its leading edge and like a previous poster said they actually should not touch. Funny enough the machines are made by a company called Burnard

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