Do You Know How to Sharpen Your Push Mower?

I realize there are only 7 of us in the world that use a push mower, but for the other 6 in our small club? THIS is a special day for you. I’m going to show you how to get those mower blades sharp enough to even cut those weird, hard, weedy stems that the mower always misses.

Push mower standing on lawn with white picket fence in background

Say hello to my push mower.  It’s green and red and old.  Not olden days old, but old.  Floppy disk old.

Green and red push mower laying down on grey painted porch.

I knew how to *tighten* the blades on this push mower so they ran across the metal bar properly, but I could never quite figure out how to actually sharpen it.

Blade tightening bolt to the left of the cutting bar on a push mower.

How to Adjust Your Reel Mower Blades

To move the cutters closer to the bar so your lawn mower makes that cool “click, click, click” sound reminiscent of an episode of Leave it to Beaver, you just have to tighten the blade tightening bolts on either side of the lawn mower.

  • Your mower’s blades should come as close to the metal bar as possible without actually touching it. Spin the blades (carefully). If you can hear metal scraping they need to be loosened on that end.
  • Only turn the bolt a tiny bit to get some clearance.
  • There are 4 bolts. 2 that are visible on either side of the reel and 2 on either side of the cutting bar.
  • First adjust the bolts (or screws) on the reel.  Then adjust the bolts (or screws) on the cutting bar, turning them in the opposite direction that you turned the bolts on the reel.

Moving the cutting bar closer to the reel blades on a push mower using a ratchet.

Easy.  Your blades should now be evenly spaced across the whole cutting bar, almost touching it, but not quite.


But sharpening the actual blades is something else entirely. And without sharp blades on your lawnmower, you might as well try cutting your lawn with a sock puppet. You’ll get the same results.

And then I found out how to sharpen my lawnmower blades.  With a blade sharpening kit.

Dull push mower blades with paste, brush and turning handle.

And angels sang and neighbours joined hands in song.

My lawn would no longer look like a 1980’s haircut.

Browned grass tips and tough stems that haven't been cut because of dull push mower blades.

blade sharpening kit is just some blade sharpening compound and a brush.  But it also comes with something very important. A handle that you have to insert into the wheel assembly so you can turn the mower blades over and over again to sharpen them.

To sharpen your push mower you need to take one of the wheels off.

This part might be scary to you; taking your lawn mower apart.  But you only partially take it apart.  Just a little bit.  Barely at all. Just a little off the top.

I know it scares you because it kind of frightened me too.  And I don’t frighten all that easily.  I even got in bed with Jerry Springer once. I have photographic evidence. Which I didn’t spend too much time searching for.

I accidentally found this blade sharpening kit at Lee Valley one day when I was wandering around but you can get the same one on Amazon for $14.

O.K. let’s sharpen those lawn mower blades!

Red reel of a Lee Valley push mower.

Before I get to the steps for sharpening, here’s a look at the blades before. You can see they’re dull.

Applying sharpening compound to the red blades of a push mower with a brush.

  1.  Brush the sharpening compound on the edges of all the mower blades.

Removing the plastic wheel cover from a push mower wheel.2.  Pop off the plastic cover on the left  wheel (the left wheel when you’re pushing the mower).  It’ll just pop off easily.

Using a flathead screwdriver to pry off a u ring on a push mower wheel.

3.  Remove the U Ring. This one’s trickier.  Don’t try to bend it or force it.  Just use a screwdriver or knife and stick it under the U ring and gently pry the U ring up.  It’ll seem like it’ll never come off but all of a sudden it’ll PING right off and you’ll spend the next 10 minutes looking for it.

Wheel removed and laying on ground beside a push mower ready to have the blades sharpened with compound.

4.  Once the U ring is off you can just lift the whole wheel right off.

Removal of wheel cog on reel mower.

5.  Under the wheel you’ll find the cogged jiggy/jaggy wheel assembly thing.  Gently pull it straight up and it will come off.

Green wheel well of a push mower, pointing out where you put the hand crank.

6.  Under the jiggy/jaggy thing is where you’ll attach the hand crank that came with your kit.  Which is the whole reason you had to remove the wheel.

Hand crank attached to a push mower ready to sharpen.

7. Attach the hand crank and turn, turn, turn in a counter clockwise motion.  You’ll be going in the opposite direction than how the blades normally turn when you push the mower.  For 10 minutes you’ll turn.

Then check your blades.

Shiny silver blades of a newly sharpened push mower.

If your blades are evenly shiny and clean looking you’re doing a good job.  If not, put a little more compound on and keep turning.  I had to do it twice and frankly could have done it another time but I got sick of turning.

8. Wipe off any remaining sharpening compound.

Close up view of silvery blades on the red reel of a push mower, newly sharpened.

After sharpening the blades, put everything back together in the opposite order of how you took it apart.

Freshly restored blades on a green and red push mower ready to roll.

Then take your mower for a test run.  It should be much smoother, with a cleaner cut.  Also if you’ve noticed your grass looks brown on top where you cut it, sharpening and adjusting your lawn mower will stop that.

How to Sharpen a Reel Mower

How to Sharpen a Reel Mower

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy(ish)

An easy step by step guide to sharpening your push mower blades.

Materials

  • Reel mower sharpening paste

Instructions

  1. Brush the sharpening compound on the edges of all the mower blades.
  2. Pop off the plastic cover on the left  wheel (the left wheel when you’re pushing the mower).  It’ll just pop off easily.
  3. Remove the U Ring. This one’s trickier.  Don’t try to bend it or force it.  Just use a screwdriver or knife and stick it under the U ring and gently pry the U ring up.  It’ll seem like it’ll never come off but all of a sudden it’ll PING right off and you’ll spend the next 10 minutes looking for it.
  4. Once the U ring is off you can just lift the whole wheel right off.
  5. Under the wheel you’ll find the cogged jiggy/jaggy wheel assembly thing.  Gently pull it straight up and it will come off.
  6. Under the jiggy/jaggy thing is where you’ll attach the hand crank that came with your kit.  Which is the whole reason you had to remove the wheel.
  7. Attach the hand crank and turn, turn, turn in a counter clockwise motion.  You’ll be going in the opposite direction than how the blades normally turn when you push the mower.  For 10 minutes you’ll turn.
  8. Check your blades. If they're shiny and clean looking you're done. If not, add some more paste and do it again.
  9. Wipe off any remaining sharpening compound.After sharpening the blades, put everything back together in the opposite order of how you took it apart.

Notes

Don't forget to adjust your blades as well with the bolts or screws on either end of the cutting bar and the reel blades.

Blades should be almost (but not) touching the cutting bar.

Recommended Products

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Maintaining things like your lawn mower, dryer, dishwasher will help them last a lot longer.  If I keep this up with my push mower in years I’ll be saying “It’s old. Not olden days old, but old.  The Cloud old.”

 

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Do You Know How to Sharpen Your Push Mower?