Stay a cut above: Keep lawn mower blades sharp

Some people do a great job of performing the proper, regular maintenance of their lawn mowers. But some forget one crucial point: lawn mower blade sharpening. Why is it so important? Well, not only will you be able to mow more quickly without putting undue stress on the mower, but you?ll also have a healthier lawn if you keep the lawn mower blade sharp. A dull blade doesn?t cut the grass; it rips and pulls the grass. That weakens the grass and promotes lawn disease. So you want to sharpen the blade at the start of the season and then once a month. If you mow often or have a lot of territory to cover, you?ll need to sharpen the blade more often.

Whether you're working on a chipper or the lawn mower, take extra care with equipment that cuts and grinds material. So if you want to try sharpening the mower blade of a push mower yourself, the No. 1 rule you must follow is to ensure the lawn mower cannot start while you are removing the blade or putting it back on. The easiest way to do that is to remove the spark plug. Tip the mower, keeping the side with the carburetor up to keep the oil from leaking. If the gas cap has air holes, keep a pan and some cloths nearby to clean up any spills, and be sure to properly dispose of the material.

Working with the blade

A bolt holds the blade in place. Before you take off the blade, use paint or a Sharpie to note which side of the blade faces the grass. The bolt will be tight, so it?s best to use a socket to loosen the bolt. To reduce possible injury to your hands, if you can?t loosen it, squirt some penetrating oil on the bolt and try again after a few minutes. After you remove the blade, set the mower upright again.

A riding mower is a different animal. Again, start by ensuring the mower cannot start. Review the manual and follow the instructions to remove the mowing deck. Once it?s removed, you can flip the deck over to get to the blade. Then follow the same steps listed above to sharpen riding lawn mower blades.

Once the blade is off, take a good look at it. If it is bent, dented or worn thin, it?s time to replace it. Refer to the owner?s manual to find out which blade you need. If you don?t need to replace it, use a vice to keep the blade in place as you sharpen it. A mill bastard file makes a great lawn mower blade sharpener.

You do not want a razor-sharp blade; even a brand new blade isn?t razor sharp. Think butter knife sharp. Don?t go up and down or back and forth with the file. Move it in one direction only: down. Follow the cutting angle of the blade.

Balance is a key point in sharpening your blade. Excessive sharpening on one side can leave the blade unbalanced, causing additional wear and tear on your mower due to vibration. To make sure you worked evenly, drive a nail into a stud in your garage. Place the blade on the nail, using the hole where the screw and bolt were. It should hang horizontally, without moving on its own. Rotate it a quarter turn, then a half. If it rotates back at any point, let it come to a rest and sharpen the bottom side more. Once you've established a good balance, reinstall the blade and tighten well.

Always remember to keep the lawn mower blade sharp to keep your lawn healthy. Trust Sears to help you keep your lawn and garden equipment in top shape.

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