A reel mower, often called a cylinder mower, is a manual lawn mower with blades that rotate vertically as the mower moves forwards or backwards. These mowers use a scissor-like cutting action, creating a neater finish than what is possible with the horizontal cutting action of fuel-powered mowers. However, damaged blades prevent the mower from cutting efficiently, and may tear the grass, so they need replacing or sharpening on a regular basis. Fortunately, repairing cylinder mowers is a relatively straightforward process.
Repairing a reel mower may involve sharpening the blades, or replacing the reel completely. Disassembling the mower requires a few basic tools, including a screwdriver, wrench, newspaper, pencil and paper, workbench, and leather gloves.
Sharpening the blades, rather than replacing them, also requires grinding paste and a flat file or sharpening stone. These tools are available individually or as a complete blade sharpening kit. Leather gloves are essential for handling blades safely, providing a better grip while working, and reducing the risk of cuts and grazes.
Replacing a reel
Old cylinder mowers have a strong construction and durable components, and in most cases, blades only need sharpening, rather than replacing. However, if the reel of blades buckles or cracks due to a collision with rocks or tree roots, replacement is often necessary.
Sourcing a replacement reel
The cylinder of blades has a diameter that ensures the blades brush against the cutter bar for clean and efficient cutting. For this reason, it is necessary to replace the cylinder with one of the exact same dimensions. If the cylinder is too large it fails to rotate or may not fit, while a cylinder with a diameter that is too small does not cut.
Disassembling the lawn mower
Replacing a reel involves completely dismantling the mower. To do this, place the mower on a workbench so it is possible to work comfortably, reducing the risk of injury or muscle strain.
While wearing leather gloves, remove the wheels, pinion gear, cover plate, brush bar, and cutter bar to free the reel. The method for dismantling the mower varies based on the type, but it usually involves removing several screws and nuts. It is a good idea to note the location of screws and gears on a piece of paper as a reminder for when it is time to reassemble the components.
Fitting the new reel
Fitting the new reel is simply a case of replacing all of the removed components in the reverse order. The reel fits into the cover plate and gear system, and then the wheels bolt onto each end.
Adjusting the blade
Most reel mowers have adjustment screws on each end of the cylinder. Loosening or tightening these screws adjusts the alignment of the blades. The user should spin the reel, checking for contact with the cutter bar, and adjusting the reel with the screws as required. When positioned correctly, the blades graze the cutter bar, but the bar does not impede their motion. It is possible to test the cut by inserting a piece of paper between the reel and the cutter bar, and then spinning the reel.
Sharpening reel mower blades
In many cases, it is possible to avoid replacing a blade reel by sharpening and adjusting the blades instead. With careful maintenance, it is possible for a reel mower to continue functioning with original components for many years.
Preparing the blades
While wearing leather gloves for protection, put the mower on a workbench. Then, use a fine flat file or a sharpening stone to remove burrs and rust from the blade and the cutter bar.
Sharpening the blades
Sharpening the blades involves carefully applying grinding paste to each blade edge and then rotating the reel backwards. This process takes about 10 minutes, and sharpens the blades and the cutter bar simultaneously. The user may need to reposition the blades using the adjustment screws on either side, testing the cut after each adjustment by inserting a piece of newspaper between the reel and the cutter bar and rotating the reel.
How to buy tools and gardening equipment on eBay
For gardeners who are tired of the drone of modern petrol lawn mowers, a reel mower is a relaxing alternative. Whether you are looking for an old mower, or the tools to maintain a mower you already own, you can find everything you need on eBay. Sellers have a large inventory of parts and accessories, and you can search through the available products using the search function available on every eBay page. Sorting search results by price makes it easy to find bargains.