AP Lawn Care: “Trying to see how the rest of you guys take care of this. I took five blades in to get sharpened yesterday and $60 later I walked out the door. I wasn’t very happy about it. So, I’m looking to see how I can do this on my own. This includes mulch and straight blades.”
GreenShoesLC: “Get a tabletop grinder.”
deere-man: “Look into buying your own grinder. Table-top grinder would be good, as well as just a hand-held grinder … My advice would be to practice sharpening some old blades that you won’t be using so you can get the hang of it before sharpening your current blades.”
mattfromNY: “I bought a used blade sharpener from my local shop for $100 three years ago. I sharpen all blades daily (eight blades). Judging from what you paid to have your blades sharpened, I’d say my sharpener has paid for itself and then some.
“I think it’s one of those specialty tools that you should invest in as soon as you can afford it. It will save not only money, but time dropping off and picking up at the shop.”
BINKY1902: “Wow, that’s $12 a blade. For one, that’s what I pay for new blades. Anyway, you need a way to sharpen blades and save money. You can get a cheap 4.5-inch grinder for about $25 that will work for you. I just put the blade in one hand and the grinder in the other, but you will want to get a vice or something to clamp down the blade. You could also get a C-clamp and clamp it to your trailer or something. You will also need a nail or something mounted so you can balance them. I sharpen mine every couple of days. I jack up my mowers on the trailer, and sharpen and balance them on the spot. I have an impact, so I twist the blades off, sharpen and balance them on a screw that’s mounted on the side of the trailer, and put them back on. Ready to go again. When I have a lot of time on my hands, I really like to use a file. A file keeps metal loss to a minimum and lays a great edge on the blade.
TheGoat: “I use a file. When my schedule fills, I’ll find a faster alternative.”
Magna-Matic: “Please remember using nails or screws to balance blades is ineffective and will give incorrect readings.
“A lawn mower blade spins upon the center of the hole. Hanging it on a nail sits at the top of the hole. Visualize a cross-hair in the blade mounting hole, balance must be measured from that center point.”
BINKY1902: “You can also get a cone-shaped blade balancer. It has step-down shoulders for different blade hole sizes. I check mine on it sometimes.”
Magna-Matic: “Make note that the same issues of not being in center with a nail or screw in the wall also happen with the table-top cones. The steps in the cone are never the exact size of the mounting hole, and therefore if you are off even a 1/32-inch in any direction, you bias 25 percent more weight in that direction, so you can have a different reading every time you place it on the table-top cone.”
Tower Rat 95B: “Do it yourself. When I have new blades I sharpen them with a file (takes about five minutes or less per blade). After they start to get dinged up I start with the 8-inch bench grinder.”
AP Lawn Care: “I think I’ll just buy a table grinder and start trying to figure it out that way with some practice. I’ve heard a lot of people say get gator blades, they last longer and don’t have to sharpen as much, but it seems like my mulch blades go dull in about three days and it’s a pain taking the blades off everything and sharpening all the time, even though I know it’s needed.”
balreadysaid: “A polisher with a grind pad is $180 for a good DeWalt; a mechanics vice is $50. You can sharpen three sets to a pad before they wear out the pad.
“I have just started to use my bench-mounted grinder, and it takes some getting used to, but it makes them razor sharp and it’s quick. A blade grinder for $300 will work good, too, and it will pay for itself in a year.”
CT18fireman: “We buy blades in bulk.
“We usually change blades on mowers every day or every other day, depending on work. Each mower we have has eight to 10 sets. One set stays in the trailer box in case of damage during the day.
“In the morning while the guys are loading up or unloading at the end of the day, I sharpen some blades. I use either the bench or hand-grinder. I never have balanced a blade. When they get thin they go into the scrap metal pile. In the spring, I order another six sets. With the bench sharpener, you can do a blade in 15 seconds. The hand-grinder takes a bit longer, but I think it allows better control when working out a ding in a blade.”
balreadysaid: “Fifteen seconds per blade? Do you charge by the hour?”
CT18fireman: “If the blade is in good shape and just needs a new edge, one pass on each cutting edge and you’re good to go. On a bench-mounted blade grinder, it’s that quick.
“Previously I worked at a power equipment service. The biggest mistake I saw there, and now in owning my company, is people using too much force, taking too much metal off and putting heat in the blade. If your yards are in good shape, especially after spring cleanups and before leaves, then the blades should just dull from cutting, not be dinged or gouged. All they need then is a touch-up to sharpen the edge. This is why I am the one that sharpens all the blades I have and the ones I do for other companies.”
cuttin-to-the-Max: “Get a grinder. I don’t have a big fancy shop. All I have is a storage garage, pretty good-sized, so I have a Honda generator that I use and a hand-held grinder and just sharpen them every day.
“Be careful with the hand-held, though: sliced my finger pretty bad last month with it – six stitches.”
Sammy: “Use a round shank screwdriver to balance your blades.”
roberthathaway7: “I actually use a legit balancer, never even thought of a nail, but just for argument’s sake: if the hole is circular and the blade is heavy enough to bring the nail to the apex of the arch whose length runs parallel to the run of the blade, which all blades would be, wouldn’t it only be the up and down axis that you would be worried about when it comes to balancing? What I’m saying is, I think the nail would work pretty well. When you put a blade on a balancer, you’re only trying to find if the weight is equal on the right and left side of a blade, not the front and the back.”
CT18fireman: “The only reason I have my bench grinder is because I picked it up off a power equipment place that was closing. I am not sure I would have bought one otherwise. As said, a hand-grinder will do just as good a job, just take a little longer.
“Regarding balancing, as I said I have never balanced my blades. In 15 years of mowing, I have not seen myself replacing a ton of spindles.
“I would think if you balanced it on a nail, then spun it 180 so it’s sitting on the opposite part of the hole, then it would be like checking for level and flipping the level to double-check. I mean, these are mower blades, car tires, drive shafts, etc., how precise does it need to be?”
yardguy28: “Currently my dad sharpens my blades most of the time. He uses a bench grinder. I do it on occasion, but he has way more experience at it.
“I can count the times I’ve balanced my blades on one hand. And, when I have, I’ve just used a screwdriver. If it’s balanced, it’s good enough for me.”
cutlevel: “Think about what y’all are saying just a minute now. What kind of money did you spend on your mower and other equipment? If that is too much money to spend $800 to $1,000 to get your blades precise, then maybe you should really think about it. Your blades are exactly what gives your customer the finished product. Ten-thousand-plus bucks on a mower and y’all are gonna set back and pop your suspenders cause you know better?”
yardguy28: “In the four years I’ve been in business so far, I have yet to have a mower ruined because of unbalanced blades. I have yet to leave an undesired cut because I didn’t balance the blades. I have yet to have anything negative happen because I don’t balance the blades.”
roberthathaway7: “You know, I got to thinking. If a blade was balanced to begin with when you got it, and you always balanced it, say left to right, not worrying about front to back, I think to keep them balanced you/wear will always take metal from the blade at the same ratio between the two sides, and since you have to take the metal from opposite ‘forward and back’ side of the blade, the blade should always stay balanced front to back anyways.
“I do totally agree on all of the importance of balancing your blades, though.”
Richard Martin: “The presumption is that the blade is balanced when you buy it new. That is not always the case. It is also virtually impossible to assure that you’re taking the same amount of material off of both sides. Rock dings, chips and other damage assure that there is no way to keep a blade balanced without using a balancer.”
AP Lawn Care: “I’m just saying if I had a quick, easy and cheaper way of doing this, I would to start doing it. I’m not sure how all you guys mow for eight to 10 hours a day [and] have the time or energy to go home and clean equipment, sharpen blades, etc. I like to go home, sit in the driveway, drink some beer and relax. I hate doing all the maintenance. Just wish the crap didn’t cost so much to have someone else do it. I understand it’s part of the job before any of you yahoo’s state that, that doesn’t mean I have to like doing it.”
“In Your Own Words” is contributed from the lawn care and landscape forum at www.lawnsite.com, which has been named one of 10 Great Media Sites by Media Business magazine and has been chosen as a winner of the Most Engaged Media Brands for 2010 by min, a firm that tracks the media industry. Visit them, and join in the discussions.