The third week each October, mower manufacturers fill the exhibit hall and the 22-acre outdoor demonstration area at the Kentucky Expo Center. Each new introduction promises greater levels of efficiency, reliability, styling and operator comfort. It’s easy to be dazzled by the sheer number and variety of commercial mowers that you can investigate and can try out at the annual event in Louisville.
But anyone who’s knowledgeable about these grass-cutting marvels and the business of commercial cutting knows that, in the end, one of the biggest factors in making tall grass shorter and also giving clients beautiful, healthy lawns is the part that actually gets the work done: a sharp mower blade.
The blade on your commercial mower, as humble as it may appear to the uninitiated, packs a lot of technology within it. It has to. It must deliver consistently reliable results and also be safe — or at least as safe as any sharpened, fire-hardened steel body can be whirling at 200-plus mph at blade tips or 3,000 rpm. Blades must be very strong but not brittle. They must keep cutting and not shatter regardless of unusual or unfavorable conditions.
How many of you have not had to mow turf on sandy or gritty properties, which eat up blades or on lawns that are overgrown, stony, weedy or wet?
Right blades for the right jobs
Intelligent blade selection depends upon many factors — everything from daunting environmental/property conditions to matching blades with the correct mower brand/power packages, and all of this aligning with client expectations. For that reason there are many styles of blades (standard, high-lift, mulching and “gator”) to fit many different mower sizes and configurations. While most mowers have several compatible blade type options available, no single blade can possibly meet all of the different demands that might be placed on it. Each type of blade performs best under the specific conditions for which it was designed.
As previously mentioned, each season you can count on mower manufacturers to unveil new commercial products or innovations to improve the performance of some of their best sellers. For mower blades that’s not the case. Announcements and promises of significantly improved performance from a new blade are fewer and farther apart.
Blades that sharpen with use?
This past GIE+EXPO was the exception to that.
Fisher Barton, the company that gave commercial cutters the popular Marbain blade almost 20 years ago, this past October unveiled its new LaserEdge mower blade featuring the “EverSharp” cutting edge. Fisher Barton says the prolonged sharpness of the blade is due to the application of “an advanced surface engineered material” to the underside of the cutting edge. As the blade cuts grass, the original blade material begins to wear away and exposes a new cutting edge, which is even sharper than the blade’s original sharpness, claims the company.
If the performance of the blade approaches the company’s claims that, during testing, it went through “30 hours in severe sand conditions and became sharper during use,” then the availability of these blades to contract cutters is truly significant.
Think how often you sharpen the blades on your mowers during the height of the grass-growing season. Some of you sharpen your blades daily. Some of you, if conditions are severe, replace the blades on your mowers twice a day in order to deliver the quality of cut your clients demand. Dull blades tears, shreds and bruises grass blades, leaving lawns looking unkempt and more prone to diseases and other stressors.
Beyond that, blade sharpening is an expense, by some estimates somewhere between $5 to $6 per blade. Changing blades during a day’s cutting results in a cost of lost production as well. Consider the overall cost from sharpening and blade replacements accruing from the many mowers that some of you have in the field each season.
Fisher Barton warns that its new blade, whose lifespan “should be at least as long as a standard blade’s” may not be suitable for mowing on properties replete with rocks, curbs, out-cropping stones and other hard objects. A good way to tell this is to examine the worn blades you are presently using. If they show excessive gouging, deep gashes or large scraps the company’s new blades may not be right for you.
The new LaserEdge blade is available at dealers offering Grasshopper, Ariens, Gravely, Hustler, Cub Cadet, Husqvarna and Big Dog mowers. Fisher Barton says more dealers will be added this winter.
Easier blade replacements
Less revolutionary perhaps but also significant, Cub Cadet showcased its new FastAttach blade system at the GIE+EXPO. The new technology allows a shop worker or operator to change blades faster and easier with no tools in just three steps.
The FastAttach blade system is available on select 2018 Cub Cadet models. Although these units come standard with FastAttach High-lift bagging blades, Cub Cadet also offers additional FastAttach blade options, such as the FastAttach Xtreme Mulching blade that recycles grass into finer clippings. Or the FastAttach Sand blade, which Cub Cadet claims, lasts up to three times longer than standard high-lift blades in sandy conditions. FastAttach is being sold at Cub Cadet dealers.