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· Registered
146 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm new here, so let me tell you a little about my background. About 20 years ago I bought my first reel mower (a Trimmer), and had the dealer sharpen it once or twice a year (they only lapped). After a couple of years I found an old guy that had been sharpening mowers since the 1940's. He showed me how to grind on a machine he bought new when he started his business. I was fascinated and soon found a similar grinder for sale nearby. My grinder was made in the 50's and is a Modern/Foley 377. I learned mostly by trial and error how to grind a reel. After a while, I was better at it than the guy that taught me. I started my own business sharpening mowers and soon had about 50 regular customers - enough for a decent side business. I sharpened Trimmers, McLanes, Tru-Cuts mostly, but also the occasional National, Jacobsen, and John Deere.

After a couple of promotions at my day job I could no longer keep up the business so now I only sharpen my own stuff.

Here is my grinder, which is called a manual, relief, or single-blade unit.

I also have a dedicated bedknife grinder. This is an Ideal Model 50, which was made in 1952 I believe.

I also have a bedknife facer, a bedknife buddy, a Foley back lapper, and this Neary backlapper that is my favorite of the two.

When I was in business I charged $70 to relief grind, lap, grease, adjust, and service the engine. I probably spent 2 hours per job.

At one point I even became a Certified Reel Technology Technician, but I let that lapse. I also had an account with Trimmer as most of the units in my area were Trimmers.

A few random thoughts on reel sharpening:

1. Opinions on how to sharpen a reel vary between those that like relief and those that like spin. Spin is much faster/easier and is by far the most popular method in use at golf courses. However, I believe relief is far superior for homeowners, as that relief allows you to lap a time or two between grindings without any ill affects. JMO though. (Also - spin grinding doesn't work well with Trimmers at all, since the knife has to be removed for sharpening and there is no bedbar)

2. Most of my customers needed a grind only once per year, with a lap at mid season.

3. If you can lap and adjust the reel clearance yourself, and you avoid sticks, rocks, and sand, you might can go 2-3 years before grinding is necessary. But nothing beats a properly ground and lightly lapped mower for quality of cut.

4. If your reel bearings are worn your quality of cut will suffer, no matter how sharp the reel and bedknife are.

I'd be happy to answer any questions about sharpening.

· Administrator
5.6ksqft Bewitched KBG in Fishers, IN
15,459 Posts
@wartee Welcome to TLF. It is great that have reel passionate folks in here.

I was looking at your equipment list earlier today. I tried to find info on the reel grinder and failed to find stuff. I now understand why. I'm a mechanical guy, so I am intrigued by how does the grinder keeps the reel from free spinning in your machine? Part of me will like to get a reel grinding machine, but for my single reel, it is better to pay for the service.

I think a lot of us share the same opinion that relief grinding is useful.

· Super Moderator
Tifgrand—7,500 sq/ft—Baroness LM56
5,749 Posts
Glad to have you here and that's some awesome equipment you have there. Wish you were my neighbor :D

· Premium Member
3,432 Posts
Neat stuff. I relief and backlap on the side as well. Spin grinding only does not work on reels that are not hardened like a Toro. They get dull fast mowing Zoysia. That system can work if the reel is mowing Bentgrass greens and nothing else.

· Registered
7 Posts
I bought my first reel mower 3 years ago, a Trimmer as well. I've had someone at a golf course sharpening for me but being the nerd that I am, have recently been interested in doing almost exactly what you explained. Locally I've had several people ask about shapening, and feel that I could easily secure a client base rather quickly. I'm still in the research phase of the sharpening process and equipment. I've read a few forums by people who use older equipment. I suppose the challenge will be finding the equipment and then ensuring I'm knowledgeable enough to operate it. On the flipside, I've seen the modern machines that they use at the golf course, and its automated and incredibly simple, even on a relief grind. I'd love to know how much one of those machines costs. surely $10,000+
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