joe--there should be lots of response to this post. for me, I try to keep the same angle on the blade as original, or as obtained if it was used when I got it. I got a bunch of serviceable used blades with my machine. It is usually not too hard to keep the same angle, HOWEVER, you will wind up with a bump or two in the new surface if the blade has been banged up.
I do blades two basic ways. the best for the blade is to take it off and file it with a coarse flat bastard file. I C-clamp 'em to the flat metal on the top rail of my trailer and file to a new surface. this method gives great control and dosen't de-temper the blade by getting too hot. sometimes, I'll file them while they're on thhe machine. other times I'll use an air powered mini-die grinder with a flat stone. this is real fast and works great. couple swipes and if the blade isn't too bad, it's like new.
for a blade that is banged up, get out the 10 in. grinder and the blade balancer. you gotta remove metal.
lesco makes a blade grinder for about $300 that people love. I don't have one but I'd like to ask if any one knows of an alternative machine that you can hook up to a regular grinder and get the same results.
one point to remember, always sharpen from the point to the back of the blade, file or grinder, doesn't matter.
I change my blades every 6 to 8 hours,depending on the lawns condition.I got tired of the file,the belt sander,the hand sander and broke down and bought a Brandelin Blade grinder.There are several on the market,most are designed to mount to the work bench.The Brandelin is free standing,grinds left or right,blade angle adjustment is with a crank that raises and lowers the motor with the wheel.I keep a steeper angle than when new.Blades do a lot of work and are still reasonabl so I keep them sharp.I use about twice as many as some of my friends.A lawn cut with a sharp blade will look greener after a couple days than the one cut with dull blades.
I'm a small operator (1 wb with 2 spindles, 1 LawnBoy hand mower), so my perspective is rather limited.
I use a file to sharpen my blades. First, I use a B&D Workwheel with a 6" wire brush, and clean the surface to be sharpened very well. This eliminates dirt clogging the hand file. I put the blade in a vise on the bench, and attempt to keep the same angle. If I happen to get a big ding on the blade, I may have to use the bench grinder, but generally stay away. I found the grinder takes off much more material than I need to get a sharp edge, and (as mentioned earlier) the edge can get hot. In response to other posts a few months ago about the time required to hand file, I kept an informal watch. The LawnBoy blade required 12-15 swipes (each edge), and my 18" Exmark blades required about 25 swipes. IOW, it doesn't take very long. I tend to sharpen the blades often (6 hrs for LB, 6-8 hrs for Exmark), so the blades aren't excessively dull when starting.
A couple of other comments have been made here about balancing. How are you doing the balancing? Did you buy an expensive balancer unit? From time to time, I feel my blades are a bit out of balance, but haven't any way of knowing, or make diagnosis. I've tried a nail in the center hole, a screwdriver, etc. I feel that method is of no value - too erratic of results. Any other ideas?
Balance: Roger,you can buy a cone shaped unit made especialy to balance mower blades.Its only a few bucks and can be purchesed from most blade suppliers.
With a blade grinder you can grind the same number of strokes on each side with the same amount of force and the blade stayes balanced.
I have tried every mentioned method, and probally a few others as well. This past season, I decided to buy a blade grinder. Mine is a Lesco(made by Neary). It is not the type that most are used to seeing. The wheel is stationary, and it has a small, aluminium table that adjusts for angle, and to compensate for wheel wear.
At first, I tried to adjust the table to each blades specific angle. This was very troublesome, because the tinest mis-adjustment would throw off the entire angle, and too much material needed to be removed to make a sharp edge.
What I did was to grind all my blades to the same angle. What the degree is, I don't really know. It is somewhere around a factory angle for a Toro hi lift blade.
Whild grinding each blade to the same angle, I learned that none of my blades were conistant. Many had different angles at each end of the blade. Now all are uniform. This inital grinding took some time, and removed a bit of material from most blades, but now that they are all the same angle, and setup for my grinder, a simple sharpening takes only seconds. A few passes are all that are required.
I too have one of the small cones for balancing. It came with the grinder. I am not 100% sold on it. I still think that there is a lot of room for error. If I do get a blade that is way out of wack, I grind the excess material from the back of the blade, not wasting valuable cutting edge material.
It took me some time to get the system down pat. Once it was in place, and all blades are ground to the proper angle, it is a breeze to use.
jeffclc : If you don't mind me asking how much did you pay for the Lesco grinder, as I want to grind my own blades this comming year. I had them done by a shop this year and they all had b big burr on them when I got them back, and had to deburr them all.
Lightcap's Landscape Service
A Happy and Prosperous New Year To All
I have some experience with a Neary Grinder, in fact I have to put a new 1 HP motor on it soon. We have been using the vice and a hand grinder for a few months. I agree with the above post in terms of getting all blades uniform. Once they are, using the blade grinder is a breeze. Usually when we hire a new guy I start him off cleaning up all of our blades (between 40-50 total). This way they learn what a pain it is to not keep on top of grinding. After that only a little touch up is required. It is important to keep the grinding wheel 'dressed' with the proper tool, and to be careful not to overheat the blade. If you do over heat, the blade becomes soft and less effective. We sometimes keep a bucket of water around at grinding time. The Neary is mounted on an old Truck tire and Budd Rim, so it can be rolled outside rather than always sparking inside. The collection unit isn't so hot.
Phil Grande - Soundview Landscape Supply
klite- The grinder that I bought is a Lesco, buy is made by Neary. I paid about $300 for it this past spring.
SLSNursery- Are the ruby wheels as agressive as the standard aluminium oxide wheels that come with the machine? Mine came with a 36 grit, and doing the inital grinding was very time consuming, as it seemed the grit was too fine. I went to Sears and bought another 36 grti wheel, and it felt much coarser, and also took off material at a faster rate. I used it to do the inital grinding to my angle, and switched back to the wheel that came with the unit after all my blades were uniform.
How often are others sharpening their blades? I don't really do it on a set schedule, just as I think they need it, Usually every few days.
Another friend of mine in the business only changes his once a season! At least this is the case on his JD outfront mower. I talked to the operator of the machine, and he told me this. I could not believe it.
Another question, How sharp do you guys make your blades? Can you shave with them, or are they not as sharp as a razor?
I use an RBG rotary blade grinder ($300 from J. Thomas Dist) It works so well I did not have to purchase any new blades last season. Anyone in the commercial arena should be using a professional blade grinder, after using and owning one I think you'll agree. I change blades every day, and as someone else posted, you can drive by a lawn and tell if it was cut with sharp blades. A dull blade merely tears the grass off and the new growth returns with a brown edge. Not very attractive. If we run long days it's not unusual to change blades twice a day. Thanks, Lynn Gorrell
Lynn, that sounds like something I posted on CC. I agree that sharp blades make all the difference in how a lawn looks. When I take on a new lawn, it is very common for a new customer to say after a few months of us cutting it, my grass looks thicker and greener since you started cutting it. We also change blades daily and sometimes twice on a long day.
We nicknamed one crew The Lawn Killers, because they don't sharpen their blades and the lawns are brown even in the spring when all lawns should be green. The one Thread talks about wearing nice, all the same shirts and all the trucks the same color. This company fits that to a tee, but their work is so bad, they loose customers big time. I can see where a nice dressed crew would look impressive, but a customer sees the crew there for 15 to 20 minutes and then they have to look at that bad looking lawn all summer.
I think most of my equip. mfg.'s suggest 30 degrees, I use a blade grinder (had it 6 years, works great)and change blades daily. With the hand grinder, my guys tended to change the angle a bit, although a small hand held grinder is quick. The cone balancers have worked good for me.
Hey Eric just a thought, you were saying about the guys who make a mess of the lawns they cut, have you considered cutting the lawn beside them for free or real cheap a couple of times so that everyone sees the quality job you do. I cut a cemetery right beside a school, another company cuts the school and makes a mess of it everytime. Every once in awhile I cut the grass in front of the school just to show them what it should look like. Both properties are run by the catholic school board but different divisions. Some day I hope to get both jobs.
Cantoo, I cut the lawn next to one of them, but I don't need any more work. I have mowed 75% of our customers over 10 years now and the other 25%, we have mowed for 2 or more years. We don't have much of a turn over. If you want to see one of their lawns, look at page 7 on my website. See if you can pick out which one we do. LOL
We have gotten off the subject here, we grind the blades at around 30 degrees. I put them in a vice and use a 10 inch Milwaukee hand grinder to get the angle and a 4 1/2 inch hand grinder to put the finish edge on them.