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PHOTO: Daniel Johnson
Nothing lasts forever, or so they say. And while I’m not sure I completely agree with this sentiment (winter certainly seems to last forever!), I’ll admit the phrase applies unconditionally to lawn mower blades.
It would be nice if lawn mower blades stayed sharp for years, requiring little or no maintenance from busy farmers. But such an outcome is unlikely for hardworking machines.
Farms can be particularly tough on lawn mower blades, since there’s usually a lot of ground to mow, and it’s unlikely to be as manicured as a golf green. Farm lawn mowers are more likely to encounter “off road” terrain. Their blades are at constant risk of damage from rocks, roots, stumps and other unseen obstacles.
As a result, blades can wear down quicker than you might expect. It’s generally advised that blades should be sharpened and/or replaced at least once a year, if not twice. Your lawn mower’s instruction manual may provide guidance on how often to change the blades—perhaps after every 25 hours of mowing.
Read more: These are the 10 important points of midsummer lawn -mower maintenance.
Are They Dull?
But short of following a regimented schedule of preemptive sharpening, how can you tell if your blades have grown dull and need attention? You could always remove the deck, flip it over and examine the blades for chips, dents or cracks.
However, going to such lengths really isn’t necessary. You’ll be able to diagnose the illness by the symptoms. In other words, the quality of the mow job will tell you all you need to know about the quality of your blades.
Pick a section of your yard that’s in need of mowing—preferably an area where the grass is a bit long—and give your mower a spin. As you mow (and once you’re finished), examine the grass from up-close and big-picture perspectives. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Has the grass been cut to an even height? Sharp blades give your lawn an even haircut. Dull blades are more likely to leave patches of uneven height or miss some grass entirely. You’ll be forced to mow the same area multiple times to achieve a tidy appearance.
- Does the grass look ragged? Sharp blades cut cleanly. Dull blades are prone to ripping and tearing grass, leaving behind subtle but significant damage.
- How well does your lawn bounce back from mowing? Grass cut cleanly by sharp blades suffers minimal damage from mowing. Ragged grass damaged by a dull mower is apt to develop brown tips and lose its vibrant appearance.
Read more: These 4 sharpening tools will help put the edge back on your blades.
If any or all of the above symptoms are evident when you mow your lawn, it’s time to sharpen or replace your mower blades.
Sharpening can be an art form in and of itself. You don’t want the blades too sharp, and you have to keep them carefully balanced for optimum performance and reduced strain on the mower.
Lots of folks sharpen their own blades, and there are plenty of tools available for the job. But if your blades have suffered major damage that can’t be eliminated through sharpening, new blades are always a worthwhile investment.
Your lawn will thank you!