Fixing My Old Reel Mower




Introduction: Fixing My Old Reel Mower

Last week we received a ton of rain here in south Texas and our grass grew overnight to triple canopy jungle conditions. I pulled my two reel mowers out, old trusty and old rusty, to knock down the grass. Every thing was going along fine until the rear roller of old rusty broke.  The roller controls the height of the cut, without it the mower scalps your grass. My frugal (read extremely cheap) self decided that to find a replacement part would take to long and cost to much. Off to the hardware store. 

Step 1: The Return From the Hardware Store

I went to Home Depot, which is just a big box store, only because they were the closest to my house. I wanted to keep the cost of this repair low and planned on scrounging my junk pile for some of the parts, but i couldn't find any casters or bolts in the junk pile. From the hardware store i purchased 2-2" fixed casters and 2- 5/16 bolts with washers and nuts. Under $5 total. Not to bad. The parts and supplies had to be cheaper then just buying the replacement. I didn't even look up how much the replacement would be after determining that the repair would be so cheap. From my junk pile i found a piece of 1x2 tubing that was long enough.

Step 2: The Needed Tools

The tools I used are as follows:

Cordless drill- what a bust both of my batteries were dead
1/8th inch twist bit
spring loaded center punch- i didn't feel like looking for a hammer
a few unistep bits- one was to long to fit in the brackets i made and the other had to big of steps. together it was just right
Chop saw
safety glasses-very important, the hardware store doesn't have another set of eyes, be careful with what you already have
vise grips
an old brace-aka original cordless drill. This really suprized me as to how fast i was able to cut metal with thsi old brace.
WD-40 or some other cutting fluid
Welding hood-welding is much better with the ability to see
Wire-fed welder
a speed square

I may have used other stuff but I think this was about all of it.

Step 3: Make Some Brackets

To start this repair i had to make a set of brackets to fit inside of a slot already on the mower and my tubing was a little bit to large to fit (1/8th off in wood =no sweat, 1/8th off in metal= oh dear). I figured i could just cut off slices of my tubing narrow enough to fit into the 3/4 inch slot. that would give me something to weld the cross piece onto later. I chucked the tubing into the chop saw and went to town. I made two brackets the desired width that slipped into the slots perfectly. I just made sure to grind off all of the burrs and some of the rust. The burrs will slice the heck out of your fingers and the rust makes welding with my little machine difficult. I held the bracket to the slot and scribbed the location of the holes on the bracket with my center punch.

Step 4: Drill and Widen the Holes

I used my eyeball gauge to center punch the location of my hole in the brackets. It didnt have to be exact only close. Center punching is worth the few extra seconds it takes to do it. I have had drill bits skip around, break, marr the work piece and bloody my hands all because i didnt center punch first. Its well worth the time.Trying to hold small pieces of metal and drill into them at the same time isnt all that smart, barehanded. Thats where the vise grips or other locking pliers excel. I could have pulled out my vise and set it up (no perment work bench as of yet, maybe for a furture instructable) but the vise grips worked so well and were so fast, I couldnt resist. When it came time to enlarge the holes from 1/8" to the needed 5/16" my cordless drills batteries were drained completely dead. Not to work the original cordless was at hand. This brace was perfect for cutting the hole in metal. It worked faster then the drill and i could really bare down on it with out worring about damaging the motor. I will use this for metal from now on.

Step 5: Attach the Brackets to Both Sides

All the holes were drilled and it was time to assemble the brackets. (I made three sets of holes on the brackets to correspond with the three sets of holes on the slot. This allowed me to adjust the height of the reel mowers blades pretty well. The washer that went into the bracket had to be ground down some for clearance.

Step 6: Make and Weld on the Cross Piece

Fine measurements not needed. I stuck a piece of tubing between the brackets and scribbed a line. This would get me close enough with out needing to located my tape measure. After i cut the tubing it was a friction fit, perfect for welding. Two welds will keep it secure, I mean come on its on a real mower not holding in elephants. It doesn't need many welds.

Step 7: Affixing the Casters

The casters were a little difficult to affix to the cross piece tubing with out them slipping off, until i took the actual wheels off of the casters themselves and then just clamped the brackets for the casters to my tubing. This worked great. The casters were going to hang off the edge of the tubing quite a bit, which was ok since it allowed me to get a greater range of height adjustments. I added a few more welds to caster, at least on three sides encase they were stepped on by an elephant.

Step 8: Test Run

Proof is in the trimmed grass. It worked like a dream on the concrete and worked perfect in the grass. Another caster or two wouldn't hurt as the two by themselves tend to sink a little bit in tall grass. Other then that it works great. Thanks.

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    3 Discussions

    Phil B
    Phil B

    8 years ago on Introduction

    A friend had a reel push mower and his rear roller needed replacement. I turned a long cylinder from some old oak for him. His mower had to projections, one from each side that acted as short axles fitting into the ends of holes in the rear roller. I drilled axle holes on the ends and drove in a sleeve bushings from 1/2 inch electrical conduit. It worked fine.

    Have you ever had to sharpen your reel mowers? I understand the factory equipment for doing that was fairly involved, almost like a lathe to center the reel and then a small grinder moved along a guideway. I imagine a person could improvise something to do a reasonably good job.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I have sharpened a set of blade by draw filing them. Very tedious and only with marginal results. I have found that a properly adjusted space between the spiral blades and the bar they cut against makes more difference then any of my draw filing. Properly adjusted the blades will kinda wear themselves sharp again. I will have to post another in instructable about that soon. There is also kits that are basically lapping compound and a wrench that allows you to spin the reel in reverse. They have good reviews online but unless its adjusted right it doesn't seem to matter. Thanks for viewing my instructable.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I have a more modern reel mower and to sharpen the blades, you pop off the wheels and flip the two pawls around so the blades rotate in the opposite direction. Then you change the adjustment so the shear edge is just touching the blades and apply lapping compound. Run the mower a bit (with the blades spinning backward) then clean off the lapping compound, back off the shear edge a bit, and put the pawls back so the blades rotate the right way (feeding the grass into the shear edge.)

    Even if the pawls are not reversible, I imagine the same technique could be accomplished by removing the blade ratchet and driving the blades backward with a drill.