This is the first in a series of “how to” articles to help you maximize performance and productivity with Toro® products. Watch future issues of Grounds for Success for more how-to tips and information.

Are you using the right rotary blade for your application? That depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. What type of area are you trying to maintain? Do you need to bag or collect clippings? What’s most important to you — aftercut appearance or making the most of your time and your labor pool? These questions make a difference when it comes to selecting a rotary blade.

Here’s a quick look at the types of rotary blades Toro offers for commercial mowers and the typical applications those blades are designed for:

  • Medium sail/flow blade. The “sail” is the part of the cutting blade that’s curved up to create airflow. A medium sail blade is a good all-around, basic blade for standard applications. It’s also the standard factory-installed blade on most Toro rotary mowers. This type of blade creates enough airflow for side discharge, but is not ideal for bagging.
  • Low sail/flow blade. This type of blade is for applications where you don’t want dispersion. It simply cuts the grass and lays it down. A low sail blade may be a good choice for properties like schools and hospitals because it tends to have lower noise (and use less power).
  • High sail/flow blade. A high sail blade is the best choice for collecting clippings, because it creates the lift and vacuum needed to get the clippings into the bag or hopper. Keep in mind that a high sail blade requires more horsepower to operate, which can take away from the machine’s power and increase fuel consumption.
  • Atomic® blade. Atomic mulching blades have an aggressive “tooth” design that shreds grass and leaves into small particles. The teeth curl upward behind the blade to suspend clippings in the chamber so they are cut and recut until they virtually disappear. This type of blade is typically used with a mulching kit, and it’s a good option for areas where you want clippings to be mulched and “recycled” to deliver nutrients back to the soil.
  • Angled sail blade. Angled sail blades generally perform best in lower heights of cut – 1.9 to 6.4 cm (3/4 to 2-1/2 inches). This type of blade has less tendency to throw grass to the left and the discharge remains more even at lower heights of cut, thus leaving a cleaner look around bunkers and fairways. It also requires lower power at lower heights and in dense turf.
  • Combination sail blade. Combination sail blades provide excellent lift and dispersion in almost any mowing conditions. This is the standard blade installed on all Toro Groundmaster® Contour mowers.

Regardless of the type of blade you use, quality of cut also depends on how well-balanced and sharp you keep your blades. Imagine what it’s like to cut an onion with a dull knife compared to a sharp one. It takes more energy, and the cut is not as clean. The same principle applies to rotary blades — a duller blade takes more horsepower to cut the grass than a sharper one, and the difference shows in the quality of cut. It’s also important to recognize when a blade is worn out and there isn’t enough material left to sharpen without compromising safety.

Selecting Bedknives
When it comes to reel mowers, the right bedknife also makes a difference. Height of cut (HOC) is the most important factor in selecting which bedknife to use. While some bedknives may have a range that allows you to cut one area (for example, a baseball diamond) at a lower HOC and another area (such as the outfield) at a higher HOC, a thinner blade may wear faster and therefore have to be changed more often.

Bedknives can also be used to create a striping pattern. This effect is produced by the way grass blade tip is positioned in relationship to the view from where you’re standing. Grass blade tips that are laying toward you appear as dark stripes, but if you turn your body 180 degrees, they appear light in color.

How the bedknife is positioned in relationship to the reel can also make an impact. In fact, there are multiple variables that can be changed to suit what you’re trying to accomplish, depending on the application and the agronomics of the turf. Some of these variables include the number of blades on the reel, the attitude of the bedknife and the clip rate. However, using reels with too many blades for the application can create a poor aftercut appearance.

Need More Information?

If you need guidance on choosing rotary blades or bedknives, contact your local Toro distributor. They can help you determine which option is best for the machine, the application and the results you want to achieve. We also offer a host of information on blades, bedknives, reels, bearings and other related parts on our Toro Genuine Parts website. For specific sizes and part numbers, see the Toro 2020 Performance Parts Quick Reference Guide.