Plans For Building A Manual Sod Cutter

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You can rent heavier equipment, such as a sod cutter, which will cut under the turf and slice it into strips. Roll up the strips for use elsewhere or just turn the sod upside down and let it compost. You can remove grass manually with a shovel, but the process is very labor intensive and best for a small plot of grass.

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If you need to remove a small area of turf grass to expand a flower bed or remove thatch, a manual sod cutter is an economical, environmentally friendly option. Instead of laying sod to create a lawn, this tool removes 12-inch wide strips of sod from the soil without gas power. An nahw al wadih pdf files pdf. A kick-style manual sod cutter resembles a manual lawn mower with two handlebars and an adjustable cutting bar. You can buy or rent a manual sod cutter from a home and garden center or sod distributor.


Prepare the lawn the day before you cut the sod. Mow the lawn to reduce the weight and volume of the sod. Insert a hand spade or screwdriver into the soil to make sure the top 2- or 3-inch layer is moist and soft. Water the lawn with a garden hose if the soil is dry and compacted.


Put on gardening gloves and work shoes, and place the sod cutter at one end of the area you want to cut. Set the blade 1 to 2 inches deep to cut the root layer, or set it to skim the soil surface for inch-thick thatch removal.


Press down on the handles to force the horizontal blade into the soil. Kick the crossbar that connects the handles to move the sod cutter forward, allowing the blade to slide under the grass and loosen the sod. Continue to push and kick the sod cutter forward across the area you want to cut.


Pull up the handles to remove the blade from the soil. Roll up the strips of sod and set them aside for disposal or turf repair in another area.

Things You Will Need

  • Lawnmower
  • Hand spade or screwdriver
  • Garden hose (optional)
  • Gardening gloves
  • Heavy work shoes


  • Manual sod removal is a labor-intensive project. For large projects, ask another person to help you cut and roll the sod or consider renting a gas-powered sod cutter.

References (5)

About the Author

Judith Evans has been writing professionally since 2009, specializing in gardening and fitness articles. An avid gardener, Evans has a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of New Hampshire, a Juris Doctor from Vermont Law School, and a personal trainer certificate from American Fitness Professionals and Associates.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
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Evans, Judith. 'How to Use a Manual Sod Cutter.' Home Guides SF Gate, Accessed 11 January 2020.
Evans, Judith. (n.d.). How to Use a Manual Sod Cutter. Home Guides SF Gate. Retrieved from
Evans, Judith. 'How to Use a Manual Sod Cutter' accessed January 11, 2020.
Note: Depending on which text editor you're pasting into, you might have to add the italics to the site name.

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Sod is cut commercially for landscapers and builders, but homeowners can also cut it by using a machine called a sod cutter, available at equipment rental stores and garden centers. Cutting your own sod enables you to have new grass when you need it, at no cost. However, mastering the use of a sod cutter takes a bit of practice.

Preparation and Safety

Wear eye protection and closed-toe shoes when using a sod cutter and avoid loose clothing that may get caught in the cutter’s moving parts. Ensure pets and other people are a minimum distance of 30 feet from the machine at all times during operation, and never turn the sod cutter on in enclosed areas such as a garage or shed. Water the soil prior to cutting to give the blades of the sod cutter some traction. In dry soils the blades may slip and the sod cutter’s wheels may skid, which makes it difficult to control the machine. Check the oil level before use. The oil should reach between the two marks on the dipstick. If it does not, add high quality detergent oil according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Starting the Cutter

To start your sod cutter, shift the throttle or transmission lever, which is typically on the handlebars, to the “neutral” position. Push the blade engagement lever, which is typically on the side at the rear of the machine, away from you to lift the cutting blade above the ground. Move the sod cutter to the area of lawn you plan to cut and disengage the clutch before you start the engine. The sod cutter won’t start if the clutch is engaged. Lift the handlebars while pulling the blade engagement lever toward you to lower the blade to the ground.

Cutting the Sod

Cutting sod is simple once you start the machine. Push down on the handlebars and shift the throttle lever to the full position, and then push downward on the sod cutter constantly as you walk the machine forward. The cut sod should have 3/4 inch or less of soil attached to it to ensure rapid root growth when it is replanted. As you cut, walk in a straight line at a slow speed. The distance you walk determines the length of the sod cut. Four-foot strips are usually ideal. At the end of the cut, lift the handlebars and when the blade is clear of the sod, disengage the clutch control lever and the cutter will stop. Turn off the engine and raise the cutting blade when you finish cutting.

Blade Depth Adjustment

Most sod cutters have levers on the side at the rear of the machine. The uppermost lever typically raises and lowers the blade, the next locks the blade into place and the lowest lever locks the blade angle. You will also find a depth control knob in this location. Turn the hex nut on this knob with an adjustable wrench to unlock the depth control. Turn it clockwise to add cutting depth or counterclockwise to reduce it. Tighten the hex nut to lock the blade into position before you resume cutting.

References (2)

About the Author

Renee Miller began writing professionally in 2008, contributing to websites and the 'Community Press' newspaper. She is co-founder of On Fiction Writing, a website for writers. Miller holds a diploma in social services from Clarke College in Belleville, Ontario.

Cite this Article
Choose Citation Style
Miller, Renee. 'Sod Cutter Instructions.' Home Guides SF Gate, Accessed 11 January 2020.
Miller, Renee. (n.d.). Sod Cutter Instructions. Home Guides SF Gate. Retrieved from
Miller, Renee. 'Sod Cutter Instructions' accessed January 11, 2020.
Note: Depending on which text editor you're pasting into, you might have to add the italics to the site name.