Hand reel lawn mower. Best Reel Mower

The 5 Best Reel Mowers

Arricca SanSone is a health and lifestyle writer, specializing in home, kitchen, and gardening. She has written for Dotdash Meredith since 2019.

If you’re looking for a mower that doesn’t require gasoline, spew smelly fumes, or wake up the neighbors early on a Saturday morning, it’s time to go old-school. Reel mowers, which don’t require electricity, batteries or gas, are what previous generations used. In fact, the first U.S. patent for a reel type mower was 1868, and it looks almost identical to today’s version!

Reel mowers are powered by you so you won’t create planet-heating emissions or other pollutants while you cut the grass. They’re also an alternative to electric corded or battery-powered mowers, which have a limited run time before requiring recharging. Typically, the only maintenance necessary is occasional lubrication of the bearings and blade sharpening every few years.

But it is important to — excuse the bad pun — get real about when these types of mowers should be used. Using a reel mower is a workout, especially on a steamy summer day. Reel mowers are not designed for large yards unless you have ample spare time and plenty of energy; most manufacturers suggest these mowers are best for lawns no larger than a quarter to a half acre. They’re also not great on lawns that aren’t completely level because the wheels can lose contact with the ground so it may miss spots.

Ahead, our picks for the best reel mowers:

Best Overall

Fiskars Stay Sharp Max Reel Mower

With an 18-inch-wide cut and two sets of wheels for cutting closer to edges, this five-blade mower is a good size for most medium yards. The company says the steel blades stay sharp for several years, so you’ll be able to go a while in between sharpening tasks. The one-touch height adjustment ranges from 1 inch to 4 inches so it can accommodate different types of grass including tough species such as St. Augustine, Bermuda and Zoysia.

A reversible grass chute allows you to direct where clippings go. The downside? It weighs about 52 pounds so you’re going to work hard. It performs great, it is heavy to lift over obstacles. There’s an optional grass catcher available at additional cost, and it has a limited three-year warranty.

Price at time of publish: 294

Best Budget

Remington 16 in. Manual Walk Behind Reel Lawn Mower

This five-blade mulching mower makes a 16-inch-wide cut and has a lever height adjustment with nine positions ranging from 0.75 inches to 2.5 inches. It has 10-inch wheels in front and 6-inch wheels in back for better maneuverability, and it comes with a two-year warranty.

It’s an affordable option, but that it tends to bend, rather than cut some tall weeds, which actually is typical for many reel mowers.

Price at time of publish: 125

Best for Small Yards

Great States 14 Inch Wide 5-Blade Reel Lawn Mower

This 14-inch wide mower has five steel blades and 8.5-inch rubber wheels. The t-style handle is cushioned, and it’s the only part you’ll have to assemble out of box, though you won’t need any tools. Cutting heights can be adjusted from 0.5 inches to 1.75 inches. It throws grass behind and to the left of the mower so keep driveways or walks to the right to prevent making additional work for yourself (or you’ll have to sweep).

hand, reel, lawn, mower, best

At 21 pounds, it’s lightweight and maneuverable so it’s ideal for small yards. The company has been around for 125 years and was acquired in 1936 by American Lawn Mower Company, which makes nearly identical reel mower models under other brand names including Earthwise and Scotts. This mower has a one-year limited warranty. It’s great for a small yard but don’t let the grass get taller than 4 inches or you’ll have to make multiple passes.

Price at time of publish: 100

I’m starting to Like Push Mowing using the Troy Bilt TB110 Lawn

Best with Grass Catcher

Sun Joe MJ500M Manual Reel Mower w/ Grass Catcher

This five-blade mower has a 16-inch wide cut and 8.8-inch wheels with four adjustable cutting heights from 0.88 inches to 1.81 inches. At just 22 pounds, it’s a lightweight option that will work well for most small yards.

A grass catcher is included, making this a budget-friendly choice if you wish to pick up clippings (such as when you let the lawn get too long before cutting). It comes with a two-year limited warranty. It’s light and maneuverable and a good value.

Price at time of publish: 90

Best Splurge

Clipper USA 19 Reel Mower

This reel mower is definitely the gold standard. It’s pricey, but it’s built for durability with heavy commercial-grade parts. It has an adjustable handle, aluminum wheels with standard 10-inch rubber tires, a stainless-steel shaft, and six riveted steel reel blades. The cutting height adjusts from 1 inch to 2.5 inches.

The 19-inch mower weighs in at 42 pounds, and Clipper also makes versions with 17 and 21-inch cutting widths. It’s made by Amish craftspeople in the United States and comes with an impressive 10-year warranty. It’s a high-quality machine and has a heavy-duty feel, meaning it should last a lifetime.

Price at time of publish: 699

Our top pick for its size and versatility is the Fiskars Stay Sharp Max Reel Mower (view at Amazon). However, it’s heavy for some users, if you need a lighter option consider the Mow Joe 16 in. Manual mower from Sun Joe (view on Home Depot). It weighs in at 22 pounds instead of 50, cuts a wide swatch and comes with a grass catcher.

What to Consider When Shopping for a Manual Reel Mower


Manual mowers usually range from 20 to 50 pounds so they do require effort to push, especially if your grass is long or you have a large yard. So, if you want less a less strenuous experience, look for a lighter model. Reel mowers typically have cutting widths from 14 inches to 21 inches wide. If your yard is medium-sized, stick with wider cuts or you’ll need to make lots of passes.

Cutting Height

Cutting height is adjustable on most mowers, ranging from roughly.5 inch to 4 inches. Pay attention to this feature so that you choose one that will allow you to cut your grass at the correct height for its species to keep it healthy.

For example, Bermuda grass should be cut at 1.5 to 2.5 inches while tall fescue should be mowed at 2.5 to 4 inches. If you don’t know what kind of grass you have, your local university county coop extension service (find yours here) can help you identify it.

What Happens to Cuttings

Some reel mowers come with grass catchers as well, though they’re typically small and need to be emptied often. Most turfgrass experts recommend you leave the cuttings on the lawn as organic fertilizer. Finally, be aware that you’ll need to do lawn cleanup before mowing because no reel mower does well running over twigs, vines or leaves. Most will, quite honestly, get jammed and require you to stop to remove the obstruction.


How hard is it to push a reel mower?

That depends on several factors, including your fitness level and the mower’s size. For example, there’s a big difference in how it feels to push a 20-pound reel mower versus a 50-pounder around the yard for 45 minutes, especially if you’re less active or have underlying health conditions. There’s also resistance from the wheels, which are what cause the reel blades to rotate. The length of the grass is another contributing issue because if it’s long (4 inches or more), the mower requires more effort to push. If you have a hilly yard, it’s definitely a challenge to mow uphill!

How does a push reel mower work?

A reel mower is like cart a with a long handle. The brush bar at the bottom front of the mower presses the blades of grass downward as you push the mower forward. As the reel spins, the grass is caught in between the reel blades and the cutter bar, or blade, which is at the back of the mower. It’s like scissor blades coming together and sliding across each other to cut a piece of paper.

In fact, this scissor action produces a clean, even cut, which is beneficial for turf health. That’s because clean cuts improve grass recovery after a mowing, decrease water loss, increase photosynthesis, and reduce risk of disease development.

How do you sharpen push reel mower blades?

Most reel mowers need sharpened every year or two. Because the reel usually is not removable, it’s a bit challenging. The easiest method is to invest in an inexpensive sharpening kit, sometimes called a back-lapping kit (view on Home Depot). They’re usually specific to the brand of mower, so make sure it will work for yours. A kit typically contains grinding compound, application brush, and a back-lapping crank.

Every mower is a little different but in general, you’ll remove one wheel and the gear under it, then insert the crank handle into that same hole. Apply the compound with a brush on the edge of each reel blade and turn the reel in a counter-clockwise direction (this is opposite of the normal mowing rotation). Watch your fingers and wear gloves! Turn the crank for about 10 minutes. Use a rag to remove the compound. You should see a clean shiny edge along the whole blade. There are plenty of YouTube videos to show you how it’s done, or if this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, have it sharpened by a mower shop.

Wait…aren’t lawns bad for the environment?

Heavily watered and chemically treated lawns can have a big negative impact on the environment, and some pesticides used on lawns can even pose a health risk to children and pets.

However, turf isn’t all bad. Research shows that turf grasses do provide benefits such as storm runoff reduction, removal of impurities during percolation of the water through the root zone, and the ability to mitigate the urban heat island effect. Kids and pets need a place to play, too!

But if you reduce the size of your lawn by replacing at least some of it with native plants and flowers, you’ll also decrease the resources needed for its maintenance. At the very least, mow less frequently, which recent studies have found is beneficial for pollinator populations.

Why Trust Treehugger

Treehugger wants to help homeowners find garden tools which have no or little impact on the environment. Arricca SanSone specializes in writing about home, shelter, and gardening.

Best Reel Mower

These are the 10 best reel mowers based on product quality, customer satisfaction, and price:

There are real advantages to owning a property that does not have a very large lawn. Smaller lawns are a lot easier to maintain and care for than large ones, for fairly obvious reasons. This allows you to really concentrate on paying more attention to the details of the lawn. It is more likely that you will be able to catch weeds as soon as they crop up on a smaller lawn; you can more easily overseed the lawn when it starts getting sparse or as winter approaches; and you will notice brown patches or bare spots a lot more quickly on a smaller lawn. But best of all, you do not need a big, power lawn mower to keep a smaller lawn looking great.

In the past, power mowers had several advantages over reel mowers: not only did they have much wider cutting decks than reel mowers, they also generally outperformed reel mowers in terms of the power they could provide and the evenness of the cut they gave the lawn. But this is no longer the case. In recent years, design innovations have increased the width of reel mowers’ cutting decks considerably, and now there are models available that can provide the same widths as many power lawn mowers. And in a similar vein, modern reel mowers have extra blades that are made to spin faster and provide professional looking manicured cuts to your lawn.

There are plenty of reasons reel mowers can be a superior choice to gas powered or even electric lawn mowers. For starters, there is the environmental aspect: reel mowers are the only ones that are truly 100 percent free of carbon emissions. These machines run on nothing but human power, and you can significantly reduce your family’s carbon footprint by switching to one. Reel mowers also do not need the kind of maintenance that gas powered lawn mowers do, and unlike electric lawn mowers they do not have batteries that will one day die.

In fact, if they are properly taken care of, reel mowers can last practically indefinitely, and may even outlive their owners. Beyond that, reel mowers are much simpler to use than power mowers: you simply point the reel mower in the right direction and start pushing. And they are much lighter and take up far less storage space in your garage or tool shed than electric or gas lawn mowers do.

But there are a lot of reel mowers out there, made by different companies, and with different designs, reel widths, and other specs. It can be difficult to determine which one is the best for you. Fortunately, finding the right reel mower does not have to be that hard. By familiarizing yourself with the characteristics that set the best reel mowers apart from the pack, you can quickly determine whether a particular model is quality or not. Then, once you have narrowed down the field to a few of the best models, all that’s left is figuring out how much you want to spend.

Best Reel Mower Characteristics

1a. Cutting Width

On any lawn mower – but especially on reel mowers – the cutting reel width is going to be one of the most important factors in determining the mower’s efficiency. The width of the cutting reel is going to establish how big a swath the lawn mower can cut in a single pass. Wider cutting reels can cut a lawn in fewer passes than narrower cutting reels can, which will save you a great deal of time and effort in the long run. You want to make sure you are getting the widest possible cutting reel for your price range. But it is also important to ensure that the cutting reel is not so wide that it will be unwieldy or difficult to get into tight corners. While this is not usually much of a problem with reel mowers, it is still something that is worth thinking about.

The width of most cutting reels is typically between ten and twenty inches, although there are a few reel mowers that are slightly wider than that. Regardless of how small your lawn is, I do not think it is a good move to get a ten inch reel mower – no matter how cheap it is. Increasing that width by just a few inches can cut down on the total amount of time you have to spend mowing your lawn by as much as thirty percent.

hand, reel, lawn, mower, best

That may not seem like a lot – especially if it takes you less than half an hour to cut your lawn – but it can seriously add up over the course of a summer. As much as I love working in the yard, in my opinion the less time you have to spend mowing the lawn the more time you can commit to weeding and feeding it, edging it, and making sure it is the best looking little lawn on your block.

Very wide reels are of course going to be able to cut your lawn much faster than even medium sized ones, but there is a limit to the return you will get on reel sizes. As they get bigger, the extra inch or two does not have the same effect that it will on a small lawn mower’s ability to cut a lawn quickly. So you will reach a point – usually around 80% of the biggest available size – in which the extra cost outweighs the benefit.

1b. Reel Design

The design of the blades and cutting reel on a manual reel mower is very important – arguably more important than the design of the cutting deck on a power mower to that kind of machine’s performance. That is because on a reel mower, there is no motor or engine helping to drive the blades through grass. On mechanical machines, the engineering and design of key components is what will determine their overall ability to get work done. If the design is shoddy – or even if it is not the most superior available – you are going to wind up doing a lot more work to get a good cut than you should have to.

There are various designs for the cutting reel, and certain ones are definitely superior to others. The traditional design for a reel mower is one in which the cutting reel is mounted on a free wheel assembly that is connected to the outer wheels; as the wheels turn, they push the cutting reel. This design has its limits, however: much like on a single-speed bicycle, it takes a fair amount of effort to overcome the resting inertia of the cutting reel and get it spinning quickly.

recently, cutting reel design has improved so that it does not take the same amount of effort to get the reel spinning at a good clip. These models have their reels mounted ball bearings between the shaft and the blades. These reels will also have more shafts – called “spiders” in the industry – mounted between each end to both provide more support to the blades and more contact points to the wheels. The contact points are mounted on ball bearings. Extra contact points allows for more ball bearing supports. ball bearings allow the cutting reel to spin much more freely than on older models, which makes it far easier to get the cutting reel spinning quickly and makes sure the cutting reel spins longer without losing momentum.

The number and design of the blades is important as well. Five blades is always going to be superior to three or even four. The design of the blades will either be traditional, in which the cutting reel makes contact with a slicing blade in the rear of the mower, or no-contact. No-contact reel mowers are exactly that: the cutting reel does not make contact with the rear slicing blade. These mowers run almost silently, which is one advantage; more importantly, they do not need to be sharpened as often.

1c. Materials Durability

Again, as with the design of the cutting reel, the materials that the reel mower is constructed with are going to have a huge impact on its ability to cut the lawn. With a power mower you can get away for a little while with blades that are not made of high gauge steel or a body that is made of thick plastic, but this is not the case with a reel mower. These machines have no power source to support them, and so they need to be made of the highest quality materials.

This is especially true if you are purchasing a mower with a traditional style cutting reel, although it also applies with a no-contact reel mower. Because the blades on a traditional style reel are making contact with a thick rear slicing blade on every single spin, they will get worn down very easily if they are not made of durable, high gauge, heat treated steel. This will mean you have to sharpen them more often than once a year – which is the maximum you should have to sharpen reel mower blades – and will wind up costing you a lot of time, effort, and possibly even money in the long run.

But it is not just the blades that have to be made from durable materials. The entire machine has to hold up to the rigors of manually cutting the lawn. The wheels on reel mowers are almost universally made of plastic, but there are plenty of models that have rubber tires as well. Make sure the wheels are made of a durable composite poly, and not a thin plastic. Metal wheels are obviously better. Te tires do not have to be very thick, but they should at least have treads that will help provide more traction to the mower.

The handle should also be made of durable metal. Aluminum handles, unless they are reinforced, are not going to cut it. You will be putting your weight on the handle in order to get the mower going – especially if you are pushing it through dense grass or working on tough Bermuda or St. Augustine varietals – and you do not want to have the handle buckling or bending under the strain. Finally, make sure the connections are made of solid, well designed nuts and bolts. I generally stay away from wing nuts, and avoid plastic connectors altogether for obvious reasons.

1d. Cutting Height

The height adjustment options are very important on reel mowers for a number of reasons. Depending on the season and type of grass you have, you are going to want to be able to cut it at different heights. A fair number of reel mowers do not have very tall settings for their blade height, and this can present problems depending on what kind of grass you have.

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Reel vs Rotary Lawn Mowers // Pros and Cons, Cut Quality, How To Mow Low

It is more important to let the grass grow a bit taller in the heat of summer than it is in colder months (obviously if you live in a climate that gets real winters, you will not be mowing it during the winter at all, and rarely in the spring or summer). It is also important to make sure you are never cutting your lawn shorter than 1/3 its current height, because this can leave it susceptible to all kinds of problems. Grass that is consistently cut too short will be more likely to suffer the effects of drought. It will also be more likely to develop problems with insects, invasions from weeds, or microbial infections.

But on the other hand, there are times when you do want to cut your lawn very short. If you are preparing your lawn for overseeding it, this is part of the process. Overseeding is an important part of lawn care, especially if you live in a region where warm season grasses predominate; these species go dormant during the winter, and overseeding with winter rye can keep your lawn looking great through those months. Overseeding is also a good way to reinvigorate a lawn that is getting thin or straggly. The first step in overseeding is scalping the lawn, or cutting it down to a half an inch or so. With a reel mower that does not go that low, you will have problems properly caring for it.

You can see why it is important to find a reel mower that has a fairly wide range of height adjustment options. I prefer mowers that can be adjusted from a half an inch all the way up to 3.5 or even 4 inches. This gives you a good range for whatever length your grass needs to be cut. In addition to this, make sure the reel mower has several options within that range. It’s no good if there are only two or three height options to choose from.

1e. Other Considerations

There are a few other considerations to look at once you have narrowed down your decision to a few reel mowers based on the width, design, and height of the cutting reel and the height options. Some of these affect how easy it will be to use the mower, and others influence how well the mower will function. They include the mower’s size and weight, ergonomic considerations, grass management options.

The size and weight of the reel mower are important for a variety of reasons. While reel mowers are the most compact lawn mowers out there, they do vary in weight a bit. A lighter mower is going to be a bit easier to maneuver around the yard and lift up to but away on a hook in the tool shed, which is good. But heavier reel mowers have the advantage that they will be more stable on uneven ground and be able to tackle tough patches of grass more easily.

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The overall footprint of reel mowers is typically pretty small, too, but again there is some variance here. One area in which the total size of the mower is important is in relation to the width of the blade. You do not want to buy a reel mower that has wheels that are set much wider apart than the cutting reel. When this is the case, you are left with a trip of uncut grass at the edge of the lawn, especially if it abuts walls or fences, which will force you to go back over that strip with an edger.

The ergonomics of the machine will determine how comfortable it is to use it, and this is important for your own health as well. Make sure the handle of the reel mower is well padded with foam. The handle should be adjustable to accommodate users of different heights. Loop handles tend to be more ergonomic than T-shaped handles.

Not many reel mowers come with multiple options for managing the clippings, but some do. Certain models come with rear grass catchers, which get rid of the need to rake clippings from the lawn or sweep them up. And among reel mowers that do not have grass catchers, most kick clippings out the back of the cutting reel. But more recently, designs in which the clippings kick out the front of the mower are becoming more common; these are great for saving your shoes from grass stains.

Best Reel Mower Reviews

Fiskars 6201

The Fiskars 6201 Stay Sharp Max push reel mower has an eighteen inch wide cutting deck, which makes it one of the bigger reel mowers out there today. It is designed to be 60% easier to push than other mowers because of its innovative Inertia Drive, and the reel delivers twice as much power as [. ]

Pros: Super wide 18 inch cutting deck.

Cons: The mower weighs 52 pounds.

Explore all Lawn Mowers

Discover the eco-friendly and low-maintenance way to mow with Greenworks’ push and self-propelled electric lawn mowers. From 24V to 80V, find the perfect battery-powered fit for your lawn and ditch the noise, fumes, and hassle of gas mowers for good.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does this mulch?

Yes, Greenworks mowers are designed for grass and mulching weeds and foliage—and has a side discharge and a bagging option.

What maintenance is required for my Greenworks mower?

Unlike traditional gas mowers, Greenworks electric mowers require no gas or oil changes, spark plug replacements, or carburetor cleanings. This makes maintenance a breeze, our mowers only need occasional blade sharpening and cleaning (discharge, bag, etc.) to keep them running smoothly.

Can I use these batteries with the string trimmer?

Yes, one battery allows you to mow, blow, cut, trim, cultivate, and so much more! One Greenworks 80V battery works with 75 tools. One Greenworks 60V battery works with 75 tools. One Greenworks 40V battery works with 75 tools. One Greenworks 24V battery works with 125 tools

Will it work in high grass?

Greenworks Intelligent Power™ senses thick, tall, or wet grass and maintains constant high blade speed for the perfect cut.

Does battery temperature matter?

Yes, to keep your lithium batteries in peak condition, store them indoors in a dry, cool place. Check the owner’s manual for storage and temperature instructions and let the batteries warm up to room temperature before using.

Reel mowers are quiet and don’t spew air pollution like gas engine mowers do. They’re simple to maintain, and sharpening the blades is easier than you might think.

In 1962, when I was a teenager, my father gave our neighbor, Mr. Gruder, 10 for a reel mower of my very own. The ash handle shone with age and use, and it had a canvas grass catcher. Mr. Gruder had built the reel mower from parts — the finest custom-made machine of its kind ever built. Pushing it revved up the blades, a cylinder of curved scimitars that sliced each blade of grass to the same height. Mr. Gruder gave me a lesson on how to safely sharpen the blades to razor sharp. “Wear gloves,” he said, as he demonstrated.

For nearly a year, I mowed lawns with my trusty push mower. I wish I still had it. But two years ago, I found a Super Chief reel mower in an antique store. It had a broken handle but a spotless canvas grass catcher. It was just 75 for a piece of American history, stored indoors for 50 years.

Buying a Reel Lawn Mower

A good vintage reel lawn mower handle should be splinter-free, with solid handles baptized in boiled linseed oil. But if a bad handle is the only thing wrong with a used machine and it has a good price, buy it. For 10, I commissioned a high school shop class to make a handle for the Super Chief.

Old machines in good working condition are rare, but worth the hunt because they’re often inexpensive. But are they worth the hours of restoration? To me, yes, but you may be happier with a more recent model — something you won’t have to repair or restore first. The Mercedes of modern reel mowers is the German-made Brill Razorcut 38, and it’s priced accordingly (250). But you can also find economy models, such as Scotts Classic Reel Mower, priced at a bit more than 100. Tip: The grass-catcher attachment is worth having on all models, as reel mowers don’t mulch clippings.

Maintaining and Sharpening a Reel Mower

You should perform basic maintenance on a reel lawn mower after every third use, and the procedure is perfectly simple. First, put it up on a workbench. If you grovel at its level, it’s easier to be injured by the blades and lose tiny parts in the grass.

If it’s old, the blades probably need to be sharpened, and you need practice to do this right. Moving the wheels forward causes the blade cage to rotate rapidly because of the movement of a series of gears (which might need to be oiled or repacked with grease). Check the rubber wheels. If they’re slick and can’t get traction, the reel won’t turn efficiently. You can temporarily repair this by making grooves in the tires with a three-corner file — until you have time to look for replacement wheels.

Always wear leather gloves when working with the blades for any reason, including debris removal when mowing. To hone the blades, jam a wooden stick through the cage to prevent it from turning. A coarse sharpening stone and a light application of cutting oil will make each blade sharp within seven or eight light (but even and smooth) strokes. Follow the angle of the blade as closely as possible.

Use the same number of strokes on every blade to ensure a uniform distance of all blades from the cutting bar, which should almost touch the whirling blades, leaving room for the width of a blade of grass. You may need to adjust the cutting bar when you’re done. If your blades slice easily through a sheet of newspaper placed on the cutting bar, you’ve done it right.

Some experts advise dabbing the honed blades with grinding paste and pulling the mower backward for 10 minutes. But I tried out this method, and can tell you that death-by-boredom may occur in half that time. A young person, if desperate enough, might do it for 20, if nobody sees them. (Those were exactly my nephew’s terms.)

On most models, the gears in the wheel assembly aren’t hard to access, but you must be careful not to lose any nuts, bolts or pins. (Drop them in a small can or jar for collection and oiling.) Remove the wheel covers and pack the exposed gears with light grease. If you’re lucky, the wheel covers on your model will have lubrication holes. After each mowing, use a garden hose or air compressor to clean the blades and wheels. Then spray everything liberally with WD-40.

Always mow on a dry, clear day — weekly is best.

I don’t miss the pollution, the stench of hydrocarbon exhaust, or the unrelenting decibels of a gas engine mower. Instead, I have the silence, the pure scent of newly mown grass, and the satisfaction of light muscle-powered work. No earplugs required.

If you’d like to know more about sharpening blades on conventional gas-engine mowers, read A Midsummer’s Sharpening: How to Sharpen Your Lawn Mower Blade.

Do you use a push reel mower? Have you sharpened its blades? Share your experience in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев section below.

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