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.
RELAXING LAWN MOWING || JOHN DEERE REEL MOWER-LAWN CARE || The Southern Reel Mower
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:
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
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).
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
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
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 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.
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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.
00A PrecisionCut™ Large-Area Reel Mower
control with the TechControl display with a large easy-to-read screen
Passcode-protected TechControl display enables quickly setting or changing mowing speed, turning speed, or transport speed to limit variations in performance by different operators.
Mow setting screen
Quickly adjust the mow or transport speed to make sure mow speed is what is needed for the changing conditions. The setting can be adjusted precisely using a speedometer app on a smartphone or global positioning system (GPS) device.
Turn-speed setting screen
Use the TechControl to slow the machine during turns while mowing and protect against turf scuffing and aggressive turning operators.
The turn speed control engages when in mow and the cutting units are lifted for turns. Once the turn is made and the cutting units are lowered, the machine speed returns to the set mow speed.
The turn speed is a percentage of mow speed. When set to 100 percent, turn speed control is off or allows 100 percent of the mow speed in turns. Turn speed setting of 50 percent allows only 50 percent of the set mow speed to be reached during turns.
Mow speed = 9.66 km/h (6 mph)Turn speed set at 50 percentMaximum turning speed will be 4.83 km/h (3 mph)
Service timers screen
The A-model PrecisionCut™ Mowers, E-Cut™ Hybrid Mowers, and TerrainCut™ Mowers have the latest in advanced diagnostics through the TechControl display. Most all diagnostics are performed while sitting in the operator’s seat.
The TechControl has onboard visual diagnostics allowing quick and easy machine diagnostics, maximizing up time. The system allows technician to see inputs and outputs of the electrical system. Also, the technician can see stored controller codes on the machine to aide in troubleshooting incidents that may have occurred while on the course.
The TechControl will also display the notification for maintenance of the hydraulic and engine oils using service timers to notify when it has reached the time to perform the required service.
Choose from a list of several languages to use for the TechControl.
Operator warning notifications are incorporated into the TechControl and will alert the operator if a problem arises during operation.
Hydraulic oil filter restriction
Engine coolant temperature
eHydro™ hydrostatic pump and large-capacity wheel motors for serious hill-climbing capabilities and lower maintenance
Large wheel motors
eHydro traction pump
The 9009A TerrainCut and the 8900A PrecisionCut utilizes the same eHydro traction pump and wheel motors in the A-model take performance, traction, and operation to the next level. This is combined with the standard GRIP system that reduces wheel slip by sending flow from the front wheel to the opposite rear wheel.
The system is designed to take on the most challenging course conditions ideal for undulating terrain, providing superior performance and traction out on the course.
The traction system in the A-models is driven by a servo-controlled hydrostatic pump. The control of the pump is no longer mechanical linkages, but instead it is electronic. The design reduced the complexity of the drive system meaning no more linkages to adjust or repair decreased routine maintenance and providing reliable day-in/day-out operation.
The end result is more options for mowing different terrain then just straight up and down. The standard GRIP system ensures that when mowing slopes on an angle the high side tire maintains tractions unlike like mechanical systems used on other rough mowers. This increases productivity in tight areas and reduces damage to turf from wheel slippage.
The operator will benefit from eHydro, too. The pedal effort has been reduced, reducing the foot fatigue during many hours of mowing.
GRIP all-wheel drive traction system provides superior traction by reducing wheel slip
Standard GRIP all-wheel drive
For superior traction with a true hydraulic four-wheel drive (4WD), the GRIP all-wheel drive traction system is standard on the 8900A Large-Area Reel Mower. This system reduces wheel slip by sending flow from the front wheel to the opposite rear wheel.
For example, if the front-right wheel starts to slip, hydraulic flow is diverted to the left-rear wheel to maintain positive traction. By allowing the flow to cross over to the opposite rear wheel, the system maintains traction not only while climbing straight up hills, but also on side hills, as well.
The GRIP all-wheel drive traction system is always engaged when driving forward. There are no electronics to engage the 4WD system, simplifying the electrical system and the design of the valve at the rear of the machine.
In reverse, a standard switch is provided that disengages 4WD. The switch senses that the reverse pedal has been depressed and shuts off flow to the rear drive wheels. This ensures that the front drive tires are doing the work in reverse rather than the rear tires, minimizing wheel slip and scuffing of turf when backing up an incline.
Double-acting, single-rod hydraulic steering cylinder for lines as straight as a greens mower
Steering cylinder and linkage system
For superintendents who want stripes as straight as they are on the greens, the A-model PrecisionCut™ Mowers and E-Cut™ Hybrid Mowers do exactly that. Utilizing the same style steering cylinder as on the 2550 PrecisionCut and 2550 E-Cut Hybrid Riding Greens Mowers, the PrecisionCut and E-Cut Hybrid Mowers can mow the straightest lines of any mower in the industry today.
Traditional hydraulic cylinders have a rod on only one side of the cylinder. The cylinder on the A-models has one rod that goes through both sides of the cylinder. This equalizes volume and pressure on both sides of the cylinder packing, helping the operator make perfectly straight lines with little effort.
This system also equalizes the steering effort, meaning easy turns whether turning to the right or to the left.
Low machine weight and tires sized for proper weight distribution, traction, and low ground pressure
The 8900A PrecisionCut™ Large-Area Reel Mower is light weight to provide excellent results on the golf course. The lower weight helps reduce the overall foot print in fine turf conditions reducing compaction and turf stress. Along with the lower weight, the 8900A features 26.5 x12-12 turf tires for low footprint and maximum traction in the toughest conditions. This combination provides a strong traction package with low levels of ground compaction.
Easily accessible daily service points mean less maintenance time and more time working
Easy access for cleaning
Easier daily maintenance points are designed into the machine to assist operators with complete daily maintenance and to keep the machine running at peak performance, saving valuable time and money.
For ease of service, all daily engine checks are easily accessible by raising the hood. These service points include an engine-oil level check, a coolant level check, hydraulic fluid level, and an air-restriction indicator.
The A-model PrecisionCut™ Mowers, E-Cut™ Hybrid Mowers, and TerrainCut™ Mowers feature a radiator screen that is easily removed without tools and a tilt-out oil cooler for easy cleaning.
LoadMatch™ electronic setting compensates speed of machine to keep power to the cutting units to maintain cut quality
LoadMatch is an electronic setting through the TechControl display that allows managers more control of the machine and how it is operated when out on the course.
Most operators will mow as fast as the mow setting will allow, keeping their traction pedal all the way down. However, in some conditions this can lead to poor cut quality.
One example is getting behind in mowing due to weather conditions. The grass is long and lush and to properly cut that amount of grass at one time, the operator should slow the traction speed. This allows the cutting units to maintain proper turning speed, process the grass, and properly cut in one pass. Not slowing down causes missed grass and an uneven appearance. This affects the after-cut appearance and also reduces productivity by having to mow a second time to properly cut the lush grass.
The LoadMatch feature compensates the traction speed of machine to keep power to the cutting units. In the long, lush conditions described above with LoadMatch engaged, the operator would still have the traction pedal all the way down, but the machine would sense the load and slow the traction speed to properly cut the mowing pass. Once the load is reduced, the machine will return to the normal mow speed.
LoadMatch puts the manager in control of cut quality instead of the operator.
AutoPedal™ feature lowers sound levels and fuel consumption during transport
The AutoPedal feature controls engine rpm and transport speed of the machine through the eHydro™ foot pedal controls. AutoPedal is similar to an automobile gas pedal operation; the more the forward pedal is pressed, the faster the machine moves and the higher the engine rpm; pressing the pedal less, the slower the machine moves and the lower the engine rpm.
On conventional machines, the engine rpm is controlled by the operator by means of a manual or electric/manual throttle. Operators are trained to always operate the engine at wide-open throttle. Running at wide open throttle means running the engine at its fastest speed, which increases the sound levels and fuel usage.
The AutoPedal system allows the engine to only run as fast as needed, meaning that as operators transport around the course, the engine speed is only as fast as needed for the transport speed. If the operator approaches play and stops, the engine rpm goes to idle. This makes transporting quieter and since the engine does not run full speed all the time, it reduces fuel consumption.
Once the operator reaches the mowing site, engages the mow switch on the CommandARM™ controls, the engine rpm automatically increases to full throttle for mowing.
Optional vertical cutting units maximize productivity providing ultimate grooming of turf
Many of the hybrid turfgrasses require aggressive maintenance practices to stimulate new lateral and vertical growth for a true and healthy playing surface. Frequent, light verticutting is an integral part of properly maintaining these cultivars as well as some of the more traditional turf types.
The Quick-Adjust 7 (QA7) verticutters for the 8900A PrecisionCut™ Large-Area Reel Mower and the 7200A and 2653B PrecisionCut Trim and Surrounds Mowers make it easy to accomplish this task with quick adjustments and durable verticutter blades. The 7-in. (17.8-cm) verticutter blades are designed for efficient, consistent cutting and come in 26-in. (66.0-cm) or 30-in. (76.2-cm) widths to maximize productivity.
For aggressive results, run the verticutters in the reverse direction by swapping the hydraulic lines to reverse the direction of flow at the reel motor.
Speed Link™ depth system
In addition to the blade configuration, the QA7 verticutter features a depth system that is truly easy to adjust. A simple front roller design allows for paralleling the roller to the verticutter blades for a premium cut.
Depth is fine tuned with the rear roller. The Speed Link height-of-cut system is a popular feature on the QA7 reel cutting units, and the same system has been integrated in the QA7 verticutter as well.
The Speed Link system ties both ends of the rear roller together with a spring-loaded rod, meaning adjustments can be performed from either end of the rear roller, automatically adjusting the other side at the same time. A worm gear design in the rear roller towers means that as one side is adjusted, the other side turns the exact same amount.
Adjusting rear cutting units is now easier than ever. Adjustments can be performed by an electric drill or pneumatic tool with a 0.63-in. (16-mm) socket in seconds, saving time and money while getting the job done with high quality and efficiency. Maximum depth for operating the verticutters is 0.13-in. (3.2 mm).
Travel speed will be reduced during verticutting based on blade depth setting and turf conditions. Maximum recommended travel speed with verticutters is 3 mph (4.83 km/h).
Additional blades or removing of blades may be required and is dependent on the traction unit verticutters are being installed. Please check the operator’s manual for correct set up.
NOTE:Electric or pneumatic impact tools cannot be used with the Speed Link depth system.
A Traditional Approach to Gardening: The Best Reel Mower On the Market Today
What stands between you and a perfect lawn? Your grass going wild! What can you do? Mow your lawn to perfection with the best reel mower! After that, all you need to do is take out a rocking chair, lay back with your favorite book or magazine and a glass of a cold drink and enjoy the fruits of your labor- a perfectly symmetric, gloriously green lawn!
Why Choose Reel Mower?
We all know how rapidly the technology develops nowadays, and the world of lawn mowers is no exception. The modern mowers look like spaceships and are advertised to be almost self-sufficient, but do you really need all that technology that can malfunction at any time and leave you with a half-trimmed lawn? We say NO!
It is better to forsake all the electric, battery-powered and gas mowers and opt for a traditional, eco-friendly, reel mower. These classic machines might have been invented in the previous century, but they are still going strong as ever. Why is it so? Well, they have a few advantages worth mentioning:
Good for your health as well as the health of your lawn
You might be a bit skeptical and wonder how in the hell can a reel mower be good for my health, but we assure you it is really so and will explain it. First of all, you need to hand push the reel mower, and that requires physical effort. Afterall, pushing the mower will not be very easy as the rotating blades will provide resistance. In fact, pushing the reel mower for twenty minutes will burn you about 150 calories, or approximately 30% more than you would burn when using the gas push mower. Therefore, using a reel mower makes for a great exercise and fat-burning activity!
As far as the health of your lawn is concerned, reel mowers are also a better choice than rotary mowers, and there are environmental horticulture studies that prove it. Namely, the reel mowers cut the grass like scissors, unlike the rotary mowers which shred the grass blades. In that way, the tissue is less damaged, less water is lost, and the plant goes under less stress. Furthermore, the grass is less prone to diseases and even looks better when you use a reel mower to keep it in check!
In the hectic modern world, we appreciate every free moment we can get a hold of and thus tend to choose things that do not need a lot of our attention- the great news is that a reel mower is exactly such a machine! It really requires minimal time and effort to be maintained. You need to lubricate it from time to time and sharpen the blades every couple of years and that’s it!
Low Noise Level
Do not expect the soundless operation, but in comparison to the smelly and noisy gas mower, the reel mower will feel like music to your ears. The sound it produces is most often described as the gentle snipping, and no one seems to be bothered by that!
Unfortunately, it is not all bells and whistles! There are actually a few downfalls to using the reel mowers we need to mention as well if we want to be objective- and we always strive to be!
Using a reel mower on a large lawn can be quite tiresome If your lawn is larger than a quarter of an acre, do not even try it! In the spring the grass grows very quickly, and the temperatures can be pretty high, so mowing a lawn this big can really exhaust you and cause health issues rather than resolve them.
Secondly, using a reel mower requires great diligence and keeping to a strict schedule. If you allow your grass to overgrow reel mower will not be able to cut it but rather just push it down and roll right over it. You also need to remove all the leaves or twigs from your lawn before using the reel mower, so if you have a lot of trees on your property it is not the greatest option for you!
Finally, if your lawn is nowhere near flat, it is best to avoid a reel mower altogether. Bumpy lawns will prove to be a nightmare for a reel mower as the wheels will lose the contact with the ground, and the reel will not turn and cut the grass evenly. As a result, the grass will be cut unevenly, and there will be spots completely unmowed. It is also impossible for a reel mower to cut the grass in tight spaces such as near the fence or walls, so take that into consideration as well.
How To Choose The Best Reel Mower For You and Your Lawn
If you have carefully read and understood all the advantages and disadvantages of using the reel mower and you have decided that it really is the best choice for you and your lawn, you should now try to find the best reel mower on the market that will suit your individual needs. We will, therefore, list all the criteria that separate reel mowers from each other:
How high/low can it cut the grass?
Every reel mower can cut the grass at the specific height. Most of them can go very low (up to half an inch), but be careful with this feature as cutting the grass too low on a hot summer day can cause it to burn and permanently ruin your lawn.
It is more important to look for a mower that can cut the grass as high as 2½ inches as to avoid damaging your lawn. Therefore when purchasing the reel mower make sure it can be adjusted to the height you need.
Wide-Area Mower in Small Spaces | John Deere 1600 Turbo Series III
How wide is the mower? How much does it weigh?
The width of your lawn mower will influence the time you need to mow your lawn. In fact, the wider a mower you buy, the more length per run you will be able to cover. However, wider reel mowers will be heavier too so take that into consideration as well.
Weight can be an issue if you are not very fit and tend to tire out quickly. A wider blade is heavier, so when picking a lawnmower, make sure that the specific blade length fits you and your constitution. If you own a rather big lawn, it might be wise to find balance between a cutting performance and weight.
How hard is it to push?
Besides weight and width, wheels will have a great influence oh how easy or not your reel mower will be to push. The wheels should provide stability, but also be able to turn the reel without too much resistance.
Is it suitable for your type of grass and terrain?
The type of grass on your property greatly influences the type of reel lawn mower you should buy. Thick, strong, grass calls for thicker blades, while light grass can do just fine with lighter mowers.
The slope of terrain should be considered as well. A flat lawn can be handled by any reel mower. but sloped and bumpy one can prove to be quite a challenge for most of the mowers. In such a case, you should find a reel mower able to cut at any angle.
Is it durable?
The durability of the reel mower is influenced by the quality of the materials it is made from. All- metal construction is usually the most durable, but also tends to be the heaviest option. Special attention must be paid to the blades, as they will dull after certain usage. The reel mower with durable blades is, therefore, a priority.
The Best Reel Mower You Can Currently Buy
As we have already said, finding the best reel mower is influenced by your personal needs and type of grass and terrain of your lawn. Therefore, we have picked out five best options so that you can choose the best reel mower for your needs:
Fiskars 18 Inch Staysharp Max Reel Mower
Editor’s Rating: 95/100
Price on Amazon: [amazon_link asins=’B0045VL1OO’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’gardeningwizards-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’935cce66-1635-11e7-bbf8-13d3034b13b5′]
Fiskars 18 Inch Staysharp Max Reel Mower is the most expensive reel mower we have reviewed, so if you are on a tight budget, you might want to skip this review and move on to the next one. Fiskars is a Finnish company specialized in designing high-quality scissors, but also some impressive lawnmowers. The model we are receiving here is very powerful and can handle not only thick grass but also leaves and twigs it comes across.
The InertiaDrive reel technology actually means that this reel mower has a cutting reel with a larger- diameter, but also heavier blades than the ones found in similarly priced models and can thus handle the thick grass and twigs we have already mentioned.
Next, Proprietary VersaCut technology allows for the blades to cut the grass evenly regardless of what type or how thick it is. There is less internal friction as well. The blades on this reel mower are made from hardened steel and ground with great precision which means that they do not need to be sharpened very often and will be very durable too.
The mower is quite easy to push, especially once you adjust the height correctly. And, speaking of the height, we must say that this is a rare model that allows you to set the height from one to four inches (quite simply, we must add). Other features that add to the good maneuverability are the ergonomic, looped handle and the wheels positioned on the inside of this reel mower. The cutting deck is 18 inches wide, which means that you can mow your lawn in less time.
The clippings are thrown in front rather than back at your feet, and although they do jam occasionally, it is a rare occurrence. Weighing 52 pounds, it is rather heavy, which can be considered a fault. However, the extra weight actually allows it to run more smoothly once you get it going.
Great States 815-18 Push Reel Lawn Mower
Editor’s Rating: 97/100
Price on Amazon: [amazon_link asins=’B0007ZK5V2′ template=’PriceLink’ store=’gardeningwizards-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’935cce66-1635-11e7-bbf8-13d3034b13b5′]
If you are searching for an affordable reel mower, Great States 815-18 Push Reel Lawn Mower is definitely worth considering. It features 18-inch cutting width, the same as the previously reviewed Fiskars model, at almost half of the price. It is more suitable for flat lawns with no trees though, but do read on to find out more.
The height can be adjusted from half an inch to a little less than three inches. The cutting is rather effective as it cuts the grass very evenly and only misses the extra thick stems. However, it is not powerful enough to handle any twigs, and therefore you will need to take some extra time to rake the lawn before you start mowing it with this reel mower.
Weighing only 27 pounds, it is very lightweight and easy to push which makes it convenient for ladies and children too. The 10-inch ball bearing wheels with radial tread tires provide enough stability though. It can handle even the sloped and bumpy terrain with almost no problems. Extra tall grass might prove an issue though, so do not let the lawn overgrow in order to avoid jamming. Another downfall is its inability to handle tight spaces and corners due to the large distance between the wheels and the blades.
The powder coated finished handle is very sturdy but also ergonomic and comfortable. The Great States reel mower is also easy to assemble and easy to store- you can even hang it on the wall in your garage.The five spider blades are heat treated and do not require to be sharpened very often. It is rather quiet when operating as it produces only a whirring sound as it cuts the grass.
Fiskars StaySharp Max Reel Mower
Editor’s Rating: 94/100
Price on Amazon: [amazon_link asins=’B01N7K4BNX’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’gardeningwizards-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’935cce66-1635-11e7-bbf8-13d3034b13b5′]
The Fiskars company offers an extensive line of lawn mowers of high-quality, and therefore this is the second reel mower of this brand that we will review. This mower once again proves the quality and exquisite performance are worth paying a few extra dollars for. We also have to note and praise the modern design of this mower.
This reel mower features sturdy construction and the same Staysharp Cutting Technology as the previously reviewed model. It thus cuts the grass uniformly and efficiently without the need for the blades to actually touch the grass. Therefore, you will not have to sharpen the blades for a very long time which makes this mower almost maintenance-free.
Another great feature of this reel mower is the unique handle design. Namely, the handlebar is not horizontal like on most mowers. It is a bit hard to describe, but the handlebar makes use of constant loop elongated design and due to it features both horizontal side (great for thick grass as it creates better traction) and vertical side (better for short grass). The handlebar height can be adjusted as well.
The VersaCut Technology allows you to adjust cut height rather simply from 1 to 4 inches. The cut quality is even and consistent, especially once you get the right blade arrangement. This reel mower is renowned for being able to handle almost all varieties of turf as it can cut through both the softest and the thickest grass with equal success.
The inset wheel design enables this mower to cut very close to edges of lawn and handle tight spaces quite successfully. The grass discharge chute tosses the grass clippings to the front too. On the downside, like many other mowers, this reel mower has not performed great when cutting wet grass. Very tall grass also caused some problems. It is a bit cheaper than the previously reviewed Fiskars model, but still rather expensive.
What Is a Reel Mower and How to Use It
David Beaulieu is a landscaping expert and plant photographer, with 20 years of experience.
Mary has been a Master Gardener for 30 years and a commercial and residential gardener for 50 years. She is a former Clemson University Extension Agent.
Jillian is a freelance journalist with 10 years of editorial experience in the lifestyle genre. She is a writer and fact checker for TripSavvy, as well as a fact-checker for The Spruce.
Reel mowers appeal to environmentalists, money-savers, exercise-fanatics, noise-haters, and safety-lovers. Simple to operate, a reel mower works well for small areas.
However, with this type of lawn mower, there are some downsides. You must be committed to mowing when the grass is ready, not whenever you get around to it. Sharpening the blades is a hassle. And unless you don’t mind the extra work of raking up twigs beforehand, reel mowers are not practical for large areas with lots of trees, since you can’t ride roughshod over twigs as you can with standard mowers.
What Is a Reel Mower?
A reel mower is a push mower that does not use fuel, electricity, or oil and is powered by the person pushing it. Most have two primary wheels and several sharp blades in a cylinder that spin around to cut the grass.
Reel vs. Rotary Mowers
As with most things, reel mowers are excellent for some situations and users and troublesome for others. Reel mowers lack many of the common annoyances that come with other types of mowers—the smell and noise, the potential risks, and the price—but they also have drawbacks. Reel mowers don’t work as well on tall grass or grass sprinkled with twigs and leaves.
The blades of a rotary lawn mower spin on a plane parallel to the ground. Reel mower blades spin at an angle perpendicular to the ground. While you may be able to get by for years without sharpening the blades on a regular mower, it’s critical to keep the blades of a reel mower razor-sharp.
- Environmentally friendly
- Lower maintenance costs
- Lightweight and safer to use
- efficient at mowing grass
- Easier to mow larger areas
- Mulches up debris
- Handles cutting grass better on uneven ground
Parts of a Reel Mower
Manual or push reel mowers don’t have engines, so they don’t use gas and emit no pollutants. The lack of an engine also means reel mowers are virtually noiseless. No engine also means no tune-ups, and less maintenance: no oil to check, no filter to clean, no spark plugs, saving time and money.
Reel mowers have blades that turn as the mower is pushed. Today’s models have a protective guard to prevent the grass from being blown back on the person pushing the mower. And some models come with a grass-collecting bag. Most models allow you to adjust the blades to cut the grass at a certain height.
Modern models of reel mowers are lightweight and easy to push. Reel mowers are ideal for small lawns with no trees, although pushing one across any sized lawn will still be a strenuous chore, lightweight or not.
Why Should You Use a Reel Mower?
When you think of mowing your lawn, the mental image that comes to mind for most of us is that of a rotary machine, because this type of grass-cutting device has become the standard. Unlike the rotary models that you’re used to, reel mowers don’t have an engine.
Instead, this 19th-century device, invented by Edwin Budding, cuts the grass using sharp blades that move as you push the device along. This isn’t merely a question of the machine being self-propelled vs not self-propelled, it is entirely human-powered. Still, despite the decidedly unmodern functionality, there are good reasons you might want to consider buying a reel mower.
Environmentalists tout reel mowers as a clean alternative to polluting gas-powered rotary models. Reel mowers also reduce noise pollution. A reel mower is safer to use because the blades stop when you stop pushing, They are less expensive to purchase and maintain than gas or electric mowers. Modern versions are easier to use than older models because lightweight plastics and alloys incorporated into their framework have made them more maneuverable.
But reel mowers come with some disadvantages, too. They can’t chop up twigs and the twigs get lodged in the blades, requiring manual removal. Raking up twigs before mowing is advisable, adding time and effort to the task. Reel mowers cannot be used in fall as makeshift leaf-shredders. Rotary models are also better at mowing grass that’s grown too high, an important consideration for those who don’t mow the grass religiously.
Reel lawn mowers are well-suited only to those who tend to small urban lots and enjoy exercise. But if you do have just a small lawn to mow, the reel mower can be ideal. Dealing with all the gas, oil, and noise associated with regular mowers seems like overkill for such a small space.
Another choice other than reel mowers for those who have a small lawn is a rechargeable battery-powered mower. This type keeps mower maintenance to a bare minimum.
Buying vs. Renting
Reel mowers are inexpensive, costing around 100 on average to purchase. Since mowing the lawn is a weekly chore, especially in the spring and summer months, it only makes sense to buy one rather than go through the constant expense and hassle of renting one.
Although reel mowers are relatively cheap, you shouldn’t necessarily buy the very cheapest option. You want to make sure your mower is well-made, and that blade sharpening kits for the brand you select are easy to find because you’ll need to sharpen the blade regularly.
How to Maintain Reel Mowers
There is one regular mower-maintenance chore necessary with reel mowers: sharpening the blades. This needs to be done once or twice every year. You can buy sharpening kits, or you can grab these three basic items: grinding stone, grinding paste, and newspaper. The blades can remain on the mower, and with a little bit of manual effort, you can complete the sharpening process.
- Grinding stone: Use the stone first to smooth out any nicks or burrs you feel on the blades.
- Grinding paste: Apply the paste to the blades and cutter bar. Then turn the reel backward. The grinding paste and running it backward will sharpen the blades and cutter bar’s edges. Do this for a few minutes, and you will see the paste going away and shiny edges appearing. If there’s any excess paste, simply wipe it off.
- Newspaper: Test the sharpness of the blades on the newspaper. If it’s not sharp enough, repeat the sharpening process.
After each use, make sure to wipe/wash off any grass clippings that have built up on the mower. Store the reel mower in a dry place to help keep it from rusting.
When to Replace Your Reel Mower
Reel mowers will last for many years if you keep them clean and sharpen the blades periodically. If you find yourself not having the time to mow often with a reel mower, or you’ve gotten a larger yard, then you should consider replacing it with a powered mower. If your yard is considerably bigger, then a riding lawn mower will save you time and effort.