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My memories of pushing a heavy-ass reel mower uphill (both ways) as a kid may have turned me off to these green human-powered lawn clippers, but I’ve been hearing good things about ’em recently. I hear they’re better designed, lighter, and smoother-rolling than the rusty monster of my childhood. And many say they deliver a better cut, too, because the scissor-like action of the blades shears the grass, rather than crushing it like a gas mower.

Probably the best feature is the fact that they require little maintenance and no gas.  They’re also are so quiet that you’re a lot less likely to get dirty looks from your neighbors when you roll one of these babies out on a Saturday morning.

Of course, you’re probably not going to mow a 40-acre Montana ranch with one. But for a smaller lawn, what the hell?

What’s your opinion on this? Would you rather just jump on your Cub Cadet with cup holders, cruise control, and fine Corinthian Leather? Or are these the future? Let us know in comments.

Is a reel mower right for you? [ReelMowerGuide.com]
Environmentally Friendly Lawn Care Products [Clean Air Gardening]

 

31 Responses to Hot or Not? Reel Mowers

  1. Larry says:

    My sister in law has a very small yard in her condo. The front of her condo is maintained by her homeowner assoc, however the back is up to her. It can’t be more than 20 feet by 20 feet. When she first moved in she got a reel mower (like 2 years ago) and it was not working out very well. There is one oak tree back there and the roots from it made it very difficult. She ended up getting rid of it and getting a small electric push mower. Works like a champ back there. Since then she has had the backyard fixed up and sod laid down. It is smooth and level back there now, so I think the reel type would work now.

    On a side note: My neighbors husband died last summer, so I help out his widow when she needs it. She was having an issue with her in ground sprinklers so while I was over there I was checking out the lawn equip in the garage.. I was kind of startled to see a reel mower–with a 5 horse Briggs and Stratton mounted to the top. The reels are open and all as well. I didn’t study it too long, as I had other stuff to do, but she said that they had to have it to cut some type of grass at an old house that lived in.. Wire grass maybe??

  2. Rob says:

    Reel mowers are recommended for Bermuda grass. I don’t think they’d be that bad if you had time to mow a lot. The taller your grass the harder it’s going to be no matter how well designed they are. I imagine that hills are probably not a lot of fun with these either.

  3. Mark says:

    I used one of these as a kid. It was fine for our balding sandlot/lawn. I would love to try a new one. I would second Rob’s comment that you can’t let the grass get to long if this how you cut it. I also worry about all the little sticks that I just ignore with my mulcher right now. I used to see a lot of gas-powered reel mowers. I don’t remember where, but I have seen with the same form-factor as above and I have seen them pulled by tractors … big ones.

  4. Jeff says:

    I used one (before I had 2+ acres) and I loved it. If it’s sharp and set up properly it works greate unless you let the grass get too long.

    I also had the grass catcher, which was a piece of sheet metal with net sides that hung off the back.

  5. I bought one to be all green when I first bought my house (.25 acre). The problem is that they don’t work worth a damn for tall seed pod heads or weeds. In Atlanta that means cutting more than once a week, or pesticiding the Hell out of the yard to allow the reel mower to work. Not very green.

    I bought an electric that worked ok, but the cords are a pain. When it finally died, I bought the cheapest Honda powered push mower I could find (the rechargeable electrics are awfully heavy and underpowered. I figure it’s going to live longer than I do.

  6. Geoff K. says:

    These are hot, for sure. We have a sloping lawn that took about an hour to cut with a walk-behind self-propelled gas mower. It’s not particularly big, but with the gas mower it was a hassle. We borrowed a reel mower from a friend to give it a try, and it’s great. So, we bought 1 of our own. It takes about 15 minutes less time to do the lawn, it’s a lot quieter, uses no gas, and leaves the lawn looking great. It’s a nice moderate workout, too.

    I agree, with the lawn very long it’s nice to have a gas “backup” but I wouldn’t think of giving up the reel mower now that I’ve used it. These new mowers are definitely not our grandparents’ push mowers! I remember how heavy those wood and cast iron monsters from “days of yore” were. Modern reel mowers are smooth, light and a pleasure to use.

  7. Erik Ordway says:

    I love mine. I have little 20×20 yards (front and back) . The front it really steep so big mowers you had to fight to keep them from sliding away from you. It takes me 10 or 15 minutes tops to do the lawn and I am less tired than when I used the 22 inch self powered one.

  8. olderty says:

    I just picked an old reeler at the neighborhood garage sale. I mowed the front yard with it once. There’s a few things wrong with these (or at least the one I got)…
    It’ll miss some grass. If the grass is laying down below the stationary blade in the back it’ll zip over the top without cutting it. Growing up my neighbor had a tractor that he used to pull a gang of reels with. Some weeks the grass looked good, and some not so good.

    The height isn’t really adjustable. At least not on mine. I saw some at Sears and I don’t remember them being adjustable either. As said above, tall grass = a tough afternoon.

    They’re narrower. 4-6″ narrower adds up when compared to a 21-22″ push mower.

    All that said, try it before you buy it. But I think they make perfect sense for small yards — no matter how they cut. Especially if you live in the city with a small amount of storage space.

  9. John says:

    Definitely hot. The only issue with these is that you have to mow regularly. if you get lazy and the grass gets too long, it makes mowing the next time 4 times as hard. The new breed of reel mowers really aren’t any harder to push than gas powered mowers. I have one and I love it!

    The big selling point on reel mowers is the emissions factor. I read online that one gas-powered push mower pollutes as much in an hour as 40 late model cars (or as much as as much air pollution as driving a car for 100 miles). Apparently, gas mower engines aren’t regulated like cars, so they can be much dirtier.

  10. Paul says:

    We have one of these, used to use it all the time. It does cut better and it more green. You also get a better workout if like us, your lawn is uphill!

  11. Jaxx says:

    why dont americans like flymos?

  12. Vincent Ma says:

    Another thing that didn’t get mentioned is that with the scissors-like cut of the grass blades less grass stains for your shoes and your pants, because the grass was cut, not whacked.

    Anyways I got a Gardena push mower for my modest suburbia yards and never looked back. It also helps if you go learn how to sharpen the blades, and do it once a year. Finally, yeah you have to learn to cut the grass at least once a week, but the lawn looks SO much nicer.
    (the push mower is much lighter than your powered mower, so the wheels don’t leave wheel marks on the lawn.)

    Plus, since I’m in a newer neighborhood, I still get curious neighbors coming over asking me “what’s that?” and offering to try using the mower. Sweet — I only need to do half a lawn 🙂

  13. Jim K. says:

    I remember my first time using one of these and the hell it put me through. Long grass and dull blades are not your friend. Years later though I got to try one of the newer ones that was in good condition and it was a completely different experience. Easy to push, not too heavy, did a good job cutting, quiet, etc. Really quite a good option for people who mow regularly and don’t have too much yard to mow or too rough a landscape. Personally though, my next home will have less lawn and more natural space.

  14. Zathrus says:

    Hot if you have a fairly small yard and grass that’s best cut short (bermuda, zoysia, etc).

    Not if you have a big lawn or grass that should be cut long (fescue, bluegrass, etc).

    I haven’t seen a single one of these that can handle the 3″+ cutting height that’s preferred for fescue and other cool season grasses. Maybe there is; I just haven’t seen one. Most top out at 2.5″ or much less, and that’s not good for long grass.

    If all you have is short, warm season grasses and a pretty small yard, then go for it — it’s cheaper, it’s better for the grass, and it’s better for you!

  15. Weldo says:

    So very hot. I bought my first house about 10 years ago and the cheapest reel mower I could find. I think it was about $50 once I found it. Around here all the home improvement places have huge riders and self propelled engined thingies. I just keep the blades sharp and don’t let the grass get to long as the other comments have already pointed out. Plus, no gas, no oil, no winterizing, no air filters and higher HDL levels!

    They’re great as long as you follow these guide lines:
    Don’t leave it out in the rain.
    Keep it sharp.
    Keep it clean.

    Like any other tool, if you treat it right it will treat you right.

  16. I wish I had bought a reel or even an electric mower rather that the self-propelled, polluting monster I did end up buying, (I even paid extra to get the CA model). I bought it 2 weeks before Chuck did his mower review was in Wired magazine. I now curse my stupidity every time I have to drag it up from my basement to cut my 30′ x 30′ patch of grass.

  17. Rick B says:

    It brings back too many bad memories. Pushing a mower and then trimming the edging with a pair of scissors. Thanks Dad!!

  18. john says:

    I like mine .. lighter then a gas one and easyer to push .. you can’t be as lazy and not mow for long periods of time … but that isn’t a negative in my mind.

    also the grass does so much better .. don’t need to water it as much .. don’t get brown tips …

    I got the small one and now i want to buy a bigger one so that it takes less passes to mow the lawn.

  19. Slow-Mowtion says:

    Hot.

    I mow a 60′ X 200′ patch of grass with one, and like everyone says, I have to do it often enough to prevent the grass from getting too high. It’s more work, but then how many people mow with a gas mower then spend time at the gym (and paying for a membership) or “exercising” (expending effort for it’s own sake)?

    Better yet, how many people mow with a gas mower and SHOULD be exercising?

    We mechanize so much of our lives that it’s no mystery why so many of us get winded just walking to the mailbox. Use the stairs instead of elevators, walk instead of driving whenever possible, and mow the lawn with a quiet, manual mower that lets us smell the flowers instead of poisonous exhaust; it might even feel good! After all, sometimes making things too easy has unintended consequences.

  20. Keno says:

    HOT. Its great to be able to mow at 7am on a Saturday if the fancy strikes. (small yard though)

  21. Rob S says:

    I love my reel mower. I’ve got a small amount of grass to cut (40′ x 30′ back, 20′ x 30′ front). It takes less than 15 minutes to cut both. Frankly I’d be embarrassed to use a gas powered mower on my yard. If you get a good mower, and keep it sharp and adjusted, it’s not hard to push. On a few occasions I’ve let the grass grow for a few weeks. When that happens I just raise the mower all the way (mine goes up to 45mm), cut once and then go back with the mower set to normal hight (25 mm). It will miss tall weeds, but I just clean those up with the string trimmer. In addition to clean, quiet operation, they are inherently safer than gas or electric mowers.

    Another bonus: the mower (Brill Luxus 38) only weighs 16 lbs.

  22. Jeremy says:

    These mowers are great! I got a task force 20″ cut yesterday and as soon I’d finshedcutting my1/3 acre lot I wanted to do it all over again. I even choped up asix inch pile of maple leaves. The Task Force mower is for any one who wants an easier job mowing.

  23. Ben says:

    I purchased a Task Force 20 in. mower 3 weeks ago. My yard looks better than ever and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I’m finished. Less pollution, I get exercise, no gas smell and not to mention a great conversation peice with my neighbors. It is pretty cool to be a trend starter, I have now seen 3 of my neighbors with manual mowers now.

  24. Eli says:

    We just bought one of these for our new home. I love it. I think it pushes easier than a regular lawn mower. A couple good tips is to not try to start on high lawns. Our lawn hadn’t been cut yet this year and was about 6-8 inches tall. It took a couple passes with the reel mower to get the height under control. After that, though it has been a breeze maintaining it. I would recomend this mower for anyone with a small to medium yard.

  25. Roger says:

    Picked up a Task Force 20″ from Lowes ($130). Used it for the first time yesterday. Really a treat. Light enough that I can push it up a short steep grade hill (40 degrees). Lawn took a couple passes before it looked evenly cut. Overall, a very pleasant surprise.

  26. Adam Cline says:

    I was in the market for a new lawn mower and was curious about reel mowers because of their “green” potential, so I did some research on the internet. I found plenty of useful information about the advantages and disadvantages of manual powered mowers and customer reviews. After lots of research I was leaning towards the Scotts 20” reel mower, but in my area I could only find the Scotts 16” reel mower, so I purchased the 20” Task Force reel mower from Lowe’s. So far I am very pleased with the Task Force reel mower. It does take a little longer to mow the lawn, but because it is so light I’m not as tired at the end of the job. It doesn’t cut tall weeds that are more than six inches high, like dandelions, but I just mow my lawn as usual and spray the weeds with weed killer as I go. I do have to mow the lawn more often, but it’s just a good excuse to get some extra exercise. I would suggest keeping your gas mower if you have one, because it is helpful to get rid of the winter undergrowth and stubborn weeds. My only complaint about the Task Force reel mower is that the foam handle grip isn’t very durable and it feels a little low. I wish the handle was set higher. Overall, I’m very happy with my purchase.

  27. Casey says:

    I use a reel mower on my St Augustine and while I enjoy the low maintenance of the mower, it doesn’t do a great job on my lawn. Even mowing once a week, my grass grows fast enough that the mower pushes down a lot of the grass rather than cutting it, so the end result is a sloppy-looking lawn. It jams on anything thicker than grass (including weeds) so I’m constantly stopping and picking things out of the blades.

    On the bright side it’s so quiet I’ve actually mowed while on the phone (haha yes I know that’s terrible) and I’m not afraid to have my 2 year old playing in the yard while I mow.

    My backyard is more weed than grass so I can’t even attempt it with the mower, so I’m looking for a power mower for back there. Even with a power mower I’m sure the reel mower will get used on those occasions when I’ve forgotten to get gas.

    I would recommend testing them in person. I’m 5’1″ and I find the handle on my Scott’s almost too low for me, so I can’t imagine how anyone taller would push it.

  28. CLETUS says:

    I have an old “Scotts” reel mower that I’ve been using for about 10 years. takes about an hour or so to cut and looks great. It’s a workout. Let the grass get long and you’re in for a long day. Keeps you “regular”. lol.

  29. Mike says:

    I’ve been using a Scott’s 20″ for over a year now and love it. I’m 58 and at first doing the front yard was all I could handle. After a few months I got up the gumption to do the back and now I’m alternating front to back every day. I just got the notion that mowing the lawn was as good or better than walking around the neighborhood for exercise. I found that I walked about 2500 steps fro the front and 4000 steps for the back. They recommend about 10,000 steps each day. This is great and I get a good looking lawn to boot. The scissor cut is easy on the grass, no emissions is good for the environment, the exercise is good for me. It’s a win win win situation.

    Since I do this pretty much every day for exercise, my lawn looks good. However, I have noticed that it misses about 10% of the grass so the less often you mow the scruffier it looks. I figure that the cutting area (blade to bar contact) is pretty small at any given instant so it will always miss some of the grass. Also, a power mower creates suction and literally pulls up the grass into the blade to be cut where the reel mower will roll over longer grass or those blades of grass that are laying on their side.

    However, even with the deficiencies I plan to keep using the reel mower. It’s just so satisfying. It is quiet and feels like you are working with nature instead of fighting nature. (Kind of like a sailboat verses a power boat.) It is HOT.

  30. Anne says:

    How( all the details please) if this website is still up, does one actually SHARPEN the reel mower( Gardena)?

  31. Charles Dodgson says:

    Pleased with recent aquisition of Brill 38 reel mower except that that lock nuts quickly work loose and the desired height cannot be maintained. Any suggestions? Lock washers?

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