Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Reel Mowers

For anyone who isn't familiar with reel mowers, they are the old-fashioned kind of mower with no motor. When you push, it causes the wheels to turn, and that turns the reel. The reel is basically a set of horizontal blades with the ends welded to a pair of circles. When the reel turns it brings the horizontal blades in contact with a fixed blade underneath the reel, one at a time. As the blades come around they grab grass and when they meet the bottom blade the grass gets cut just like in a scissors.
I love my reel mower! It's quiet, doesn't smell bad, it's easy to push and/or lift, I never worry that it will accidentally cut off any part of my body, pull me down a hill, run over me, or throw hard objects at passerby. It never runs out of gas or oil, and it was a lot cheaper to buy than a gas or electric mower would have been. And I can sharpen it at home, myself, (with a paint brush!) rather than hauling it out to a shop.

There are some down sides. Reel mowers are just no good at cutting very tall grass or weeds. And they get jammed up by the tiniest twigs hiding in your lawn. They don't suck up low-profile weeds like plantains, and they're not very good at mulching clippings or leaves.

I can live with those things. Can you?


  1. And what great exercise! It would motive me to mow more frequently knowing how much harder it will get with longer grass.
    Do you then rake the clippings for the compost pile, or just let them fertilize the remaining grass?

  2. Are you sure that the painting method for sharpening is as good as bringing it to a place that has the rails (i.e., the mechanical method for sharpening)? Also, it seems like there are a lot of adjustments that you have to make to keep the blades from showing gaps. How often do you have to do that?

  3. I've heard people leave the grass clippings if the grass had gone to seed already as a way to re-seed the law.
    I like that this is called a reel/real mower!

  4. I don't rake the clippings, I leave them to break down. I don't see them after the first day, maybe the second if it is really dry or they were really long.

  5. Nicholas, I'm not sure if it is better or not, but it did seem to put a nice edge on all the blades. Plus, I'm not sure where on earth I would find someone with the setup for sharpening those things mechanically. I think you only have to adjust the tension screws when you sharpen it - because you are removing part of the blade - and the sharpening kit instructions said that you shouldn't need to sharpen it more than once a season.