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Questions about reel mowers

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by DBM, Apr 6, 2001.

  1. DBM

    DBM LawnSite Member
    Posts: 66

    Does anyone out there have experience with or know about reel mowers? What's the quality of cut like and ease of use? I'm more curious than anything. I was previewing stuff for an auction tomorrow and as I was leaving they were bringing in a Jacobsen 1761?(unsure of model #), it had a Kubota 17.5hp on it and appeared to be in great shape. Is this machine suitable for something other than golf-course use?

  2. Eric ELM

    Eric ELM Husband, Father, Friend, Angel
    Posts: 4,831

    From what I understand, a reel mower has the best cut there is. It actually cuts the grass like a scissor instead of whacking it off with a sharp blade, so this leaves the end of the grass undamaged compared to a rotory mower, especially if the blades are dull.

    I have never seen a reel mower used on a regular lawn since the rotary mowers were invented, but I'm sure it would work. I think they would be slower, but I've never used a big one like you are describing.

    Ask John DiMartino, he uses them on a golf course.
  3. Fantasy Lawns

    Fantasy Lawns LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,913

    we use a little 6hp 21" toro on a customers putting green whichs cuts bermuda killer ...only issues is you have to get the blades sharpened by someone that know how ....we take ours to the local greens keeper and get it done ....be sure to have a clean area when mowing ....we cut at 1/8-1/4"
  4. Alan

    Alan Member
    Posts: 1,185

    I had a 3 gang set of Jacobsen towed reels. They cut very well and fast, but if anything got higher than about 1/3 of the reel diameter it would not get cut at all, the reel would lay it down and pass right over it. The result was that on weedy turf (pretty common on industrial lots around here) it was more bother than it was worth to use the reels and I sold them. If I had good clean turf in a quantity large enough to make it worthwhile I would have loved the reels. Quality of cut was fantastic where there were no weeds to mess things up.
  5. Freetime

    Freetime LawnSite Member
    Posts: 112

    This machine is a greens mower made to cut turf at ¼th to1/8th of an inch depending on the number of blades per reel 7,9,12, more blades mean a better cut the only draw back is 12 blade reels will only cut on the shorter side and 7 blades are made to cut rough grass maybe ½ to ¾ in length. The cutting parts of each reel are the reel it self and the bed knife, contact between these two parts is where the cut is made. The reel “packs” have to be back lapped every week in some cases with “back lapping compound” which is sand paper in gel form usually sold in 5 gallon buckets. These machines are best used on golf courses, as maintenance cost is high compared to rotary mowers.

    Here is the $20.00 high priced word used by golf supers “undulation” which means hills and valleys in the green the more you have the smaller the mower needed to cut it.

    You would need high priced clients to pay for the machine. A walk behind reel mower would not be bad to have though.
  6. greens1

    greens1 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 352

    Hi DBM,
    If the reel mower is 17.5 HP then you must be talking about a triplex. I always liked the Jacobsen triplex mowers better than the Torro or Ransoms, the reels had harder steel so they would hold the cut better. This mower is pretty much useless for anything but cutting greens or tee boxes. You would need to buy new 6 blade reels and thicker bed knives and it wouldn't be worth it. Anytime you catch a stone it puts a nick in the bed knife, this leaves a small streak of uncut grass that drives you nuts. There are reel mowers that are designed to cut rough grass, 3/4" to arround 3". They can certainly compete with walk behind mowers speed wise, however maintence on reel mowers is a big drawback. The reels should be removed from the frame and ground once a year, or they develop a conicle form. The bedknives need to be trued several times a year, and generally replaced at the end of the year. They will never mulch grass. One big advantage, however, is they cut just as well in the rain as they do when it's dry. Also they will allways leave a terrific stripe, rollers on the back of the floating reel determine the hight, hence you are rolling the turf every time you cut it.
    Good Luck,
    Jim L
  7. Lots of heavy knowledge expressed on the subject thus far. In Hawaii many LCOs haul around Mclanes 7 blade unit. Basically it cuts nice as a reel mower should but for everyday use it won't last as the reel is belt driven. So, most experinced operaters use Trimmers or Tru-Cut which are chain driven. Trimmer is better by a small margin. I've heard that Tru-Cuts clutch will go out sooner than Trimmers.

    Why use reel mowers? If the customer has southern turf like Bermuda/Zoysia, they will have a far superior lawn appearance. The lawns that are reel cut stand out and catch attention. The customer must agree to heavy water/fert program. As well as even double the going price to cover your operating expense with all the sharpening/backlapping you will do. For those who must have the perfect tif dwarf lawn this is the only way to go.

    The problem is that many LCOs here don't understand all the angles involved,go out and buy a Mclane 7 blade undercharge,wind up with a dull reel/bedknife, and faint when the service fee of $60.00 to resharpen $150.0 new bedknife and decide that the lawnbidness is not working out all because they no charge enough! This puts a hurt on the rest of us.

    I save my Kato Pro-Master 10 blade reel for those willing to listen to the truth about low cut show lawns and the effort/equipment needed to produce consistant results as well as come up with the needed funds.

    BTW my Kato is so sharp it will cut a sheet of typing paper clean through, no tearing. That is the test given after sharpening to determine if its been properly serviced. Reel mowing is really a whole differant approach to lawn care and very rewarding when everything comes together.

    Hope this helps

  8. greens1

    greens1 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 352

    Paradise is right on the money as far as the cut, you won't ever see a better cut than one made with a reel mower. I would advise anyone who is considering buying one to go to a good local golf course and talk to the mechanic. He can let you know everything you will need to service and sharpen your reel mower, as well as maintain it. Course mechanics almost allways have a few reels being backlapped or repaired. If you are serious about cutting with a reel then see if the mechanic will let you look on when he does the grinding and trues the bedkinves ect., this can save you a lot of trial and error. Then just figure your cost into the job and enjoy the beautiful cut.
    Jim L
  9. fdew

    fdew LawnSite Member
    Posts: 147

  10. dan deutekom

    dan deutekom LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 424

    We use a toro reel mower at the park I work at. Forget the model number but it has 3 reels and cuts 72" wide. Can,t let the grass get too long and when the pine cones drop off the trees we have to walk and make sure we get them all. Does a beautiful cut and dosn,t scalp on uneven hills but it is a high maintenance machine. We send it out for sharpening as this requires special equipment and skill. When it is time for replacement it will be with a rotary because they are cheaper.

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