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Reel mower-What should I know b4 purchasing one??

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by grassredneck, Apr 19, 2004.

  1. grassredneck

    grassredneck LawnSite Member
    Posts: 150

    I've picked up a few accts in Atl and starting to get asked if I can cut w/reel mower's but they look like a real PITA to keep with; blade sharpening, lubing, etc. Is it worth it??
  2. matthew horner

    matthew horner LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 696

    i've heard, but don't have experience to back it up, that they are horrible on hills or uneven terrain of any sort.
  3. grassredneck

    grassredneck LawnSite Member
    Posts: 150

    I should have mentioned that all of these accts are pretty level and have been topdressed as well
  4. lars

    lars LawnSite Member
    Posts: 117

    Stay away from reels, they are nothing but bad news. First off you will have to sharpen them. Unless you want to throw down thousands for a grinder (some of the setups cost $30,000), it will have to be outsourced. In addition to that you wil have to backlap to keep an edge on them. In addition to lapping you have to worry about adjustment. Too lose and the reel does not cut. Too tight and you wear out the reels. Take it from a person that operates and fixes them, they are bad news.

    However, there is a ray of hope. If you wanted to go with a reel mower, look at a National. They are easy to fix, durable, and hold adjustment well. They are also the cheapest thing on the market too. Plan on spending money as they are definitely more expensive than ZTR's.
  5. SWD

    SWD LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 989

    Grassredneck, how much turf area are you being asked to maintain with a reel mower?
    There are several economical choices for reel mowers, however, I am not counting on McClanes or Tru-cuts amoung them.
    Depending upon how much square feet you are maintaining, depends on which mower to purchase.
    Reel mowers are different than rotary's in their maintenance requirements - there is a learning curve associated with them. Additionally, transport to the turf site can be different due to the mower being bounced in the trailer and loosing cut of height and reel to bedknife adjustment.
    I ran reel mowers for many years, both on golf courses I built and maintained and in my turf business. Provided you go the reel route, just make sure it pays.
    You can PM me if you wish.
  6. Luscious Lawns

    Luscious Lawns LawnSite Member
    Posts: 133

    I don't use reel mowers. We demo'ed one on a jobsite last year. Was not impressed. They are slow and very easy to damage/missadjust. If the sod is not pooltable flat they are useless. If I were going to do small format reel mowing I would basicly double the price of a rotary cut.

    There is money to be made with reels though. I've seen lco's that use nothing but reels. Just be sure to boost your price because it will cost you more to use them.
  7. grassredneck

    grassredneck LawnSite Member
    Posts: 150

    I think I'd rather eat a bullet. I plan on getting a walker walk-behind, If that's not good enough-they'll have to decide how important it is to them
  8. Itsgottobegreen

    Itsgottobegreen LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,177

    A walker is the next best thing to a reel mower. They even make a reel mower for a walker by locke. I have 5 locke reel mowers, (my hobby, not used commerically anymore) they are tanks. The stopped making them in 2001 at $11,500 for a 75" wide walkbehind. Commerically used mowers need reels reground once to twice a year. If you back lap the blades weekly. Which take all of 15 mins. I got three of mine given to me. They are 1961 30", 1963, 70", 1963 70" w/reverse, 1967 70", 1976 75" w/reverse. I cut my 1.5 acres with the 30" when i have time, the rest are in restoration at the moment. Just to let you know they cut the White house lawn with 4 locke reel mowers. When they are running right you can't get a better cut. Since a reel mower acts like a pair of sissor, where a rotory acts like a knife. You get a cleaner cut. Got to www.lockenest.com to see one.
  9. ThreeWide

    ThreeWide LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,116

    I use 25" Trimmer brand reel mowers exclusively. Yes they do require sharpening about twice per year and backlapping on occassion. That's why you really need two of them on your trailer. It costs about $100 for a sharpening and $65 for backlapping, but dividing that by the number of cuts is not that much.

    The price for mowing with them is higher, but not astromically higher. Also, you have to mow TWICE per week during the middle of the summer here (good for business too)

    I would not put reels in the hands of employees, since the careful usage will make your mower last a very long time. Trimmers are built like a tank. Slopes and hills are generally no problem, but very uneven grade will prevent you from mowing at heights less than 1.5 inches.

    Any of you guys that turn down reel mowing customers in North Atlanta, send them my way.

    If any of you in Atlanta want to know more about the Trimmer, PM me.
  10. woodycrest

    woodycrest LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 435

    I agree with SWD , there is definatley a learning curve as far a maintenance is concerned. But, i dont see it as being more maintenance, its just different. Good point about screwing up the adjustments during transport.

    I bought a National 68 triplex,1977 model last season. The cut from that machine is excellent. Besides replacing a couple of belts the maintenance so far has been minimal,
    as lars said ''They are easy to fix, durable, and hold adjustment well. '' If youre in hurry, dont get one, this thing is slower than a turtle walking backwards. :)

    What is the problem with McClane mowers?

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