Is Reel Mowing really worth it?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Terra-Scapes, Jul 25, 2006.

  1. Terra-Scapes

    Terra-Scapes LawnSite Member
    Messages: 46

    I recently landed a new account and the owner just had Emerald Zoysia lied down 1 month ago. He wants me to reel mow the front yard and cut the rest with my Scag 48" walk-behind; no bag. I haven’t cut a yard with a reel mower before and I don’t currently own one. This is the only account that involves this type of service and I can’t see spending $1200 for a commercial reel mower or spending the money and effort of using a cheap self push reel mower.

    Also, the sod was installed poorly and there are lumps in the yard.

    I was told that reel mowers cut really well, but I think I can get as clean a cut if I push mow it with a commercial push/bag by cutting it twice. I was planning on going in one direction on the first cut then cut 90* (perpendicular) to that pass, therein cutting it twice and bagging on both passes.

    I am also struggling with the price to charge. The yard is 30,000 sq ft and it’s all emerald zoysia. The job would include cutting, edging, trimming, blowing and bed maintenance. I've also got the client on a fertilizer program for 6 times a year at $90 each visit.


    THEGOLDPRO LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,222

    reel mowing def makes a diffrence, it looks sick,we had an account that made us reel mow the whole place, they had the mower tho, it just looks cleaner with the reel.
  3. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    Check the mow height requirement on the Zoysa. Unless you are going to cut it below 1" and with lumps I don't see how you could. I see no sense in using a reel mower. 1,200 wont get you a commercial reel just a good homeowner model. I use reels almost exclusively all on dwarf tiff varieties mowing at about 3/8"-3/4" and it is a great cut.

    90 sounds cheap to me.
  4. horticulturedawg

    horticulturedawg LawnSite Member
    Messages: 59

    reel mowing is a commitment. you have to be committed to the maintenance of the reel. It takes time to get good at adjusting the reel to the bedknife. It takes time to backlap. You have to find somebody who not only has a reel grinder to grind it for you, but you have to find somebody who is good at it. The better the grind, the longer you can go without backlapping. If you do decide to take on this job, first, charge accordingly. You should be charging twice what you would normally charge to mow with a reel. It simply takes longer, and don't forget the time you spent with the machine the night before. Second, get a good reel mower....Trucut C27 is a good one...Should be able to fine one new (never buy a used trucut) for about $1600. You don't need the honda 5.5, they by far outlast the rest of the machine. Go with the briggs. It will save you some money. Did I mention charge twice what you would normally charge? The backlapper will run you anywhere from $600 - $720... A good grind (100% relief) will cost you $100 per grind. You have to really baby a reel to keep those grinding costs down. You can't run over sticks, pine cones, rocks, nails...etc.

    You will have to top-dress the turf with river sand and aerate before you do anything. It may be too late to do this and have the turf recover. Tell your customer that, for now, it is best to mow with the rotary, and after you can start the topdressing process, you should be able to get a reel on it.

    We do a lot of reel mowing and make a lot of money doing it, but, I spend A LOT of time and money keeping the reel adjusted and sharp.
  5. dkeisala

    dkeisala LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 911

    You really sound like you know what you're talking about whereas the homeowner in this case does not. Reel mowing sounds like it sucks unless you have a dedicated maintenance crew such as a golf course. No doubt in my mind that reel mowing, given the proper mowing conditions, produces an optimal cut but doesn't seem a good fit for the homeowner market.
  6. AAELI

    AAELI LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 360

    As a former golf course super and chief mech I gotta say the reel mower produces a great cut. We backlapped our Jakes daily after mowing to prepare for the next day. Our backlapping was accomplished with fairly inexpensive setups that cost us between $150 - $175. Our mowers were priced though at $3800 to 4500 back then, 18 years ago.

    I cut zoysia matrella with a rotary at 1" and it does just fine. It is verticut and topdressed a couple of times a year, we grow / mow year round.

    Tru Cut does make nice homeowner reels that should do the job for years to come with proper care. This is one mower where you really have to walk the property to clean up before you mow.
  7. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    I have been wanting a similar set up. Needless to say my local shops are not too forthcoming with help. It looks like a steel bench and an electric motor that just spins the blades backwards and then they apply some grease substance to the reel from time to time. Is that it? What is the grease stuff and where can you get it. Any info would be appreciated.
  8. Sandgropher

    Sandgropher LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 903

    I would forget about getting a reel mower in your situation, i use reel mowers and nothing else and there is a lot of work and cost in maintaining them as people have said, i could write a book on them for you but i will not, do not bother is the best advise i can give you.
  9. AAELI

    AAELI LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 360

    Backlapping compound is like a sandpaper grit mixed with either soap or oil. I have seen it both ways. It was available from several golf course equipment suppliers. We ordered ours in 25 lb. pails.

    The motor spinning the reels backwards was a lot easier than the handcrank jobs I first used. Ours was mounted on a heavy plate of steel with a connector to hold the mower in place as the motor turned the reel.
    It was a very simple setup.
  10. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    A few questions if you please.
    • Do you need to make adjustments when you back lap?
    • How long do you let them run on the machine 30 min? 1-hr? while back-lapping.
    • Can you back-lap too much?
    Thank you for the information.

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