Questions about Reel Mowers

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by genesis215, May 30, 2008.

  1. genesis215

    genesis215 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 795

    With gas prices the way they are, I am looking to buy a 20" reel mower for mowing my own yard, and need advice on what to look for. Do reel mowers make a good cut? What brands are the best? Are the reel mowers at Lowes and Home Depot any good? What should I expect to pay for one? Any advice would be appreciated.
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  2. cgaengineer

    cgaengineer LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,778

    Are you talking about the push type? If so what size yard do you have?
  3. jkason

    jkason LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 546

    Reel mowers have the best cut. Hands down. Period.

    They don't work well unless your lawn is NOT lumpy.

    Look for one with a cast iron frame and larger wheels.

    Stay away from HD and Lowes units, they are cheap. (Stamped steel.)

    Be prpared to pay between $4-$10 PER INCH of width for sharpening.

    They are going to be almost as much as a powered mower in initial price, but the only maintainence is sharpening and lube. And no, you cannot sharpen it yourself.
  4. cgaengineer

    cgaengineer LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,778

    I saw an electric reel at Lowes last weekend..I laughed at it!!
  5. mowtech

    mowtech LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 252

    Reel mowers have their place, but there are reasons they are not widely used much any more. To say that a reel mower makes the best cut is both true and false. A reel mower cuts the grass by shearing it. This shearing cuts the individual blades of grass very cleanly. A rotary mower on the other hand cuts the grass blades by impact. This generally results in the cut of the grass blade being a tear. The duller the blade the more of a tearing effect. Because of this cutting with a rotary can even leave brown tips. The rotary however has the advantage of being able to suck the grass straight and tall through suction before cutting it. This allows a smooth overall cut. The reel on the other hand does not stand the grass up so at higher heights of cut when the grass tends to lie down it will leave an uneven cut. Reel mowers really shine when cutting below one inch, something a rotary cannot do at all. Today in general the only places that are cut with reels are golf course fairways, tees, and greens. Most golf courses only use rotary mowers in the rough. Due to the "green" movement reel mowers for homeowners have seen a slight resurgence. The desire of the environmentally forward thinking homeowner is to not burn fuel and pollute while cutting his lawn. A rotary mower requires far too much power than a human can exert to spin the blade fast enough and to create the suction required, hence the only choice for a human powered mower is a reel. My personal experience with these mowers is that they can be a lot of work to use. It is best the grass is cut often. If mowing hills, you need traction to produce the cutting action and this can be problematic. If I had a small city sized lot that was flat, then I might consider such a mower.
  6. cantoo

    cantoo LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,910

    genesis, you already have the equipment, how much are you gonna save using the reel. I've actually seen a few people using them in Town the last few weeks. Okay for small lawns if you have lots of time too.
  7. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,996

    During the spring insanity I cut my grass with a rotary mower, but as soon as it starts getting warm I switch to the reel. After two years of experimenting, I've found that the combo of the reel mower's clean cut and a longer length on the grass keep my yard green well after everyone else's lawn is brown.

    However. I have a quarter-acre city lot, of which only about 5000 sf is grass. When it's really growing, I have to cut every 3-5 days or it gets too long to cut with the reel. You think double-cutting sucks? Try quadruple-cutting.

    The quality if the cut is not going to be what you're used to. I used to manage the grounds for a facility with 20 acres of St. Augustine- I could make that lawn look like a carpet. My Virginia mix of nappy fescues, bluegrasses, clover and weeds always looks shaggy and uneven right after a cut. I double-cut the whole thing, and that's as good as it gets. But like I said, the grass stays thick and green almost all summer. I'm so busy that I usually only see the yard from the driveway or the office, so green is good for me.

    For me, the reel is a good option for my own yard because I'm sort of a tree hugger. It's one less input going into my grass, and the mower will last forever. Plus, when I'm mowing is usually the only block of time I spend in the yard when I'm busy. I don't know if it's the lack of engine noise or what, but I'm a lot more likely to slow down and notice issues with my landscape plants when cutting with the reel mower.

    Bottom line, it's fine if you have the time and can live with less than perfection.Just keep in mind, two of my neighbors started the season with reel mowers last year, and by the end of June they both ran out and bought MTD mowers at Home Depot.

    Wow, I bet that sold you!

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