Reel Mower for Southern turfs

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by teamoneoutdoors, Dec 13, 2006.

  1. teamoneoutdoors

    teamoneoutdoors LawnSite Member
    Messages: 73

    Had lunch today with a customer and we discussed his bermuda lawn. During the discussion the use of reel mowers was touched upon. He lived in Georgia and said he could hire LCOs to mow his property with reel mowers. I am not aware of anyone in the area that cuts with a reel mower but with the increased number of bermuda lawns we had previously looked at purchasing a used one.

    I would love to hear from you guys on your experiences with this matter. Is it worth it and do you increase your revenue and profit margins? Thanks.
  2. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    Almost all my lawns are cut with reel mowers. Do a search and just put in reel mower and you will get all the good bad and ugly. If the lawn is flat or transitions well with no holes or bumps you wont get a better cut. Its not enough to have common Bermuda your really need a hybrid Bermuda to get the good cut.
  3. horticulturedawg

    horticulturedawg LawnSite Member
    Messages: 59

    Most of our properties are also reel mowed. You can charge more than rotary mowed. Just take into consideration the maintenance involved in reel mowing. I mean equipment maintenance. Then you have maintenance on your equipment maintenance. All this takes time and costs money. Make sure you charge for it.

    One advantage is that you can also charge more for other services because you are more specialized. You really have your customers painted into a corner. It's like crack, once you start people on reel mowing, they will never go back. Huge quality difference as long as your machines are properly adjusted and sharp.
  4. mojob

    mojob LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 515

    I was a golf course mechanic for about ten years back in Florida, and the best reel mower in my opinion was made by John Deere. These were new back in '95 or '96, so I'd imagine you could find one of these on ebay or maybe at a local golf course. A new reel mower is pretty pricey. I also had experience with toro, but these were belt driven and the belts were always breaking. This could have been the operators fault, though. By far, the JD was the easiest to work on and set up. Don't forget, these mowers need lots of attention and require special equipment to sharpen. The reel/bedknife clearance needs to be adjusted almost daily. I'd stay away from the homeowner/commercial mowers that are out there. I can't remember the brand names, but even the better ones are pretty crappy compared to a greens mower. You need a front roller and a solid rear drive roller to get a good cut. Anyway, good luck.
  5. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    Minor disagreement
    I had a Jacobson greens mower and it cut no better than My 20 yr old Pro Master. Looks stupid in print I know, but I waited for years to be able to afford the greens mower and I was very disappointed.

    In Georgia there is a mower they make there called a Locke. I am trying to find one here to demo looks very good.

    I run Tru-Cuts and old Pro Masters. They don't make Pro Masters any more. Stay away from anything belt driven Mc Clains especially. Trimmer also looks like an OK machine but I have no personal experience with them.

    Tru-Cuts will run you 1400-1800 for 25"-27"

    Lockes I have heard are about 100 per inch of cutting width 22"-36" in various increments. They also have a great feature that you can backlap them yourself with no extra equipment.

    A used greens mower will run you 2500 low end to 4,000 The other problem is commercial reels are smaller around, the blades are closer together and they require a different machine to grind. Most shops around here can grind Pro-Masters etc. but not the Jake's or JD's.

    Also don't expect to drop off a machine and get it back the next day The shortest turnaround here is about 3-4 days some shops run 2 weeks.

    Don't go to the cheapest shop either, a bad grind can significantly shorten the life of the reel and bed knife. Find someone who is good its worth the extra cost. Here grinding cost 100.00 lapping is 60.00
  6. LawnMower

    LawnMower LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 653

    Locke mowers used to made in Connecticut back in the day. Everyone in my area still uses them if there using a reel mower. There great machines no matter what year you buy. A lot of them that were made as far back as the 50s are still going strong around here.

    Locke mower doesn't make the Triplex any more it looks like. The Triplex had 3 reel gangs. I think they were a 75 inch cut. There's a company in town called, B.B Barker, and they still use nothing but Locke mowers. They use rotary mowers for the trim, and thats it.

    Man do they cut nice.
  7. mojob

    mojob LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 515

    I never had any experience with any Jake equipment except for the bigger fairway mowers. It's hard to believe that your greens mower didn't produce a top quality cut. It might not have been setup right. There's a lot to know when it comes to sharpening and setting them up. I was a solo mechanic at a course in Palm Beach and did all the reel work. With the reel sharpening equipment I had, I could sharpen any type of reel. I did some side work for a LCO that had McClains and Tru Cuts. They just took a little more work to get them set up on the reel grinder and bedknife grinder, but once set up they weren't any different than any other mower. I stopped back lapping a long time ago. I could sharpen a JD faster than back lapping and without the mess. An eleven blade reel will work great at the height of cut that he'll probably be using. I'm guessing around 1/2". The trick to keeping your mowers sharp is keeping the reel to bedknife clearance set right. Cut strips of newspaper about an inch wide and use the paper as a feeler gage to set the clearance. The reel should just pinch the paper without rubbing the bedknife. This should be the case the entire length of the beknife. I still think a greens mower would do a better job though and last a heck of a lot longer.
  8. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    What is your experience with the blades heating up and expanding changing the quality of cut?
  9. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    I ask this because from time to time when I get them back they are so tight and cutting the paper sweet but we get them out in the field and after 20 min of operating and the blades wont freewheel at all. You pull in the clutch they just stop and you can't turn them by hand. Other times they don't seem so tight and give a great cut.

    I just don't understand the inconsistency of it all. I am really too intimidated to even try and adjust my own, they are soo temperamental. I get mine lapped every 4-6 weeks and ground 2-3 times per year. Those old Pro -Masters are great wish they were still in production.
  10. barefootlawnsandlandscape

    barefootlawnsandlandscape LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 296

    As a former golf course superintendent I have a little experience with this. When you get your mowers back from the grinders there should be no reel to bedknife contact. If you do the shop is not grinding the reels and bedknives at the proper angle, or your reels are coned and need to be replaced. Once used for a couple of cuts a little contact should be expected, but adjustsments have to be made after every cut. Backlapping does no good unless there is a relief grind on the reel. On the golf course I would only have my mechanic spin grind because it gave such a good cut with no contact to the bedknife, thus making the good cut last longer. Remember this is a different situation than you are in. We would rotate the greens mowers out and spin grind every 3 mowings and the rest of the mowers every 6 mowings.

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