Reel Mower VS Rotary Mower for mowing yards


LawnSite Senior Member
First time posting so I hope this works...
Anyways, I have the chance to buy a 15' cut reel mower. I have some large properties to mow that I currntly use an
Ferris 3000 on . What are the pros and cons of this?.....Other than blade sharpening issues, I hear that reels are supposed to give a better cut and take less power to run....By the way the Unit
I am looking at is an older Jacobson powered by a 4 cyl gas engine...All hydraulic reels w/ lifts on the various wings so mower can be used in narrow areas as well..Owner says the unit will gut as high at 4 inches using spacers....It is bargain priced and in great condition.
Anybody out ther use reels for "regular "

Turf Technologies

LawnSite Senior Member
I worked for a few months on a golf course called Black Diamond. And they use reel mowers for there green, aproaches, collars abd fairways. It gives a real close nice looking cut. And they just got two new jacobsons.


LawnSite Member
newport RI
I once worked for a private school doing sports fields ,had a 7 gang tow behind unit pulled it with a WWII jeep cut about 10' wide,worked great but required alot of maintaince
My ex father-in-law operated a 24' "Jake" gang reel mower until the day he retired.
The five blade reel is the only one that has a chance operating in a home lawn environment. A seven blade unit would choke on a twig, or a little heavy grass.
He always had to double cut, or cross cut to get a decent cut. And then it wouldn't cut plantain and some other weeds.
Sometimes he'd operate their 72" Toro rotary cut. It'd take about twice as long to finish, but the mower was close to 1/4 the width of cut of the bid Jacobsen too.

I bet you'd be faster on your Ferris than a 15' gang reel mower. Counting the trimming and all.



LawnSite Fanatic
my thoughts: reels are for golf courses, rotary are for lawns


LawnSite Bronze Member
If you're going to be mowing something like a golf course fairway that would do the trick. Reel mowers are for very close cuts. They also require a lot of maintenance. Have you given any thought to how long it will take to sharpen all of the blades on a mower of that size?


LawnSite Senior Member
boise idaho
Stick with a rotary mower. A reel mower cuts great but only if you cut often every 2-3 days. As you stated the reels are very high maintenance and you need a special grinder to sharpen them, as well as the know how. You have to know all the proper angels for the reels the relief the bed knife. The only places that use these are mainly golf courses and sport's fields.

Tony Clifton

LawnSite Senior Member
North Carolina
I saw where many of you said the gang type reel mowers are high maintenance, I could not disagree with this statement more. I worked on a golf course for several years, we mowed the roughs with gang mowers, a 7 and 9 gang I think. These mowers were more than 20 years old, and were only serviced once a year in the winter. They cut great, and would rarely clog, in fact, I think a pine cone is the only thing that would clog it, and ussually it would cut it in half. I also remember one occasion where one of the guys on the tractor had his wallet fall out of his back pocket. He looked back just in time to see it being cut in half. The biggest problem with the older type gang mowers is that you cannot back them up, so you had better be skilled when using them around trees etc,.
On another note, the newer Jake and Toro reel mowers require much more maintenance. They seem to be pretty much shot at 5-6000 hours, and require a lot of work to get them to that point. I would probably stay away from one of these mowers unless it were an incredible deal, or if I were mowing zoysia.


LawnSite Senior Member
Newport RI
Theres still one company around my aria that uses nothing but reel type mowers. There all Locke Mowers. Locke has been making mowers sense the first war I think. The company still has a couple from the 60s.

They do a great job, but require a lot of maintenance. You have the have the right accounts for reel types. You have to charge for them too.

Locke Mower Web Site


LawnSite Silver Member
S.E. Michigan
Reels are more maintenance than rotaries. The bedknife has to be adjusted to the reel to keep it cutting properly. In a daily mowing operation, this may be necessary once or twice a week. This measurement is quite precise, as too tight of a bedknife will cause the reel and the knife to wear prematurely. Too loose a fit, the reel will not cut the grass. There is a knack to doing this, but with a little instruction, it is easily learned. Then, depending on amount of use, the reels will require backlapping. On non hydraulic driven reels, this requires a backlapping machine. Another note: the mower your looking at sounds like a Jac F-10 or F-15. If so, these are ground driven reels. Ground drive reels do not perform good on wet soil conditions - they tear up the grass. This was a main reason the golf industry uses almost all hydraulic driven reels on their mowers today. As others have stated, reels perform best on close cut grass. If you were to use it at 4", I don't believe it will give you the quality of cut that you are expecting. Given my experience with reels and rotary mowers, in this case, I would use the rotary mower.