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reel mower vs rotary

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by alpine692003, Jun 11, 2004.

  1. alpine692003

    alpine692003 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,502

    I presently have a 21" honda commercial rotary mower, I'm considering buying a reel mower as well!

    Is there a lot of difference between the two? what are the good brands of reel mowers?

    Also, dont you screw up the reel mower blades if you go over rocks and all that?

    Is there anything else I need to know about reel mowers?

    Takes longer to cut? gives it a better cut?
  2. Itsgottobegreen

    Itsgottobegreen LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,177

    There is a lot of differences between them. I have 5 locke reel mowers (one of my hobbies all from 1961 to 1976 along with JD garden tractors from the 1960's). They cut better. Some just as fast as a rotary. Reel mowers are maintain nightmares. But you constantly need to sharpen the reels. Ether backlaping them weekly or grinding them monthly. They need constant adjustment. A single stone can ruin both the bed knife and reel. Which could cost up to $2000 on some models. (lucky for me I have a spare parts machine). I would talk to a golf course mechanic, they have the best knowledge of what it take to keep reel mowers up and running.

    I use my 75" and 70" walk behind locke triplexs with reverse to cut my sister high school field hockey field at 1.5" other wise the school would cut it at 4". I do it for free (field hockey got her a full ride to go to 8 different colleges so cutting the field improved her skill and saved my father a lot of $$$$) plus I go to play with my toys from my hobby. Which other wise would sit idle all year long until I took them to a tractor show.

    I would recommend a Locke single reel mowers, ones with the new v blade are great. But pricey. Very pricey. Like $125 or more per inch for the width of the machine. So a 25" model would be around $3125 or more.
  3. Grassmechanic

    Grassmechanic LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,697

    I spent over 8 yrs on a GC. We only ground our reels once a season. Backlapping was done every 7- 10 days of use, depending on the machine. Most knicks from stones can be filed out in minutes, then backlapped. We used Roseman, Ransome, Jacobsen, Toro reels.
  4. SWD

    SWD LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 988

    Reel mowers and their maintenance depend upon the manufacturer of the machine and it's intended use.
    As a rule of thumb, the lower you wish to cut, the higher the blade count on the reel. The higher the blade count, the more often they have to be ground and backlapped.
    For instance, I ran a National 84" reel mower for the maintenance of athletic fields. The reels where eight bladed, and I ground them once a year. The backlapping occurred about every fourth cut. Bear in mind I was mowing over eight acres with each cut. I was cutting at .75"
    Now, I am using a rotary mower to maintain the same fields. HOC is about 1".
    It would probably be best for you to PM me, and I'll give you my cell number. I have over 15 years in the maintenance and operation of reel mowers for al different kinds of turf maintenance applications. I also have a Neary 170 spin grinder in my shop so I know how to grind as well.
  5. alpine692003

    alpine692003 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,502

    wow, seems like there is a big hassle with reel mowers..
  6. ThreeWide

    ThreeWide LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,116

    I own 2 Trimmer brand reel mowers (25") with Honda engines. These mowers are great for smaller properties when you want to mow at 1.5" or less.

    They are simply the best cut for bermuda and zoysia lawns, but I would consider them a "nice to have" for bluegrass or ryegrass.

    I am VERY careful about walking the lawns for debris before mowing to avoid damaging the reel or bedknife. Routine backlapping is required, but I have yet to see how often it is necessary.

    If you plan to cut with reels, you need at least 2 mowers to allow for downtime when backlapping or sharpening is needed.
  7. alpine692003

    alpine692003 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,502

    ah .... what's backlapping?
  8. ThreeWide

    ThreeWide LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,116

    Backlapping involves applying a compound to the reel and spinning it in a reverse direction. You need a backlapping machine to spin the reel in reverse with enough speed. The compound breaks down the metal so that the reel and bedknife are making even angled contact.

    Backlapping can be done in your own shop if you have the equipment and the know how, which is not a major investment.

    After backlapping the reel has to be adjusted to provide the correct gap with the bedknife. There is quite an art to doing that, because the gap is very precise and must be set to cut paper all the way across. If your reel or bedknife has any imperfections, this task is very difficult to do. In that case, it would need sharpening.

    With sharpening, an additional step is actually grinding the reel and bedknife on a special machine. The machine to perform this is normally too expensive for a small operation to own. You should only have that done once or twice a year. Most golf courses will have the equipment for this, so you can often find one that might do this for you.

    I do not have the tools to do either, but in time that might change.
  9. alpine692003

    alpine692003 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,502

    too much work for a reel, forget it :|

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