Reel Mowers of 2020
Traditional rotary mowers hack at grass blades, tearing them and allowing them to lose vital fluids and be more susceptible to disease and bug attacks. But reel mowers cut each blade as if you were snipping it with a scissor, leaving a healthier, greener lawn in its path. Reel mowers come in a variety of styles and sizes. Some have special features designed to make the task of mowing the lawn faster and easier than ever before. And with a several great brands offering reel mowers in a wide range of prices, choosing the mower that’s right for you can be a difficult task.
But we’ve done the difficult legwork for you by taking a look at the best of the reel mowers available. We examined their design, durability, features, and performance, and came up with our list of the 10 best rated reel mowers that are on the market . After reading through our reviews, you’ll be able to find the product that is ideal for your home’s lawn.
How to Sharpen a Reel Mower?
While these mowers are a fantastic, easy way to mow your lawn, you might be concerned about maintenance issues like blade sharpening. Luckily, this task doesn’t have to be performed very often and when it’s time to sharpen your mower’s blades, it’s actually very easy to do. Due to the scissor-like clipping action of the blades’ motion, the edges of these manual mower’s blades don’t dull very quickly under normal use. Scraping against pebbles occasionally might lightly wear down the blades but for the most part, they’ll retain their sharp cutting edge for a very long time.
After a few years of use, the mower’s blades will get slightly dull because they’re bound to be pushed over rocks, curbs, and thick twigs and these hard surfaces will take the edge off. Dull blades will cause the tool to stop operating smoothly and be more difficult to push. When you notice that your mower is not advancing as quickly as it used to, it’s best to first check the alignment of the mower’s reel and make sure that it doesn’t have to be adjusted.
If the alignment is fine, then it’s time to sharpen your mower’s blades. Once you notice that your mower isn’t performing as well as it used to, it’s time to sharpen your blade. One of the best, and easiest, ways to do this is just to purchase a backlapping sharpening kit. These kits are fairly basic and include some sharpening compound and a handle. To use a backlapping sharpening kit you simply attach the included handle to the driving gear on your mower and use a paint brush to apply the sharpening compound to all of the blades.
Then just crank the mower in a reverse direction, allowing the blades to scrape each other down, restoring their sharp edge. The only downside of this method is that it requires some elbow grease since you’ll be manually cranking the handle to rotate the mower’s blades. While a backlapping sharpening kit is the best way to sharpen your manual mower’s blades, you can also perform the task with a power drill and a sharpening attachment. These attachments fit onto a power drill and work just like a polishing brush attachment.
To sharpen your blades with this method, you just pull the trigger of your drill and run the attachment along the edge of the blade, honing it to a sharper edge. One thing to keep in mind if you plan on using this method is that it’s best to either remove the blade reel or secure it prior to sharpening in order to avoid accidental injuries. While most mowers feature high-quality blades which will retain a sharp edge for several years, it’s a best to make this process part of an annual routine at the beginning or end of the mowing season.
Since it’s the only maintenance you’ll ever be required to perform on this tool and it can be performed in a matter of minutes, it’s a good habit to get into and it will ensure that your reel mower offers the best performance possible. Once the blades are sharpened, you can simply put a thin coat of vegetable oil on the blade. This will help to prevent rust and corrosion without leaving a harmful residue on your grass.
What is a Reel Mower?
Years before the invention of the gas-powered tools, reel mowers were the tool of choice when it came to mowing your lawn. These mowers are relatively simple to use and are still an iconic symbol of suburban Americana. While they fell out of favor when the gas and electric mowers began growing in popularity, many homeowners still relied on these efficient, quiet manual mowers for their yard work. And thanks to an increase in health and environmental awareness, these devices have seen a remarkable resurgence in popularity.
The push mower is incredibly basic, making it a great option for anyone looking for a maintenance-free alternative to powered mowers. They are designed with two or four wheels and feature a cutting reel with between 3 to 7 blades. These blades are normally made of a durable, resilient tempered steel or other metal for long-lasting sharpness. As you push the mower forward, its blades will spin vertically from north to south, lifting blades of grass between them and a bed knife. This action creates a scissor-cutting action which snips blades of grass as it advances.
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- Number of Blades ( 7 )
Since a reel mower is manually pushed and doesn’t have a motor, it is virtually silent and does not emit any fumes that are harmful to you, your family, or the environment. And with virtually no maintenance required to maintain these simple mowers, they are the preferred choice for many homeowners who are looking for a quieter, healthier, more affordable, and low maintenance mowing alternative.
How to Cut Tall Grass with a Reel Mower?
While a these mowers are terrific for mowing well-maintained yards because of their unique scissor-like clipping action, they can get bogged down when operating in overgrown areas causing it to be difficult to push the mower forward or even causing it to jam. Because of this, they are best suited for use in yards that are well maintained and that don’t measure much higher than 4” tall. While these mowers are not ideal for lawns that have grass higher than 4”, it can be done. It will just require a bit more time and patience.
In order to use these push mowers to mow tall grass, you’ll need to adjust the way that you mow your lawn. The first thing to do is make sure that you are mowing with a generous overlap. This means that once you finish mowing one row across your yard, you turn around and go back with your mower in the other direction while overlapping your previous path by a few inches. This will make sure that you don’t have high streaks of grass between rows.
Besides overlapping your cutting, you should also mow your lawn in one of the two following methods. Either one will allow you to efficiently cut high grass with a push mower. The first mowing method is to repeat each path twice. Simply mow each row once in one direction and then turn your mower around and cut it in the opposite direction. This will ensure that you are catching your lawn’s grass blades from both angles for a more even and thorough cut.
The other method is called the checkerboard pattern. This method also involves you mowing each section of the lawn twice. Only with this movement, you will proceed to mow your lawn as you normally would but will then repeat the process in the opposite direction, crisscrossing your originally paths perpendicularly like a checkerboard. With these additional passes on each strip, you can use these manual mowers and achieve the clean, manicured appearance you are looking for even in tall grass conditions.
How to Use a Reel Mower?
Long before the invention of electric and gas-powered mowers, the reel was the classic way for homeowners to keep their lawn well-maintained. These manual mowers operate through a collection of blades which spins as you manually push the tool forward. As you advance forward, blades of grass fall between the mower’s blades and a sharp bed knife, allowing the mower to snip the grass similar to how a scissor works. With minimal maintenance and low cost, these mowers are a great, healthy alternative to powered mowers.
And luckily, using them is remarkably simple. The first thing you’ll do is set the cutting height of your tool somewhere between 1 ½’ and 2 ½’. The right height is a matter of personal preference and will also depend on what type of grass you have since some varieties require particular cutting heights for optimum health. Most mowers will have an adjustable height setting. Depending on the model, this range can be offer settings from as low as ½” to as high as 4”.
With the correct cutting height selected, you will simply push your mower forward at a normal walking pace, allowing the mechanism to rotate and the scissor-like movement of the blades and bed knife to do their work. Walk in a straight line from one end of the lawn to the other. At the end of your row, turn the mower around and make another swathe that slightly overlaps the first row. Simply repeat this movement until the whole section is mowed.
Most push mowers will leave fine grass clippings behind on your lawn. These will decompose and provide nutrients like nitrogen to your soil for natural, healthy fertilization. Other models will come with detachable rear collection bags. These bags allow you to collect a majority of the clippings for disposal in a trash bag. This method is preferable for homeowners who like a cleaner, tidier looking lawn.
Are Reel Mowers Effective?
While push mowers have been around for years, the popularity of gas and electric-powered rotary mowers has caused them to be used less frequently over the past few decades. But as the homeowners of today have begun to shift their thinking, many are now looking for a healthier, more economical alternative to these power-guzzling models. Unlike a gas model, which can emit 10-12 times as much harmful hydrocarbon as an automobile per hour of operation, reel mowers are 100% emission-free. This means no harmful fumes for you, your family, or the environment.
Plus, they virtually wipe out noise pollution thanks to their silent operation. Both your family and neighbors will thank you for this. In addition to the environmental factors, manual push mowers don’t require oil changes, gas, or electricity, meaning they have zero operational cost and virtually no maintenance. This is all great, but if they weren’t capable of performing well, no one would be willing to switch to a reel mower. So let’s look at how well these manual tools can perform. If you’re interested in the importance of mowing – read the study here.
Reel mowers are terrific for maintaining the health of your grass. Most landscaping professionals claim that using one of these mowers is not only great for the environment but they’re actually better for your property’s grass. Since they use a snipping action to cut grass compared to the tearing motion used by powered rotary mowers, they don’t damage your grass. A reel ensures that grass is cut evenly as if you were snipping it with a scissor compared to the tearing motion that a gas or electric model uses to mow. This allows your lawn to retain valuable moisture and be more resistant to bugs, disease, and drying out.
These models are also designed to provide natural fertilization to your lawn for a healthier, brighter yard. This is done by mulching. The mower leaves fine clippings in its path which add key nutrients like nitrogen into the soil. This natural fertilizer is a great added benefit for your lawn and will save you the money you’d have to spend on comparable store-bought fertilizers. And if you aren’t a fan of leaving clippings on your lawn, some models come with rear bag attachments that can capture a fair amount of clippings for a cleaner, tidier look.
Size and Weight
Reel mowers are incredibly light and compact. This means that they’re not only easier to push and steer than a gas mower that weighs over 100 lbs, but it can also be stored in a garage or shed without taking up a lot of valuable storage space.
These mowers are the most affordable tools that you can purchase to mow and maintain your yard’s appearance. Budget models can cost as low as $70. And even a premium model won’t cost you much more than $200. Plus, another major financial advantage is that once your initial investment is made, manual mowers cost virtually nothing to operate.
This is a significant advantage over gas mowers that require you to purchase gas for fuel as well as oil for the occasional oil change. And they’re actually more cost effective than electric models too. This is because, since you’re not charging a battery or plugging in your tool, you won’t be adding a dime to your electric bill.
Reel mowers were designed to perform efficiently on relatively short grass. If you are planning on mowing a yard with grass that is significantly taller than 4”, it is going to take more time and work than it would with a gas-powered mower (click to read the study on mowing). That said, with a few additional passes on each path, high grass can be cut with a push mower and once the lawn is back to a reasonable height, maintaining it is incredibly simple.
Due to the manual nature of these mowers, they’re best suited for small or medium yards measuring less than 3,000 square feet. Tackling yards that are larger than this is going to become tedious with these manual mowers and will take a considerable amount of time.
Should I Get a Reel Mower?
Deciding whether a reel mower is right for you depends on a few factors. These mowers are incredibly efficient, precise landscaping tools that leave grass perfectly manicured and neat while being healthier for you, your wallet, and the environment. If you’re thinking about purchasing one of these mowers, here are a few factors to consider.
These mowers are much more affordable than gas-powered or electric mowers. Not only do they only cost between $70 and $200, but they have no associated operating costs. This means that using one of these mowers means no batteries, no electricity charges, and no paying for gasoline or oil.
Manual push mowers are virtually maintenance-free. Unlike powered mowers, these tools require no oil-changes, replacement parts, charging, or refueling. The only maintenance you’ll ever have to do is perhaps sharpen the blades of these mowers every few years.
Gas and electric mowers are loud, annoying both your family and your neighbors. But manual mowers are virtually silent, allowing you to enjoy being outdoors without the deafening sound of a mower in your ear. Additionally, these manual mowers produce no emissions. Compared to a gas mower which, in one hour of operation, emits the same amount of hydrocarbons as an automobile would on a 100 mile road trip, this is a huge health benefit to both yourself and the environment.
Size of Your Lawn
Due to the average cutting width of between 14” and 20” and since you will be pushing your reel mower along your lawn, these mowers are best suited for small and medium yards measuring less than 3,000 square feet.
Incredibly easy to use and affordable, a reel mower is a great choice for many homeowners. If you are looking for a healthier, more affordable, low-maintenance alternative to gas or electric mowers, it’s one of the best investments that you can make. Reel mowers are ideal for anyone with a small or medium yard. Pushing one of these manual mowers along on yards up to 3,000 square feet won’t be too tiring and, as long as you keep the blades sharp, you’ll be able to finish the job in no time.
Our recommendation for the best pick of 2020 is the American 1815 18” Reel Mower. This high-quality lawn mower earned the top spot in our review. It was designed with an 18” cutting width which is great for even medium-sized lawns and with its 5 tempered alloy steel blades, it makes clean, precise cuts in every time. American has been making tools like this for over 120 years and this model is no exception to their solid reputation.
It is easy to use but reliable and tough. With an adjustable cutting height from ½” to 2 ¾”, making adjustments to your type of grass or the seasonal needs is a breeze. If you are looking into recycling your cut grass, read the study. And its 29 lb frame is sturdy enough to be durable without hindering movement or slowing you down.
There’s a reason why this model earned its high ranking in our review. Durable and delivering excellent grass-cutting ability, the American 1815 is one of the best mowers available and, at under $120, it’s one of the most impressive mowers available.
One of the most impressive mowers featured in our review of the best manual mowers on the market today, the Fiskars StaySharp Max 18” Reel Mower is our recommendation for best premium push mower available. It’s easy to use and delivers impressive results. And with a number of great design features, is one of the best mowers in its class today. This 18” reel mower features InertiaDrive technology with thicker blades and a large-diameter cutting reel. This allows these mowers to cut with more power, tackle thick patches of weeds or the occasional twigs without jamming or slowing down.
And thanks to its chain-drive design, these mowers are actually 60% easier to push than comparable manual mowers on the market. For added versatility, this 5 blade mower offers cutting heights from 1” to 4”, which is a very generous range for any homeowner. And speaking of its blades, these precision-ground cutting blades never touch the stationary wheel, allowing them to retain their sharp edge longer than most competing mowers.
Plus, while one complaint about reel mowers is that edging can be slightly difficult, Fiskars has solved this with inset wheels. This allows the cutting blade to extend the entire length of the mower’s body, making edging along walkways or along landscaping a breeze. At just under $200, it’s certainly the most expensive push mower in our review but if you’re looking for an impressive and incredibly versatile option, it’s the perfect model for you.
If you are looking for the best bargain on the market, the American 1204 Reel Mower is a great option. It earned a spot in our review of the best rated reel mowers on the market and is the best value around. It is incredibly compact and lightweight, making it easy to operate and store but still features the exceptional quality that we’ve come to expect from American, a brand known for making some of the best yard tools on the market.
With a 14” cutting path and 4 tempered alloy steel blades, this mower is capable of making quick work of a small lawn while delivering clean, precise, efficient cuts. With adjustable cutting heights from ½” to 1 ¾”, setting your height is simple. And thanks to its compact design, this is the perfect option for tight areas around trees or shrubs, narrow walkways, or other hard-to-reach areas.
At around $70, it’s one of the best products for anyone looking for an inexpensive mower. It’s one of the most affordable mowers featured in our review. But more importantly, it doesn’t ask you to sacrifice quality. This is a very well-made mower that is simple to use, delivers impressive results, and will withstand years of regular use.