Even a small plot of grass needs to be trimmed. It might be overkill to invest in a lawn mower with an engine. But a reel mower could be the perfect solution when there’s not that much to cut.
It may sound quaint or old-fashioned, but a reel lawn mower is still a perfectly viable piece of equipment. Sometimes called a push mower, they have been improved over the years. But they’ll still provide you with a decent workout, of course. And they’ll get the job done and help your lawn stay beautiful and healthy.
We won’t get into what size lawn is best suited for a reel mower. That’s entirely up to you and depends on how much time and energy you want to put into it. “Smaller” is a good standard, but nothing is stopping you from mowing the back 40 with it if you have the time and stamina!
Pros And Cons Of A Reel Lawn Mower
So, what are the advantages and drawbacks of using a reel lawn mower? Here are a few.
A reel lawn mower isn’t adding pollution to the air or consuming energy other than what you use to push it. It depends only on human power.
Believe it or not, a reel mower cuts better than a powered one. The rotary blades act like scissors, meaning the grass is “cut” rather than “torn”.
Since it doesn’t require a complicated motor, the upfront cost of a reel mower is less than electric or gas models. And since it doesn’t need other sources of fuel, the operating cost is also less.
Less Likely To Break Down
Since it’s a simpler machine, the reel mower doesn’t have as many things that could go wrong with it.
You’ll burn more energy when using your reel mower. That means you’ll be healthier in the long run!
Of course, not every difference goes in the “win” column. There are a couple of drawbacks, too.
Since a reel mower depends more exclusively on human power, it can take a bit longer than with other types of mower.
That’s not the only thing that slows the job down, though. Most powered mowers do a better job at mulching the clippings and spreading them evenly. With a reel mower, the fallen grass clumps more so you’ll have to go back and spread it out or pick it up. However, if you plan to bag the grass, there are reel mowers that offer these attachments.
Mow More Often
Most reel mowers struggle with taller grass. That means you’ll want to mow more often to keep the grass shorter. So not only does each mowing take longer, but you also have to do it more regularly.
What To Look For In A Reel Lawn Mower
When it comes time to choose a reel mower, there are several factors to consider.
First, you want it to be durable. Of course, that’s a quality you look for in any tool. With a reel mower, though, you want to have a machine made of quality parts that can withstand some banging around. Odds are that you’ll hit a stone or a root at times, even if you’re careful. You also may need to lift it up stairs or over obstacles, so it might get knocked around a bit. Even under the best of circumstances, too, the blades will dull over time. So you want to be sure the materials and construction will hold up under regular use.
At the same time, you want a lightweight reel mower. And that’s for many of the same reasons that it needs to be durable. Even if you have just a postage-stamp-sized yard, you don’t want to be pushing around a device that’s heavier than necessary. That goes double if you have to move it up or down stairs!
The number of blades also matters. More blades help the mower cut better. However, it also makes it more difficult to get started or to turn. If you have thick grass, six or more blades are best. But if you have thinner grass, you can get away with four or five. If you find that more blades make it too hard to manage, you can go with fewer, but you’ll likely need more passes to get the job done. Five blades are most common, and all the models we’ll review have five.
Your strength is also important to consider when considering the mower’s width. A wider blade (they run up to around 20 inches normally) gets the job done faster but makes it harder to push. On the smaller end, a 14-inch-wide blade may take more passes but is a lighter machine that’s easier to push.
You may want to also consider whether the cutting height of the mower is adjustable. This can make it easier to get the job done when the grass has grown a bit longer or when you want to trim it shorter to prepare for winter.
There are also two general types of reel mower: silent-cut and contact. The “contact” refers to the blades touching the bed knife; in silent-cut reel mowers, this isn’t necessary. The silent-cut mowers are extremely quiet and also cut better. They do require a yearly adjustment but this is easy to do. Silent-cut dominates the market nowadays.
Reviews Of The Best Reel Lawnmowers
Now that we know what to look for in a reel mower, let’s get into some specifics models and what they offer.
This narrow reel mower from Scott’s is a popular option that offers great value and a good set of features.
The five blades measure 16 inches wide and the overall width is 18 inches. It has 10-inch wheels, making it easy to conquer small rocks, roots, or slightly uneven patches of lawn.
There are 5 adjustable blade positions, ranging from ½ inch up to 2 ½ inches. The blades are made of tempered steel so they will hold up well to regular use.
The grips on the handle are a nice touch as is the slight angle they’re positioned it. These factors make it a bit more comfortable to use.
Assembly is easy and no tools are required.
It weighs in at 27 pounds, which is not too bad for manipulating around the yard. We give it a kind of “meh” as far as weight – a couple of pounds lighter would be nice, but it’s not bad, either.
There’s no clippings bag included with this. It does not appear that it is designed to add one, either.
The only complaint we’ve seen (we didn’t experience this ourselves, though) was that the mower can get stuck on even small twigs. On the one hand, we understand; that’s not what a mower is for. But it sounds like, in some cases, it was a major annoyance.
There is a two-year limited warranty on this product.
This 5-blade, 18-inch reel mower from Remington provides a good cut and includes a grass-catching bag. It’s a good deal for the price.
The mower offers a wide range of adjustments starting at ¾ inch and going up to 2 ½ inches. There are 9 settings possible, which means it has quarter-inch increments, allowing you a fine array of settings. There are levers by the wheels to adjust them easily.
The blades are made of a steel alloy. The overall weight of the unit is 28.4 pounds. Considering its size, that’s a good weight.
The assembled width of the unit is 24.5 inches, somewhat wide compared to the blade size. Still, it’s only just over two feet, so it won’t be hard to store.
The handle is padded to make it more comfortable to use.
Of course, the grass bag is a positive feature. It does eliminate some of the post-mowing work you’ll need to do. However, it’s not the best design and a lot of grass still gets thrown either beyond or beside it. It’s helpful, but far from perfect. Some owners also say the bag tends to fall off.
The limited warranty is for two years.
This 17-inch model from Fiskars, is a bit different than others on our list because of its inset wheels, meaning you can get closer to obstacles. Overall, it’s only 18 inches wide.
It also has a reversible grass shoot. You can set it to shoot the grass forward or have it drop behind the mower. When directed behind, it does drop down so you don’t have to worry about it shooting back at you. However, no grass catcher is available for this model.
This mower can be set at four different heights, from one to four inches. That’s much higher than most other reel mowers, which could come in handy at times. However, it would be good to have more settings – half-inch differences would have been useful. The adjustment is easy to make, at least.
The handlebar can also lock in at 3 differentp positions.
The handle is protected with rubber. It has a decent ergonomic design allowing you to push without having to bend forward too much. That’s important because this mower weighs 43.5 pounds!
Fiskers offers a two-year warranty on this reel mower.
This larger model from Scott’s also offers some better features. With 20-inch blades, you’ll be able to get your yard done more quickly. The grass catcher also makes cleanup faster.
The 5-blade system is made with alloy steel. The unit weighs in at only 30 pounds, which is great considering its width.
The front wheels are 10 inches across, and the small rear wheels provide extra support.
The handle has an offset at the top, making it more ergonomic to use. It’s also padded with foam rubber.
Like some other reel mowers, the grass catcher is on the small side. You’ll find yourself emptying it regularly if you have anything but the smallest of yards. Also like other models, you’ll still be left with a good part of the clippings flying elsewhere. It’s not a unique problem to this mower, but it still leads to more work.
The American Lawn Mower Company offers a great 5-blade reel mower that’s 14 inches wide. It’s lightweight at only 19 pounds and is great for those who need something easy to maneuver and store.
It is a bit wide – the total width is 24 inches, which means it has a lot of overhead for the wheels. The wheels themselves are 10 inches in diameter. There’s also a rear roller bar that helps keep it balanced and moving well.
The T-shaped handle has some padding to help you mow more comfortably.
There are three settings for the cutting height, from one inch to 1¾ inches. While those are limited options, it is enough for most cutting needs.
Assembly is simple and doesn’t require any tools. No grass catcher is included, but you can add one from the manufacturer.
There’s a one-year warranty on this product.
A reel mower is a great option for small yards. It gives you some extra exercise while also helping the environment. Of course, they’re more economical, too. If you have a small yard, they could be just what you want to get the grass trimmed!