Nothing raises curb appeal quite like a well-manicured lawn. Mowing the lawn today is as simple as going outside, making a couple of rounds and voila! Lawn mowers are a must-have for most homes yet very few people actually know their history.
The technology of lawn mowers has not changed much since the first lawn mower. Currently, there are two types of lawn mowers; the Reel Mowers and the Rotary Mowers. The Reel Mower is the original mower. It was invented in 1830 and the world was pretty happy with it until the Rotary Mower was invented in mid-to-late 90s. Though the Rotary Mower is the newer version of the mower, the reel mower still has its appeal.
The Rotary Mowers were invented in the 1970s. The main difference between the two types of mowers lay in the blade mechanism. Rotary mowers have a single blade that rotates on a single vertical axis. The finished product of Rotary Mowers is often bent grass blades rather than cut-clean-off grass blades. The Reel Mower has multiple blades rotating around a single horizontal axis. The finished product of the Reel Mower is immaculately cut grass. Before we go deeper into the workings of the Reel Mower, here is the history.
- History of the Reel Mower
- The Evolution of the Reel Mower
- How Does a Reel Mower Work?
- Types of Reel Lawn Mowers
- 2. The Electric Reel Lawn Mower
- 3. Gas-Powered Reel Lawn Mowers
- The Best Electric Reel Lawn Mowers Features.
- The Best Gas-Powered Reel Lawn Mower Features
- Buying Guide for Manual Reel Lawn Mowers
- Features Found on a Good Reel Mower and How to Pick the Best Reel Lawn Mower
- The Top 5 Reel Lawn Mowers for the Money
- 2. American Lawn Mower
- 3. Gardena 4023 15-Inch Silent Push Reel Lawn Mower 380
- 4. Remington RM 3000 16-Inch Reel Mower
- 5. Fiskars 18 Inch Stay-sharp Max Reel Mower
- Star: The Original Push Reel Mower
- Tips on Using your New Push Reel Mower
- How to Sharpen a Push Reel Mower Blade and How to Tell When it’s Time to Do It
- Best Cutting Heights for Popular Kinds of Grass
- Reasons Why a Push Reel Mower is a Great Choice for Lawn Care
History of the Reel Mower
The lawnmower is an old piece of technology invented in the 19th century. Prior to lawn mowers, folks used scythes, gardening sheers and/or swing blades to maintain their lawns. This was time-consuming and exhausting and something had to give.
The original lawnmower came into being when Edwin Beard Budding had the brilliant idea to use the technology he saw in a textile mill to create a machine that cut grass. The machine he saw was used to trim the frayed edges of textile after weaving. It used rotating blades to give the textile clean, neat edges. In August 1830, Edwin Beard Budding partnered with a local engineer, John Ferrabee to obtain a British patent and create the first ever lawn mower.
The first lawn mower was a heavy, 19-inches wide piece of machinery made of wrought iron and pushed from behind. This was a great invention especially since it was during the industrial revolution. The continent was making huge strides in technology and therefore menial tasks like mowing needed to be done faster and more effectively.
All the mowers produced in the 19th century were so heavy that they required an animal to pull them around.
The Evolution of the Reel Mower
The technology behind it was simple enough. They basically mounted a bladed reel on an iron frame and added a few levers to transmit the rotation of the wheels to the reel.
The mower had three rollers; the main roller, a rear roller with cast-iron wheels, and the roller between the bladed reel and main roller (middle roller). The rear roller was the one used to transfer power to the cutting cylinder. The middle roller could be adjusted up and down to determine the height of the finished product, and then the main roller facilitated the actual cutting. The cuttings were propelled into a tray-like collecting box attached to the front of the mower.
After their patent was granted in 1830, Edwin Beard Budding and John Ferrabee decided to allow other companies to produce their product at a fee. Among the companies that benefited from Edwin and John’s shrewdness was the Ransomes of Ipswich who produced their first lawn mower in 1832. Ransomes of Ipswich produces lawn mowers to this day.
The Edwin and John patent expired in the 1850s which saw Thomas Green & Son of Leeds produce the Silens Messor (the silent mower). Thomas Green incorporated a chain to transmit the power from the rear roller to the bladed reel. The result was a lighter, and quiet mower that was consequently expensive.
The first steam-powered lawn mower was patented by James Sumner of Lancashire in 1893. It utilized petroleum as a fuel and took hours to warm up to working conditions.
In the United States, the first human pushed lawn mower was produced by Amariah Hills and patented in 1868. It was revolutionary, lightweight and an instant hit. This mower was the beginning of the end for animal-lugged mowers.
How Does a Reel Mower Work?
The reel mower has several components. Setting the mower in motion is what kick-starts the mowing process. In manual reel mowers, that means the physical pushing of the mower by the user. In gas and electric reel mowers, it means the forward motion propelled by the type of energy used.
Majority of the reel mowers consist of a brush bar, a single axle, a stationary blade, a rear bar of rollers or wheels, and a collecting tray or bag.
When the wheels of the mower begin to turn, the axle spins with them transferring power onto a pair of levers. There is a large-diameter lever and a small-diameter lever. The power goes into the larger lever first then it is transferred to the smaller lever. The smaller lever is what powers the bladed reel. One complete turn of the larger lever elicits several turns from the smaller lever and therefore several turns of the cutting cylinder. This is the reason why even as you push your mower at medium speed, the speed of cutting grass is much faster.
When the mower is set in motion, the brush bar bends the tall blades of grass to ease them into the rotating cylinder at the middle of the mower. The rotating bladed reel or cylinder pushes the grass and severs it against the stationary blade at the rear of the mower. The clippings fall behind the mower where they are collected into a bin or paper.
Types of Reel Lawn Mowers
There are three types of Reel Lawn Mowers; Manual or Push Reel Lawn Mowers, Electric Reel Lawn Mowers, The Gang Reel Mower, and Gas-powered Reel Lawn Mowers. We will explore each independently.
1. Manual Reel Lawn Mowers
Manual reel mowers rely exclusively on the power of the operator. They are also called Push Reel Mowers because all you need to do to get it to work is push. The Push Reel Mower is especially popular because of the environmental benefits. It is very light and storage-efficient since you can just hang it on the wall of your garage. Since it does not use any form of secondary energy, it is quiet and has no emissions. It is also very low maintenance since there are no air filters, gas cans or spark plugs to replace.
The manual reel mower concept is also used in Gang Reel Mowers to accomplish huge jobs without the environmental baggage. Gang Reel Mowers are hauled by tractors or other heavy machinery to mow mostly zoos, golf courses, and certain high-end restaurants.
- There is no rattling with the use of this mower. It is quiet.
- They are lightweight and space-efficient.
- There is no smoke pollution or any pollution of any kind. They are very cul-de-sac friendly.
- They cut the grass clean-off. There are no broken, bent or torn grass blades which result in quicker healing and fuller stronger lawns.
- Mowing with the Push Reel Mower will rarely result in yellow, brown or white discoloration of the lawn. Blade shedding, disease, and parasites are mostly caused by broken, bent or torn grass blades.
- The end result of the Push Reel Mower is hands-down the best.
- It is a great way to workout.
- The Manual Reel Lawn Mower is ideally designed for small lawns. If you have large tracts of lawn, using the Push Reel Mower will be exhausting and time-consuming.
- The Push Reel Mower will give best results on even terrain. Though it can still be used in uneven lawns, it will take much more work and time.
- The Manual Reel Mower does not work on weeds. Small soft weeds will not pose a challenge, but longer tougher weeds tend to bend and pop-up behind you. If you have weeds on your lawn, as do most people, you will be forced to pull them out by hand. This will eventually pay out because, as your lawn grows back thicker and stronger, the weeds will stop growing back.
2. The Electric Reel Lawn Mower
Electric Reel Lawn Mowers were created for the people who just want to mow without the effort. They are just like the Manual Reel Mower except the power to work the cylinder is electric and all the user needs to do is guide it across the lawn. They come in two versions; the corded and the cordless.
The Corded Electric Reel Mower is usually plugged into an electric power source. Due to the fact that it is tethered, it can only work in an area of approximately 100 to 150 feet from the power source. The user has to be extra careful not to double back on the cord and mow it ending up with a dead lawn mower or an electrocuted user.
The Cordless Electric Reel Mower usually contains a rechargeable battery and that is why it is commonly referred to as the Rechargeable Reel Lawn Mower. This mower, on a full battery, will run for a maximum of 45 minutes. This translates to approximately 5,000 square feet of lawn. The Cordless Electric Reel Mower is also environmentally friendly, lightweight and quiet.
The Electric Reel Lawn Mower is preferred over the manual reel mower because of its ability to cut anything from overgrown weeds to grass and tiny shrubs with the same precision. They have typically 4-10 blades and 16” to 20” width depending on the work it is intended for.
The width of a lawn mower determines the speed with which the mower will work. A 20” width mower works 30 percent faster than a 14” mower.
- It is lightweight
- The environmental impact of this mower is negligible
- It cuts more range of grass with the same precision.
- It does not require much effort to work
- It is low maintenance.
- It is limiting in the length of cord or the battery life
- It requires regular sharpening of the blades
3. Gas-Powered Reel Lawn Mowers
The Gas-Powered Reel Lawn Mowers are similar to their electric counterpart except for a number of aspects. The Gas-powered Reel Lawn Mowers have a combustion engine attached to the top of the rotating cylinder. The engine is filled with gasoline to power the cutting cylinder. All the user has to do is power the mower and guide it across the lawn.
Gas-powered Reel Lawn Mowers have a long way to go as far as being environmentally savvy is concerned. They are bulky, will emit a billow of smoke, and make lots of rattling noise. They are effective though in cutting anything growing on your lawn. They have the same scissor-like precision and top-notch results.
Gas-powered Reel Lawn Mowers are available in push and ride forms.
- They give great results as far as cutting your grass is concerned.
- They are easy to use since all you do is power it and effortlessly guide it through your lawn.
- They cut any type of grass and weeds growing on your lawn with immaculate precision
- They are prone to causing both noise and gas pollution
- They are high maintenance since you have to constantly check the air filter, spark plugs and gas cans.
- They require period sharpening of blades.
Deciding on the kind of Reel Lawn Mower to purchase might be a bit difficult. To help you along, here are the features of the best of each type of Reel Lawn Mower.
The Best Electric Reel Lawn Mowers Features.
- It works both as an electric Reel Lawn Mower and a Push Reel Lawn Mower. This means that even when the battery is dead, it can still work by human-power.
- It has a powerful Lithium battery of 25V.
- A full battery can run for up to an hour.
- It has an inbuilt overload protection system. This is important to maintain the durability of the product.
- It gives immaculate results.
The Best Gas-Powered Reel Lawn Mower Features
- It has a powerful engine
- It has at least 7-10 blades and adjustable mowing height.
- It can handle varied terrain with ease
- It will cut anything with pristine precision.
- It has an inbuilt grass clippings collector.
- It is relatively quiet.
Buying Guide for Manual Reel Lawn Mowers
Now that you have decided to go manual, here are a few points to keep in mind as you shop for your manual reel mower.
- Make sure that the Manual Reel Lawn Mower is the right choice for your lawn. Keep in mind your type of grass and terrain.
- Check the number of blades and the width of the Manual Reel Mower. If you have a big lawn, you need a wider mower. A 20-inch mower works 30 percent faster than a 14-inch. That being said, a wider mower is also a heavier mower. Don’t fret too much though, the heaviest mower is 50 pounds.
- If noise is a real issue for you, consider a mower which the rotating cylinder blades don’t come into contact with the stationary blade. This mower will be quieter than its counterpart.
- Just because manual reel lawn mowers are low maintenance, it does not mean that they are no maintenance at all. Read up on the maintenance routine of various manual mowers before reaching a decision.
Features Found on a Good Reel Mower and How to Pick the Best Reel Lawn Mower
A good Reel Mower should have the following features:
- To ensure durability, the blades of a good reel mower should be well aligned not to come into contact with the stationary blade. This will prevent friction and wear and tear.
- Pick a mower that has the Stay-Sharp technology to ensure the blades stay sharp and reduce the need for frequent sharpening
- The mower should have a compact design to allow the user to mow tight corners and edges.
- Ensure you pick a mower with an in-built Versa-Cut technology. This revolutionary technology allows the user to mow any type of grass.
- Your mower should be height adjustable with a range of at least 1-3 inches.
- It should be lightweight for easy handling and storage.
The Top 5 Reel Lawn Mowers for the Money
We have compiled a list of the top five best and economical reel lawn mowers.
1. The Great States 415-16 16-Inch Standard Full Feature Push Reel Lawn Mower with T-Style Handle and Heat-Treated Blades
If you have a small lawn, you can easily take care of it using this manual lawn mower. Great States 415-16 is one of the best lawnmowers. It has 5 blades and a 16-inch cutting deck. It weighs 26 pounds.
What we love about it:
- It has a wide cutting edge which makes it easy and efficient to mow. A wide deck covers more lawn faster than a short one
- Blades are made from steel and are heat-treated. This makes for neat results, durability and the blades stay sharp for longer.
- It’s easy to start because it is fitted with four-spider bearing. A simple push gets the cutting reel moving.
- It is compact and light in weight. 26 pounds is not much to push around for a couple of minutes.
- Entirely environmentally friendly. It has complete zero emission since it doesn’t use gas or electricity.
What we don’t love:
- It is challenged by tall grass. Just like many other human-powered reel mowers, it can’t cut grass that is more than 6” tall.
- You have to make multiple passes to get through dense grass. Regardless of its wider blade and 4-spider-bearing, it has challenges cutting dense grass.
- It requires regular sharpening compared to other reel mowers.
- The width between wheels is wider than the cutting reel which is restrictive when mowing tight edges or corners.
2. American Lawn Mower
Currently, many people with small yards are going green with manual lawn mowers. American Lawn Mower is capable of handling small yards. It had a 14-inch cutting deck ideal for cutting turfgrass. It is as light as the Great States Mower mentioned above and it has a 3-spider bearing. It is also eco-friendly.
What we love about it:
- The compact design and lightweight make it easy to handle and store.
- It works best with cool season grasses including Fine Fescues, Rye, and Kentucky bluegrass.
- The 3-spider ball assemble starts the bladed reel rotating with very little effort.
- The cutting blade is fitted with elevated impact wheels. The blade is made from steel alloy which stays sharp for longer. Its elevated wheels make it easy to work on varied terrain.
- It is competitively priced. It is one of the cheapest mowers both at the purchasing point and in overall maintenance cost.
What we don’t love:
- The width of the cutting reel is not much. This limits it to small yards. Big yards will be energy and time-consuming.
- It has challenges handling tough grass. Since it is ideal for cold season grass, it will struggle quite a bit when cutting warm-season grass types like Bermuda Grass or St. Augustine Grass.
- It has limited height options. Its height options only range from ½ to 1 ½” therefore, it’ll be ideal for relatively short grass.
- It has difficulty cutting wet grass despite the fact that its cutting blade is made of long-lasting alloy steel.
3. Gardena 4023 15-Inch Silent Push Reel Lawn Mower 380
The Gardena 4023 is a cylinder mower that has a standard design. It is very modern and is fitted with a cutting width of 15 inches and very good-quality blades. It is also fitted with no-contact steel blades which makes it relatively quiet while in operation. It is a great product that is sturdy and durable.
What we love about it:
- It is fun and simple to push. It is lightweight and therefore the user can work for long hours without fatigue.
- It has a petite design that makes it easy to store even in a small garage.
- It is environmentally friendly. It doesn’t emit any smoke or anything otherwise harmful to the environment.
- It is quiet. Having no-contact blades means this mower is considerably quieter than the other lawn mowers.
- Assembly is not taxing. With the right instructions, it can easily be assembled by almost anyone.
- It also has adjustable heights and delivers exceptional results.
What we don’t love:
- It is only ideal for mowing small lawns and areas that are frequently trimmed. If you are dealing with long grass, you’ll be forced to mow the same path severally before achieving the desired results.
- It is very expensive. Compared to other reel mowers it is not pocket-friendly and hence only a few people will afford it.
- It is a bit bulky. It might prove quite tiresome when using it for large yards, therefore it only favors people with small yards.
- It is not ideal for mowing tight corners and edges.
4. Remington RM 3000 16-Inch Reel Mower
It has an ergonomic handle with a cutting deck of 16”. It is fitted with nine adjustable height positions. It also features five steel blades and weighs 28 pounds. Remington 16” Reel Mower usually comes with a 2-year warranty.
What we love about it:
- Has a really neat cut. If the grass being cut is not more than 4 inches in length, Remington RM 3000 gives pristine precision. The cutting width is also ideal because doesn’t need to do several runs of the same path.
- It is cost effective; among the branded and good quality reel mowers, Remington RM 3000 stands out as the most pocket-friendly reel mower.
- It is easy to maintain. No need to spend time or effort on its maintenance. It also doesn’t need fueling, winterization or breathers that are used to prevent overheating.
- Environment-friendly: It is eco-friendly since it doesn’t emit any smoke.
What we don’t love:
- It’s not suitable for de-weeding. Although it has a wide cutting deck and sharp blades it cannot be used for de-weeding.
- It doesn’t have a grass catcher. This may prove exhausting because the user will have to manually clean up the grass clippings after mowing.
5. Fiskars 18 Inch Stay-sharp Max Reel Mower
Fiskars 18-Inch Stay-Sharp Max Reel Mower is one of the popular manual mowers in its category. It has a 17-Inch cutting edge and weighs a whopping 52 pounds. It comes with height positions that range from 1-4 inches with a Stay-Sharp technology that ensures blades stay sharp for longer. It mostly comes with a lifetime warranty.
What we love about it:
- It is easy to handle. It has an exclusive handle design (loop elongated) that has both parallel and perpendicular sides which allows the pusher to use it as they desire.
- It has an even and consistent cut quality. If you set it to the right height, it gives you a steady cut quality.
- Adequate height adjustments. It offers an adequate height adjustment which is between 1-4 inches. However, it works best with a height of 1/3 of the grass.
- Easy to maintain. All the components of this reel mower have been designed to last long. It does not require much maintenance other than periodic sharpening which can be done once a year, tightening the bolts and nuts, periodic cleaning, and oiling of the joints.
What we don’t love:
- It is expensive. Compared to other reel lawn mowers, its price is a bit high.
- Its workings are a tad complex. If you are not well acquainted with its manual and height adjustment requirements, you might not figure out how to get it to cut tough grass.
After doing an in-depth analysis of the top 5 Reel Mowers of 2017, we have come to the conclusion that the Great States 415-16 16-Inch Standard Full Feature Push Reel Lawn Mower with T-Style handle and heat-treated blades is the best mower to go with. Manual Reel Mowers will never be the answer to all the lawn questions but as far as a pocket-friendly, eco-friendly reliable mower is concerned, we will vote for the Great States.
That being said, we thought we could conjure up a sense of nostalgia with one of the oldest Reel Lawn Mowers that continues to function even in this very modern world.
Star: The Original Push Reel Mower
This was discovered in 1830 and it is a very simple one. It features 5-8 blades which are spiral-shaped. These spiral-shaped blades pass by a stationary blade which located at the back of this mower.
What we love about it:
- It gives a fine, smooth grass surface.
- It is the simplest design and still functions as required
- It is easy and safe to use.
- Environmentally friendly.
- Easy to maintain because it doesn’t have an engine.
What we don’t love:
- Not suitable for mowing large areas.
- It’s not ideal for mowing in uneven terrain.
Tips on Using your New Push Reel Mower
It is very easy to use and maintain your push reel lawn mower. If done in the right way your mower will serve you for decades. Since there are no tune-ups or oil changes, all you need is listed below:
- Cleaning the mower after every use: This is done by a narrow cleaning brush that will get between the blades and remove any debris stuck there. You also need a normal brush to clean any other dirty areas.
- Grease the rotating wheels. For this task, use thick grease of silicon or petroleum base if your mower does not have any oil inlet.
- Sharpen the blades regularly.
How to Sharpen a Push Reel Mower Blade and How to Tell When it’s Time to Do It
There are several ways of telling if sharpening of the reel blades is necessary. These signs include:
- They blades don’t give a clean cut finishing on the grass.
- If you check your schedule and realize it’s been long since you last sharpened them.
- If the cutting unit produces a lot of noise when using it.
- You can also check the cutting edges of either the bed knife or the reel. If they appear bent, dull or nicked.
- When the bed knife appears grooved or rifled, it’s a sign that the blades are blunt.
- When the reel has “cone shape” it simply tells you it’s time to sharpen it.
How to Sharpen
- Remove the bed bar assembly from its unit while ensuring that the bed knife is fixed firmly to the bar.
- Use the sharpening kit to sharpen the blades.
- It’s very important to ensure the bed knife is not overheating during the procedure. Therefore, it’s wise to remove all the tiny materials every time you pass the grinder over the blade.
- Reassemble your mower and store it away.
Best Cutting Heights for Popular Kinds of Grass
Different types of grass work best at different heights. It is important to understand the kind of grass you have on your lawn and the height that works best for it. Here is a list of the types of grass and their ideal cutting heights.
- Bent Grass – ¼ to ¾ inches
- Buffalo Grass – 2-3 inches
- Bahia Grass – 2-3 inches
- Bermuda Grass – ½ to 1 ½ inches
- Centipede Grass – 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches
- Rye Grass 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches
Reasons Why a Push Reel Mower is a Great Choice for Lawn Care
Reel Lawn Mowers in general are a great way to maintain your lawn because first and foremost they are eco-friendly. They are quiet and pollution-free and therefore a great way to keep your lawn manicured. Push Reel Lawn Mowers are particularly great because even as they save the environment, they encourage you to break a sweat. Getting a workout while mowing your lawn is a great way to start your day. Here are a couple of more reasons why push reel lawn mowers are the best choice for your lawn.
- Push Reel Lawn Mowers are super low maintenance. They are cheap at the point of sale as well as in the day-to-day maintenance.
- Nobody can argue the results obtained with a push reel lawn mower. The scissor-cut of your lawn will ensure your lawn grows thicker and luscious.
- A reel mower gives a clean cut which produces a natural seal on the grass that is important for protecting the grass from pathogens. Rotary mowers tend to tear, bend and fold the grass blades rather than cut, which might lead to brown patches and shedding. Brown, white and yellow patches are definitely something you do not want to see on your lawn.
Manual Reel Lawn Mowers were the first lawn mowers ever and their legacy still lives. Their design and efficiency are so flawless that it has not changed much in over a century. As folks continue to be more environmentally aware, push reel lawn mowers are making a major come-back. With their pocket-friendly prices and easy maintenance, we reckon that in no time, the use of rotary lawn mowers will be a thing of the past.