Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Real Reel Push Mowers!

I'm fascinated by these old-style mowers. I'll bet the new ones are worlds easier to push than the old ones, but I'm wondering about the efficacy of this type of mower.

Anyone have recent experience with a latter-day reel mower? I'm thinking about getting one...


Roscoe said...

If your yard is small and Elsewhere isn't in the part of Texas where Floratam is the dominant lawn species.

Jay G said...

Buddy of mine picked one up - he's got a small yard, and figured it would be a cheaper, greener way to mow.

Problem is, you need to keep the blades very sharp, and you need to mow at least once a week, twice when it's growing.

If you've only got time to hit the lawn twice a month, get a gas mower.

Jon said...

My brothers, and I, were forced to use one of the older flail push mowers, when a neighbor lost an eye due to a power mower. They were great, if you never allowed the grass to grow very much. This meant two or three mowings a week, when dealing with the St. Augustine grass of Southeast Texas.

In theory, they work very well. The drawback is that they require sharpening, and the old time sharpening experts may be tough to find.

NYEMT said...

We have one at the firehouse that's used to mow the little lawn around our memorial to two fallen members out front. Works great on a small area. I was also subjected to one as a lad, though, on a much larger lawn, which was pure hell. Hills are killers, too.

So if you have a small, fairly flat lawn, it's terrific. Nothing looks better than a lawn mown with a reel mower. One of our guys who's handy with a file and a grinder sharpens ours every year, and we've never had any problems with it.

Christina LMT said...

Phlegmmy, I used a push-mower in Hawaii, and it sucked. Or maybe *I* sucked at using it? Judging by the other comments left here, maybe I should have had the blades sharpened. Who knew?

Anonymous said...

Well, in Africa, they use a primitive version of a machete, called a cutlass, to cut the grass. It is awesomely back-breaking. However, one day my husband laid hands on an old push mower; it was that day's pride and joy.
He brought it home and showed Richard, our gardener, how to use it. Or so he thought.
Later in the day, I kept hearing a terrible and repetitive "clang-clatter" from the yard. I went to the door and looked out. Richard was swinging the push mower like a cutlass.
I went away from the door. In Africa, you learn to do that.
My husband came home to a lawn of divots the like of which you've never seen on a golf course, and worse than mole mounds. The push mower was a pile of nuts and bolts in the garage.
There was a roar that shook the trees for miles. However, the next day, Richard went back to his cutlass and the push mower disappeared, never to be mentioned again.
Elsewhere PhD

elmo iscariot said...

Yup. They work fine when sharp and properly maintained (and really, really appeal to anybody with a self sufficient streak), but the effort curve increases dramatically with lawn size.

Dirk said...

Like others have said, your yard should be nice and flat, though it's more about being level - holes and dips and bumps and what-not make things hard with this kind of mower. Size of the yard doesn't really matter - these aren't any harder to push than a non-self-propelled gas mower.

Another drawback is you can't cut very close to things like fences - you'll have to trim along those more than you do with a "normal" mower. And, like has been said, keep the grass short, as these mowers just don't do well with long grass. Also, you'll have to make sure there's no small twigs in the grass - those will stop you in your tracks.

They're damned quiet, though - you can cut the grass early in the day and not wake up even the lightest sleeper. And you won't need ear or eye protection, and you won't kick up huge clouds of dust if things are dry. And you won't have to worry about throwing rocks at high speeds if you hit one.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

I've used a push mower for the last three years, and it only got sharpened once a year. I mowed once a week - but this was in Alaska, where we only have 5 months of greenery, and in the deep shade of trees, the grass doesn't grow that quickly.

They're infinitely easier to push when sharp, but if the grass gets long, for the love of little green apples, just go borrow a gas mower from the neighbor, because it's a PAIN to cut. The trees provided lots of little twigs that meant I spent nearly as much time bending and picking up twigs as pushing forward, and most all leaves had to be raked well clear.

On the other hand, I could mow quietly, and while it was a heck of an upper-body workout, the lack of vibration like a two-cycle banging motor puts out meant I could mow with fresh shoulder & neck injuries.

Be warned; anything that grows quickly (dandelions) are best hand-pulled (dandelions) because once they get over 5 inches tall (dandelions), they just lay down and the mower passes over them instead of cutting.

And you spend a lot more time trimming the edges, or not carrying about an overgrown shaggy fringe.

Stranger said...

I used to help a Sexton friend of my Dad's get a cemetery ready for Memorial day with a push mower.

You should be able to find an antique mower sharpener, a gadget that holds a file in position to sharpen the blade properly. Replace the file, of course. Ace Hardware should have the right size.

Give a reel mower a good sharpening and don't let fine bladed grass have much fertilizer and you can go a week between mowings. Even in the deep South.

But the mix of Johnson grass, sand spurs, and other stemmy stuff I remember as a kid in Mineral Wells will dull a reel mower in a few minutes. You will work as hard filing as mowing.


Roberta X said...

You can buy versions with a built-in hone; highly recommended (leevalley.com usually has 'em).

They don't like twigs. I own one (without a home, a cheapie). I use it, but I'm used to pickin' sticks out of its teeth. Tam won't use it -- says it is more trouble than it is worth. YMMV. Free exercise!

TOTWTYTR said...

When I was a kid, we had a gas powered reel mower. I hated it, but I probably would have hated any lawn mower. I think the only real problem with it was that we never got the blades sharpened, so it beat the grass into submission, it didn't cut it.

It was only long after it had been junked that I found out that they do a better job mowing than the ones made today. Sadly, no one seems to make them any more. In fact, that's the only one I ever saw, so it's possible that it was home made.

TOTWTYTR said...

I was wrong, they do make power reel mowers. They are pretty expensive though.