A few friends have asked me about push reel lawn mowers. This is what we use. It’s the Sear’s 18inch Push Mower. It’s $119 now. We’ve had it many years and the only thing we have to do is adjust the cutting blade. It should be adjusted only about once a year and it isn’t difficult to do.
On this mower, the blades contact each other, just like a pair of scissors. There are two screws on the left and two on the right that adjust the cutting blade. They are adjusted so they just touch. This provides a bit of self sharpening and helps the mower cut nice and clean.
Push reel mowers are very easy to use, but do cut a bit differently than power mowers. First, if you let the grass get too tall, you might not be able to cut it in one pass. The temptation is to stand in place and keep running the mower back and forth until it is cut, then move to the next patch. That does work, but it’s a lot of arm work and will wear you out fast. Instead, just keep walking and mowing. If you don’t cut everything, wait until you turn around and mow over it again. If you aren’t able to get it after two passes, then you can try back and forth while standing method.
There is a reason it’s called a push reel. There will be a lot of pushing! The mower came with a padded handle, but after a few years, it wore off. I use a pair of padded palm bicycling gloves. They protect my hands and add to the feeling that I’m not just mowing the lawn, I’m also getting a workout.
When we had a 1/4 acre lot, a push reel was an obvious choice. I could usually mow my entire lawn faster than my neighbor could fill his gas mower and start it. We have more now (7 acres, 3 of it grass) and it has been a bit of work to keep up. For starters, we don’t mow it all. We mow the front and both side yards and about 40 feet behind the house. We also mow paths around the yard and around the clothes line. There are about 4 hours of mowing per week. Because we take turns and mow different parts, no one has to mow more than an hour or so at a time.
Push reel mowers do not cut the same as power mowers. Power mowers suck the grass up and then rip it off where push reels just clip it off. Sometimes, the grass you want cut, the mower just can’t get. To properly complement a push reel mower, we use the Forg Grass Shear. These work better than the others we’ve used, including sewing scissors.
We had my mother-in-laws riding mower for a while. It was too easy to just jump on it and ride around so we sent it back. We also had a push real called a “Silent reel”. It was designed so the blades don’t actually touch. This was my least favorite mower. It was heavy and once the blades became dull, it didn’t cut very well. I didn’t have to tools to sharpen it and align the blades, so that was the end of it.
Scott’s makes nice push reel mowers. The Scotts 20-Inch Push Reel Mower #2000-20 should work as well as the Sear’s. It looks similar and may even be the same mower.
Push reel mowers are different than power mowers and in all the right ways. They are quieter, cleaner and you can stop and start any time you like.