Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Reel Deal

I have always wanted a reel mower. My husband has always said no. Then one day, he took a day trip with his brother to New Jersey and I happened upon a tag sale (next door to my parent's house) selling a reel mower. Yep, I bought it. One of the best $5 investments ever!

As soon as I got it home, I buzzed off the kids section of the lawn, maybe about .10 acres. Not a whole lot but enough to see how it works. Yep, I still love it.

The design is relatively simple. The spinning blades pull the grass off and when the blades connect with the bar underneath, the grass is cut. In the back (at the top of the photo, next to my son's knees) is a toe guard. I have no idea if it is called that but that is what it appears to be. When you push the mower forward, the wheels move and the blades spin. In the picture, the handle is one the rest. This is the condition I bought it in and even with the rust, it works smoothly. The blades on this reel mower are about a foot. If you were to buy a new one, you could easily get a 20 inch or larger reel.

So what is it like? Here are the pros and cons:

- It is quiet. I love being able to let the kids play and know that I can hear them. Plus no chance of hearing loss i.e. no need for ear protection. (The lack of need to wear the so cool ear protectors is a con in my children's book.)
- No chance of flying sticks and stones. Again, I never worry about letting the kids just play in the yard while I buzz off a section.
- No motor. This may seem like a silly reason but not having a mower means that I can usually fix the problem i.e. removing a stick that got caught.
- No gas required.
- Exercise. It doesn't seem like a lot of work but you do have to walk behind it and use your arm muscles to push it.

- The grass cannot get to long. This is not the right mower who likes to let the yard go, then buzz it short once a month.
- It doesn't work well with strong weeds. I can cut my clover but when it is thick, it requires a lot of muscle and momentum.
- The yard must be clear of debris. Sticks, stones and vines will get caught and cause the mower to stop spinning. Most of the time you can remove the debris by spinning the blades backwards and picking it out.
- Exercise. It doesn't seem like a lot of work but you do have to walk behind it and use your arm muscles to push it.
- It takes more time (because you are walking and pushing) than a self-propelled or riding mower.
- There is only one speed - yours.

So is a reel mower right for you? I have no idea but I love it. I usually only mower about .25 acres, certainly not the whole 5 acres we have or even the entire .75 acres around the house. Could I do the entire yard area (.75 acres)? Absolutely but there are some places where the grass grows quickly and thick and my reel mower would have trouble. Perhaps I need a few more flower beds with some edible landscape... Or once I figure out how to set the height on the blades. For now I am just buzzing off the main section of the lawn the kids and I play in every day. It works best if I mow at least once a week. I spend maybe 30 minutes mowing and it is done. I can do the whole yard in 45 to 60 minutes with the riding mower but then I couldn't leave the baby playing in the grass with her brothers. Instead, I am happy to spend a little extra time and be able to talk to everyone as I push the mower past them, calling out to come grab a toy I spotted or just making faces as I cruise by.

I think it does a nice job. To the left is the before (not mowed) and to the right is the after (mowed). I need to oil and sharpen the blades but I haven't yet (lazy!). I have mowed the lawn at least 4 or 5 times since I bought it and still enjoy it. The kids are dying to get a chance but that will have to wait until they are bigger. (What age would you let your kids mow the lawn with a reel mower?)

Have you ever used a reel mower? What do you think?

 This article was shared on The Chicken Chick, The Prairie Homestead, The Backyard Farming Connection, The HomeAcre Hop, Farm Blog Hop,


  1. I agree - they are nice. My older boys made fun of me when I bought one at a garage sale a few years ago.... after all they had their early commercial equipment and REAL mowers (meaning with a motor). I wanted it for the younger boys and it allowed them to start mowing and they enjoyed it and learned about safety with it. Now, all of the boys use "REAL" mowers.... and I recently sold one of the reel types-powered by a person... .but I kept one and said, "You just wait.... we'll use it sometimes....." :)

  2. Love, love your reel mower! I think it's a great idea to have a gas-less mower, and I bought a like-new one at a yard sale, too. Mine was $20, but it was well worth it. I love quiet mowing! Plus, you never know when gas may become unavailable. Have a great day!


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