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Old 10-23-08, 08:15 PM   #1
MetroMPG
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Default Ten observations on a full season of push reel lawn mowing



This year I mowed the grass at my parents' place exclusively with one of those push-type reel mowers. It's not a tiny lawn, either - let's say it took me about half an hour to do.

To complete the human-powered theme, I also ditched the power trimmer for a set of long-handled shears.

Previously, I'd been using their plug-in (AC) electric mower & weed whacker. But I gave that mower to my brother because my nephew (10 years old) started cutting the grass at his house this year and found their gas lawnmower too heavy to handle.

So here are my observations:

1. It takes longer. Why? Because the reel mower doesn't cut perfectly. The problem seems to be that the wheels push the grass down, and it doesn't spring up again before the next pass, so the blades miss it. So I find I have to do multiple passes, or the lawn has racing stripes.

I didn't mind that it took extra time. I viewed the extra walking as getting in some exercise (I sit on my butt in front of a computer all day).

2. It's liberating. It helps you get over any OCD tendencies you may have about a flawless lawn (see point #1).

3. It's easier to push. The reel mower is lighter than even a small electric mower.

4. It's more sensitive to dull blades. You can get away with a dull power mower because the sheer speed & violence of the spinning blade will hack the grass to bits, even if it's dull. Not a reel push mower. It needs to be sharpened once or twice a season for acceptable results. I bought a kit. It takes about 10 minutes to sharpen.

5. It's nice & quiet. So much quieter. Feel the urge to cut the grass in the middle of the night without waking anyone up? Me neither. I never really noticed how much noise lawnmowers make in the neighbourhood until spending the summer behind a quiet mower.

6. It doesn't mulch. Autumn presents problems. It doesn't grind up & spit out the leaves the way a power mower does. More raking required.

7. You can mow barefoot. The blades stop when you stop. Sure, you can mow barefoot with a power mower too. Even with the bar-mounted shut-off lever, how comfy does that feel?

8. You can't let the grass get too long. Reel mowers don't do well in really long grass (mine just doesn't cut the long blades). So you've got to stay on top of things, unlike a power mower, which can attack a small hay field you've left too long.

9. It intrigues people. When was the last time you had a total stranger pull into your driveway to talk to you about your lawn mower? Or your brother in-law say "hey, let me mow some!" A push mower is a conversation piece - people will want to know what you think of it - and in a way, it's kind of fun.

10. "Zen and the art of lawn maintenance". It's more relaxing. Once you accept its weaknesses, the combination of the light weight and snick-snick-snick quietness make for a more enjoyable experience. A reel mower can transform the chore of cutting the grass into an almost meditative experience.

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Old 10-24-08, 06:18 AM   #2
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Good stuff to know. Thanks for the list Darin. I kinda wish my lawn was small enough to mow with one, and I kinda like that its not... ah well.
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Old 10-24-08, 08:59 AM   #3
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huh, my front yard is small enough to use one of these! back yard isn't, but i bet i could save quite a bit on gas over the course of a summer. i'll have to check my local "home improvement" stores and see if they even stock them. maybe i can catch a winter sale
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Old 10-24-08, 10:33 AM   #4
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OOOOOO OOOOO...I have questions!
*raises hand*

I've been thinking of buying one of those for a while now. I was actually thinking of waiting until I get rid of my gas powered one (I hear your hisses and boo's... ). I like to keep my grass longer, like 2 1/2 - 3 inches long as it's better for the grass because then my grass doesn't need to be watered as much and it keeps it healthier looking and snubs out the weeds easier. So would that be too long for a push mower? And do you have any recommendations for which type of push is better then others? Like, what I should be looking for in a push mower?
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Old 10-24-08, 08:39 PM   #5
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Not to take any thunder out of your post Whatsoever! but I own one of these Amazon.com: Black & Decker 18-Volt Cordless Electric 12-Inch Grass Hog String Trimmer/Edger #NST2018: Home Improvement And have owned a reel mower in the past and Think they would make an excellent pair.

Do you think I could do 4 Acres with one?
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Old 10-24-08, 11:03 PM   #6
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Hey Dremd, I have that exact same grass trimmer. I love it...except when I forget to recharge the battery the day before I'm about to cut.
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Old 10-31-08, 10:15 AM   #7
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Good post Metro,
The more motors I have the more I become interested in simple tools. My lawn is not reel mowable, but I like the idea. Good for you to give people some tips so they don't throw the thing on the curb when it "doesn't work".

I have drawn the line on getting a gas wood splitter, many people think I'm nuts but a splitting maul is about as simple as a tool can get. Its some work and it takes a few hours to figure out your splitting strategies for different knot locations, different types of wood, but its good exercise, way cheaper, and quieter!
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Old 11-07-08, 02:59 PM   #8
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Oops, sorry for the delayed response. (Then again lawn mowing season is over, isn't it?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Higgy View Post
OOOOOO OOOOO...I have questions!
*raises hand*
I like to keep my grass longer, like 2 1/2 - 3 inches long as it's better for the grass because then my grass doesn't need to be watered as much and it keeps it healthier looking and snubs out the weeds easier. So would that be too long for a push mower?
I think 3 inches is probably at or just past the limit of the mower my parents have (Lee Valley Tools branded).

Aside from that, I can't speak for other brands. I'm not a reel mower aficionado, but I do wish sometime I could try different brands and see if there is a superior design out there...
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Old 11-07-08, 04:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MetroMPG View Post
Oops, sorry for the delayed response. (Then again lawn mowing season is over, isn't it?)
Yes it is. We just got nailed with an ice storm last night and it's been snowing a bit all day today. Mowing season is definitely over.

We've got a Lee Valley Tools here but I've never been. I may trade in my mower one day for a push one. I'd much prefer using that. Thanks for the info.
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Old 11-07-08, 04:56 PM   #10
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i got one! a craftsman, found it in my grandmothers garage. a friend gave it to her a couple years ago. not sure how old it is, but it was only used a couple times (so i'm told). it was too heavy for my grandmother to use, so she stashed it.

its dull and a little rusty, but its complete and everything works. gonna leave it in her garage over the winter, but i'll dig it out when the grass starts growing again and fix it up.

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