Push Reel Lawn Mowers

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Brandon's picture
Brandon
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Posts: 143
Push Reel Lawn Mowers

Hi all.  I'd like to know if anyone has experience with any particular brand of push-reel lawn mower...good, bad or otherwise.

I gave away my snow-blower last winter...now it's time for the lawn mower.  Of course my long term goal is to have less grass and more productive plant growth...but until then, at least I can get a workout in here and there!

What I've learned so far is:

  • As always, expectations are critical when moving to push reel from powered, self propelled, gas mowers.  Assume it will be much harder, do an inferior job, get stuck easier, and need to be done more often. And if any of these things turn out to not be the case, so much the better!
  • Mowers which don't have blade contact require less maintenance.  The Brill is an example.
  • Somewhat flat yards are the best candidates

Links I found helpful so far:

Thanks all, in advance.

-Brandon

joe2baba's picture
joe2baba
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Posts: 807
Re: Push Reel Lawn Mowers

personally i dont think this needs its own forum topic. why not go to the tool forum or permaculture. interesting forum topics disappear so quickly that there is not enough discussion. imho

now lets talk about may 27th 2010

or better yet the 5th of november

JAG's picture
JAG
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Posts: 2492
Re: Push Reel Lawn Mowers
joe2baba wrote:

now lets talk about may 27th 2010

or better yet the 5th of november

Ok Joe, I'll bite, now reel (or push-reel) me in. Astrological significance?

(sorry for the ensuing thread-jack, I really am interested in push reel lawn mowers)

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
Dogs_In_A_Pile
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Re: Push Reel Lawn Mowers

Brandon -

We have one and it works very well.  Much faster and very relaxing.

You have to keep up with the lawn though otherwise it gets too thick.  Spring in Virginia Beach is pretty wet and the lawn grows so fast I need to cut the lawn every 4-5 days or it gets too thick and I have to fall back on the power mower.

Amy Selmer's picture
Amy Selmer
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Re: Push Reel Lawn Mowers

We have used a reel mower on our sloping half-acre yard for two years now.  At first, we had whatever model we found at Home Depot...I'm sorry that I don't remember the brand...and it worked, but was louder than it needed to be because of poor engineering and harder work than it needed to be.  We switched to one we got at a barn sale...old, too old for any legible labels...and it's much better.  Smoother, quieter, less work, and heavier-duty construction.  That seems to be at least somewhat true of all the older ones I've seen, so if I were you I'd stalk country yard sales, auctions, etc.

Your yard doesn't need to be flat at all, and the results are not inferior, merely somewhat different.  It IS a bit physically demanding though, at least/especially in spring when the grass is growing so quickly.  The most important/hardest part is keeping up--like DIAP said, at least every 4-5 days you have to do it.  If you miss by much, you'll be borrowing the neighbor's power mower to catch up, because the reel mower just can't do long grass.

Around here it really works out great--when he gets home from work, my husband straps the toddler into a back carrier and mows a chunk of yard.  She usually naps, and I get to cook dinner in peace.  Obviously, he couldn't do that with a power mower.  ('Course, my husband is a total beast when it comes to endurance--as a starting point, I would NOT recommend strapping a 25 lb. furnace to your back before mowing).

Woodman's picture
Woodman
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Re: Push Reel Lawn Mowers

This gets into actually an important issue.  The energy and resources put into growing and maintaining lawn grass by the average American seems ridiculous and unsustainable in the long run.  I'd much rather do something by hand to get more excercise and avoid the expense, noise, and stink of gas engine powered mowers.  I just turned down a free gas powered snowblower offered to me because my shovel has so many more similar advanatages.

Because of concerns about a reel mower handling tall grass I'd like to try a scythe for my field:

http://scythesupply.com/

and plant alternative cover crops that require less maintenance like clover or wild flowers.

 

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
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Posts: 1813
Re: Push Reel Lawn Mowers

My husband and I just bought the 20" wide Scotts model . . . . . . . It works just fine, but the handle assembly is way too flimsy, IMO . . . . . hubby will weld a replacement from stock steel as soon as he has the time.  The first thing we did with it, though, is paint the obnoxious orange wheel hubs and cover guard flat black, and remove the glaring Scotts logo sticker.  Now, it's relatively sedate grass green and black . . . . . . much more to my liking.

Though I may be biased (since I am the author of the Tools Thread), I agree with Joe that this would have been an appropriate subject to bring up there.  Nevertheless, I am glad that you mentioned it, Brandon, as I had been planning to post about our new reel mower, but hadn't gotten to it.

joe2baba's picture
joe2baba
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Re: Push Reel Lawn Mowers

lawns are an affectation of a failed consumer society. god created grass to be eaten by animals (sorry sam)

therefore dont buy a mower do the permaculture thing and buy something that will eat the grass.

or cover it with cardboard and plant something YOU can eat

remember golf was originally played in pastures.

now where did i put my niblick and mashie......................probably with my soma

Amy Selmer's picture
Amy Selmer
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Re: Push Reel Lawn Mowers

Hah!  Joe, lawns may be an affectation, but grass is also a truly pernicious weed.  Believe me, we're getting rid of it as fast as we can, but that is a very labor-intensive activity if done manually, and a sheet compost with a cardboard base takes a lot of material to get started and months to mature (that is how we generally clear ground, though).  Meanwhile, for those of us who lack the space for animals, it's still a good idea to be neighborly and keep down the ticks by mowing.  Plus, kids gotta play frisbee somewhere. ;-)

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
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On the Value of Lawn

 

From a garden designer's point of view, grass, as in lawn, like any other plant, has its place.  There's nothing quite like it for rugged sports, sunny paths, and the nearly extinct flow'ry meade.  The problem is that lawn has been the sole heartless, sterile, uncreative solution of nearly every American homeowner who has faced the tabula rasa of a newly contoured suburban yard.  I've always liked the English tradition . . . . . . . They don't have "yards" . . . . . . . I'm not sure the average Englishman would understand what we mean by that term . . . . . . . . They have "gardens", and that, in my mind, is as it should be. 

 

Brandon's picture
Brandon
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Joined: Oct 6 2008
Posts: 143
Re: Push Reel Lawn Mowers

Thanks for sharing, all.

And, for what it's worth, I agree it could/should have gone in the tool thread.  Unfortunately I only searched for "push reel", only searched the first page of forums on the first page of the general discussion folder (tools shows up on pg 2!), and in my time on the site only saw the "survival tool" thread at one point, so I wasn't aware of the general "definitive tool thread".  Now that I searched for just "mower" I see it shows up there.  Possibly I saw the tool thread and thought it was the survival-tool thread...not sure....

...although I suppose if I were in the wilderness with only my push reel lawn mower, I'm sure I could find a way to get it apart and use it for survival purposes!...not sure how long I'd last though....

Interesting post by Amy stating that older may be better when it comes to this type of tool...this was a suspicion I had myself.  Construction has undoubtedly become lighter, but at what cost?

Also, Cloudfire....how happy I am to hear that I'm not the only one who gets a bit picky about the aesthetics of even my outdoor maintence tools...too funny!

Joe...again, I agree that getting rid of much (maybe all) of the grass is the way to go.  It's an iterative process for sure!  Being in the city also makes it a bit of a sticky situation to have such an animal as one that will eat my grass for me.  I have to pick my battles, and bite off what I can chew at this moment in time.

I'll keep looking, researching, and send back my findings....and in the mean time, I'll enjoy the fact that I can fall behind on my mowing.

-Brandon

EndGamePlayer's picture
EndGamePlayer
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Posts: 546
Re: Push Reel Lawn Mowers

I love my grass! I keep areas of grassey lawn between my gardens. The kids have game areas and it gives a sense of open space.

We planted NoMowGrass which doesn't need alot of mowing, chokes down weeds so I have no chemicals in my lawn - and to make everyone happy - my goats love it as it must be sweet to them. Unlike fescues, the no mowing short grass has no endophytes to upset their stomach - the dogs love it too. The other thing - if I don't mow it I don't have to worry about rodents making homes in it since it pretty shoort naturally. We have a lot of rodents like field mice!

I haven't tossed the mower, maybe I'll see if can be converted to a go-cart.

EGP

EndGamePlayer's picture
EndGamePlayer
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Posts: 546
Re: Push Reel Lawn Mowers

oopps . . hit button twice. . 

EGP

MyBackAchers's picture
MyBackAchers
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Joined: May 27 2013
Posts: 26
Non-mowing grasses

I just came across something called Cutting Edge grass and have a suspicion its a GMO. Just a heads up -- they claim this grass has a 2” top with a 48” root? Sounds fishy to me cause nothing in nature like that can exist – the top growth is ALWAYS in proportion to the green top by 1 to 2 times the most.  Is this a GMO??? And its going on lawns?

They want this weird grass in lawns where pets and children play? NOT!

The trouble is-it took years to get labels for GMO foods and a product like this isn’t food so who knows what it really is. And FYI- GMOs carry a wildcard gene that is not secured to a DNA molecule so it can jump from one organism to another. I have no intention of putting this in my lawn and am asking my neighbors to be aware of it.

With gas prices on the rise, it might sound like the ideal thing but there have been products out like no mowing grasses for years.

 

Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
Status: Peak Prosperity Team (Offline)
Joined: Mar 17 2008
Posts: 409
Amy Selmer wrote: Plus, kids
Amy Selmer wrote:

Plus, kids gotta play frisbee somewhere. ;-)

Yep.  My plan is to turn my in-town yard (truly a "garden" in British terms) into FOOD, but my kids insist that they need some space for handstands and cartwheels, and the three "decorative landscaping boulders" that I wanted to get rid of are apparently just the thing for jumping between.  Also, my circus kid juggles outside with his clubs as I won't allow them in the house, and he needs some space for that, though I suppose the driveway would also work for that.  (Am thinking eventually, no driveway either?)

I will keep a little strip of grass for that purpose, for another 5-8 years max. 

I have a Brill reel mower purchased about 10 years ago (at about half of today's price).  Love it, but it's only good on relatively short grass, so you do have to keep up with it, and the edges need to be done some other way (I use big garden shears).  For our little yard/garden, there is no point in having a gas-powered mower -- I gave ours away.

I checked the site where I bought it and I see a sharpening kit is now available.  I've never needed one, but I've not used mine heavily.

The thing is remembering to mow frequently enough!

Mark Cochrane's picture
Mark Cochrane
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: May 24 2011
Posts: 1216
Pushing too!

I just saw this thread pop into the active topics and was happy to see that there are several like-minded people (masochists?).

We've got something called a '16" TaskForce', which was the only model available in our area. It works well enough, though I do wonder whether sharpening will be an issue at some point. I had a more robust model once upon a time and even got stuck pushing a lawn sweeper as a kid (not recommended for fun or ecology). Even this lighter model is usable by my wife and daughter who have less biomass working for them than I do when pushing. They have some issues in tight spots where the handle angle needs to be kept higher, reducing leverage going forward but nothing major. As others have said, keeping up with things is key. Spring is the main concern. If we let thick grass get too tall, it can be a bear (I'm the bear who gets assigned!). At this point in the season we can go a week or more without mowing without difficulty. There is some issue with things like dandelion stalks that get tall quick and don't cut as well. I just snap those off by hand though.

The relative quiet is nice, I just wish my neighbors would turn in the gas powered mowers too.

Mark

P.S. I guess that I now have to find my way over to the Tools thread to see what else I have been missing.

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