Push (Reel) Mowers are greener, like bikes, but also cut better!

There are obvious benefits of push (reel) mowers:

  • Push mowers don’t require gas – According to the EPA, Americans use over 800 million gallons of gas per year mowing their lawns and spill over 17 million gallons of fuel, more than all the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez.
  • Push mowers are quiet.
  • Push mowers don’t pollute or stink up your air – A new gas powered lawn mower produces as much volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emissions air pollution in one hour of operation as 11 new cars each being driven for one hour, again, EPA statistic.
  • Push mowers are similar to bicycles by being simple, human-powered machines that are easy to maintain or renovatecropped-bike-trailer-mowers.jpg
  • Push mowers are lighter than power mowers.
  • They are less expensive and cost less to maintain and operate than power mowers.
  • No cords or batteries are needed.

But also…scissor cut

Reel mowers cut blades of grass just like a pair of scissors would. There is a back blade, the bed knife, and the moving, reel blades. This smooth, precise cut is better for the grass plant than the cut of a rotary power mower, gas or electric, which cuts with a violent, impact cut, leaving the grass blade jagged and rough.

Golf Courses use reel mowers because of how much better it is for the grass plant. But golf courses usually use tractors to pull multiple reels.

Putting Green push mower

Here is a Putting Green Push Reel Mower, it can cut as low as 1/4″. That is why reel mowers are used for putting greens, the grass can be cut that low when it’s cut with a pair of scissors, or something similar.

Then with the simple gearing between the wheels and the reel, you power the mower by pushing it, which spins the reel, mulawnmower gears 2 - Editedch faster because of the gear ratio.

Any reasonable sized lawn can be mowed with push (reel) mowers. Thicker, lusher lawns might need to be trained, meaning it may take a few times. But these mowers work great on lawns with native grasses that don’t require as much water.

In the West, if you incorporate more xeriscapng and native grasses in your lawn, a push-reel mower is the best choice for your; lawn, grass plants, air, ears, and world!


Craftsman, Scotts, & AmericanScott’s, Craftsman, American and Great States are all built by Great States, and range from $90 – $130 new. All four brands are solid, work well, easy to work on and and have the same replaceable parts (that you can get through Great States website).

Brills became popular 10-15 years ago. They are German made, well-built and designed to be very light, which has it’s pro’s and con’s. They don’t work as well on lusher lawns with Kentucky Bluegrass. They slide and don’t cut so well on thicker lawns, from my experience.

Where an older, heavy one will keep it’s traction and power right through thick grass.

The same is true with the heavier, more expensive Fiskars model, the StaySharp Max Reel Mower, which retails for $250. They are more expensive and a little harder to work on, but are probably worth it. I’ve only worked on a couple Fiskars, and although they were harder to work on, they seem very user friendly and customers said they work very well. The Fiskars StaySharp Max Reel Mower has heavy reel blades for keeping momentum and powering through thick grass and it also has inset wheels so it cuts to the edge.

old mower new roller
I had a friend turn a new roller on a lathe for a customer this past spring.

If you can find an older (1930’s – 1970’s), heavier, push mower at a garage sale then have it sharpened professionally,  you are re-using and you have the older quality. The older, heavier ones work really well when sharpened and tuned up, they just don’t adjust to cut as high as newer ones, but don’t necessarily need to.  A larger roller or longer hangers will raise the bed knife, and therefore raise the cut, also.       


Below, on the left, are two push (reel) mowers that work great, one from the 1930’s and one from 1940’s. Then on the right is a reel mower made in the 1950’s, with a motor on it, because we really need a chainsaw to cut butter!

1930's and 40's era mowers

1950's era mower

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading my blog!

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Published by

robsbike2013

Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources - Colorado State. Promoted alternative transportation, especially bicycles, for four years at City of Fort Collins SmartTrips Program. Rob's Bike Courier Service for nine years. Completed solo, self-contained, cross-country bike tour, riding over 6,000 miles in almost four months. Created the Car-Free Recreation Guide to Northern Colorado, published in 2008. Owner and operator of Get Reel! Push Mowers, a push-reel mower sharpening service. Gardener. Composter. Car-free almost 10 years.

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