Mowing can be a REEL pleasure

Here’s a news flash: unless you have a lawn the size of a football field, you don’t need that power mower. Reel mowers are quiet, pollution-free, and quite simply, a pleasure to use. (Beware: Once you use one, you may be hooked for life!) There’s no earsplitting motor and no messy, expensive fuel is needed. Plus, reel mowers give your lawn a softer, more natural look, rather than the too-immaculate, astro-turf look of highly-manicured lawns. And isn’t soft and natural more attractive in the long run?

Cutting your lawn with a reel mower is an experience in itself, so relish it. You can actually hear the bees buzzing and the birds singing as you mow your grass. Plus, you’ll revel in the pleasant, rhythmic whirring of the mechanical blades. You can even do a little daydreaming. Enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing something that’s beneficial to your lawn, the environment and you.

Many people wrongly assume these old-fashioned mowers are heavy, cumbersome and difficult to push. But these misconceptions couldn’t be further from the truth. Today’s reel push mowers are lighter (the ones Lehman’s carries range from 21-27 lb), more maneuverable and generally work better than their forebears of a few decades ago. They are no more difficult to push than a regular power mower that is not self-propelled.

Just follow a few simple hints and you’ll be on your way to an enjoyable mowing experience and a great-looking, environmentally-friendly lawn.

• Take the right stance. Stand straight and grasp the mower handles firmly yet comfortably. Keep your arms relaxed. Walk forward, pushing the mower in front of you. It won’t take long to get a feel for maneuvering the mower around curves and corners.

• Always push the mower forward; don’t pull backward. Most reel mowers do NOT work if you try to pull them because the blades will not turn. Plus, the mower could flip over.

• Walk at a steady pace. With a reel push mower, you are the “engine,” which means you supply the power. The faster you walk, the faster the blade turns and the better your mower works. The mower can bind up and skid if you walk too slowly. Keep to a steady, comfortable pace for best results. Somewhere between “normal walking speed” and “slightly brisk” is good. In addition to a nicely cut lawn, you’ll be getting a bit of “reel” exercise as well!

• Mow back and forth, not around and around. Mow in rows, back and forth across your yard, not in a square. This is the most recommended pattern for achieving a smooth, even lawn. Since reel mowers don’t spray grass clippings out the side like power mowers, you can mow close to flower beds and landscaping without covering your flowers with grass. The reel mower provides a light mulch of grass clippings, which, if left on the lawn, break down quickly and act as a kind of natural fertilizer for your lawn.

• Overlap rows. While mowing back and forth, slightly overlap your new row with the one you just mowed. This ensures a smooth appearance to the lawn and snips off any remaining blades of grass that weren’t cut on your previous pass. In effect, the grass will be mowed twice – once in each direction – ensuring the best possible cut. If grass is on the longer side, you can overlap rows up to half the width of the mower as needed. A reel mower lifts up the grass before it is cut, then snips the grass like scissors. Think of it as a haircut for your lawn. In this way, reel mowers are healthier for grass. Rotary mowers tear the blades of grass, which is harsher and more of a shock to the plant.

• Monitor grass length. Don’t let your grass get too long between cuttings. Reel mowers aren’t meant to cut extremely tall grass, so owning and using one requires you to keep an eye on your lawn. In general, it’s best to mow weekly, or slightly more often during the lush spring season. The taller the grass gets, the harder it will be to push the mower through it. Although the reel mower will still cut long grass, it will be more of a workout for you. Be aware that the condition of your lawn changes with the seasons. In wet spring periods, blades of grass are fuller and fatter, whereas in mid-summer blades are thinner and retain less water. You may find that you need to mow more than once a week in lush periods, and less often in drier periods. Tip: You can use clippings as mulch or compost. The Brill RazorCut Premium 38 has an optional grass catcher.

• Find the right mowing pattern for your lawn. Lawns are like their keepers – no two are alike. Experiment with different mowing patterns and cutting lengths to find the method that works best for your grass and the terrain of your lawn. Different types of grass require different cutting lengths to keep their root systems healthy. For the best-looking lawn, do a little research on your type of grass and the optimum length for it to be kept. If you have very thick, dense grass, you can mow in several directions or alternate mowing patterns each time you mow for a better cut. Our reel mowers have cutting lengths ranging from ½” to 2 ½”, and the blades can be easily adjusted.

A customer says: We purchased the Brill reel mower mainly because we couldn’t afford the increase to our gas budget that was already taking a hit due to rising prices. We use two gas guzzling riding and push mowers to help mow our large lot. The idea that we could save money and get some exercise at the same time was an exciting challenge to our family. We aren’t ready yet to pass on the “chore” of mowing the entire lawn to our kids, but with the reel mower, I feel safer letting our sons help. We may not totally give up our riding mower this year, but the cost of the Brill will save us in gas on the push mower we’ve used in the past. Assembly was easy and the “little to no maintenance required” helped make our purchasing decision. We are just into the mowing season, and so far we’re really pleased with the results. As with any reel mower, you need to make sure your lawn is free of any sticks or pine cones that could prevent a clean mow. I would recommend this to anyone who is willing to burn a few more calories to get a beautiful lawn the old-fashioned way. Not to mention the quiet whirl of the mower to get your mind off of the noise of the day. Who would have thought this city-born girl would take to an old-fashioned way of doing things? I guess the older I get, the more I want to get back to a simpler way of life. -Renee, Ohio

CAUTION: Mower blades are extremely sharp. Keep hands and feet away from spinning blades!

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14 thoughts on “Mowing can be a REEL pleasure

  1. A friend bought one of these several years ago. He asked me to try it. I loved it and promptly bought one too. Both are Great States brand. While they aren’t for everyone, I’ll always have one. My wife and kids love it too.

    No real noise made by the reel mower so I can listen to music or an audiobook on earplugs. My kids can safely interrupt my mowing. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. GRIN!

    I lve in a neighborhood and the NOISE caused by dozens of neighbors mowing their yards with a gas mower all day Saturday and/or Sunday is amazing. We put up with it b/c the noise is the price to pay for neighbors who take care of their properties. Imagine if they all used electric (battery) mowers or reel mowers? Less pollution, less noise, more exercise, and still well cut yards.

    No chance of the mower flinging rocks at 300 mph towards my kids, my bride of 14 years, the house or our animals.

    No allergy problems caused by dust or pollen being stirred up as with a gas powered mower.

    No pollution to breathe the whole time you’re mowing. When I mow with our old gas mower it is noticeable when I’m downwind from the mower exhaust.

    My push mower is fairly old now. ~15 years old. Each season something needs replacement. Never that expensive b/c I do the work myself. Last year it was a new fuel line and carburetor gaskets. This year the engine cutoff safety cable broke – this turns off the engine when I let go of the handle. Next year it will be a new muffler – I can hear it leaking this spring. I used the gas mower for the first mow to get the yard under control this year. So anyhow I’m spending $25 per year on my mower to keep it alive and I use it once a year, maybe twice.

    Okay, the reel mower isn’t perfect. Some tall weeds are not going to be cut by a reel mower if they are allowed to get too tall. Some clumps of grass tend to grow outward instead of upward and this hides/bends under as the blades pass. You can’t let the grass get too deep and expect to push through it. Any stick caught by the reel will stop it cold. If your yard is regularly mowed this isn’t a big problem. I rake my yard in the spring to clean up little sticks and then again in the fall while I do the leaf pickup. This eliminates almost all of the problem sticks.

    These mowers are light. Not like the reel mower my grandfather had that weighed a little less than one of the Titanic’s main boilers. Or maybe, it was light and I was too. My 11 year old can mow with our reel mower.

    If the grass gets too tall you’ll need to mow it on a high setting and then lower the next pass. Some people are not going to like a reel mower b/c it doesn’t always leave the yard looking perfect with tiny clippings or isn’t wide enough to cut quickly. I think it looks better with the reel mower though and it doesn’t take much longer to mow with the reel than it does to it with my gas push mower. Somebody is bound to disagree though. If you have acres of grass – skip this mower, it’s going to take a Superman like effort to mow that much grass with a reel mower.

    What maintenance have I done to my reel mower after three seasons? I sharpened the blades once. That’s it.

    How? I removed one wheel, smeared valve lapping compound on the blades, and spun the blades backwards with my 1/2″ electric drill. It’s DANGEROUS that way but fast but I work on machinery for a living, was careful, wore gloves, etc. There are kits that provide you with a crank handle to do the same job safely. After a few minutes of running the blades backwards you should see an even shiny edge on the reel blades indicating that it is rubbing the cutting bar ll the way across. You may need to adjust the cutter bar. All it takes is a flat blade screwdriver and moments. Adjust it too tight and the mower is hard to push. Adjust it too loose and it won’t cut. Easy to figure out. YouTube likely has videos about how to do this.

    Clean up the valve lapping compound and put the wheel back on. You can get a lifetime supply for ~$5 from any good auto parts store.

    Hope this is useful info!

  2. I just bought a reel mower recently. i have to say, I’m alot more likely to mow the grass if I don’t have to run out to buy gas first or worry about whether or not it’s going to start!

  3. That’s what I was afraid of. I love reel mowers but my yard is multi level & full of crab grass & various weeds, etc. I fear it’s only a success in a suburban yard. Anyone have any experience with these?

  4. I need a scythe. . . Scratch that, I need a goat and an alpaca – lawn mowers you can sheer!

  5. Suze….We had one (not from Lehman’s) and while I loved the idea of it….it was MUCH better than the ones I grew up with…. it was not a good product for our yard….a mixture of real grass, crab grass, and weeds. Now…my neighbor has a wonderful grassy lawn and I bet wit would have worked beautifully on that. It ended up cutting the grass and leaving everything else. :(

  6. Sooo glad this is posted!! First time buyer needs HELP! We have very little grass and I just got back home from looking at a reel mowers: Scotts classic (I’m not impressed) and the new Fiskars Momentum (wonder what the benefit of the front wheels would be?) were two that I saw.

  7. @Rachel, I’m in the same boat looking for a push mower and unsure which to buy; do I go with the Brill, the Fiskars or the McLane?

  8. Oh man I used to have a real old one and used it. I need to check into a new one although yes, my yard is pretty big, darnit!