Is a Reel Mower Really for You?

A reel mower in front of a fence

For years, the reel mower fell out of favor with homeowners. Push mowers were deemed faster and more efficient, and the older reel mowers were bulky and could be difficult to mow with at times. Also, people became flat-out lazy. Recently, however, reel mowers have seen a bit of a resurgence, especially amongst urban residents who don’t have room to store a large push mower and have a small enough lawn. This has been helped out by the updating of the reel mower – it’s no longer a bulky, hard-to-push piece of equipment prone to seizing up on long grass. They are light and efficient, with the same adjustable cutting lengths found on push mowers. There are some things you should consider to see if a reel mower is the right mower for you.


Yard Size

If you’ve got acres of land, a reel mower will probably not be the best option for you, unless you’re training for a marathon and have a few hours to mow. Reel mowers are best for areas less than a quarter of an acre, and the grass needs to be of the thinner and shorter species. Reel mowers sometimes will have difficulties with tall grass or thick grass, so they are not useful for people with longer grasses in their yard.


The Reel Mower Itself

Newer models are easier to push, but older models tend to be more solidly built. Older models will need more care, but tend to last longer. They’re built much more solidly – many newer models have aluminum handles and plastic parts, where the older models would have steel or wood handles and almost exclusively metal parts. A great way to get a nice hybrid of the two eras is to refit a newer mower body with an older, sturdier handle. A custom handle can also help out if you are shorter or taller than average – reel mowers need to be pushed along at a good clip, so having a handle that you can get a proper grip on is necessary for the mower to do its job.



Lets face it, very few of us maintain our lawn tools to the extent we should. A reel mower will need just as much maintenance as a push or ride mower, and while it is simpler to perform, it will also need to be done more often. The blades of a reel mower must be sharpened, and not the one or twice a year like with a powered mower. A powered motor has much more blade speed than a reel mower, so it can compensate for a dulling blade. The blades of a reel mower only move as fast as you can walk, so they need to be kept sharp. The blades should be sharpened every four or five uses, so in a heavy-growth month, you could be sharpening the blades twice. Sharpening isn’t a terrible task, just tedious – you’ll need a sharpening stone and some cutting oil, and just apply the oil to the blade and run the stone over it a few times, with light force. This will need to be done to every blade, so it may be time consuming.

Next you’ll need to check the wheels – the force that turns the blades comes from the traction of the wheels. Wheels with poor traction will cause the blades to bind or the mower to just skid along ineffectively. If the grooves have worn away, a temporary fix can be done by filing grooves into the wheels until you can find replacements. On top of this, you’ll need to clean out and repack the gears that connect the wheels and the blade cylinder. Not enough lubrication or too much in the way of particulates left in the system will jam the gears, again causing the mower to just skid along. After all of this, you’ll then have to adjust the cutting bar to make sure that there is only a sliver of room between the blades and the bar, for a crisp, clean, even cut.


The Advantages

While a reel mower will take a bit more effort than a powered mower, there are plenty of advantages to having one. No more having to buy gas or trying to figure out why the mower won’t start. Complete silence while you’re trimming the grass. No exhaust fumes. Exercise! So weigh the options, if you live in an urban or suburban area, a reel mower just might be a great choice for you.

About AndrewT

Written by Andrew T for LawnEq - The specialists for Lawn Mower Parts and Small Engine Parts. We offer genuine premium OEM parts for Land Pride, Toro and many more dependable brands.