Top push reel mowers.

Everything You Never Knew About Reel Mowers And More

How much do you actually know about reel mowers? Reel mowers are one of the most popular types of lawn mowers out there. They have acquired many different names over the years including people powered mowers, hand mowers, manual reel mowers to name but a few.

You may have owned a reel mower for a good few years or it might be something you are thinking of purchasing, either way there is plenty of useful information in this article so no stone is left unturned.

What Are Reel Mowers?

A reel mower is a machine, which incorporates vertically spinning blades (going north to south) and uses a scissoring action to cut the blades of grass clean off. Push reel mowers typically have between three and seven blades, depending on the model type you purchase.

They can come in small domestic sizes, which you can mow your home lawn with and they can also come in huge sizes including those you see on golf courses being pulled by a tractor.

A Bit Of Reel Mowing History…

Before the 1800’s people relied on animals for all their grass cutting needs. Grazing cattle would be used to keep the grass down.

Reel mowers have their place solidified in history and are hundreds of years old - the first lawn mower was invented in 1830 by Edwin Beard Budding, an engineer from Stroud, Gloucestershire, England.

Edwin devised a concept would enable the effective cutting of grass, the idea coming from his viewing of a machine and it's action in a cloth mill.

History of reel mower.

These early models of the reel mowers Edwin produced were made from cast iron and featured a large rear roller with a cutting cylinder (reel) in the front – the reel mower was born. The idea behind this was that the cast iron gear wheels would transmit power from the rear roller to the cutting cylinder.

This concept is still remarkably like today’s modern mowers design. While gas and electric powered mowers have continued to become bigger and more complex over the years (with the rising price tag too) the manual reel mower's basic design has held up to the test of time due to its effectiveness.

Types Of Lawn Mowers Available

Since the early reel mowers their design has paved the way and inspired many more technological developments in terms of model and mowing innovations.

You can purchase a variety of lawn mowers including but not limited too:

Zero Turn Mowers

A zero-turn lawn mower is a standard riding lawnmower and one of the most recognized mowers form larger, commercial style mowing as opposed to domestic.

John Deere zero turn mower

It has the name ‘zero turn’ because is has a turning radius which is effectively zero.

There are plentiful different brands and models available on the market, which achieve this zero-turn in different ways.

Hydraulic speed control of each drive wheel is the most common method. Each wheel has its own motor controlled by the right or left handle.


  • You can cut your lawn efficiently with 180-degree turns.
  • They have excellent maneuverability allowing the user to easily move around trees and other obstacles meaning you can get the job done fast.
  • ​You can also get some good speed on these mowers as they cut at a speed of 5-8 mph. Zero turn mowers can also accommodate both front and rear attachments.


  • They are more expensive than a traditional lawn tractor. This is because they incorporate two hydrostatic transmissions instead of one found in a lawn tractor.
  • If you happen to be on a slope more than 10 degrees the zero turn mower can struggle because they steer by traction of the rear wheels.
  • Any loss of traction can also reduce your ability to stop. If the mower is being operated on a slope it won't steer well especially if you are sliding or skidding. A zero-turn mower has no power in the front wheels.

Robotic Lawn Mower

A robotic lawn mower is an autonomous robot, effectively used to mow the lawn on its own without a user having to control all its individual moves.

Most standard models of the robotic lawn mower (especially the earlier generation makes) require the user to set out a wire border around the lawn that clearly sets out and defines the area, which needs to be mowed.

Green robotic lawn mower

They are becoming more and more sophisticated and design wise, they are flat and close against the ground. They are capable of maintaining up to 20,000 m2 (220,000 sq ft) of grass.


  • This type of lawn mower does do all the hard work for you. The chore of cutting the lawn disappears with the robotic model. Many robotic lawn mowers are self-docking and incorporate rain sensors.
  • Most models will cut out if lifted or turned over or come into contact with any other obstacle. They are environmentally friendly and don’t use petrol or oil and produce no emissions. They leave you with more time to focus on the things you enjoy.


  • A disadvantage of the robotic model lawn mowers is they come with a rather hefty price tag. If you run into any problems with a normal reel mower lets say, it would be easy to get fixed or serviced from someone locally.
  • They can be difficult to set up, it's certainly not just a case of taking it out the box turning it on and putting it on the lawn.
  • With the robotic mower it's tough to find people who can fix it if/when it malfunctions or breaks. You need to keep the lawn pretty clear of all obstacles so it has a free path and doesn’t run into things, especially the path to its recharging station.

Ride-On Mowers

Ride-on mowers are mowers that are operated by an engine. You take a seat on the mower and you can drive it over the desired area, usually a favorite amongst larger scale and corporate gardening jobs.

Ride-on lawn mowers

There are many options to choose from when selecting a ride-on mower from very large-scale models to smaller ones that are intended for domestic use.

If you have a few obstacles in your garden then a mower with a front bumper might also be a beneficial asset to have in order to keep from hurting your engine.


  • A huge benefit of the ride-on mower is they allow you to steer on a penny and cut around garden features, ornaments, trees, flowerbeds, and other obstacles with great ease. They really do take the stress out of gardening for you.
  • A ride-on mower also allows you to complete others tasks and isn’t just limited to cutting grass.
  • You also have the option to spread grass seed, fertilizer, or even break up the land for seed planting etc. They are especially useful for those with limited mobility and health issues as they allow the user to get outdoors and take charge of the lawn mowing without expending any energy.


  • Ride-on mowers are normally at the top of the price range when it comes to lawn mowers. Depending on the size of your garden and how long you want to spend on the mower will determine what your budget can stretch too.

Cylinder Mowers

Cylinders lawnmowers are more commonly known as push reel mowers. These mowers have blades that cut on a horizontal axis. They are most well-known and loved for their easy and traditional manual push style mowing. Most properties have a reel mower in the garden shed!

Cylinder mowers are simple in design usually but can now be purchased with a motor power.

This type of mower typically has 5-12 exposed blades that rotate on a horizontal axis. 

Due to the blades rotation they trap and slice pieces of grass against a fixed bottom plate. Most types of cylinder mowers are those that are manually pushed.

Push cylinder reel mowers


  • Cylinders mowers of the manual sort don’t have engines so are nice and quiet meaning minimal noise pollution and your neighbours will leave you alone. The costs of a cylinder mower are generally low; they are usually the cheapest type of mower available on the market, especially the manual design.
  • Maintenance of a cylinder mower is very simple and they only require the blades sharpening every so often. The more blades you have, the better quality cut you will get.


  • A cylinder mower can demand more physical energy if you have a manual as you will have to put in some elbow grease and hard grass to mow larger lawns. They are most effective when you have a level lawn and not one that is hilly or bumpy.
  • Cylinder mowers do not usually come with a bag for the grass clippings and the mower leaves them behind but this is usually an attachment you can purchase for many models.

How Do Reel Mowers Work?

The great thing about reel mowers is that they are relatively simple devices. They rely on a few simple, but moving parts and the basic application of human force (if you have a manual of course). The reel mower’s design and aesthetic appearance replicates that of a small cart with a long handle.

The design of the reel mowers as a rule, features two primary wheels on a single axle accompanied by a bar of rollers or a set of smaller, secondary wheels in the rear.

A reel mower usually consists of the following parts…

  • Handle
  • Adjustment screws
  • Blade reel
  • Rollers
  • Cutter blade
  • Axle
  • Brush bar
  • Pinion gear
  • Main wheels

The rear roller (or wheels) are there to provide balance and to keep the machine stable, while the primary wheels give the motion needed to turn the mower's internal bladed cylinder. When the internal blade cylinder is moving the blades sweep over the blades of grass cutting them clean off.

Mowing the lawn in spring

What you must remember is that the reel shouldn’t come in contact with any obstacles including stones or debris that could potentially cause a nick in the blades. 

Evidence of potential nicks and damage to the blades will show themselves as regular stalks of grass that haven’t been cut. A well looked after reel mower can actually last you a lifetime!

As we have already examined by looking at other models, the very basic technology of the lawn mower hasn't changed much in more than a century with reel mowers being the favorite mower of choice in most domestic households!

What’s more, reel mowers are better for the health of the grass. They leave your lawn looking like it has had a professional manicure. This is due to their inner cutting mechanism - the scissor-like way in which the reel mower cuts the grass.

The Benefits Of Owning A Reel Mower

Push reel mowers are more popular than ever because they still boast a number of key benefits over their gas-guzzling and rotary counterparts.

Benefits of manual reel mowers include, but are not limited to:

  • Cost effective and the cheapest line of lawn mowers available.
  • Are usually very safe and easy to operate.
  • They don’t carry the same risks that rotary mowers do.
  • They require hardly any maintenance at all.
  • Eco- friendly with no pollution, ideal for reducing your carbon footprint.
  • A clean and gentle cut on the grass blades, instead of tearing them like rotary mowers.
  • No noise pollution.
  • Usually lightweight and easy to transport and store.
  • Don't stir up dust or emit harmful fumes.
  • Don't fling debris around the yard.

What Should You Look For When You’re Buying A Reel Mower?

When you are buying a reel mower it’s important to consider a number of things. The working mechanics of reel mowers is pretty much the same across all makes.

The characteristics in which they vary usually include:

  • Its weight. How heavy can you manage you’re pushing it?
  • Cutting width. Obviously the bigger cutting width the heavier it will be. The plus side of getting a bigger sized mower is that you’ll have to make less passes back and forth on your lawn enabling you to get the job done faster.
  • Cutting heights. What’s the range of heights you can adjust the blades up and down?
  • Direction of grass spray. Does the grass spray behind the mower or out in front which did you prefer? Obviously the latter has an advantage in not covering your feet with clippings

Cleaning And Maintenance

Manual reel mowers are an excellent gardening accessory, for some people it's the only garden accessory you need.

The manual mowers are efficient and eco-friendly. Of course they will always be the slightly slower option compared to using a gas or motor powered mower.

Cutting the grass with lawn mower

For this reason, manual reel mowers are excellent for domestic use of around of 8,000 square feet (about 743 square meters) or less according to reel mower guides. That's approximately 0.18 acres.

If you are part of a large estate then you should probably consider whether you're up to mowing a huge lawn with a reel mower. You will need to mow your lawn about once a week during summer months to really keep on top of it.

Your Reel Mower Maintenance Tasks

It’s crucial to partake in regular maintenance activity during the mowing season for your reel mower to be pushed easily and to cut efficiently. The maintenance requires a few basic things.

Jet Hosing

Use a jet hose to wash away and grass and mud debris from the blades. Place a large stick or handle between the blades to prevent it from moving from the force. Lay it somewhere safe to dry out.

Blade Sharpening

Blade sharpening will be the most important thing to do in regards to maintaining your reel mower. Sticks, small rocks and other bits of garden debris can chip away at the blades of your mower. Eventually you will be able to notice the effects, as the grass will start looking a little bit scruffy.

Friskars staysharp mower

You can purchase ready-made reel mower sharpening kits that include everything you need to sort it out. 

Firstly, investing in a good quality pair of heavy-duty heavy work gloves to protect your hands is a must.

Apply some cutting oil to a coarse sharpening stone. Hone the edge of each blade with eight light, even, smooth strokes. Follow the original angle of the cutting edge as closely as you can. Use the same number of honing strokes on each blade.

You should only need to sharpen your blades a couple of times a year, if that.

Just be careful not to apply too much force when sharpening – heavy work gloves are designed for adequate impact protection but they won’t withstand the full force of your bodyweight slamming your hand onto a blade if you happen to miss a stroke.

Lubricate The Mowers Wheel Drive

As part of the maintenance it's important that you lubricate the mower's wheel drive gear assembly to ensure smooth operation.

Depending upon which model you have you may be required to undo the screws with a screwdriver or undo a hub nut with an adjustable wrench to remove wheel covers to expose the gear assembly. On other models, you need to remove the entire wheel to get at the gear assembly.

Prevention is better than the cure so keeping on top of your mowers maintenance should always include keeping it clean, dry and free of excess rust.

The cleaner you keep it the more years you will get out of it and many of them have been known to last a lifetime – this basic principle could be said for the majority of your gardening tools. Look after them and they’ll look after you for years to come!

18 inch lawn mower wheel

Each time you clean and dry your mower, spray any metal surfaces that may rust with lightweight oil, penetrating oil or silicon lube to give it the best shot at longevity possible.

The Low Down On Reel Mowers

Overall, whilst many new innovations have come to light over the decades (and centuries) regarding the development of lawn mowers – the reel mower stands up as the oldest, most reliable and arguably most accessible version on the market.

This is because there is really very little that can “go wrong” with it's time tested design; that and the fact that it is often much, much cheaper than any other variety out there – the beauty really lies in it's flexibility.

If you want all the benefits a manual reel mower has to offer in conjunction with having to put in less energy when you mow – you can just buy a motorized version. If you’ve got the energy to do all the hard work yourself, you can simply opt for a fully manual variant.

There’s really no right or wrong option on the whole, and the model you go for should align with your finances and physicality; not only that, but it needs to be of a high enough quality standard to fulfil the tasks you’ll be placing on it.

You might for instance be a casual gardener with minimal lawn space, in which case a cheaper manual variant would more than suffice.

Men and real lawn mower.

If however you have a lot of ground to cover on a regular basis – you’ll need to consider something more robust.

We have pieced together an effective buyers guide to assist you with purchasing the right mower to suit your individual needs and every lawn mowing purpose.

By reading through to the end, you’ll have a very clear idea about which type of reel mower you’ll be able to rely on over the coming years to ensure that your garden stands out from the crowd, whilst simultaneously saving as much money as possible in the process.

It’s our aim to ensure that no stone is left unturned in your pursuit of the best reel mower possible – we’ll help you make the right choice by leading you towards the most effective, most robust, best value and highly accessible mower for your specific gardening goals.

Enjoy browsing through them all, and happy mowing!

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