Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

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Anondson
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Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby Anondson » May 15th, 2014, 6:56 am

Ignoring the ideal of having no lawn, living in the Twin Cities you probably have a lawn to tend.

I've only ever used gas-powered mowers but now that I've reduced my own to a quarter of its original area (by ripping out underperforming lawn and replaced with native perennials), and it is entirely level except for a large hump where a boulevard tree is growing, I'm considering getting a manual reel mower. I've heard and read enough gripes from former reel mower owners telling me to think again and go for a gas or electric rotary mower.

I figured there might be a few urbanists here who have experience with these and could offer some educated opinions. If you have a reel mower could you suggest local places to get one?
Last edited by Anondson on May 15th, 2014, 8:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby LakeCharles » May 15th, 2014, 7:07 am

I have a reel mower. I just got a cheap one at Menards. I'm positive there are better ones out there, but mine works just fine. I have a tiny yard, and mow maybe once a week. I would (personally) never consider getting a gas mower for such a small yard.

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby VAStationDude » May 15th, 2014, 7:17 am

My wife and I have a reel mower and an electric. The reel is 21 inch wide and works really well on my small lawn. Obviously it can not mulch leaves in the fall so the wife got an electric mower for a $100 from her employer - Toro. I've only used it a couple times and it doesn't have the oomph modern gas mowers have but for a small urban lawn it does the trick.

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby Minneboy » May 15th, 2014, 7:32 am

My old yard was small enough that I just had a front yard. The part from the house to the sidewalk I filled in with plants and mulch. The extra wide boulevard I mowed with an electric weed wacker.

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby Rich » May 15th, 2014, 7:42 am

We use a Fiskars reel mower. It cuts a narrower swath so it requires more passes, and it cuts long grass poorly so we have to cut more frequently. (From a physical fitness standpoint, these are features not bugs). On the other hand it’s whisper quiet. So it’s easy on the ears and we never worry about disturbing neighbors. Also there’s virtually no maintenance. And it takes less space to store.

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby mattaudio » May 15th, 2014, 7:49 am

-1 for the Fiskars reel mowers. It's a pleasure to mow, not noisy and stinky. The only downside is that I borrow a neighbor's gas mower once or twice a year (especially at the end of the fall) to give a final short haircut.

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby mister.shoes » May 15th, 2014, 7:55 am

I have a gas mower, but only because it came with the house. Whenever it decides to kick the bucket, I'll definitely consider a reel mower. I've used one in the past on a lawn probably twice the size of this one and found it quite enjoyable, especially the lack of noise.
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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby EOst » May 15th, 2014, 8:13 am

When I grew up, we used an antique reel mower (probably from the 50s) to mow the lawn. Granted, we were in a drier region, so the grass didn't grow very quickly, but I never really minded using it instead of a gas mower.

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby mulad » May 15th, 2014, 9:21 am

I think my parents have been using a cordless electric mower for more than a decade at this point. I've only used theirs a couple of times. I believe it's still a Black & Decker mower, though they were talking about getting a replacement, and I'm not sure if that ever happened. They have a fairly large lawn (the parcel is 1/3rd acre), and typically only mow about half of it at a time due to batteries running down -- it could do most of the yard on a single charge, but couldn't quite handle the whole thing consistently.

It's pretty quiet, doesn't emit fumes (amazing how much of that "smell of freshly-cut grass" was actually unburned hydrocarbons), and is much smoother to operate -- the older gas mower we had would vibrate the handle so much that I got blisters the first couple of times I mowed the lawn as a kid. The electric is probably as heavy or heavier than the old mower, but the reduced vibration made it much easier to handle.

I'm pretty sure my parents' mower only used simple, heavy lead-acid batteries, and I think they've been replaced a couple of times at this point. I'm not sure if newer mowers have more up-to-date battery technology or not (even lead-acid seemed fairly outdated when my parents originally got the mower, but at least lead-acid batteries are relatively cheap).

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby Ubermoose » May 15th, 2014, 10:49 am

VAStationDude wrote:My wife and I have a reel mower and an electric. The reel is 21 inch wide and works really well on my small lawn. Obviously it can not mulch leaves in the fall so the wife got an electric mower for a $100 from her employer - Toro. I've only used it a couple times and it doesn't have the oomph modern gas mowers have but for a small urban lawn it does the trick.
The electric work fine, but some have batteries that don't hold charges well after a few years. It pays to ask a lot of questions and buy quality.
I had a reel mower for the first year that I was in my house, but then had children. I was more freaked out by the danger of the reel mower than the gas powered, plus I could mow in less than half the time as we have a decent sized yard.
A side note, I work for Toro as well, but I am not an expert on mowers or other outdoor products that we manufacture.

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby sad panda » May 15th, 2014, 11:53 am

I have both a manual reel mower and a gas mower. I found the reel to be fun but require passes from 2 directions to get a decent mow. That may be more because my yard is uneven and has lots of small dips and bulges. I pretty much only use it now if I run out of gas or have patches of new seed.

If you want to borrow the reel mower to see what you think, just send me a PM and we can arrange it. Heck, if you like it, you can keep it for free.

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby David Greene » May 15th, 2014, 9:53 pm

I use a reel mower i got from my dad. Since he used a gas mower for as long as I've been aware mowers existed, the thing has got to be from the early '70's at the very latest. I've thought about having it sharpened but there's never time. Going on 10 years now in my hands with great performance and ease-of-use. I wouldn't use it on huge lawns but for a typical Minneapolis yard it's perfect. Easy to get out and go, finishing a cut in half an hour or so.

EDIT: I used several gas mowers growing up to get spending money. Always a pain to refil - take gas can to gas station, being home, mix oil, pour in mower. And don't forget to run it dry before winter! And be sure not to dislocate your shoulder when the pull cord snaps back. Yuck. Good riddance!

I'm no hippie. I use a reel mower because it's easier!

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby talindsay » May 16th, 2014, 10:08 pm

I didn't read any of the posts above so sorry if I'm duplicating. I have a standard R1A lot - 40'x125' - with a 800 sq ft house footprint, a 500 sq ft garage and 500 sq ft of driveway detracting. In other words, not a lot of yard. What's left has some trees, plantings, garden, etc. so my gas mower was too much trouble. We had a battery electric mower but infive the battery was shot and it was heavier than a gas mower and less powerful.

We have a Fiskars reel mower and it's great for a small yard. I highly recommend it.

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby Anondson » May 13th, 2015, 5:53 pm

I also have the standard 45' by 125', 1946 story and a half bungalow, detached double garage off an alley. Most of my yard has had the grass removed, not leaving me with much, less than 50% grass now.

I ended up buying the Fiskars reel mower last year. After an entire year use, I've loved it.

It did take longer to mow, I expected this. But I'm one of those picky lawn manicurists that must have it flat. I'm fine with that. It was also necessary to mow more frequently, I expected this too. But a rainy week can catch you with some fairly deep mowing.

I have a garden with pine bark mulch, my kids kicking up the mulch on the grass meant combing through the grass before mowing. Extended the time I'd spend mowing.

It is more effort to push it than a gas mower, the extra sweat was welcome. But the quiet was my biggest surprise. I was often able to carry conversations with my neighbors, across the fence while I'm mowing.

I had numerous neighbors stop and ask about it while I mowed. One had bought a reel mower in the past but stopped using it because it wasn't as flat a cut as a gas mower, his wife likes the perfect lawn. As do I, I pointed out I just ended up double mowing each time, running perpendicular the second time. It gave me as flat a mowing as the gas mower. I think it actually looked nicer, though I'm not a grass expert, I swear the grass looked healthier.

Oh, and I don't begrudge people who mow with gas mowers. More power to them (pun not intended) but I loved not having to fuss with fuel, oil, etc.

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby FISHMANPET » May 13th, 2015, 6:54 pm

Funny this should pop up, my friend is giving me his reel mower tomorrow, too much work for him. I don't know how big my lot is, but I suspect it's smaller than "standard." The landlord left a gas mower but man, I'm not gonna deal with that for 200 square feet.

I love it when the easier choice just happens to also be the "greener" choice (cue someone calculating the carbon footprint of the calories spent mowing vs gas mower)

Sent from my phone

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby mattaudio » May 13th, 2015, 8:23 pm

Your landlord has a perfectly manicured lawn at his primary residence.

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby Realstreets » May 14th, 2015, 7:13 am

I borrowed my friend's reel mower. Way too much work and I have a small yard. Multiple passes needed. If the grass is too long it won't cut because the grass is pushed over. So if your grass gets too long there is literally no way to cut it with a reel mower. With a gas mower I can mow the yard in about 10 minutes. My two gallon container of gas lasts most of the summer too. A 4 cycle mower helps too. It takes straight gas instead of oil gas mixture and thus burns cleaner.

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby kirby96 » May 14th, 2015, 2:01 pm

It would be interesting to hear how long reel mower proponents have been reel mowing. I've been there, and thought it was fine.

...until it wasn't.

Inevitably, if you are like me, you go on vacation and miss a week or something, and then the reel mower is basically useless. Sharpening, while it can certainly be done yourself, is enough of a pain that I'd bring it in (at which point it's more expensive than a gas or electric sharpening)

Basically, I think there's a reason so many people switched to gas mowers from reels way back when. Reels are just sort of a hassle, and mowing is such an obvious place to be anti-hassle. I suppose for an absolute postage stamp lawn, only a reel mower makes sense, but for a lawn of say, at least 800-1000 sq. ft or more, personally I'd go electric at this point.

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby Anondson » May 14th, 2015, 4:29 pm

I hesitated about a reel mower, read reviews, asked about experiences. I made the decision after chatting with the lawn and garden guy at Settergren's Hardware in Linden Hills. He said they stopped selling all reel mowers expect the Fiskars because it cut the best and stayed sharp the longest, wouldn't need washing to keep clean.

I've owned gas mowers for twenty years. I've had less hassle from this Fiskars than from every gas mower. I totally agree that larger lawns may not be good candidates, hilly elevation too. Mowing once a week means I need to make arrangements if I leave for a long time, much like my house plants. Anyone considering a reel mower really needs to know it.

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Re: Mowers: manual reel push vs. gas-powered vs. electric

Postby mattaudio » May 14th, 2015, 9:01 pm

I still use my fiskars reel mower and I love it. But I highly recommend befriending a neighbor with a gas mower for those few times a year when you really need it. I'm surrounded by senior ladies who are happy to open the garage and let me get their gas mower in exchange for mowing their lawn while I'm at it.
I think a game changer that is here or just on the horizon is battery-powered mowers that are compatible with other tools.


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