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Old 05-30-08, 11:14 AM   #1
MillCreek
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Thoughts on manual reel lawn mowers?

The other day, I was killing time at the nursery while Ms. MillCreek was searching for bedding plants. I saw this very interesting looking Brill reel mower from Germany. It was pretty different from the cast-iron Scotts reel mower that I had used as a kid 35 years ago. My yard would probably be amenable to a manual reel mower. Any thoughts or recommendations on the subject?
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Old 05-30-08, 11:19 AM   #2
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If you go manual, mow frequently.
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Old 05-30-08, 11:20 AM   #3
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my yard isn't good enough for a reel mower.

I don't really see them being used by home owners, only on baseball fields and golf courses.
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Old 05-30-08, 11:31 AM   #4
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I did some Googling and learned that manual reel mowing is considered a viable option if your yard is relatively flat, under about 7500 square feet and does not have sticks or stones to get caught in the blades. There are some grasses in the Southern USA that are sufficiently thick as to not be a good candidate for a reel mower. The grass up here in Western Washington would seem to work.

The websites that sell the manual reel mowers emphasize that current technology is far more lightweight, easier to push, and some brands (Brill and SunLawn) can go for 8-10 years without re-sharpening since the reel does not contact the bedknife. It does sound pretty different from that old Scott's mower.

The Brill and SunLawn brands are mentioned most consistently as being the best. I am seeing a lot of posts from people recommending against the American Lawnmower brands sold at the big box hardware stores. They seem to be heavier, are not built as nice and require annual sharpening. The Brill model that I saw was selling for $ 265, although I see on the web several vendors selling it for about $ 20-30 less with free shipping.

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Old 05-30-08, 11:35 AM   #5
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I used to use one when I had a house a few years ago, doing it on the hilly bits was a nice workout.
I grew up with reel mowers and like the snip-snip sound of the blades rotating.
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Old 05-30-08, 11:39 AM   #6
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They work really well as long as your lawn is even and you keep the blades sharp.
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Old 05-30-08, 11:41 AM   #7
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I see them all the time here within Minneapolis. There is an old one in our garage, but something is really messed up with it and all it wants to do is try to cut my leg off.

I really want a new one, though, but they seem to cost more than a regular lawn mower, unless I am thinking of something totally different.
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Old 05-30-08, 11:44 AM   #8
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I see them all the time here within Minneapolis. There is an old one in our garage, but something is really messed up with it and all it wants to do is try to cut my leg off.

I really want a new one, though, but they seem to cost more than a regular lawn mower, unless I am thinking of something totally different.
Are you sure you are thinking of the same thing?

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Old 05-30-08, 11:57 AM   #9
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I used to use one when I had a house a few years ago, doing it on the hilly bits was a nice workout.
.
I would pay to see Ms. Incredible "doing it on the hilly bits." Yes, yes I would.
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Old 05-30-08, 12:00 PM   #10
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Are you sure you are thinking of the same thing?
Yep, same thing.

When I looked into them a few years ago, they were well over $100 and I found a power lawn mower for $110 so I bought the latter instead.

The one in our garage from previous tennants is broken on one side and when you push it, there is give and the blades sort of fan out and come at me. It's really scary.

On my block alone there are three people using the manual mowers I have seen so far this year.
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Old 05-30-08, 12:04 PM   #11
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If you go manual, mow frequently.
Big time, and don't set it too low. (2 wks is pushing it here through PNW spring but definitely get to appreciate grass' dormant phase starting Julyish...)

Otherwise I am a big fan. Have been using the same one for ~15 yrs. It was of indeterminate age when I acquired it. Moved it coast-to-coast twice. (largest yard in that time as ~1/6 acre, including the building). Proper sharpening is important. Use grinding paste to sharpen the reel together with the bar it spirals across. Hardware store here insisted they only need to remove the bar and sharpen it on a grinder, they are wrong. But anyway a good sharpening should at least last 2 seasons if not more.
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Old 05-30-08, 12:08 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MillCreek View Post
I did some Googling and learned that manual reel mowing is considered a viable option if your yard is relatively flat, under about 7500 square feet and does not have sticks or stones to get caught in the blades. There are some grasses in the Southern USA that are sufficiently thick as to not be a good candidate for a reel mower. The grass up here in Western Washington would seem to work.

The websites that sell the manual reel mowers emphasize that current technology is far more lightweight, easier to push, and some brands (Brill and SunLawn) can go for 8-10 years without re-sharpening since the reel does not contact the bedknife. It does sound pretty different from that old Scott's mower.

The Brill and SunLawn brands are mentioned most consistently as being the best. I am seeing a lot of posts from people recommending against the American Lawnmower brands sold at the big box hardware stores. They seem to be heavier, are not built as nice and require annual sharpening. The Brill model that I saw was selling for $ 265, although I see on the web several vendors selling it for about $ 20-30 less with free shipping.
Wow that is expensive but an 8-10 yr sharpening gap would be sweet. And a c-note premium above a wally world power mower doesn't seem so bad if you don't need to feed it and breathe its exhaust. Flat, it doesn't have to be too flat. In WV our yard was riddled w/ ramps (wild onions) that defeated our reel mower, just bounced back up like a weeble. Here there is an amazingly tough crab grass but it also defeats neighbors w/ power mowers (maybe those people need to get their blades sharpened too).
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Old 05-30-08, 12:17 PM   #13
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I am currently using a Yard Man gas rotary mower that I bought from Costco for $ 250 a few years ago. I have discovered that the cheaper gas rotary mowers are essentially disposable. I get about four or five years out of it (with an annual blade replacement), and then the engine craps out beyond my ability to repair. This is still a lot cheaper than using a yard service for $ 100/month for the eight months a year that we mow up here in Seattle. The large and expensive Toro and Honda mowers are overkill for my small yard, although they would last longer, and I was unenthused with the Black and Decker corded electric mower that I had.

I would not mind finding a mower that will probably last a long time and is more eco-friendly.
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Old 05-30-08, 12:26 PM   #14
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I forgot to mention: www.peoplepoweredmachines.com was probably the most useful website I looked at. A lot of information there.
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Old 05-30-08, 12:26 PM   #15
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Quote:
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When I looked into them a few years ago, they were well over $100 and I found a power lawn mower for $110 so I bought the latter instead.
Wow, prices have really gone up.

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I would pay to see Ms. Incredible "doing it on the hilly bits." Yes, yes I would.
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Old 05-30-08, 01:00 PM   #16
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Too much yard for a reel mower to be practicable for me. We use self guided, bovine mowers. Bit smelly, but they are cheep to run, polluting though.
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Old 05-30-08, 01:10 PM   #17
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a lot of the modern rye grasses which are raised in Oregon and ubiquitous in most grass seed mixes these days are pretty tough - they are bred for power mowers, not reel mowers.
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Old 05-30-08, 02:36 PM   #18
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a lot of the modern rye grasses which are raised in Oregon and ubiquitous in most grass seed mixes these days are pretty tough - they are bred for power mowers, not reel mowers.
I wonder if that's what the weedy stuff in our neighborhood is. I wonder what would be good to replace the current cover crop with. Roundup the bejeezus out of it all, cover it w/ plastic for a year to nuke out the seedbank, and put something else in. 2 neighbors on the block have no grass in their yards but they have all these other froo froo things that require watering. I just need something soft enough (and tough enough) for the kids to jump out of the rhododendrons onto.
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Old 05-30-08, 02:38 PM   #19
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If it's shady try moss

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/01/ga...ss+lawn&st=nyt
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Old 05-30-08, 02:47 PM   #20
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Grass selection is important, which why I recommend low-maintenance, drought-resistant crab grass. Yes, choose crab grass and your green, carefree lawn will be the envy of your neighborhood.
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Old 05-30-08, 02:48 PM   #21
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I have a Sunlawn MM-1 bought from peoplepoweredmachines.com. It works well if you mow at least once a week. It will not do anything tall, and you have to overlap quite a bit to get an even mow. This goes for any reel mower though.

The blades come extremely close to the cutting gate, but don't contact it. This is how it can go 10 years without sharpening. No contact. Quiet and easy to push. It does cut well. Makes a nice sort of scissoring sound.

For me, who hates lawns and doesn't find time to mow every week, I just couldn't do it anymore. After three years, I just bought an electric mulching mower. I don't mow often enough, my yard is just too bumpy, and I have so many other projects to do that take precedence over my lawn.

If your yard is smooth and you are willing to mow often and take twice as long when you do, it will work great. I do love the lack of fumes and noise.

If anybody is in the Twin Cities, MN metro and wants to buy a Sunlawn MM-1 with three summers on it, PM me!

*edit* Rant: I hate the idea of a manicured lawn. We waste so much water on grass and use so many chemicals that end up polluting lakes, streams, etc. (I just let it turn brown and weedy) I see mowing as a necessary evil. I'd like to turn my yard into just plantings of perennial native plants.

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Old 05-30-08, 02:50 PM   #22
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Grass selection is important, which why I recommend low-maintenance, drought-resistant crab grass. Yes, choose crab grass and your green, carefree lawn will be the envy of your neighborhood.
Oh man, that stuff has been slowly taking over our lawn for the last 10 years...
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Old 05-30-08, 02:50 PM   #23
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I have ordered 13 scythes for use on the fincas. We currently use weed whackers but we are going to switch over. A good scythe is as fast as a weed whacker, and doesn't take fuel, and is much nicer to use - as long as you keep them sharp.

Here are the people I am buying from. Very interesting site, and good people. Our workers are very interested in the idea. Use a comercial weedwhacker for 6 to 8 hours a day and you will know why...

My Source for Scythes
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Old 05-30-08, 02:52 PM   #24
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Oh man, that stuff has been slowly taking over our lawn for the last 10 years...
It's no use trying to smoke it. Just saying.
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Old 05-30-08, 02:52 PM   #25
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The sweet thing on a scythe, if the grass gets long, it doesn't matter. The motion is very Tai Chi like it seems. Might be good for me to do an hour a day or so to get back a youthful waistline...

I hate doing excercise for excercise sake, this just might be the ticket.
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