Why I Love My (Reel) Mower

by Charles W. Johnson

Now that it’s getting close to the dreaded mowing season, when folks spend much precious free time tending their patch of lawn, I’d like to pass on some thoughts about the benefit and joy (well, maybe not “joy” exactly, let’s say “satisfaction”) of using an old-fashioned reel mower—you know, the one you push that has swishing blades and no motor—instead of a power one.

But before I present my list, I want to emphasize a few “musts” about using a reel mower, to make it effective and efficient.

  • The grass cannot be too high, say four inches or more, otherwise you will push the grass over rather than cut it.  Therefore, you must mow regularly, once a week in spring, less often in summer when growing slows.
  • You must keep the mower blades sharp.  Reel mowers are self-sharpening, by reversing the cogs and using lapping (grinding) compound on the blades. This is easy to do once you learn how, and there are good instructional videos on YouTube. I need to sharpen the blades only once or twice a year.
  • I only mow as much as I can do in an hour and a half.  We don’t need more lawn than that, and I don’t want to make a chore out of it.
  • Get a good brand, and wide enough to cover more ground, e.g., American Lawn Mower Company makes a nice, solid 18-inch mower.

So, with these provisos in mind, here are eighteen reasons, in no particular order, why I prefer using my reel mower over a power one (there are probably others I haven’t thought of, too):

  1. Quiet and peaceful: Don’t need hearing protection, can talk to folks nearby in a normal voice.
  2. Good exercise, but not overly strenuous.
  3. Doesn’t kill frogs, toads, snakes, moths, and other living creatures.
  4. Doesn’t use gas or oil, don’t have to go out and buy them.
  5. Doesn’t produce fumes or pollute the air.
  6. Safer:  I can mow in sandals; doesn’t throw rocks, sticks, and other projectiles.
  7. Can mow when the lawn is damp, in fact it cuts better then.
  8. Nicer job than a power mower: no scalped lawn, “track” marks, or clods of grass left behind.
  9. Fertilizes as it cuts: it puts all the clippings back into the lawn.
  10. No repair costs: I can sharpen it myself, fix any problem, get parts easily.
  11. Takes very little more time (for our lawn: 1.25 hour by reel versus 1 hour by power).
  12. Can mow in any direction, since the grass is not thrown to the side.
  13. Cheaper than power mowers (new around $100, much cheaper used).
  14. Easy to store, can lift it easily.
  15. Don’t have to winterize it.
  16. The machine is simple and elegant.
  17. Imparts a feeling of self-reliance, before power equipment took over our lives.
  18. The task becomes (more of) a pleasure.

The only downside I see is that you still have to mow, instead of fishing, lying in your hammock, hiking, napping, or reading a good book.  But that’s a choice we make; we could have no lawns if we wanted.

Anyway, I hope you’ll give it a try. It’s good for you, your home, your neighbors, and our environment.

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