A Magical Life

Teaching kids (and parents) foraging, cooking, traditional skills and living well on less

Today’s push reel lawnmowers: Not your grandpa’s mower

Today's push reel lawnmowers: Not your grandpa's mowerDespite the fact that we have an old riding lawnmower and a gas-powered push mower that both work fine, we purchased an old-fashioned push reel lawnmower in 2011.

I’m so glad we did!

This is what I wrote online when we bought the mower in 2011:

I had deliberated buying a push reel mower for a while and had read up on dozens of brands and models in the reviews at Amazon.com. I finally bit the bullet and purchased an American Lawn Mower 1204-14 14-Inch Deluxe Hand Reel Mower (affiliate link) for $69.38 with free shipping (it’s now around $57).

My husband and daughter assembled it the day it came and my children happily mowed our front lawn (okay, mostly in crazy strips and patterns) until after dark that night.

So how does it work? Pretty well. The model I got was a 14 inch model, which is very narrow for a larger yard like ours. I wanted to make a small investment because I wasn’t sure how much it would replace our regular mowers, and my 13 year-old daughter (who had been campaigning for a reel mower) assured me that she’d be fine with the longer mowing time that comes with a smaller model.

My 11 year-old and 13 year-old daughters can mow the lawn fairly well with it, despite being relatively small for their ages. My 8 year-old son has some difficulty pushing it. I am five months pregnant and have a small frame (I’m 4’11” and normally around 115 pounds), and I can push it pretty easily. It gives me a slightly tougher workout than using the gas-powered mower, but not much of one — and it’s a workout I actually enjoy.

From our experience with our mower so far, these are the benefits we’ve found:

  • It’s quiet (it makes a snick-snick-snick sound that is so much better than the thunderous noise of gas-powered mowers in the neighborhood!)
  • It’s safe (I can have our kids outside while we mow, and felt comfortable letting the older kids use it after a basic safety lesson).
  • It requires no gas or oil.
  • It cuts grass well.
  • It cuts other greens in our lawn well, such as clover and dandelions.
  • It gives us some enjoyable exercise.
  • It is much easier to push and use than the antique mowers we’ve tried in the past.
  • It needs virtually no upkeep (it needs to be lubricated with a product like WD-40 occasionally and blades need to be sharpened “after several years” according to the manual — there’s a $14 sharpening kit available at Amazon or you can take it to a local mower repair shop for that).
  • There’s a certain nostalgia I get from using it, like how I feel when I hang clothes on the line or can my own jelly.
  • It doesn’t pollute.
  • It saves money in the long-run since it doesn’t need gas, oil, spark plugs, tune ups, etc.
  • It stores easily.
  • The grass-cutting height can be adjusted (from 1/2″ to 1 3/4″ on our model).
  • It feels good to use!

The drawbacks we’ve found include:

  • Even small sticks will jam it, so you need to clear your lawn first.
  • It works easily on flat lawns, but has some trouble on uneven lawns or hills.
  • It takes a lot of time to mow a larger lawn with a smaller sized mower.
  • It works much easier on shorter grass than longer, which makes it important to keep the lawn maintained and not let it get too long between mowing.
  • Some reviewers say it does a poor job cutting weeds in the lawn (though this hasn’t been our experience with weeds like plantain and dandelions).

So far, we’re really enjoying our little mower. My kids bicker over who gets to use it next, and it’s nice to be able to be outside while a family member is mowing. We’re no longer chased inside by the noise and the danger of our old gas-guzzling mowers, which sometimes shot sticks and rocks clear across the yard.

Push reel lawnmowers can be hard to find locally. I did find some newer used ones through Craig’s List in the Minneapolis area, generally for around $25. There is a good assortment available on Amazon. Ebay offers a fair assortment, but the used ones are usually only for sale for local buyers because of shipping concerns. You can also call your local hardware stores and ask if they carry push reel lawnmowers. Perhaps if enough people call, they’ll start stocking them in more stores, too.

I’m glad I finally made the decision to buy our mower, and I’m actually looking forward to mowing my lawn these days!


Four years later, here are my thoughts on how it’s worked for us:

We continue to use our push reel mower, though it hasn’t replaced our ride-on mower full time.  We have a large back yard, plus a front yard and side yard, and if I let the grass get too long then it’s difficult to cut with the push mower.  That said, we still use it and I still love it.

I tend to use the most of anyone in the family, and I like the fact that I get a light workout using it.  It’s quiet and I can get a little sun while getting my body stronger and not bother anybody with the annoying noise of a gas mower. Honestly, I wish my neighbors would do the same!  🙂

One update is that we have not sharpened the blades yet, and it’s gotten to the point where they need it. 

I sent my husband to the local mower repair shop to have them sharpened, but it turns out they only sharpen modern gas mowers and don’t know how to service push reel mowers.

Amazon sells a sharpening kit (affiliate link) for $14 with free shipping for Prime members, but some commenters said that even that wasn’t needed.  One wrote:

So I can go two blocks to O’Reillys and pick up a $3 tube of metal grinding compound, run over to Walmart and grab a $1 paintbrush, switch the gears, and be sharpening my mower in no time? I got mine sharpened in under an hour, saved a bunch of money, and didn’t have to wait a week for this to ship. And I got to push my reel mower in circles backwards on the pavement for a few minutes, if my neighbors didn’t think I was crazy already they do now.

My husband also found an excellent tutorial online for how to do it yourself here.

I’ll update this once we get those sharpened and let you know how well that went.

All in all, I still love the mower and am very glad we bought it!


Note: I purchased the mower with my own money and received no compensation for this review. This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. If you enter the amazon.com site through links here, we will receive a small compensation for purchases you make during your visit.

This article originally appeared on examiner.com in my green living column.  You can view that column and more of my writing here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on September 30, 2015 by in Frugal living, Homesteading and tagged , , .


%d bloggers like this: