We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. By clicking the Dismiss button on this page, you are giving your consent for us to set cookies. Privacy Policy

Whereas rotary mowers use a single blade to slice off the grass, reel mowers utilize multiple blades to shear off grass blades (similar to a hand mower).

The most efficient cutting results when the cutting blade contacts the grass at an angle.

Reels cost more than rotaries and are heavier. They are not well suited to cut tall or heavy growth, although the lifetime of a reel may be twice that of a rotary.

Proponents of reel mowers say that the danger of flying objects thrown by a reel is almost nonexistent and contact accidents are minimized because revolving cutters are in full view of the operator.

Most reels have five revolving knives and a stationary knife. The angle at which the revolving blades touch the stationary one is of major importance. When one revolving knife is about 3″ away from losing contact with the stationary knife, the next revolving knife should just be making contact.

If the angle is greater than that, the revolving knife tends to push some grass away. If the angle is less, the revolving knife doesn’t have a good shearing angle and whips instead of cuts.

The frame that holds the blades in place is called a spider. Eighteen-inch mowers should have three or four spiders; 21″ mowers should have four or five spiders.

Proper adjustment can be tested by turning the mower upside down and pulling it toward you. The reel should turn and make a smooth shearing sound.

Revolving cutters run on ball, needle or tapered roller bearings. The drive is usually a belt from the engine to a small pulley and a chain from the pulley to the revolving cutter, which has two pinions attached to its shaft.

These drive 10″-, 10-1/2″- or 11″-diameter, rubber-tired wheels, which run on plain or roller bearings. Both reel and wheel bearings require lubrication and should be equipped with oil cups or fittings.

A cover for the belt and chain decreases the danger of catching clothing in them.

Rollers are sectional and should be at least 2″ in diameter. Cutting heights range from 5/8″ to 2-1/2″ or 3″. These are determined by raising and lowering the roller. On most mowers there is an adjustment at the wheels also, so the mower remains level at all heights.

Since reel mowers can be set to cut at less than one inch, many Californians prefer them to rotaries because they are better suited to grasses in that region.

The handle should be attached so that when it is lifted, it will lift the roller off the ground to pass over hard objects that would damage the cutting unit.

Frames and wheels are usually cast iron or steel.

A Guide to Better Mowing
1. The lawn should not be wet when you mow. Dry grass cuts easier. If you must cut when the grass is wet, cut a narrower swath than usual.
2. Mow in the evening hours. Newly cut grass can be damaged by a hot sun.
3. Adjust the height of the mower blade on level ground with the power turned off. Cut upright grasses at about 2″, Bermuda grasses at about 1-1/2″ and bent grasses at about 1″.
4. Don’t let yard debris injure you or damage your mower. Clean it up before mowing.
5. Mow once a week if rainfall is normal.
6. Keep mower oiled according to manufacturer’s specifications.
7. Tighten all mower parts periodically; any unusual rattle should prompt an extra check for loose nuts, screws or bolts.
8. Grass should be upright, not freshly walked on, when you mow. Mow once or twice around the perimeter of the lawn before cutting across. Change pat- terns each time you cut, and mow with as few interruptions as possible (this helps the appearance).
9. Don’t leave cut grass on the lawn. It sinks down and keeps moisture and fertilizer away from soil and weakens grass. It also provides a “bed” for insects and fungi.
10. Clean mower after each use. Wipe grease, oil and grass from mower.
11. Always be cautious about using gasoline, whether fueling the mower, storing the fuel can or storing the mower. It’s a good idea to drain fuel tank before storing mower.
12. Never mow with a dull blade. Sharpen occasionally. Dull blades tear and “injure” a lawn.

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.