Push Reel Mower Review

By: Julie Day


The first run with our new push reel mower dubbed “Mister Persnickety.”

Last week, I found myself in need of a new lawn mower, and considering that gas mowers spit out as much pollution per hour as driving 250 miles in a car, I was ready to make a change.

While rechargeable electric lawn mowers are very cool, I also hate the noise, dust, flying projectiles, and that pesky little risk of cutting my foot off – not to mention that around here, electricity is produced by burning coal. So, amid groans from everyone I’ve told so far, I headed out to buy a hand-powered, push reel mower.

Buying a Push Reel Mower

There were three models to choose from at my local garden center.


Mower assembly was a snap!

For my purposes, the lightweight 14-inch wide model was too narrow, and the behemoth 20-incher was too heavy; but the 16-inch, 27-pound Scotts Elite – a perky little green number – was, as Goldilocks would say, “Juuuuust right.”

Assembly was a snap – literally. A few wing nuts, snap the handle in place, and you’re ready to go! The mowing height is adjusted by moving two screws (no tools needed). Blades come pre-aligned, but adjustment instructions are included. Within 10 minutes of getting home, I was ready to mow, and cars were already slowing to stare.

Push Reel Mower Review: Snip by Snip Analysis

I ran the mower through a series of tests to determine the overall performance, as well as mowing on slopes and at various speeds. Since lawn mowing is a personal thing, I wanted to monitor the satisfaction level of different users, so I had Matt (another resident gardener) come out to put in his two cents’ worth – and besides, somebody had to sprint up and down hills while I took photos!

Pros: “This Ain’t Your Granny’s Push Reel Mower.”


Sharp enough to shred paper!

If your only memories of push reel mowers involve shoving around a heavy, rusty, dull-bladed antique; then think again!

Push reel mowers today are:

  • Lightweight and easy to push.
  • Very sharp!
  • Easily adjusted for mowing heights from 1/2” to 3” (depending on model).

In addition, push reel mowers offer:

  • Zero emissions!
  • No Fuel Costs: Other than a few burned calories – and if you’re like me, you have plenty of those to spare.
  • Healthier Grass: push reel mowers cut cleanly, unlike rotary powered mowers, leaving grass that is never ripped or torn.
  • Fewer Allergies: Since there’s no dust cloud and the grass clippings fall straight down, cutting with a push reel mower is a relief for allergy sufferers.
  • Self-Paced: Fast or slow, uphill or down, push reel mowers are pretty consistent, so you can mow at your own speed.
  • Delightful Experience: After a lifetime of hauling around noisy, stinky, dangerous lawn mowers, this is like a tea party with cloth napkins. No start-up, no exhaust, no pollution, no projectiles, only a delightful little scissor-snipping sound that evokes happy memories of haircuts and quickly earned the mower the nickname of “Mister Persnickety.” You can hold down a conversation while you mow, or listen to music, or simply enjoy being outdoors.


Cutting the grass with a push reel mower is a blur of eco-friendly activity.

Cons: “It Ain’t a Self-Propelled Lawn Dominator, Either.”

Expecting a push reel mower to perform just like a gas mower is like expecting a bicycle to perform like a Harley. While our obsession with overkill is what got our planet in this jam to begin with, the push reel mower:

  • Leaves Grass Blades: The overall effect is a little shaggier than I was used to. As Matt said, “It’s like its mother said that if any blades of grass give it a hard time, just ignore them.”
  • Requires Pushing: If your current mower is self-propelled, a push reel mower will be harder to push. If your mower isn’t self-propelled, using a push mower will actually be much easier.
  • Can Jam: Twigs and stones bring the push reel to a screeching halt, unlike a gas mower which imbeds them a half inch into your calf.
  • Overgrown Areas: Weedy and overgrown laws are too much for a push reel mower. If you’ve been out of town for a month, you’ll probably need a power mower to get things back under control.


The finished product. A push reel mower isn’t perfect, but much more fun.

Push Reel Mowing in a Nutshell

I love this mower! Push reel mowing is a civilized, earthy experience, and the self-reliance and zero emissions are a no-brainer in my world. I’ve mowed the lawn twice now, and both times I finished up in about the same amount of time as with a gas mower; but I’m clean, pleasantly tired (but by no means worn out), and not bleeding.

The overall effect is not a pristine carpet, but take it from this dyed-in-the-wool perfectionist: if you experiment with embracing imperfection, you’ll find that it’s actually kind of fun.

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4 Comments on “Push Reel Mower Review”

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  • Albert W. Peters Says:
    December 6th, 2013 at 3:30 am

    You can use gasoline reel mowers that combine best of both worlds.



  • Chris Bennett Says:
    December 23rd, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Would that California landscape contractors were using push reel mowers like the one you have described. But sadly, they use gas-powered mowers that emit a sound pressure level (SPL) of around 85 to 100 decibels (dBA). The worst health hazard, in my view, is the noise. It’s not a pleasant beat of city life; it’s a huge roar. And it presents an urban blight. Unfortunately, neither my city nor my county has done anything to minimize this kind of noise. But it’s dubious whether the Code Enforcement department would life a finger to enforce it anyway, even if an ordinance existed. Anything goes in my city, even on otherwise quiet residential streets, if it can be classified as “construction”. And that’s how it is classified.

    I wish all the landscapers in my city were as sensible as you. But they continue to use these gas-powered mowers that can reach above 100 dBA (decibels) of sound pressure level. Very sad.

    I wish you could visit my city’s Council and show them how nice it could be for our city to adopt the use of quiet, push reel mowers.

    Blessings,
    Chris Bennett
    The Daily Decibel


  • Official Comment:


    Julie Day Says:
    October 14th, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Well, it is a MAN-ual mower…



  • Sherfdog Says:
    October 14th, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Looks like Matt was the one pushing!


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