So, I Purchased a Reel Mower

The other day, in the middle of mowing my front yard, my lawn mower of nearly a decade decided to give up the ghost. It was a sad thing to behold, and it left me using the weed eater to “fade” the hard edges so that the divide between newly mowed and uncut would be less apparent until I found a suitable replacement.

That evening, as I was talking to my brother-in-law, Taylor, who is a landscape/hardscape professional, he suggested that I might consider purchasing a reel mower – you know, the old-school kind that doesn’t have a motor. He said that it would save me from having to buy gasoline and that it was also a great way to get a little exercise. The idea was intriguing to me, and by the end of the night, I was determined to give a reel mower a try.


A couple of days later I made the purchase, brought home the small box, and quickly assembled the pieces in front of my garage. Never again would I need to buy gasoline before mowing the grass.  To be quite honest, I felt a little bit of pride for purchasing such an earth-friendly alternative to the normal powered lawn mower. Perhaps I would start a new trend in our neighborhood.

That pride only lasted a couple of minutes.

What happened next was a swirl of emotions, mostly shame. Handlebars positioned about two feet too low, pushing a strange small object. The feeling was similar to pushing along a child-sized vacuum cleaner through the grass. Humbling stuff.

And it didn’t help that neighbors were taking notice of me. Cars were slowing down to look as they passed by, and my next door neighbors came out to mention how “cool and eco-friendly” the mower was.

By this point I was seriously annoyed with myself about the purchase.  It didn’t seem that it was working very well, and I needed to mow every inch of the grass multiple times. Why else had I never seen anybody use a reel mower before? It wasn’t just that the idea never came to mind, but like the typewriter, it was an antiquated and obsolete device.

And as for exercise, I’d have to say that I was disappointed. The effort was roughly equivalent to a slow walk around the neighborhood.

Thinking back to my purchasing experience, the placement of the mower box in the store should have tipped me off. It was located on a shelf about eight feet off the ground and had a layer of dust on top of the box. Now, I would have to relive my poor decision each week as I awkwardly trudged back and forth across my lawn.


Once I gave up the idea of returning the mower to the store or pitching it in the dumpster, the second week of mowing was a drastically improved experience. Before I started, I lowered the blades, and that seemed to help with the problem of having to mow the same spot multiple times. That change also helped me to see why people would describe the process as a workout.  But my favorite part was the quiet sound of the mower blades instead of an engine, so listening to music while mowing was especially enjoyable. And overall, I think the mower produced a nicely-even lawn.


You could end up with the best looking lawn on the block, but purchasing a reel mower is probably best reserved for people who don’t mind feeling (and looking) a little foolish. Be forewarned.

Oh, and wear long pants, not shorts, when mowing or else your shoes will be full of clippings. Trust me.

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3 thoughts on “So, I Purchased a Reel Mower

  1. Oh, Kyle. That is hilarious! Not so much for the geek factor, but because I’ve had a related experience. When I was in high school, my dad was kind enough to think of my physical condition and made a similar purchase. I remember coming home from school and seeing that thing, wondering if this was some new kind of torture that he had decided to inflict on me, and then being horrified to find that he bought it INSTEAD of a gallon of gasoline for the trusty Briggs and Stratton.

    After wondering if my dad was experiencing early-onset dimentia, I spent 3 or 4 hours mowing about 1/4 of the lawn (1/2 an acre of our 2 acre lawn). He began yelling at me for taking so long, when I had one of my few brave moments and said, “Then you try it.” After all, he was a very physically fit person. Despite my athleticism, he still managed to show me up (as usual), but he wasn’t much faster.

    He ended up buying me a gallon of gasoline. =P

  2. I love love our reel mower Kyle, we have had it for about 2.5 years now and I mow with it on a weekly basis. The workout is great and yes I never have had to buy gas. It stores fairly easy which I love because we are limited with space. I also like how I am not inhaling gas fumes, destroying my ear drums and inhaling all the microscopic grass pieces along with dirt and every other tiny allergen into my lungs and nose.

    Our neighbor mows with a mower and he stinks up the neighborhood, and talk about looking funny, using such a big noisy device for a lawn about 20 feet by 15 feet. It’s like driving your car down to the corner just to get your mail instead of taking the leisure walk. Just seems like such a headache, I truly am grateful that I have a reel mower.

    Get this: my neighbor has one too and when she is done mowing her tiny front lawn she pulls out the old handy dandy scissors to get the blades that drape over her sidewalk! Just love it!

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