Fiskars StaySharp Max Reel Review

Everything You Need To Know Before You Buy This Mower

StaySharp Max Reel Mower

Reel mowers have always been tough and dependable machines. They've changed very little over time, until about 15 years ago. Only then did we begin to see self-sharpening blades and better gear ratios that allowed the mower to cut through thick patches of grass. But until now, we haven't seen a reel mower that we would call "deluxe."

Enter Fiskars' StaySharp Max Reel Mower.

We want you to take a careful look at this model if you are considering a reel mower. This type of mower can last much longer than gas and electric types, so you should put some extra thought into your decision and get one that you will be happy with for years to come.

This particular mower may not be the best for you if you don't actually need some of the design enhancements that make it stand out. After you read this review, you will understand all of the advantages of the StaySharp Max Reel Mower, and you will be able to confidently decide if it is right for you.

Ratings

Ease of Maintenance

Ease of Operation

Cut Quality

Durability

Summary

This mower has been designed to address some of the key shortcomings of the reel mowers of the past. Let's highlight some of these improvements before looking at the details of its performance and what it takes to keep it humming.

People with thick lawns, or thick patches, shy away from reel mowers. All of its cutting power comes directly from whoever is pushing it, after all. Fiskars has put some thought into this issue and developed what they call "InertiaDrive" technology.

How does this help?

It allows you to mow even the thickest grass without any more effort than needed for softer and thinner grass.

Adjusting the cutting height on older reel mowers, and most modern ones, can be a real chore. I always wondered why a wrench had to be necessary just to make a simple adjustment. Even some of the earliest gas mowers had a simple lever on each wheel to raise and lower them. This reel mower adjusts with a single lever, making it easier to set than some gas and electric models.

Perhaps you have owned a reel mower in the past. If so, you will probably roll your eyes when I mention sharpening the blades. They dull so quickly because of the constant scraping against the cutting bar while in use. But these blades never actually touch the bar, thanks to the StaySharp cutting system.

Mower Specs

  • 18" cutting width
  • 1"-4" cutting height
  • Single lever cutting height adjustment
  • Inset wheels for mowing close to obstacles
  • Adjustable clipping chute
  • Easy-to-adjust handle
  • 60 percent easier to mow through thick grass
  • Three year warranty

PROS

  • Easy to push
  • Blades stay sharp longer
  • Mows very close to foundations, walkways, flower beds and other obstacles
  • Can cut through weeds, as long as they're not too thick
  • Easy to maintain
  • Quick cutting height and handle adjustments
  • Better control over clippings than other reel mowers

CONS

  • The InertiaDrive system makes it a bit more difficult to turn than other reel mowers
  • There have been reports of a sprocket coming loose in the drive system - This would be covered under the warranty, but we want you to know about it
  • This is not the best reel mower for uneven terrain

Cut Quality

A well-adjusted reel mower with sharp blades offers a cut that is unmatched by any electric or gas mower. How would you rather have your hair cut, with scissors or a few whacks with a chef knife? I think a knife would leave some split ends.

The same holds true with your lawn.

A single spinning blade can rip the grass and cause the tips to split and turn brown. But a scissor cut from a good reel mower leaves a clean cut that heals quickly.

Since this mower's blades stay sharp far longer than most other mowers, they will give a great cut even if you neglect sharpening them.

You can adjust the cutting height up to four inches, so you can make two passes with the mower to get to the height you need if you have to.

What does this have to do with cut quality?

Well, if you cut too much length off your grass at once, you will eventually end up with bare spots in your lawn. So having this range of cutting height can help you keep your lawn even and healthy, even if you can't always mow when you need to.

Regardless of the type of mower you use now, you have probably noticed little stray blades of grass and the odd weed or two sticking up where you just mowed. This often happens when we get in a hurry and mow too fast. Some reel mowers are notorious for leaving these stubborn strays behind. The five blades on this model rarely miss any blade. Even weeds are usually not a problem, except for the thickest or longest ones.

Reel mowers give the best cut, and this model is one of the best of the lot.

Ease Of Operation

Here is where the InertiaDrive system shows its stuff. First, let's talk a little about what it is. Basically, it comes down to a heavier reel with a larger diameter. The extra weight of the reel, while not adding significantly to the overall weight of the mower, "stores" some energy as inertia. Another way to say it is it gives the reel more follow through. The extra resistance of thick grass and weeds is no match for the heavy reel.

There are many reasons you may need to adjust your cutting height. You want to mow higher during dry spells to keep from having to water so often, for example. Or you may need to mow an area a couple times to get down to the length you want. Remember, you shouldn't cut too much at once. Adjusting this mower's cutting height is as easy as pulling a lever.

We like the adjustable clipping chute. You can set it to throw the clippings forward and to the sides or back and to your left. This is a big improvement over the random scattering of other reel mowers.

Maintenance

We really wish there were grease ports on the wheel hubs. But to be fair, most reel mowers don't have them. Oiling is pretty easy though. Just spray some penetrating oil where the axles go into the hubs. Oil the rear wheels too.

To sharpen the blades, simply run a file along the original bevel of each blade from end to end. Due to the fact that the blades don't wear themselves out on the cutting bar, you should only have to do this every other season. Fiskars offers a sharpening kit that comes with sharpening oil and grit paste, but it is rather expensive and unnecessary.

Don't be intimidated by the thought of adjusting the clearance between the blades and cutter bar. To check this, you just rotate the reel. If you hear any contact, it needs to be adjusted. It also needs to be adjusted if it won't cut a piece of paper held between each blade and the bar. All you have to do is loosen two bolts and turn two dials to adjust the clearance to perfection. Anyone can do it.

You have to keep it clean to prevent rust and premature wear. Spraying with a water hose after each use is the best way to keep clippings from building up.

That's pretty much it as far as maintenance goes. It's nice to not have to think about engine oil and air filters.

Who Should Buy This Mower?

Anyone who wants a simple and easily maintained mower should consider this one. It is kind to the environment and easy on the ears. I don't think anyone will miss the horrible fumes that come from a gas mower either.

Strangely, Fiskars doesn't recommend this mower for uneven terrain. I'm not sure why. This model, like all other reel mowers, does best on relatively flat lawns. A few hilly spots are no problem. If you can push a gas or electric mower up your steepest hill, you can push this one up it with just a little more effort.

If you don't mind spending the money for a top of the line reel mower, this may be a great choice that will last for many seasons of enjoyable mowing.

Ed Kirkland
 

Hi, I'm Ed, and I've been doing lawn work since my mid teen years, picking up jobs here and there mowing and helping with basic landscaping projects. I worked at a couple different lawn care / landscaping companies throughout my college years, and now thanks to the internet I'm able to make a share my knowledge and advice with people about lawn care and landscaping.