Scotts Reel Mower Review – Everything You Need To Know Before You Buy This Mower

Are you concerned with the impact your mowing has on the environment? Do you want to save money on gas and maintenance?

If you say yes to either of these questions, a reel mower may be a great choice for you.

Unless you've seen a modern reel mower like this one, you may be inclined to dismiss them as old relics that you have to struggle to push through grass. But reel mowers sure have come a long way. If you have a typical suburban lawn, that is to say a quarter-acre or less and free of long, dramatic slopes, you may find this mower to be a wise investment.

We know you want to get a dependable mower that suits both you and your lawn, so we did some legwork for you. We got to know this model very well, and we want to tell you all about its durability, price, how easy it is to use and maintain and how good of a job it does cutting.

Using the information we present here, you will be able to decide if this, or any other, reel mower is right for you.

Ratings

Ease of Maintenance

Durability

Ease of Operation

Cut Quality

Highlights

Quick Specs

  • 20" cutting width
  • Weight: 34 pounds
  • 5 blades on reel
  • Grass catcher is available
  • 9 height adjustments
  • Cuts from 1 to 3 inches
  • 2-year manufacturer's warranty on parts and craftsmanship

This mower offers a cut that rivals that of any powered mower, but it never needs any gas and rarely needs maintenance other than routine oiling and sharpening.

Thick, long grass and weeds can be a problem, but it can handle a relatively healthy lawn without jamming or becoming too hard to push. Regular mowing with this type of mower can actually improve your lawn's health.

The key is a nice clean scissor cut between the blades on the reel and the cutter bar instead of a quick slice from a rapidly spinning single blade. When properly adjusted, this mower will not tear your grass at the tip like a powered-mower blade can.

The 20" cutting width is pretty generous among other reel mowers, but it's rather small compared to most powered mowers. You wouldn't really miss an inch or two if you have a smaller lawn.

What really makes this one stand out from other modern reel mowers is its ease of maneuverability. The rear wheels are designed to make turning easier and smoother. This thing is a bit heavy, weighing in at 34 pounds, so that really helps.

You can get this mower for just over $100, and it can last for a lifetime if it's well maintained. There isn't much that can go wrong with this simple machine. You may have to occasionally replace a worn gear or wheel bearing, but this is part of routine upkeep.

Here are the key specs and features we want you to know:

PROS

  • Cheap
  • Low-maintenance
  • No gas needed
  • Great cut on most lawns
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Simple to operate

CONS

  • Hard to push on very thick or weedy lawns
  • Requires precise adjustment of cutter bar
  • Handle is lanky and a little wobbly
  • Quality alert: There are reports of the rear wheels coming loose and falling off

Cut Quality

With sharp blades and when used on a healthy lawn, this mower offers an amazing quality of cut. It shears grass cleanly, which is important because roughly chopped grass turns brown at the tip. A few weeds here and there are no problem, but the reel will jam up if you try to mow a patch of them down. Very thick grass will require more effort to mow, and it may be have to mowed twice to get some stray blades of grass that are pushed past the cutter bar and spring back up after you pass.

You won't want your grass to get too long if you mow with this one. Long grass has the same effect that thick grass does. Most people just give it the extra effort needed to mow long grass, but others mow high and follow that up with a lower cut.

The cutting height is adjustable from one to three inches in nine increments. This is a great range that allows for both a close cut in the fall as well as a longer cut for times of drought.

Ease Of Operation

You just push, and it mows. It is about as easy to push as a light gas mower on thin grass, but more effort is needed as thickness increases. There is no need to add any gas or check oil before you mow.

Mowing uphill isn't as hard as you might expect if you are used to an electric or gas mower. Steep hills are out of the question, though. If you have to slow down too much due to an energy-sapping slope, the reel slows down and gets jammed with grass. You can pull the mower backwards up the hill and cut on the way down, but that doubles the time needed to cut that particular area. A gentle hill that you can walk up pretty easily should be no problem to mow.

Turning is easy thanks to the special rear tracking wheels. It can't turn on a dime, but it can mow a circle around a tree or pool without needing to be wrestled around like a cheap reel mower or a heavy powered mower.

We have to mention that the handle feels somewhat loose. This doesn't cause many issues, but some people really don't like it.

Ease Of Maintenance

Routine maintenance basically consists of keeping it clean, lubricated and sharpened.

It is recommended to spray all of the dirt, gunk and grass clippings off after every use. You may have to use a stick or a brush to knock off clumps of debris from under the protective hood.

Scotts' sells a good sharpening kit, but all you really need is a file. Simply follow the original bevel on all five of the blades with the file using light and even strokes. Although Scotts recommends annual sharpening, most find this is inadequate. This mower works so well with a sharp blade, you may want to sharpen it three or four times a season.

If you are not comfortable using a file, you can use grinding paste to sharpen the blades. This method takes about ten minutes, just as long as using a file, but requires a lot more effort.

You spread some of the abrasive goo on the cutter bar and pull the mower backward for ten minutes, occasionally adding more paste if needed. The blades sharpen themselves. Of course, you could always have the blades professionally sharpened, but you are more likely to keep them sharp if you can do it yourself.

After you sharpen the blades, and whenever you notice the mower is leaving stray blades sticking up, you should check the spacing of the cutter bar and the blades. There are very detailed instructions on how to do this included with the mower, but we want you to know what is involved.

You place a single sheet of newspaper over the cutter bar and turn the reel a little. If the paper gets cut smoothly, the spacing is perfect. If only part of it gets cut or a blade makes contact with the cutter bar, you need to adjust it. This is just a matter of loosening a couple fasteners and getting the spacing right.

You should lube this mower before each use. All it takes is a few sprays of a good penetrating oil. The main places to lube are where the reel's axle goes into the wheel hubs. It is also good to give the blades and cutter bar a spray of oil after washing them.

There have been some issues with the rear tracking wheels falling off. The only assembly required after shipment from the factory is attaching the handle, so this problem must spring from the manufacturing process. No replacement parts are needed to repair a rear wheel that has come off. It just has to be put back on the bracket and tightened well.

Special Features

Not every reel mower can accommodate a grass catcher, but there is one available for this one. Be warned that there have been some complaints that not all of the grass actually goes into the catcher when it's cut. This is because it is designed, by necessity, as a tray that the grass falls into from above.

If you don't use the catcher, the clippings fly out the back of the mower toward the left of your feet. Don't worry: You will get less grass on your shoes than you would from one minute of weed eating.

Who Should Buy This Mower?

Suburban-style lawn: A relatively flat lawn with even thickness and few weeds. If you have this type of lawn and you want to save money on upfront and maintenance costs, you should take a serious look at this mower. If you are making the switch from a powered mower to a reel model, we think you will be pleasantly surprised with the cut and ease of operation.

Don't count yourself out if your lawn is thick or a little hilly. It will still work great if you can put some extra effort into pushing it.

If you have some weeds in your lawn and are worried that this mower may not perform well because of them, use that as an excuse to get rid of those weeds! Not only will your lawn look better and be healthier with them gone, but then you will be able to use this mower for a clean cut.

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.