I started mowing with a reel mower as a teenager. It was hard and heavy, but it cut nice and close which was perfect for my rural basketball court and the green on the backyard "pitch and putt" my family had constructed.
I purchased a new, "modern" reel mower as a new homeowner and couldn't believe the contrast. Lighter, easier to push and adjustable, with that clean, short cut look I had always loved. I still have a gas mower for when the lawn gets out of hand (springtime when it grows like mad, or when we have been away on a vacation), but the reel mower does the majority of work at our house. I go through one jerry can of gas every 2-3 years now, and than includes the occasional roto-tiller or snow blower fill.
Why we Love Reel Mowers:
- Quieter and no exhaust stink.
- Not that much more time consuming than gas mower.
- Great for modern, smaller backyard or a yard with lots of flower beds and trees taking up space.
- Kid-friendly. When mowing, I can stop and talk to my kids without worry. The mower sits patient and quiet till I choose to start again. And while there is still sharp blades, they are not nearly as dangerous as a powered mower.
- Cheap! Both in initial purchase price and maintenance (no oil, sparkplugs, gas or electricity).
- They do a nicer job than a gas mower. Cleaner cut edges and adjustable to shorter lengths, if you like a golf course look (although, I know, longer cuts are better for the grass)
- Easy to do small areas on a moments notice. Need a badminton court or washer-toss arena trimmed up in a hurry? It would feel ridiculous to start a gas mower to cut 25 square feet, but a reel mower can knock that off in a couple minutes without making you feel silly.
- More forgiving if you run over a toy or garden hose. Not perfect, but you will likely have a chance to rescue most things or (more likely) the mower will roll right over them, as the blade is actually pretty hard to reach.
- You can mow in bare feet. See above. Not really 100% safe, you should probably not do it, but I do it often enough and there hasn't been a problem. And if there is one, it be of the "cut toe or missing toenail" variety, not "Missing foot".
Some things aren't as great with a reel mower.
- They are a little more work to push, especially if you are used to self-propelled mowers. I call this "extra physical fitness", and it really isn't that much more work, honest.
- You may need to go over areas a couple times (especially if you have lots of weeds or let your mower blades get dull. I often have both of these issues). I go over most areas twice - once with a thorough, slightly overlapping cut like a normal mower, then cut again in a direction perpendicular to the original cut - this second cut is a quick, non-overlapping walk to make things extra pretty. The end result is perfection. If you are into that.
- It can take a little longer overall. If you combine the above two points, you will find that your reel mower takes about 50% longer to do the job of a gas mower. I use this time to listen to music (at reasonable volume levels, as reel mowers are quieter).