How to Use an

How to Use an
Proper maintenance keeps reel mowers running for years.

Proper maintenance keeps reel mowers running for years.

Old-fashioned push mowers, called reel mowers, operate via a reel of blades that revolve as you push the mower. The grass blades extend between the cutting blades and a bed knife, which works much like scissors or shears to cut the grass. When blades are sharp and in good working order, the cut is considered better than the cut obtained by rotary mowers. If the cutting blades and bed knife are dull, the grass will be ripped or torn. Keeping the blades sharp is vital to a good cut.

Set the cutting height of your mower between 1 3/4 to 2 inches, depending on the type of grass you have, the recommendations of your particular mower and your personal preference. Typically, it is recommended to set the cutting height higher in the spring when the grass is high in moisture content and growing rapidly. Later in the summer when growth slows and moisture is lower, set the cutting height slightly lower.

Mow the grass before it reaches a height of 4 inches. If grass grows taller than 4 inches, you may need to mow each strip more than once to get the desired results. You may also need to overlap the rows to avoid a strip of longer grass running between rows.

Push the mower, walking at a normal speed, in a straight line from one end of the section of the lawn to the opposite end. Turn the mower and mow a parallel strip of lawn adjacent to the first row, overlapping slightly. Repeat the pattern until the entire area is mowed.

Repeat the procedure in the opposite direction to create a checkerboard pattern, if preferred. This may be necessary to achieve the desired appearance if the grass has grown too tall before mowing. By keeping the lawn mowed before it reaches a height of 4 inches, this generally is not necessary.


  • Oil the cutting edges and bearings of your mower regularly and follow the manufacturer's instructions for sharpening the blades.
  • Do not mow more than one-third the length of the blades of grass, as this may compromise your lawn's health.
  • Old-fashioned push mowers may not cut tall dandelions and weeds, as they bend under the pressure of the blades, but do not spring back up between the cutting blades and the bed knife. You may notice dandelions popping up after the lawn is mowed.


  • Always check the lawn for twigs and stones before attempting to mow, as these can cause injury when thrown from the blades.

Photo Credits

  • BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

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