Reel Mower Technique

Like any hand tool, a reel mower requires a little technique. It’s not hard, but there are a couple of things to know.

Do not use the entire width of the mower.

You control how hard the mower is to push by the size of the mower’s “bite.” The less bite, the easier it is to mow. I suggest mowing in a back and forth pattern, using 1/2 to 1/3 of the width of the mower. The taller the grass, the smaller the bite.

I have taught several people how to use a reel mower. When I tell them to mow with only 1/2 the mower, they still mow with the entire width of the blade. Let me try again.

Half of the mower should be over grass that is already cut. The other half should be on grass that is about to be cut. If the mower is hard to push using 1/2 of the blade, then try 1/3 of the blade. It will feel odd, like you will never finish. Ignore your feelings and just push the mower. Trust me, it works.

It is much less work to take extra passes with a small bite than fewer passes with a large bite.

Mow back and forth.

Mow the grass in a back and forth pattern, only using 1/2 of the width of the blade. This means that you are effectively covering every part of the yard twice. On the first pass, some blades of grass will be left standing. The second pass will pick up the majority of the stragglers. Some blades will be left standing, even with perfect technique.

If a significant number of blades are left standing after you mow, then you are probably mowing with too much of the blade. Next time try using only 1/3 of the blade.

Do not use the wheel tracks for alignment.

With a rotary mower, you can line up the wheel of the mower with the track from the previous pass and you know all the grass will be mowed. That does not work with a reel mower. If you line up the wheel with the previous track, you will leave stripes of grass standing.

Ignore the wheel tracks and look at the cut grass. Align the middle of the mower with the transition between cut and uncut grass.

Use the mower’s momentum.

If you mow too fast, then blades of grass will be left standing. (Usually that requires running.) If you mow too slow, then the mower will be significantly hard to push. Get a good start with each pass and use the momentum of the mower to help you.