Return of the Reel

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Many people are at least familiar with the reel mower.  Though fallen out of common use for residential lawn mowing, reel type mowers are still incorporated into pull-behinds for tractors.  The gas powered mower has eclipsed the reel mower for personal use and for many the thought of the reel mower is just a memory from the distant past.  However, in light of the move toward more environmentally conscientious practices and the need to save money in a down economy, the reel mower has been making a return to the lawn care scene.

What is a Reel Mower?

The concept of the reel mower is so antiquated that many may be unsure just what we are referring to.  Reel mowers are the old-timey contraptions often depicted in the olden sitcoms still run in syndication in some places.  The reel mower is a push type mower consisting of a long handle used to push a cylinder of blades (looking much like the paddles of an old riverboat) set upon the axle of two wheels.

As the device is pushed forward the cylinder of blades spins around the axle of the two wheels.  As the blades rotate, they pass over a fixed horizontal blade.  Grass passing between the rotating blade and the fixed one is neatly clipped.  Modern takes on the reel mower may add on touches, such as guards to direct the output of clippings, but overall, the design of the reel mower hasn’t changed much over the years.

History of the Reel Mower

The birth of the reel mower dates back to the 1800s.  Before that time lawns were generally kept trimmed by means of scythes and swing blades, such as the yo-yo still in use today.  Lawns were also often kept short by the grazing of domesticated animals.  However, as technological advancement reached into every facet of human existence during the Industrial Revolution, the tedious task of lawn maintenance met with advancement as well.

The reel mower owes its existence to the genius of a British engineer named Edwin Beard Budding.  However, the idea was not Budding’s alone.  Cutting cylinders were already in use at the time in textile mills where they were used to cut cloth.  However, it was Budding’s mechanical genius along with engineer John Ferrabee’s knowledge of patenting and mass production, that turned the large blade reels of the textile mills into the rather cumbersome, wheeled contraption that would be the first lawn mower and which, over time would evolve into what we know today as the reel (or cylinder, outside the U.S.) mower.

Reel Mower Renaissance

As combustion engines became smaller and lighter, the reel mower was replaced with the high-powered rotary mowers that most of us are familiar with.  Rotary mowers require less physical exertion, but gas isn’t cheap and, let’s face it, those fumes aren’t doing the environment any favors either.  This is why the reel mower has seen an explosion in sales and production in the past decade.  Those looking to embrace environmentalism find their chance in the 100% eco-friendly reel mower.  Those looking to save a few bucks in our trouble economy find their solution in the reel mower as well.  Efficient and clean running – the reel mower is the world’s only mower that can be run on beer and bologna sandwiches (or whatever you prefer to eat).

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