The scissoring action of a manual push mower is unique to these mowers. It’s great for the health of your grass, as it cleanly cuts as opposed to a gas mower, which uses blunt force to cut grass, and I find them strangely satisfying to use.
The best manual push mowers are:
- Scotts Ultra Cut
- Fiskars Stay sharp
Who’s Edwin Budding?
The reel mower was invented by Edwin Budding in 1830 and has remained pretty similar to the original design, just shows you can’t improve on perfection. Well, cast Iron is pretty heavy so, I guess there was some room for improvement.
Today we have lighter materials and thanks to mass production, you can pick one up for the price of a tank of gas, but are they any good? Well, yes some are if you’re cutting under a 1/4 acre yard. But if your yard is larger, or very hilly, you’ll need something with more oomph.
Gas, Electric or Push
I know most of you have already made up your mind, you want a manual push mower, but for anyone on the fence, let’s take a look at some of the factors, that maybe you haven’t considered yet.
Gas Powered – After you buy it, you’ve got to maintain it, buy gas, oil and don’t forget a dry garage to store it over the winter months. If it’s an expensive mower you really should think about insuring it.
Electric Mowers – Electric is fine but then there’s the stupid cord to wrestle, while you’re already wrestling the mower. What about battery-powered mowers? Yes, they’re good, as long as you remembered to plug in the charger, and you’ll really need two batteries because one usually isn’t enough, and they aren’t cheap.
Manual Push Mower – Before purchasing a manual push mower, consider your physical ability, while it’s not any more stressful than a good stretch of the leg, it will require constant physical exertion. Consider also the time, it won’t be as fast as a gas or electric mower. A manual push mower isn’t going to be practical for a large yard or tall grass.
What Makes a Great Push Mower?
Manual mowers are simple and that’s good, but there are a few key components that make a good manual mower a great manual mower. The manual push mowers reviewed here have most of these features. Where ever you choose to buy your mower, be sure to check for these features or you will likely be disappointed in its performance.
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Wheels – Strong wheels with good tires are very important.
Quality Wheels – This is essential for traction, as it’s the wheels that make the reel spin, if your wheels don’t grip the ground, you won’t cut grass. If the grass is in any way moist, cheap plastic wheels may slip and make cutting your lawn unnecessarily difficult.
Adjustable Cutting Height – At different times during the year you may desire different grass lengths. An adjustable cutting height will allow you to choose the desired cut. (Standard 2 inches) More settings are better, obviously, and tool-less adjustment is the Duesenberg.
A Soft Hand Grip – Using a reel mower can be very physical, so it’s essential that the handgrip is comfortable, if it’s not, your hands may blister and you will tire easily.
Comfort – Because you’re pushing and pulling constantly, your hands need to be comfortable.
Blades – Four blades are standard, but five-blade reels are better. When to sharpen the blade will vary depending on your make of mower, the general rule is annual. If you’re kind to your mower, and by kind I mean, you don’t make it eat stones, it could remain sharp for years.
Lightweight – A heavy manual push mower will make cutting the grass extremely labor-intensive. And too light, will mean the wheels won’t grip the turf. Ensuring the manual push mower is the right weight will decrease workload and increase enjoyment dramatically.
Width – The width of your manual push mower is important as it determines the weight and time spent cutting. A wider mower will obviously be heavier but will cut more grass in less time than a narrow mower.
Adjustable Handle – Most won’t have adjustable, if you’re very tall, you may need to consider an adjustable length handlebar.
Collector – A collector is sometimes available as an option, but traditional users just allow the fine clippings to mulch into the lawn. The clippings are so fine they literally disappear. The two mowers reviewed here are not fitted with a collector.
Are Manual Push Mowers Hard to Use?
Manual push lawn mowers are easy to use, you do need to be in good health, but you don’t need to be marathon fit. If you can walk briskly, you can use a manual mower.
Some people enjoy cutting the grass while also getting in some exercise. Personally, I like them, I find the noise therapeutic, it’s got that nice slicing sound, very satisfying to use.
What Grass Type Will Manual Push Mower Cut?
Long or thick grass can be difficult to cut with a manual mower, Bermuda grass for example is extremely tough cutting. So check what type of grass you have before purchasing a manual push mower.
And you’ll have to be disciplined and cut regularly because if you let the grass get too long unlike a gas mower, a reel mower won’t cut it.
Now, let’s go ahead and look at two leading manual push mower makers, Scotts and Fiskers, and compare their offerings. We’ll begin with the Scotts mower.
Scotts the company was formed in 1868 by O.M. Scott, they traded as a seed company for the U.S. agricultural industry and later focused on lawn seed for the homeowner. You could say, they know grass.
Scotts 515-18S Ultra Cut has an easy push design, not unlike the Fiskars, they have eliminated reel bar contact. This reduces resistance, and that makes it easier to push. The Ultra cut is an 18″ reel with five blades and weighs 36 lbs. This is a premium mower. The quality in materials and workmanship is evident especially if you compare it to cheaper models.
This is a mower you’ll have for years, it’s likely it’ll become a family heirloom.
Front Throw – It’s got a front throwing chute and shield over the reel. Throwing the grass out front allows the mower to cut those clippings again, giving you a very fine mulch that disappears into the lawn. Its got a nine position height adjustment from 1″ to 3″ which is more than enough height options for any user. Show off!
Blade Reel – The Reel does all the heavy work. The blades and bearings collectively are known as the Reel. But the Reel won’t cut without the Bed-knife.
The Bed knife is a flat piece of steel that is positioned very close to the five-blade reel. The grass is corralled by the reel and directed at the bed-knife for clipping.
Scotts Reel and Bed knife are made from tempered alloy steel and together with top quality bearings keep the reel-spinning smoothly and quietly. Rear rollers are fitted, which flatten the grass and give you that really professional-looking strip lines.
Wheel – Top-quality wheels and tires ensure good traction which converts into reel speed.
Handlebars – The handlebars are a unique v shape, allowing for easy maneuvering in tight spaces. The v shape allows room for your body as you pull the mower towards you, clever.
The grip is soft padded and extends across the handlebars giving you lots of grip position choices. It looks pretty durable, but I wouldn’t let my dog chew on it.
Easy Push – Contact-less Reel.
Assembly – Like all the mowers, some self-assembly is needed, but it won’t challenge you. The handlebars are nicely made and assembly is made simple with tool-less thumbscrews.
Warranty – The Ultra Cut comes with a 1-year warranty.
Rollers – For the pro striped lawn look.
To Sum Up – This is my choice, I like quality tools and that’s what this is. I think if you take care of this mower you’ll have it for many trouble-free years.
Design, materials, and workmanship are all top-shelf. I want one! You can check out the Scotts here on Amazon.
Fiskars the company was formed in 1649 in Fiskars, Finland. The original company made its living as an Ironworks, and today it’s a global supplier of consumer products. The Fiskars 17″ Mower with StaySharp system uses precision ground cutting blades that don’t touch, this reduces friction, wear, and maintenance.
Reinvented – Fiskars have taken the manual push mower and made it their own. Like the Scotts the grass is thrown out the front, the operator is shielded by the reel cover. Its got four wheels which is great for stability, but a little clumsy in tight spaces. It’s well designed and made, no doubt, but it isn’t up to the Scotts standard. The wheels feel a little cheap.
Easy Push – Fiskars is fitted with a noncontact blade which as you know makes it easier to push. The marketing material states their mower is 40% easier to push and delivers 75% more power to the reel.
I don’t even know how you’d measure that. As an option, a grass catcher is available for this model, that will of course make it harder to push.
Soft Grip – Like the Scotts, the handlebars are nice in the hand.
Weight – This thing isn’t light at 41lbs it’s heavier than the Scotts reel mower, but it’s on four wheels so you don’t really notice the extra weight. Height adjustment is like a regular mower, the pull of a lever, 1.5″ to 3.5″ simple! but you won’t cut grass taller than four inches.
All Grass Types – Fiskars claim this push mower will cut all types of heavy, thick grass even St. Augustine, Bermuda, Zoysia, and Bahia. So if you’re in the southern states, the Fiskars is a better fit for these tougher varieties.
Heavy Grass – Good at handling southern heavy grass.
Assembly – Like all the mowers, some self-assembly is needed. More assembly on this than the Scotts but you won’t need the manual.
Warranty – The Fiskars comes with a 2-year warranty.
Self Assembly – It’s not difficult, maybe 10 minutes work.
To Sum Up – This is a good mower, and if I didn’t have the Scotts to compare it to, I’d say we have a winner. I don’t see this mower still in service in 15 or 20 years’ time, I just don’t get that from it.
On the upside, it’s better able to handle tough grass, more stable on its wheels, better warranty, and is easier to push. So if you can live with it not lasting as long as the Scotts, it’s a perfectly fine mower and you can check the price of the Fiskars here on Amazon.
Manual Push Mower Safety
These tools are sharp and would have your fingers off in a heartbeat, so respect is advised. If you need to work on the blade then lift the mower off the ground so the wheels are free from contact or lock the wheels from moving. These tools are pretty safe, but if you have small children, I would advise storing the mower out of reach. Unlike a gas mower, the manual mower is just as dangerous when not in use.
The manual push mower is a very smart buy for those with a small garden. A spray of wd40 before every use will ensure your blade stays sharp and the wheels roll easily. A dull blade tears the foliage and causes damage and disease, evident by a yellowing of the grass.
Most reel mowers will only need bed knife adjustment every year and blade sharpening only every few years.
To winterize your push mower, give it a good clean, use a clean paintbrush and compressed air if you have it. I don’t like to use a power hose or a hosepipe, which causes rust in bearings and other hard-to-see places.
A good spray all over with wd40 will protect it over the winter months. Store undercover and out of the weather, preferably indoors over the winter. Now you have a head start on the new season. Check out this post, it covers “Winterizing your mower”.
What is the best reel mower for Bermuda grass? The Fiskars manual push mower has a noncontact reel and stays sharp technology which will make it easier to cut tough Bermuda grass.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer at Lawnmowerfixed.com.
He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and shares his know-how and hands-on experience in our DIY repair guides.
Johns’s fluff-free How-to guides help homeowners fix lawnmowers, tractor mowers, chainsaws, leaf blowers, power washers, generators, snow blowers, and more.