Hand Push Reel Mowers Part 3
Last we reviewed some contact hand push lawn mowers. We have more of them to go through!
Hudson Star manufactures reel mowers specifically for golfing greens, with very low cutting height (1/4" to 3/4"), and high weight (80 lbs+). We do not consider them adapted to general purpose lawns, and will not review them here.
Husqvarna is a Swedish company well known for quality gardening products. It produces 3 reel mower models, two of which are traditional contact mowers. It also owns McCulloch, which produces other reel mowers of a different design.
Husqvarna 54 is a budget 16" cut path mower with a 5-bladed reel, with a rear roller, a Tee shape handle with foam grips, a height adjustment of 0.5" to 1.5" in 4 increments. It has 8" wheels and a 19 lb weight, and is available, with difficulty, online for about $100. A grass catcher is optional. Both wheels and gears are plastic, and the reel does not have ball bearings.
Husqvarna 64 is a 16" cut path mower, with a 5-bladed reel on ball bearings, a Tee shape handle with foam grips, a wide cutting height of 0.5" to 2.25" infinitely adjustable with a easy lever-like adjustment, and a 19 lb weight. It is available on the web, with difficulty, for about $130, and has an optional grass catcher. The wheels and gears are plastic.
Both models are suitable for Northern grasses, but neither are recommended against Southern grasses. For both models, a front plate protects flowers and shrubs from the reel. There are few reviews available on the web for Husqvarna models, widely dispersed, some on generic review sites, others on home shopping sites. There are not enough per model for us to be able to reliably evaluate each of them. Globally, they depict light, easy to push mowers, sometimes too lightweight, with questionable quality plastic gear.
SilentCut, also found under the Mascot name, has got to be the most unusual of all reel mower brands. Yardman manufactured, as early as 1929, a sturdy, all metal reel mower. The model was picked up in the 70s by Agri-Fab, and gained quite a cult following, before being discontinued. The manufacturing was picked up by an Amish family, which, with some encouragement and orders from ReelMowersEtc, set up manufacturing in China. They bring the mowers to the USA, check assembly, sharpen, adjust and tune them before sending them out to distribution. Customer support, through ReelMowersEtc, was very easy to get to.
SilentCut 18 is an 18" cut path mower, powder-painted, with a 6-bladed reel mounted on ball bearings. it has 9" wheels, a rear roller, a Tee shape handle with foam grips, and a height of cut varying from 0.5" to 2.25", adjustable by moving bolts on both sides. It is all metal. It is a "light contact" mower where the reel barely makes contact with the knife bed. It weighs 38 lbs, and costs $260.
SilentCut 18 for upright grasses has the same specs, but with 10" wheels, so as to have a 1" to 2.75"cut height. Its weight is 42 lbs, and costs $280.
SilentCut 21 is the only 21" reel mower we could find, with the same specs as the 18, except for a height of cut from 1" to 3", adjustable by moving bolts on both sides, a weight of 45 lbs, and a price of $290.
The SilentCut models are unique in their ability to do well against both Northern and Southern grasses, including the very hard to cut Bermuda, St Augustine, and Zoysia grasses. They offer no protection from the reel for flowers and shrubs. SilentCut has few reviews available on the web, but it carries a great reputation from its Yardman/ Agri-Fab times. Many users still use models from the 40s and 50s and are now looking for parts for them. Retailers expect the rollers to last 10-15 years, and the handle 50 years... This review from someone who uses a SilentCut to mow 5 to 10 rental yards per week is interesting as it makes comparisons. A back-lapping kit is available for $60, and a grass catcher for $45.
MCulloch, now owned by Husqvarna, produces a 16" cut path reel mower, the MCM2011, and a 20" cut path reel mower, the MCM2013. It is not clear if they are still in production, as they are not on the web site, and the company could not tell us either way - but both are still being sold. Factual information on them is uncertain, as the company itself has little information, and as retailers publish contradicting information on the topic. To ascertain the matter, we talked directly to the company which distributes them in the US, Dixie Sales, which was by far the most consumer-friendly of all the interlocutors we had with McCulloch. What we publish here is based on the information Dixie Sales received from McCulloch. McCulloch mowers are all metal, a rare occurrence, possibly with the exception of the outside wheel plates. While both models are suitable for Northern grasses, neither is likely to do well against Southern grasses. For both models, a front plate protects flowers and shrubs from the reel.
McCulloch 16" MCM2011. This 16" cut path mower weighs 25 lbs (shipping weight) and has 4 height cutting adjustments, ranging between 0.67" and 1.33," using bolts on both sides. This reel mower appears with 4 blades in the company documentation, along with a roller behind a pair of primary 10" wheels. Both wheels and gears are metal. We could only find one review on the web, a good review written after 6 years of use. The mower is made in Taiwan, and can be obtained on the web for about $100.
McCulloch 20" MCM2013. This 20" cut path mower weighs 36 lbs (shipping weight) with 9 cutting adjustments, ranging from 0.67" to 1.33", using bolts on both sides according to two McCulloch retailers (it seems to us that there are spring-loaded adjustment levers). The mower is all metal. The handles rotate around a pivot to adjust to the height of the user. There are two 6" tracking wheels behind the primary 10" wheels. Both wheels and gears are metal. This reel mower appears with 4 blades in the company documentation (we checked with Dixie Sales), but a reviewer specifically mentions 5 blades. The mower is made in Taiwan, and is available for about $130. Reviews are mostly good, although one reviewer complains of poor quality control leading to a DOA mower.
McLane, a small American company, has a very good reputation in commercial lawn mowing for golf courses, second only to TruCut. It manufactures in the USA a series of heavy duty reel mowers, with 5, 7 and 10 (!!!) blades, with unique technology that is not encountered in any other hand push mower. It relies on its dealers for customer support, but we were able to talk to customer service at the plant. Few dealers have any experience on their hand push mowers.
All models protect flowers and shrubs from the reel with a top front metal bar. There are no reviews on the hand push McLanes, so we interviewed several retailers carrying multiple product lines about them. This review covers McLane's self-propelled putting green mower, with similar reel technology as the hand push mowers. These mowers are impressive monuments to a culture of fine cutting, and seem particularly appropriate for fine, flat, well-manicured lawns with thick grass. They may not do as well in more irregular or bumpy lawns, or where maneuverability is important. Handles may not always fit taller people. Because they are heavy, use small wheels, and are front-throw mowers, they are definitely heavier to push than many others. A back-lapping kit is available for all mowers. The company believes that back-lapping is required on average once per year, and that no additional sharpening is necessary.
Like TruCut and McLane, Promow specializes on reel mowers for golf courses. Promow also sells a single 18" model of residential hand push reel mower, factored from McCulloch, also all metal, also made in Taiwan. There is very little online information on this mower, and no reviews. We called Promow, as well as some of its retailers, to discus the product and its features, along with customer feedback. Do note that the 20" reel mower listed on the company web site has been discontinued.
Promow 18". This 18"cut path mower has a 5-bladed reel on ball bearings, two 10" wheels, a tracking roller, and an unusual 1.5" to 2.5" (as specifically told by the company, although the manual says 1.75" to 2.75", and retailer site literature lists 2.5" to 3") cutting height with several adjustments driven by bolts on both sides. A front plate protects flowers and shrubs from the reel. The wheels and gears are all metal, and the mower weighs 38 lbs. It is made in Taiwan, and is available for about $190. The company recommends that it be back-lapped every year, and sharpened every 6 years. A Promow retailer tells us that this model is popular with prisons because of its weight and reliability. Like the McCulloch, the ProMow should be primarily targeted at Northern grasses.
TruCut is hardly ever seen in the residential market, although it is often seen as the top end player in the golf course mowing business. Trucut manufactures 3 models of hand push reel mowers, the H16-7 with a 16" cut path and 7 blades, the H18-5 with a 18"cut path and 5 blades, and the H20-5 with a 20" cut path and 5 blades. Mowers are all metal, except for tires, roller, and foam grip, and are all made in the USA. Information on these mowers was difficult to collect, as there are few dealers on the web, little product information, no user reviews, and the company does not provide direct support (through dealers only). It was impossible to get a hold of customer support for these mowers, despite trying more than 20 times over a 2 week period. All TruCut models protect flowers and shrubs from the reel with a narrow forward plate.
TruCut H18-5. This 18" cut path mower has a 5 bladed reel on ball bearings with a rear roller. The wheels, of unknown diameter, are cast iron with steel pinion gears, and have replaceable tires. The height adjustment ranges from 0.5" to 2.25" and uses thumb screws. It can be found with difficulty on the web for about $165, and has an optional grass catcher for another $60. This mower is made in the USA, and its weight is 35 lbs. There is no back-lapping kit, but the company recommends Foley or Simplex sharpening kits. There are no recommendations on back-lapping or sharpening frequency. We expect this model to be well suited for Northern grasses, while the H18-5 is better suited for Southern grasses.
There are no online reviews of the TruCut reel mowers. We interviewed the company as well as two retailers for TruCut. The TruCut mowers appear very sturdily made, and focused on long term reliability and cutting quality. They are made in the USA. One retailer, Mark Slater, owner of the LawnMowerShop.com, told us that he had sold that mower since 2005, and that he had shrunk his push reel mower line to the TruCut 18" because he never got any customer complaints, returns or parts requests, and it was "less of a hassle." TruCut has a very good reputation in the golf course mowing business. Short of being able to read more user reviews, our primary concern is the difficulty in getting customer support from TruCut, which we experienced first hand. TruCut counts on its dealers to drive all customer support - this makes it a difficult issue for online shopping.
Next we review no-contact hand push lawn mowers, where the reel blades do not make contact with the bed knife... So come back soon!
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