Tuesday, May 25, 2010

No-Contact Hand Push Reel Lawn Mowers

Hand Push Reel Mowers Part 4

Last we reviewed contact hand push reel mowers here and there. Now we review all no-contact hand push reel mowers.

As discussed in our previous section What to know about reel mowers, no-contact mowers are mowers where, thanks to very fine manufacturing tolerances, the reel blades do not make contact with the bed knife.  While the technology has been in existence for a long time, the past 10 years have seen a number of new introductions in no-contact mowers, because they are more silent, easier to push, and do not require regular back-lapping.

No-contact mowers typically come with a thin metal gauge to adjust the spacing between the reel blades and the bed knife. This adjustment is typically needed once a year. Do not throw away or lose this gauge, which is a truly necessary part:-)


Brill

Brill is a German brand, which was the first one to make no-contact mowers popular again in the last decade. Brill manufactures its mowers in Europe.

The Brill Razorcut 33 is a narrow 13" cut path mower, a 5-bladed reel on ball bearing, with 8" diameter wheels and a rear roller, a loop handle with foam grips, powder-coated paint, and a cutting height of 0.7" to 1.8" adjustable with bolts on both sides. A metal cover protects flowers and shrubs from the reel. Wheels are polymer and gears are plastic. The mower weighs an extraordinary light 15 lbs, and can be found for $220 online. A grass catcher is available. The mower is small and very maneuverable. Because of its narrow width, the Razorcut 33 is well adapted to a very small lawn.

The Brill Razorcut 38 is a 15" cut path mower, with a 5-bladed reel on ball bearings,  8" wheels with a rear roller, a loop handle with foam grips, powder-coated paint, and a cutting height of 0.7" to 1.8" adjustable with bolts on both sides. A metal cover protects flowers and shrubs from the reel. Wheels are polymer and gears are plastic. The mower weighs 17 lbs, and can be found for $250 online. A grass catcher is available.

The Razorcut works well for a well kept, well-behaved lawn, but will not do well against thick, tall, or clumpy grasses. In particular, Bermuda Grass and tall or thatched St Augustine grass are not good targets for the Razorcut. The Razorcut (both 33 and 38) is quite a cult mower, getting many rave reviews from a dedicated community of users, possibly because it was the first no-contact, lightweight reel mower to become popular in the US. In particular, people rave about its light weight, its ease of push, its silence, and its general good design. It also gets some negative reviews for its fragile plastic gears and its expensive price. Several reviews complain about the Razorcut falling apart after a few months. Some good places to find reviews are EcoMowers, Amazon, and buzzillions.


Easun NaturCut

Easun is a large corporation which picked up the NaturCut line after Sunlawn, its original manufacturer, and the origional importer for Brill mowers, went out of business. The NaturCut line is a recent product introduction, designed after the Brill mowers, of similar technology, and aimed to correct what was wrong with the Brill mowers. Easun manufactures the NaturCut line in China.

The Easun NaturCut Ideal 40 is a 16" cut path mower, with a 5-bladed reel on ball bearings,  10" wheels with a rear roller, a loop handle with foam grips, powder-coated paint, and a cutting height of 0.6" to 2.75" adjustable with bolts on both sides. A metal cover protects flowers and shrubs from the reel. Wheels are polymer and gears are plastic. The mower weighs 20 lbs, and can be found for $200 online. A grass catcher is available.The NaturCut Ideal 40 is appropriate to all grasses (including Bermuda grasses, if you double cut at 90 degrees) except Zoysia grass.


The Easun NaturCut Classic is a 16" cut path mower, with a 5-bladed reel on ball bearings,  10" wheeels with small rear tracking wheels, a loop handle with foam grips, powder-coated paint, and a cutting height of 1.5" to 3.5" adjustable with bolts on both sides. A metal cover protects flowers and shrubs from the reel. Wheels are polymer and gears are plastic. The mower weighs 23 lbs, and can be found for $200 online. A grass catcher and a back-lapping kit are available. The NaturCut Classic carries the second highest cutting height of all reel mowers, and is particularly adapted to high grasses, but does not do well on St Augustine and Zoysia grasses. Its rear wheels make it easier to push through tall grass. Because its shortest cutting height is 1.5", it is not well adapted to home putting greens.

Because the product line is only three years old, and has not been heavily marketing, there are few reviews available. To complete the data available on inline reviews we interviewed several retailers with multiple product lines. The NaturCut line is well designed, and, being designed specifically for the US market, probably represents the best adaptation of traditional no-contact mowers to the US market so far. It is light (although not as light as the Brill), covers many US grasses well, and provides a wide enough cut path for the larger North American yards. The height of cut is exceptionally high for the Classic. The plastic gears are a weakness. A few reviews can be found here and here.


Husqvarna

The company, which also manufactures traditional contact reel mowers, was already reviewed.

The Husqvarna 540 Silent Novolette is a 16" cut path mower, with a 5-bladed reel on ball bearings, 8" wheels with a roller,  a foldable loop handle with foam grips, and an 0.5-1.5"cutting height adjustable through 4 levels with bolts on both sides. A metal cover protects flowers and shrubs from the reel. The mower weighs 20 lbs, and can be found, with difficulty, for $160 online. A grass catcher is available. We could not find any online reviews for this model (this review actually applies to a different model, as the 540 is new...). We expect that the 540 would not be suitable, general, for tight growing Southern grasses. Based on other reviews for the Husqvarna hand push reel mowers line, we would be concerned about reliability.


Fiskars

Fiskars, the orange-scissors company, is a large Finnish company that has diversified its activities to most areas where cutting is involved. They focus on ergonomics and quality of cut. They introduced, in 2009, a new and innovative hand push reel mower, their first mower, which has been very heavily marketed across the US.

The Fiskars Momentum is an 18" reel mower, with a 5-bladed reel mounted on ball bearings, driven by an all-metal chain drive, with  an unusually shaped loop handle with foam grips, primary wheels positioned behind the reel, and small front tracking wheels. The height of cut varies from 1" to 4" (tallest across all models), and is adjusted through a single no-tools control. None of the driving parts are plastic, but there are several plastic plates on the mower. It is a front-throw mower (like the McLane), where grass clippings are ejected forward, and uses a heavy, large diameter reel to use a fly-wheel effect. One side of the mower allows you to edge a lawn closer than most other mowers. Because the reel is positioned in front of the main wheels, it needs less overlap when mowing. It is a heavy, 44 lb mower, and can be found online for $250.There is no grass catcher available.

Given its weight and construction, the Momentum, a powerful mower, is suitable to both Northern and Southern grasses, with a preference for Northern grasses. Thanks to the very heavy marketing, there are numerous reviews online, most of them good, although few of them from experienced users: it is apparent that Fiskars' marketing has attracted many new users to hand push reel mowers. Some of them can be found on EcoMowers, Consumer Reports, Lowes, May Dreams blog, Gardenweb , TheGadgetGuy. Most of these reviews sing the praises of reel mowers in general, such as silence, ecology, and exercise. Reviewer are fairly pleased with the quality of cut "as long as you are not obsessive-compulsive about your lawn", they feel that the mower is heavy but not too heavy, and can be used on slopes or on reasonably uneven grounds. The handle is awkward, and does not allow the mower to be handled comfortably around a fence or where maneuverability is important, because it is bulky and because it does not allow the user to lift the rear. The small front wheels can jam into bumpy terrain. The bolts for the reel blade adjustments are easily stripped.

As a note of caution, the marketing for this reel mower was very well done, and the campaign must have been a record spend in the small world of reel mowers. One should, however, be careful about evaluating the truth from the hype of all "trademarked" technologies. The "Inertia Drive (TM)" technology does not make the mower any easier to push. In fact, the Momentum is harder to push than most reel mowers: this mower is plain heavy compared to almost all mowers on the market. The "ergonomic" handle is so broad that it makes the mower hard to maneuver in close quarters, and does not allow the user to lift the back of the mower. The "Versa-Cut (TM)" is a remake of Mclane's forward-positioned, chain driven, front-throw reel. As for the "Stay Sharp (TM)" cutting system, it is no less and no more than the standard no-contact approach to reel mowers, which has been around for half a century. The Momentum is an innovative reel mower, with strengths and weaknesses that must be assessed independently of the budget of Fiskars' marketing department.


Gardena

Gardena is a German company company owned by Husqvarna. There is no direct distribution in the US, and Gardena Canada is in charge of customer support for the US. The Gardena site does not display all models for sale in the US (the 4019 Hi-Cut is missing). Gardena manufactures its reel mowers in Europe. Their models are very similar to the Brill line, a tad heavier, with equivalent technology but with lower prices, and with the advantage of having Gardena Canada as a corporate customer support center.

The Gardena 300 (model #4020) is a narrow 12" cut path mower, with a 5-bladed reel, 8.5" wheels  with a rear roller,  a large loop handle, and an 0.5-1.65"cutting height that seems to be adjustable through a height adjustment knob. A metal cover protects flowers and shrubs from the reel. The mower weighs 17 lbs, and can be found, with difficulty, for $185 online. A grass catcher is available. The 300C (model #4020) has the same specs, but carries a heavier, foldable loop handle, and a 19 lb weight - we could not find it for sale online. This very small cut path mower should clearly be aimed at a small lawn only.




The Gardena 380 (model #4023) is a narrow 15" cut path mower, with a 5-bladed reel on ball bearings, two 8.5" wheels with a rear roller,  a large loop handle, and an 0.5-1.65"cutting height adjustable through a height adjustment knob. A metal cover protects flowers and shrubs from the reel. The mower weighs 18 lbs, and can be found, with difficulty, for $175 online. A grass catcher is available. The 380C (model #4024)  has the same specs, but carries a heavier, foldable loop handle, a 21 lb weight, and a $250 online price. The 380 was the winner, in May 2009, of a comparative mower test by the German test site Stiftung Warentest, against other German mowers which are not represented on the US market. The 380C was the winner of a comparative mower test comparing mowing performance by the German consumer magazine ├ľKO-TEST in November 2009, against the Brill RazorCut 33.


We do not expect that the Gardena models would do well with most Southern grasses, in particular St Augustine and Zoysia grasses, or with thick, tall or clumpy grasses. There are few reviews online for Gardena, although we found some on Amazon (obsolete model), at Sears, on LawnMowerReviews, and on Amazon2. The reviews are good. In general, people like the light weight, the ease of push, the silence, and the environmental impact, but consider the cutting height too short. They prefer the cut and the ease of push of the Gardena no-contact models to the widely available Scotts mower. 

Next we compare all hand push reel mowers... So come back soon!

<< Previous Page              Next: Comparing hand push reel mowers                      Next Page >>

2 comments:

Boston Solar Installer said...

We are getting ready to close on a house and I've been searching for reviews on push reel mowers. I've never used one, but reading your post reinforces that it's a good idea!

George Gear said...

Definitely a good idea- although the first few mows will be harder. After that the lawn will be "adapted," and mowing will be much easier. Good luck on the house!

Post a Comment