Caring for a reel mower
Depending on the area being cut and frequency of use, a reel mower should be professionally sharpened and the clearance adjusted every one to two years. But how do you know who’s going to do a good job for you? Hutchinson suggested looking for someone who offers a guarantee. Then, ask how long they’ve been doing the job. A reputable sharpener should spend about 30 to 45 minutes on a mower, starting with a visual inspection for dings and divets, followed by careful sharpening of each scroll blade and the stationary blade. Some machines will need oiling and most will need to have the clearance adjusted.
Clearance refers to the infinitesimal distance between the stationary blade and scroll blades, and it needs to be just close enough to make gentle contact without grabbing. It also needs to be even from one side to the other. This process and the sharpening require an experienced hand and finesse. When the job has been done right, the blade edges will gleam and when the scroll spins, delicately hitting the stationary blade, it will sing.
Finding a reel mower
Making the switch is easy. Check out online classified ads for used reel mowers. Some might look old and worn out, but with a little spit and polish and sharpening, of course, it’s possible to find a good, well-made machine for a few bucks. New ones can be pricey—from $90 to, hold on now, $1,400!—but as far as Hutchinson is concerned, you really don’t need to spend more than $100 for a decent mower that should last a lifetime.
Keep it in good shape
Here are a few maintenance tips Hutchinson shared with us:
* Don’t cut wet or damp grass—it’s not good for the mower and it’s not good for the grass.
* Always brush off grass clippings when you’re done.
* Store your mower out of the elements.
* Oil the mower if it needs oiling, though many are self lubricating and do not require extra oil.
* And at the end of the summer, clean, dry and give it a good spray with canned oil, such as WD-40.
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