We recently moved into a house and now got about 800 square metres of lawn (more a natural grown wild meadow) to take care of. While petrol lawn mowers certainly are the easiest way to do this (they got the most mowing power after all), we decided to go with a different approach.

We went with the Fiskars Staysharp Max Reel Mower.

Why a Reel-Mower ?

Normally you'll only see those used with lawns under 100 square metres. No sane salesman will even attempt to convince you to got a reel-mower when you want to take care of a lawn the size of a handball field.

It took us a week to make this decision, but we're glad we made it.

The Testing

Beware - Not safe for lawn-lovers: moss, uneven cuts and hillocks!

Mowed about 300 square metres on the backside, about 100 on the front. Our lawn is as wild as it gets. We've got everything in there and still got grass from the last cutting laying around everywhere. The average length was about 8 cm, while there were small parts with up to 20cm. The lowest 2-4 cm of the lawn are a solid layer of moss. One side got a small upward gradient. I mowed everything down to 3 cm here within 45 minutes.
Furthermore I mowed the front lawn, where the grass was shorter (4cm) to the shortest setting (2.5cm) in half an hour. This was 90% cutting through moss and cursing while manoeuvring around obstacles. Often the blades cut into the ground (it's pretty hilly as well). Was physically very demanding and exhausting. But this was mainly done for testing, no sane person would probably even think about this.

The Advantages

Noise: While it's (of course) not silent, the mower is pretty quiet. We can justify mowing no matter what time it is. No one will wake up because of it and we do not have to shedule our mowing routine avoiding the rest-period or sundays or public holidays.

Maintenance: None. You don't really have to do much to keep it in a good shape. The amount of time you'll have to invest is no where near what you'll invest to take care a patrol-based lawn mower. We normally simply clean the blades of grass-leftovers after using it.

Cutting-Quality: Most mowers simply tear off the grass - spindle mowers don't. They cut it cleanly. Healthier for the lawn and better to the feel ( Yes, this is 100% objective ;) )

Height-Adjustability: Everything from 2.5-10cm is within it's reach. Everything get's shredded into this mowers spindles, and if you lower the cutting height carefully, the leftovers are often small enough to be used as mulch. No scraping together of cut grass for me !

Front-Facing Throwout: I do not get any small grass parts on my shoes or my pants. I can easily "throw" the cutoff into the flowerbed as fertilizer. Hell, I can even annoy my neighbours by throwing it into their garden. Bonus: It's fun to look at !

Cutting Width: Quite vast. And the wheels are on the inside so you can get pretty close to any borders.

Handling: The grip is wrapped with some rubber and the whole handle bar can be set in one of four positions. These can be adjusted easily and on the fly. I'm quite tall (1.93m) and I didn't have any issues with back pain. Not after mowing through moss and not 2 hours later. I really love this.

The Issues

Cutting: Once the grass is too tall (>15cm) the mower won't get it the first time, nor the second or third. While this is not an issue to me (after three or four sessions the long grass will be gone as well), this might be an issue for those who want the perfect height lawn, but are sloppy when it comes to regular mowing.

Handle-Bar: While everything is quite sturdy, I don't like the way the handle is attached to the core. Doesn't seem to be too robust, but I didn't have any issues yet.

Turning: Maybe I just didn't find the right approach yet, but turning around was sometimes so annoying/difficult that I simply pulled it back the way I came. This may be related to the issue with the handle-bar, as it feels like you can't really throw the machine around as simple as you'd like.

Weight: The mower is pretty heavy. It's not unbearable, but it certainly isn't as lighthearted as a simple 30cm electrical mower.

What you have to expect
  • It's hard. This is hard physical work. You'll sweat and swear - but work out at the same time.
  • It really is hard! On the lowest level (2.5cm) the mower cuts moss, cutting moss is neither easy nor fun !
  • It's expensive. Fiskars is a strong brand. This is a top-notch machine - At the same pricepoint as good electrical or entry petrol-based mowers.
  • It's slow. Or at least slower than other approaches. You don't need that much time for maintanence, but you need 1.5 - 2 x the time for the same amount of lawn.
The bottomline

For now I love it. It's so much cleaner - you won't get this any more environmental friendly unless you buy a goat. I like the workout part of it, and the precision at which the lawn is trimmed. The little time needed to maintain it in a great shape and it's cutting powers made me love using it. Screw the additional time I need to work through the garden. You can be outside, no issues with cables, nor any mucking around with petrol. 10/10 would do it again.
On the other hand, let's see what I say about it a year later - I'm pretty well known for getting enthusiastic quite easily ;)