The bottom line is that a long day of shopping the big name box stores for a reel push mower didn't pay off. We returned home tired, dejected, and a little upset. Fortunately, there was a silver lining. The few mowers we did give the once-over gave us a better idea of what we were looking for, or to be more accurate, what we were NOT looking for. So, we left Big Box Store U.S.A. behind and took our business on-line.
One of the positive aspects of shopping on-line is that you have access to a large selection of products in order to compare. In our case, it would be like having a neighborhood lawn care store next door that sells nothing but reel mowers. You could select old reliable, or ergonomic and trendy. You could choose lightweight, or go gang-reel mad. The number of possibilities seems limitless and perhaps a little maddening if "ALL I WANT IS A MOWER!" We narrowed our selection by taking into account cutting width, handle style, weight, and cost. We also took into consideration where the mower was manufactured and the opinions of previous shoppers.
Three mowers stood tall.
Pro-Mow, an Indiana based company better known for its gang-reel mowers, offers a 20" 5 blade reel mower for $149.00. This was the most expensive mower we considered, and at 38 lbs., it was also the heaviest.
The Prison Reel Mower is a 16" 5 blade mower that tips the scales at 32 lbs. This robust mower is hyped as a "tough piece of equipment designed to withstand heavy use," and as its name suggests, this model is commonly sold to prisons and correctional facilities. The solid construction aside, this mower should be considered merely to have the opportunity to "mow like a convict." The mower is billed at $119.00
Another Indiana manufactured mower, this beauty from the American Lawn Mower Company (ALM Co.) has 7 blades, a 16" mowing width, and is designed specifically to cut low growing, creeping grasses. It weighs 28 lbs. and was listed at $79.99 at Amazon.com at the time of purchase.
So, without surprise (because I just told you), the winner was...
We selected the ALM Co. mower because it best suit our needs, but it didn't hurt that it was also the least expensive.
The Pro-Mow was the largest, heaviest, and most expensive of the three mowers we narrowed it down to. The price was reasonable. However, for the minuscule size of our lawn, we didn't feel we required a 20" mower. Also, there was a foreseeable problem, based on some unfavorable reviews of the Scotts Classic, with the handle that both the Pro-Mow and Scotts share. Several reviewers called the handle of the Scotts Classic "flimsy" and prone to twisting as the nuts loosened. A few reviewers mentioned having to weld or reinforce the handle in order remedy the problem. The T-shaped handle available on the Prison and ALM Co. mowers is stiffer and less apt to twist and loosen over time.
I was intrigued by the Prison Mower. I liked the fact that it was a solid metal design with a history of taking abuse. It didn't hurt that I had a picture in my head of pushing my new Prison Mower across the lawn on a Saturday morning decked out in an orange jumpsuit, sucking down a Stroh's, with the initials D.O.C stamped on my back. It would have been good for a laugh and a story down the road. I didn't see any drawbacks with this mower. The only disadvantage it has is that it cost slightly more than the ALM Co. mower.
Weight didn't play much of a role in the decision. Though many reel mowers are hyped as being lightweight, at ~30 lbs., all three mowers were light enough for my wife to handle. In retrospect, after purchasing and using the ALM Co. mower, my one complaint is that the mower could use a couple extra pounds. The mower tends to skip through uneven sections of the lawn. A few more "lbs" would help the mower ride a little smoother through the the divots and ruts. This, of course, represents one of the drawbacks of shopping on-line - the inability to take a product out for a "test-drive".
We have now owned and used the the American Lawn Mower Company 16" Bent Reel Mower for two weeks. Gone is the wasted time spent winding up the old gasoline mower. Gone is the wasted fuel, the annoyance of listening to the whine of the engine, and returning to the house smelling like oil and exhaust. In trade, we cut the lawn a little more often than we used to and we get a little bit more of a workout pushing the mower up the hill, but we accepted this before we signed-on. Ya, we feel pretty good about our purchase. And I think our neighbors are happy that our front lawn isn't a weed choked jungle anymore. We're happy. They're happy. I guess you could say we've made everyone happy, reel happy.