An increase in reel terms

The old-fashioned nonpower reel mower is making a comeback, reports Brian Sargent:

Sales of reel hand-powered lawn mowers have steadily risen during the past few years, Teri McClain said in an Associated Press story. McClain is inside sales administrator at the 112-year-old American Lawn Mower Co. in Shelbyville, Ind., which she said is the only manufacturer of reel mowers in the United States.

Exact statistics aren’t available, but McClain estimates 350,000 manual mowers are sold in the United States each year — most made by her company. That is just a fraction of the 6 million gas-powered walk-behind mowers that hit the market last year. Still, that number is about 100,000 more than were sold just five years ago and seven times as many as the estimated 50,000 a year sold in the 1980s, McClain said.

Me, I’m holding out for a hybrid. Then again, my own mower is nominally self-propelled — there’s a belt to drive the front wheels — but I hardly ever use the propulsion feature: I just push. Maybe when this thing dies a horrible death…


  1. Brian J. »

    7 June 2007 · 8:17 am

    I’ve recently taken to using a reel lawn mower. Although I’m not actually supporting the industry; I got a hand me down that almost took the tip of my mother’s finger off the last time it was sharpened. 40 years ago.

    Can you say “maintenance-free”?

  2. McGehee »

    7 June 2007 · 9:39 am

    When my wife and I were living in our first house (rented, in Fairbanks), she wanted to get one of those reel mowers for our front lawn. She had never used one before. I had.

    We got a power mower instead.

  3. Joel »

    7 June 2007 · 10:03 am

    I’m guessing the ever-shrinking American yard has a lot to do with the increase in sales. Sales of riding mowers are probably down, what with those 10-point turns you have to make.

  4. Ted »

    7 June 2007 · 10:36 am

    I’ve been using a reel mower for years because our yard is so small. Once in a while my neighbor will run his power mower over our lawn too, it helps make it worth the trouble to pull out his power beastie.

  5. John Owen Butler »

    7 June 2007 · 12:12 pm

    I would like to go to people-powered reel mowers, but the bermuda grass here in SW OK is so tough that it torture. Even the Amish in OK have gone to tractors; the clay soil was too tough for their teams to work!

  6. Mister Snitch! »

    7 June 2007 · 1:46 pm

    I’ve always liked those old mowers. Spruce them up with new tech (better bearings, better quality materials) and I can see where they could make a ‘comeback’. Glenn Reynolds has been using them all along.

  7. Scooby214 »

    7 June 2007 · 4:49 pm

    I’ve used one of those American reel mowers for a number of years. It works quite well when adjusted properly. The only problem I run into is when I neglect to mow the lawn for too long. Really tall grass gets bent over instead of being cut. I do have an old electric mower that gets used about once a month to tidy up any tall grass that gets missed by the reel mower.

    My poor children will never have the excuse of a mower not starting (or out of gas).

  8. McGehee »

    7 June 2007 · 6:10 pm

    Sales of riding mowers are probably down, what with those 10-point turns you have to make.

    Nope. People are buying ZTR (zero turning radius) mowers now.

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