The universe works in funny ways sometimes. Take a few weeks ago when we were lamenting the death of our lawn mower on Facebook and Twitter (though we later resuscitated it with some basic DIY maintenance). After we sounded the Twitter and Facebook alarm, not only did we get lots of suggestions from you guys, but our friends at Lowe’s noticed our online call for help. In fact, they – along with the kind folks at Fiskars – generously offered up one of their newest mowers: a Fiskars Momentum Reel Mower, which just happened to be one of the more frequent recommendations that we got via Twitter and Facebook. Coincidence? We thought not. So we gratefully took Lowe’s up on their generous offer. And they even agreed to extend the offer to one lucky reader- so stay tuned for that prize as part of our Lowe’s Fathers’ Day Freebie which we’ll be posting later today!
But back to the matter mower at hand. I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical of a reel mower at first, since it seemed like such a low-tech, high-effort, and mixed-result way of mowing your lawn. Especially a pretty large front and back yard like ours. But all the online suggestions from helpful and enthusiastic readers (plus a bit of my own reasearch) proved to be very convincing. We soon realized that not only would a reel mower be a better option for the environment (no gas fumes) and for my wallet (no buying oil or gasoline – plus it’s only $199 itself at Lowe’s) but it also complies with my apparent aversion to mower maintenance (no more oil changes, filter changes, or spark plug replacements necessary). It’s even healthier for me (no fumes in my face, plus a bit of a workout thrown in there for good measure). Oh, and I loved how easily it fit into the back of our Altima for the ride home. Definite perk.
So here’s the play by play when it comes to my maiden voyage with our brandspankingnew Fiskars Momentum. Right off the bat I was immediately won over by how few parts it had and how easy it was to put together. This is what it looked like out of the box…
…and here’s what it looked like about 8 minutes, 4 screws and 2 cotter pins later. Ready to roll.
In case you’re still scratching your head at this thing, a reel mower is a human powered machine. You “walk briskly” with it (as the manual suggests) which spins the blades and cuts your grass. And this reel mower claims to have innovations that make it easier to push (bonus) but since I only have experience with self-propelled gas mowers I realistically knew that this guy was gonna be a bit more work than I was used to no matter what. But one of the other improvements that Fiskars talks about is that the blades never touch each other, meaning that they need to be sharpened far less often than the average reel mower (perhaps even never). Again, not a difference that I really have anything to compare it to, but it’s nice to know that it’s a top of the line contender in the category that’s both lower maintenance and easier to push.
One difference that I was able to immediately pick up on and enjoy was the ease of setting the cutting height. My Troy-Bilt mower required that I adjust each of the four wheels separately and the levers were getting so old that it was quite the chore to move them. The Fiskars only required that I shift one lever to change the cutting height anywhere from 1″ to 4″ (anything over 3″ is said to be the greenest option for your lawn since it allows the blades to soak up more sun and water than closely cropped lawns do). And this easy height change capability is yet another listed improvement over other reel mowers, which can be notorious for cutting grass to short.
But enough about features. What was the whole mowing experience actually like?
Well, it was kinda fun. For one, it was virtually silent compared to the engine roar that I was used to, meaning I didn’t have to crank my iPod up to deafening volumes just to rock my way across our yard. Plus, the way the mower stealthily sprayed grass clippings out the front was not only mesmerizing to watch, but I loved the fact that it wasn’t kicking them back at my feet or off to the side (like the ol’ gas mower did – meaning I often sprayed the driveway and patio with messy looking cuttings). I tried to capture the front-spewing feature on film several times for you guys, but I had limited success. I guess flying blades of grass on a background of more grass isn’t the most high contrast subject matter.
Here’s a close up so you can (hopefully) see those flying blades a bit better. And yes, I was totally mowing with one hand and snapping pictures with the other. I don’t even want to know what the neighbors were thinking. But that does go to show you that it’s not dauntingly heavy or super hard to push.
Actually, the neighbors were probably thinking: “Who is that weird kid trying to manually mow that big lawn with a reel mower?“
I can’t blame them. Between just the front and back yards (not including the wooded area out back) we have over a third of an acre of grass. And the neighbors on either side of us both use rider mowers, so you can probably guess what they thought of the sight of me and my new orange friend. Even Fiskars themselves admit that reel mowers aren’t typically a good fit for people with large yards, so off the bat I knew we weren’t prime candidates to fall in love with the Momentum. But the odd thing is that after mowing both the front and the back yard once, I found myself looking forward to the next trim session, which occurred just about a week later. And the second time was even more fun than the first since I knew what to expect and welcomed the fume free workout that it was sure to provide.
As for the overall experience with our new reel mower, I think the Momentum is great (especially in being a greener option), but I discovered a few things that made me realize that this mower isn’t for everyone (just as the fine Fiskars folks proclaim on their website). So in an attempt to share what I’ve learned and help people end up with a mower match made in heaven, here are a few points to consider when deciding if the Fiskars mower is just the ticket:
- The size of our front and back yards (plus the fact that both have a slight incline to them) meant that mowing took a bit longer and was more of a workout than using a self-propelled gas mower. However if you have the time and energy and welcome the exercise, it could be just what the doctor ordered (but it’s not the perfect tool to squeeze in a quick mow before the sun sets if you have a spacious lawn).
- It doesn’t seamlessly chop weeds or grass over 6″ (and we unfortunately get a smidge of both from time to time). Some weeds are just too tough for its blades and tall stalks get flattened instead of sliced (both things that Fiskars warns potential buyers about upfront). So I did find myself having to go back and pull a few weeds by hand afterwards. In a way, it may actually lead to a healthier lawn if I’m forced to deal with my dandelions instead of just mowing them over. But again, it’s not the easy or fast solution for those without time to tend to a few things that may be left behind.
- It doesn’t do sticks either, and with all of our trees we get our fair share of ’em. Again, Fiskars says upfront that you need to remove any large or medium sized sticks as not to jam the mower or damage the blades (and generally this is a good idea for regular mowers too) so I found myself stopping a few times because a few twigs momentarily stopped the blades. It wasn’t a bit deal to get them out, but it added a few seconds here and there to the project.
The verdict? I think moving forward I’ll probably go steady with our new Fiskars but occasionally date our old-but-revived gas mower. After all, we’re used to going a bit above and beyond to be greener, so I’ll put in the extra effort with the Fiskars whenever I can. But I do plan to rely on my gas-powered Troy Bilt on the rare occasions when I’m super short on time (and once or twice in the fall when I like to mulch leaves right into it). But if your yard doesn’t pose the same problems as ours (big and sometimes stick-riddled) then the Fiskars is probably a one-mower-fits-all option for you. After all, it still leaves a darn good looking lawn behind:
Do any other Fiskars Momentum (or other reel mower) owners want to weigh in on their experiences? Anyone else have a mower that makes their heart go pitter patter? Do tell. And don’t forget that you’ll have the chance to win a Fiskars Momentum for yourself as part of this afternoon’s giveaway from Lowe’s (along with another pretty sweet Dad’s Day prize) so stay tuned…
liz @ btb says
Our mower is on its way out too. But with this thing, I might actually want to cut the grass myself instead of begging the husband to do it.
Would LOVE to give it a try!!
mary v says
glad you had fun but you would have to be a very brave man to do that down here in sunny florida! less time in sweaty 95 degree sunny weather = better.
Do you get the “baseball diamond lines” like you do with a regular mower? I can’t tell from your after pic.
I didn’t get very distinct lines compared to my old mower, since it’s so much lighter and leaves less of a tread on the grass. At first I was a bit disappointed by it, but then I realized it’s probably a better for the lawn this way. Though it did take a bit more concentration on my part to keep my path straight as I went!
Erica C says
We have a reel mower too. It has it’s pros and cons. The first time we used it, our neighbors asked if we’d like to borrow their gas-powered mower. When we told them we had just bought the reel mower they looked at us like we were crazy! They still tease us every time we run into them while cutting the lawn.
Virginia @ Where You Hang Your Hat says
My husband is a huge reel mower fan. We don’t have such a large yard as you but he’s always recommending it to friends.
Jessica @ How Sweet says
I just know that my husband would LOVE to try it!
Hilary @ Bee's Bungalow says
We have had a reel mower for three years. We live in the city and have a pretty small yard. Much of the yard is landscaped, so we have a few patches of grass that we mow.
I like that the reel mower is good exercise. I get a “reel” work out pushing that thing around, especially since our lawn is pretty bumpy and full of clover. I use the grass shavings in my compost. The shavings make great filler, and compensates for a lot of the food waste we put in it.
I’m a soon-to-be first-time homeowner and am considering this mower. My biggest concern is of the clippings left on the lawn. My parents’ old gas mower did a pretty poor job at this and left clippings everywhere. It was very noticeable. How does this mower do?
We’ve always left clippings on the lawn and our only issue with it in the past was how it would sometimes spew clippings onto to the driveway and patio. This one was an improvement in that regard because it sent things forward, instead of to the side. So the clippings blended right in with the lawn and weren’t noticeable to us at all. Hope that helps!
I would love to try one of these. My husband and I just bought a Honda push mower, but I don’t really want to mow with it. Seems like too much of a mower for me, but I’d love to help mow. How much does one of these set someone back?
This mower sells for $199 at Lowe’s.
we have a pretty tiny urban lawn, so we really wanted a reel mower when we bought our house. some friends gave us a used one as a wedding gift and it works great for us. the only thing is that we can’t get behind on our mowing (which happened a lot with a new baby this past year) or it isn’t as effective. we’ve had to knock on our neighbors’ doors a few times to borrow gas mowers for a quick, clean-up mow.
This is a great alternative the electric mower we were thinking about. I think you are probably right about still needing a “real” mower once in a while but the reel mower will get the job done. Our yard is very small (you’ll see when you come) but the spring rain and fall leaves definitley require a bit more power. Will have to talk to my chief lawn mower (hubby) about maybe getting one of these. Thanks for the great review!
John, do you have a general estimate on how often this mower will need to have its blades sharpened? It sounds really cool!
According to the owner’s manual, you should inspect the blades each season for rust or dings, but with proper care it claims the blades will never need sharpening. Or, I think more realistically it’d probably need it every 2 or 3 years just to be safe. They do say, however, that traditional self-sharpening shouldn’t be used and that you should consult a professional.
Hope that helps!
I really hated our reel mower. Ours was not Fiskars brand, however, so I don’t mean to trash this particular mower. (I can’t remember what ours was but we did get it at Lowes.)
Anyway… I wanted to love our mower, but I just couldn’t. With our many mature trees and frequent windy days, mowing the lawn was so very difficult. As you said, it doesn’t do sticks. Ours wouldn’t even deal with thick-stemmed leaves. I was constantly jolting to a stop, having to un-jam the mower and spend a lot of time picking up itty bitty little debris (such the neighbor’s mulch that blows in to our yard). Finally, we caved and bought a gas-powered mower. It has its drawbacks, but it’s much easier for us than the sad reel mower.
We use a reel mower too. I love the “swish swish swish” noise of the blades. It’s very Zen, especially when everyone in our neighborhood likes to use as many loud, power-hungry, no-sleeping-in-late-for-you tools as they can.
Bonus: your grass is MUCH healthier with a reel cut. Instead of being sucked up and chopped off by gas powered blade, the “slicing” action by a reel mower means you don’t get that crispy burned edge on the tips of your grass.
Congrats on your new mower. We love ours!
we have a reel mower and love it! of course, our yard is super tiny so that does make a difference. we also have a manual edger. we always get teased by neighbors when we’re out doing yard work. but, honestly, it seems silly to use gas powered equipment in our neighborhood with small yards. the only con we have with the reel mower is that if we let the grass get too long it won’t get every single blade. (we have super thick st. augustine)
I’d love to be a little greener in this area, too, and it just so happens our mower is on its way out. :( Great review!
Jill C. says
we have both a reel mower and a gas, and as you note, if you let the grass go too long so that weeds are able to shoot up, it will flatten them instead of cutting them. so we tend to use the gas mower for cutting after a hiatus or when we are short on time, and use the reel mower for when we manage to stay on top of the lawn. and i don’t know why i say we, when i really mean hubby! LOL
When we moved into our house a couple of years ago, I convinced my husband that we should buy a reel mower since we have a small front and back yard. At first it was very tedious to use it because our yard had tons of small twigs and stick in it (I’d have to stop every few feet to pick them up). But eventually, our yard was stick free and the mower was easier to use. Then the heat of the summer set in (we live in the south) and my husband started borrowing our neighbors gas mower and we haven’t used the reel mower since. I’ll probably try the reel mower again this year now our grass is under control and see if we can keep up with our lawn.
Was this mower given to you by Lowes or Fiskars, or did you purchase it yourselves?
Liz H. says
We live in the city (small-ish yard), and have a new reel mower. My husband likes that it’s a workout! He goes as fast as he can, and it is kind of satisfying to feel the gears turning and watch the clippings spray up. For city-dwellers, we recommend it 100%! It’s especially nice to not worry about bothering the neighbors with such a lot of noise from a gas-powered motor.
We bought a reel mower when we got our house…I definitely agree with the pros and cons people have mentioned. It is actually fun to mow the lawn…almost relaxing. But you absolutely need to stay on top of it or you will have a lot of those tall blades that it will not cut. Overall, it was a very good purchase…
Amy R says
Hey guys! Great looking lawn! We do not have such a large yard – but we do have an issue we need to resolve before purchasing our next mower. Storage space! With two cars and a motorcycle already in our garage – space is super tight! Can you comment on how much space the mower takes up? Right now we don’t have a mower and use a lawn service (not green at all!) Thx!
Melissa – The mower was a gift from both Lowe’s and Fiskars (and they’re the same kind folks behind the giveaway later today).
Amy R – Good question! This mower actually takes up less space than our gas mower because the handle tilts forward so that it can lean completely vertically against a wall, only taking up as much space as the mowing mechanism itself.
I thoroughly enjoyed this blog post as we have 1/3 of an acre and a push mower! My husband recently sprained his ankle so I’ve been the one on lawn duty while he heals. Suddenly I’ve found myself interested in such topics as lawn mowers, grass clippings and gas fumes. Who knew?!
Thanks for always being so clear and thorough in your posting, John!
this would solve my problem of always having to have my husband start the mower for me….i’m such a weakling!!
How do you bag the grass clippings?
We actually don’t bag the clippings, we feed them right back into the lawn (which is also what we did with our gas mower). That approach seems to work out well for our yard.
My husband and I just bought our house this April and were given a hand-me-down self-propelled mower from a family member. It’s very hard to start, and a bit sputtery once it gets rolling. I think our yard is small enough to work well with a reel mower. Plus it’s greener and QUIETER which is awesome.
Thank you so much for reviewing a manual mower! My husband has been itching to try one out (don’t ask me why, we have about 3 times the yard as you!) but I’ve been afraid to drop the money on one, only to find out it wasn’t going to work as we thought it would. Personally, I think he just wants one so that he can play with striping the field like they do on baseball fields…LOL. This has really helped out!
I bought a Fiskars Reel Mower earlier this season and have really enjoyed it. “Enjoyed” is not a word that I normally use in connection with lawn care! If any of your readers have a lawn on which this would work, I would highly recommend it.
Our lot size is about a 1/4 of an acre, and we went with an electric cordless push mower because I hated the idea of storing gasoline in the garage and dealing with fumes. So far it has been a great investment – our Earthwise mower was about $300 on Amazon with free shipping. The battery charge will hold for the entire lot, plus half again. It’s not heavy and is easy to maneuver! When we move to a larger house with a larger lot one of these days we will probably have to look for a different mower but for our small lot this is perfect.
Thanks for the review. I have been looking at this mower as a replacement for our current reel mower and this will probably seal the deal.
We have only used reel mowers in our yards and I love them–quiet, easy to use (as long as you keep up with the mowing) and non-polluting. Makes the process of mowing (which I do since I am the controller of the yard) as close to a pleasure as it can be.
I was hoping someone would come out with a great reel mower. My husband cuts our acre and 1/2 (part of it heavily wooded) with a gas mower for the exercise. I need to tell him about the Fiskars mower.
Jen Z. says
We just bought this one. It’s a Homelite 20 In. Cordless Electric Mower. Rechargeable battery. Quieter then gas and you just recharge the battery when it needs it. We love it. I remember when my mom used to use a Reel mower. She actually liked using it too. Great new choice for your house. Happy Mowing!!!
Jessi P says
I would love to try one out! We have a non-propelled gas mower and it’s a beast to use. What how about dewey grass? I live in western Washington and my biggest obstacle is getting the job done between the rain and dew!
We haven’t tried it on wet grass yet, but perhaps someone else can chime in about how it works in those conditions. Anyone?
Great review. I have been thinking this might e a good option for my next mower. Right now I have a black & decker electric that I love
My husband and I actually made the switch this year to a reel mower…Scotts brand. Our hand-me-down Lawn Boy died sometime over the winter, and we didn’t think we were handy enough to resurrect it ourselves, so we used it as an excuse to make the leap to the reel mower. (We returned the mower to my dad, he fixed it, and sold it via Craigslist…so at least it didn’t end up at the dump).
They’re right, it doesn’t tackle dandelions well, or sticks for that matter, (which my husband hates) but I do have a sense of pride knowing we’re a little more green now (which my husband and I love). I enjoy hearing the birds chirping while mowing, rather than the old loud gas powered mower.
Thanks for the review! I too got a hand-me-down free gas mower, which is nice for now because my yard is so full of weeds. But I will probably end up getting one of these and doing the same as you- keeping the gas mower for when I’m short on time.
As far as the clippings go, I think it’s actually pretty good for your lawn to just leave them. However, I have seen reel mowers with grass catchers, so if you don’t like to mulch the clippings in the lawn, that may be an option too.
It’s too funny that y’all are talking about reel mowers! After seeding and letting our super tiny backyard (SUPER tiny) grow it was finally time for us to get a mower, and I knew from the start that a reel mower was our only option. I wouldn’t have been able to turn anything else around in such a small space! After looking at the reviews I noticed that northern lawns had trouble with reel mowers, but southern lawns were raving about how well they worked. My yard looks fantastic! I have to admit that the sound a reel mower makes is highly satisfying, too haha. Thanks for the review, for all of the great home advice, and (this is a bit random) for keeping up the blog even through new-parenthood!
By some strange coincidence our gas guzzling mower died on us the same day you posted your maintenance pointers. We gave everything a try to no avail and decided to pull out our old clunking reel mower. (We used this in a previous smaller home with a postage stamp backyard).
Our reel mower is about 10 years old, and while it works fine (I guess) on the grass in our shady side yard, out front where we’re full sun Texas scrub grass and other fun crabby, dandeliony randoms the reel mower just isn’t cutting it… literally!
Yesterday we finally gave in and bought an electric edge trimmer for the rough spots, and we’re going to make do with our reel mower for the rest. We’re REALLY trying hard to make the environmentally conscious choice here… even if it means extra work.
A newer reel mower would really make our greener choice easier I think. *wink wink*
I read about this mower just the other day in a magazine at it looks great. We have over an acre so it isnt for us but I would love to try it some time.
We have a tiny patch of lawn in the back and a tinier one in the front (responsible desert dwellers we are) and we have been waiting for our gas mower to die (we had a similar situation as John and Sherry where it miraculously revived) so that we can get one of these beauties. I will so be entering this afternoon. Or I wouldn’t turn it down if Lowe’s wanted to gift me one too!
We have had a Scott’s push mower since last summer. Since we live in an urban area and have a very small lawn, it’s perfect (and we have a slope to deal with as well). When we move to a bigger house one day with a bigger yard we will likely stay push mower devotees. Most of our neighbours have push mowers too. In addition to the environmental benefits, another added bonus is that you are not listening to obnoxious gas mowers whenever someone in the area cuts the lawn.
We bought our first mower this spring. We considered a reel mower, but we have almost .5 acre, lots of trees and sticks, and it seems as though every dead leaf in the neighborhood blows into our yard! (We collected more than 20 bags in one season.) So we opted for an electric mower. My dad has used electric mowers since the ’80s, and strongly recommended getting a Back & Decker. We ended up going with this cordless mower. http://www.blackanddecker.com/ProductGuide/Product-Details.aspx?ProductID=21286
I highly recommend it for anyone who likes the appeal of a push mower but needs the convenience of a powered mower. It’s quiter, lighter, and lower maintenance than a gas mower, and has been worth the investment to us.
My husband and I just moved to the Richmond area in October last year and we purchased the same mower ourselves. It’s a terrific mower and I love the fact that not only does it cut a sharp lawn, but it’s easy to push for me and it’s so quiet! We’re huge fans!
This blog has become nothing but an advertisement. A real shame. I used to really enjoy ready all the DECORATING materiel. Which seems to be long gone.
We’re just sharing the adventures here at Casa Petersik, from our current office makeover (stay tuned for that decorating-related update tomorrow morning) to how we landscape our yard, clean our house, and beyond. We really try to cover everything that happens under our roof (and out on our lawn too)! And we even begged the amazing folks at Fiskars and Lowe’s to hook one lucky reader up with the same reel mower, since we hate just accepting swag without sharing the wealth. Hope it helps!
We have a reel/rotary mower as well. We have also seen the benefit of not waiting too long between cuttings (sometimes an impossibilty consider how much rain the Pac NW has been getting lately – argh! I would recommend if you accidentally let it go too long to put the mower at it’s highest setting and lower the blade for a closer “shave”.
Mad props for going the green route! I don’t think even I would attempt it with a yard your size!
This may sound really strange but my only worry about it is when it gets stored. Be it in a shed or in the garage how safe is it if kids are near it? Is the blade accessible to little fingers and limbs?
Don’t get me wrong a gas mowers have their own dangers and I am always looking out for the little ones and make sure things are out of there reach. But hey kids are kids and they get into places they shouldn’t be despite your warnings, lectures and best efforts they always seam to get into things. I just don’t want them learning a hard lesson in not playing where they are not suppose to be.
Hey Dave – Good thought. The blade does remain exposed at all times, as it didn’t really come with a cover of any sort. The only two things that come to mind is that the box included a little clip that can be used by retailers to “lock” the blades from spinning (that way it doesn’t roll off the store display) and perhaps that would do the trick of helping prevent accidents. Thanks for the reminder that these are things we’re gonna have to start worrying about more often!
Jules – If the incline is so steep that you need a self-propelled mower to do the job, you might find this one a bit tough. But if you’re comfortable pushing a regular push mower up the hill, I don’t see why not.
Sheri Fuhrman says
I love your “review” on the reel mower! I love the maintenance free option! I am always looking for things that I can do “by myself” without my husband’s help (his time is limited). This would be a great Father’s Day gift for him, er me! LOL
Snickrsnack Katie says
That is awesome that you enjoyed it so much! I would like to get one myself – I have a medium sized yard – not as big as yours, but certainly not tiny. I like the idea of eco-friendly and low maintenance, and a workout, too! Thanks! I wanna score a free one!
I have a reel mower from about 5 years ago (Scotts, I think), and like yours, it’s fun to use. But our lawn just has too many weeds, and it was frustrating to see the dandelions pop right back up afterward. Perhaps if we eventually dig up the lawn and reseed/sod (which is what we really need to do), I would like it better. I think it would really work well for someone with a mostly weed-free lawn–or someone who aspires to that.