Push lawnmowers are the simplest and most traditional of lawn mowers. If you’re looking to replace your manual lawnmower or buy one for the first time, you’re in the right place.
Welcome to Larry’s Push Mower Buying Guide.
Why a Push Mower?
If you hate the noise and pollution of petrol mowers, can’t be bothered faffing around with a troublesome power cable, and want to listen to the birds sing as you smell the freshly cut grass, then a push along lawn mower might be for you.
Manual mowers are an elegant solution to keeping your lawn in shape. They are lightweight, simple, and provide a decent cut. Despite requiring a little more physical effort than most mechanical mowers, they help keep you fit and are far more convenient. Not to mention the savings on fuel or your electricity bill, and the advantage of being able to mow at any time of day without a noisy motor disturbing the neighbours.
Added safety is also a benefit. If you have young children or pets, then a powered mower can be a rolling death trap. A rotary mower can easily turn a pebble into a projectile that might smash a window or cause bodily harm. You would have to try much harder to make such damage with a hand-powered lawn mower
They are also very good for your grass. Cylinder mowers generally offer a better cut, and reel mowers chop the grass cleanly with a scissoring motion, rather than the chopping of a rotary mower which can leave the tips of the grass with more of a “chewed” look. This is why many professional groundskeepers use reel mowers to maintain their golf courses and bowling greens.
So, good for the grass, good for your health, and good for the planet! Did I mention they are easy to maintain, cost nothing in spark plugs or fuel, and can be bought for less than £100?
How These Mowers Work
There are two styles of push mowers with different cutting methods. Frictional Cutting, Which is the more traditional method of cutting that uses a scissoring action to chop the grass against the static blade at the bottom of the mower, and Contact Free cutting, which leaves a small gap between the static blade and the cylinder blade. Contact free mowers are generally easier to push.
Push mowers tend not to have an integrated grass collection box, which allows the lawn to reabsorb nutrients lost from the cutting of the grass through mulching of the clippings.
Is a Manual Mower for you?
Before you rush out to buy one, bear in mind that push mowers are only really suited to relatively small and flat gardens, and that you will need to mow fairly regularly as they don’t tend to cut long grass very well.
If you don’t like to cut too regularly, have a large lawn, or have bumpy ground to cover, then it might be best to stick to a petrol or electric mower.
Also, if you like to bag your grass clippings, then a reel mower probably isn’t for you. The design lends itself to mulching i.e. redistributing grass clippings over the lawn. Although some push mowers like the Webb have a grass collection basket, they don’t tend to work very well. If you really care about the health of your lawn then this is no bad thing, as most lawn care experts agree that leaving grass clippings on the lawn is good for the lawn as it acts as fertiliser, providing the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium nutrients essential to a vibrant lawn.
Choosing a Push Mower
Although the basic structure of most manual push-along mowers is similar, there are a range of offerings on the market. I have assessed the top manual mowers in terms of:
Maneuverability: How heavy is it to push? Does it turn well? Can you reach those awkward corners of the lawn?
Cut Quality: Does it cut the grass cleanly? What size is the cutting width? What is the range of heights that you can adjust the blades to? Does it spray grass over the lawn or does it feature a collection box?
Durability: Is it well-built? How long will it last?
Design: Is it ergonomic? Is it a pleasure to use? Are there any annoying features to the design?
1.My Top Pick: The Fiskars StaySharp Max
- Eco-friendly lawn mowing enjoyable with an advanced reel mower that's 60 percent easier to push than other reel mowers
- InertiaDrive reel is designed for all grass types, delivering twice the cutting power to glide through tough spots
- New reversible grass chute can be positioned to direct clippings forward, away from your feet, or backward and downward
- Inset wheels allow the blades to extend across the mower's full 18 inch cut width and cut height can be easily adjusted from 1-4 inch
- Limited 3-year warranty
With 45cm of glorious girth, this baby is well suited to trimming slightly larger lawns. Fiskars have a reputation for quality garden products, and this mower is designed to produce a very fine cut.
Although the balanced weight of the mower ensures that it stays level as it cuts even over rough patches of ground, helping to create an even cut, where the Fiskars falls down is manoeuvrability. The size and weight mean it follows the straight lines of your lawn very well, but does not corner as well as mowers like the Bosch.
Related: Full Fiskars StaySharp Max Review
- Weight: 23.5kg
- Cutting Width: 45cm
- Cutting Heights: 1 – 4 inch
- Grass collection Box? No
2.The Best For Very Small Lawns: Bosch AHM 38 G Manual Garden Lawn Mower
- 38 cm width of cut
- Five bladed cylinder and rear roller
- 15-43 mm height of cut
- 25 L grass box capacity
- Easy to push, high geared side wheels
Very easy to use and with minor assembly required out of the box, the Bosch AHM 38 G is my top pick. It’s a lovely well-built mower that can be picked up very cheaply and gives an excellent cut.
Having said that, it does have its shortcomings. The grass collection box is about as useful as a chocolate teapot, spraying grass everywhere and only catching half of the cuttings. However you will find this to be the case with most push mowers, so either leave the clippings to mulch or invest in a rake to tidy up afterwards.
The roller also seems to give varying results, so if having beautiful stripes is of concern you might want to consider the Webb.
- Weight: 10.1kg
- Cutting Width: 38cm
- Cutting Heights: 15 – 43 mm
- Grass collection Box? Yes
3.Best for Enthusiasts: The Webb 12in Push Lawnmower
Want a push mower with a roller for those beautiful stripes?
If you take the time to setup this mower properly, then it will reward you with a cut that you would be unable to achieve with even expensive powered machines.
Webb are a British company whose mowers have been critically acclaimed by the likes of Gardeners World, and despite being a bit of a fiddle to assemble out of the box, this mower produces a fine cut when it is setup properly.
A mostly plastic construction mean that the mower is fairly lightweight, which makes it easy to manoeuvre around the lawn, and the roller included produces some good stripes. However,
a heavier roller would benefit the mower by anchoring it more firmly on the lawn, and some guidance would be useful on setting up the cutting height. The mower has a range of cutting heights, but setting the mower too short not only makes it very difficult to push, but means it can also easily scalp the lawn.
- Weight: 12.7kg
- Cutting Width: 30cm
- Cutting Heights: 13mm – 23.5mm
- Grass collection Box? Yes
4.The Bosch Alternative – Brill RazorCut
- 4 stroke engine
- Cutting width: 51 cm
- Cutting height: 10 - 40 mm
Brill are a German company and so you would expect high standards of engineering and efficiency. The RazorCut is no exception. Like the Bosch, the cutting width is 38cm, which makes it feasible for use on slightly larger lawns, but unlike the clackety black of the Bosch the Brill operates silently.
It has five flame-hardened steel blades, and at 17 pounds of weight requires little effort to produce an excellently-cut lawn.
The grass box is not included, but available as an optional extra which seems slightly overpriced.
- Weight: 7.4kg
- Cutting Width: 38cm
- Grass collection Box? Optional
Maintaining your Push Lawn Mower
One of the advantages of using a push reel mower is the ease of maintenance. With no engine or electric motor, they have a simpler mechanical system and fewer parts that can go wrong, so there are no excuses for not performing basic maintenance on your push mower.
Firstly I recommend using a workbench to bring it more comfortably close to eye level, and wear some kind of gloves to prevent cutting yourself on the blades, which can be extraordinarily sharp.
CleaningBefore you start maintenance make sure that the mechanism is clean and free from obstruction. There should be no grass or debris present on the blades. It is worth brushing these off after every cut if you want to keep your mower in tip top condition.
Sharpening the Blades
Although the blades should stay sharp for several years, if cutting the lawn becomes harder work, then they might have gotten a bit blunt. You can either get them professionally re-sharpened or have a go yourself, although it does take a bit of practice to do a good job.
Firstly demobilise the blades so they don’t spin round and chop your fingers off. Jam a wooden stick through the cage to stop them turning.
A few strokes along the blade with a coarse sharpening stone, along with a few drops of cutting oil, will make each blade sharp.
Apply the cutting oil to the stone before sharpening, and aim for even and smooth strokes along the blade. Try to follow the angle of the blade as closely as you can, and ensure each blade is equally sharp.
You can test the sharpness with a piece of newspaper. Just place the sheet of paper on the cutting bar and rotate the blades (don’t forget to wear gloves) the blades should slice through the paper like a hot knife through butter.
Oiling the Gears
A series of gears rotate to cause the forward motion of the mower to set the blade cage in motion. These might need to be greased or oiled.
Checking the Tyres
As the cutting motion relies on the continual forward movement of the mower, if the wheels don’t have traction then the reel will not turn efficiently. If the tread has worn off the tyres, then you can either try and repair this yourself by adding some grooves in the right places with a Stanley knife or by putting on new wheels/tyres.
Storing the Mower
When winter comes and the grass stops growing, you should store the mower somewhere clean and dry. If your shed gets a little damp, then you could spray the blades with a little WD40 to prevent rusting.