Reel mowers were first introduced in 1870, but the ones being used today, are definitely not the same mower. You will find that today's mowers cut much more freely. They use a non contact mowing technique. It gives your lawn a scissor cut, instead of a sawed edge. This holds in the moisture, and keeps the ends from looking brown. It gives a much more manicured look, and doesn't shock the turf.
You may be wondering about the grass catcher. The push reel mower is the original mulching mower. In most areas grass cycling, or leaving the clippings on the lawn, provides the lawn with a quarter to a third of its nutritional season long. Generally a grass catcher is not needed unless you wish to collect the clippings for use as mulch elsewhere. (See our composting articles.) Use of the grass catcher is more common in the South, where Bermuda and St. Augustine lawns in their high growth periods require mowing twice a week. That much mowing generates a lot of clippings so the grass catcher can be useful to avoid an excessive buildup of clippings on the lawn. This can create a thick thatch, which can rob the roots of essential oxygen, and water. If you find that you have too much thatch, you may want to read about aeration. Oxygen is essential to root health, for any plant, including turf.
Another factor to consider in a mower is maintenance. You will only need to keep your reel mower dry, and oiled. The cleaner you keep it the longer it lasts. Spraying the blades with silicon lube spray is also a good step to make the blades easier to clean and to prevent rust. On a superior quality mower, you should only have to sharpen the blades once every 7-10 years. Reel mowers are safer, and require far less maintenance than their motorized counterparts.
While reel mowers are not for everyone, they certainly are making a comeback. We would love for you to share your thoughts, experiences, and questions.