I really wanted it to work… I was tired of my noisy gas guzzling push mower that spewed nasty smoke and needed regular maintenance just like any other internal combustion engine (ICE) machine. Then one day after my gas mower required 20 hard pulls to start instead of one I said “enough is enough” and went online to research reel push mowers.
My only experience with reel mowers was testing one that my sister bought for about a $100 that looked like this – and it sucked. It was hard to push and cut poorly. Much has changed since then in the engine-less lawn mower technology department – mainly because Fiskars created their 18 inch Staysharp Max Reel Mower.
Most reviewers seemed to agree that it’s a huge improvement on your grandpa’s reel mower. I watched countless videos on YouTube documenting happy homeowners effortlessly mowing their lawns in peace and quiet. Little children played nearby completely unafraid of being hit with a 100 mph rock projectile – something that can easily happen with a gas mower blade spinning at 3,600 rpm’s. Dogs were lounging on the grass instead of running for cover. Spouses relaxed in hammocks a few feet away from whisper-quiet Fiskars doing their job. That alone sounded nice to me but reviewers kept raving…
No maintenance! Light! Easy to push! Cuts all grass and at heights up to 4”! No blade sharpening, no oil changes and no gas ever again! Aerobic exercise! After a while, I noticed that I was skipping over the bad reviews and concentrating only on the good ones selling myself on Fiskars product. I rationalized that there were way more good reviews than bad anyway.
One of the reservations I had stemmed from the size of our yard. Our house sits on about ⅓ acre and when we bought it most of the land was covered with grass. It used to take me over an hour to move the yard with a gas push mower. Over the next 5 years I slowly transformed our yard with Xeriscaping – mostly by converting difficult to mow areas with mulch and trees. All the hard work paid off as I can mow the entire yard in less than half the time it used to take. Add water and fertilizer savings and I can’t recommend using some Xeriscaping in your own yard enough.
As with most other purchases I spent way more time than most would find reasonable researching and thinking before finally pulling the trigger and buying a Fiskars mower. I felt that given the smaller footprint of our lawn Fiskars push mower was a logical next step in my quest to become less ICE-dependent with all the side benefits that come with it – mainly less maintenance and noise. Reducing our household pollution a tiny bit less was also something that made me feel OK about a large chunk of cash disappearing from my wallet. I’ve become quite spending-averse after deciding to obliterate our mortgage and achieve financial freedom after the birth of our son.
The new mower arrived at a great time. It was spring and our fescue grass was just coming out of hibernation. My gas mower was getting harder and harder to start. I replaced the spark plug, air filter and engine oil which made no difference whatsoever. Fiskars, on the other hand, had none of those issues. After an easy assembly process the reel mower was ready. No gas, no pulling – just push and go! The grass was tall, dry and ready for a haircut.
That first mowing session was a revelation.
SILENCE: I could hear the birds chirping and my son playing nearby. YouTube videos were right… and then some!
FRESH AIR: I no longer felt like I was sucking a tailpipe for half an hour.
NO SNEEZING: Gas mower was so powerful that it created a vortex of dust, pollen and exhaust fumes attacking my sinuses and making me sneeze while mowing and for a while after.
EXERCISE: I consider myself to be in good shape but my heart rate quickly went up to a level commensurate with jogging at a moderate pace. I can see how this might not be a plus for some people but personally I thought it was a great workout. Sure, pushing a gas lawn mower can get your heart going too but what made Fiskars actually feel good instead of miserable was – you guessed it – Silence, Fresh Air and No Sneezing.
Over time I found other things that I really liked. Starting, stopping and resuming mowing was seamless. I could mow anytime I wanted – early morning before the heat, while baby was napping, late at night with floodlights on. I even mowed while our son was sleeping in a car seat right on the lawn (that picture at the top is NOT staged). As soon as he learned how to walk he wanted to push the mower with me which made for some good father/son bonding time. Don’t try that with a gas mower! Fiskars was more compact than the old gas mower and took less room in the garage. Trips to fill up my big old gas can were eliminated. And did I mention zero maintenance?
I also found out what I did not like.
LEAVES: I didn’t figure it out until the fall – Fiskars is useless when leaves cover the grass. With my gas mower I’d put a bag and it would pick up and mulch the leaves with no effort on my part other than emptying the bag once in a while. This method worked so well that I rarely had to rake. With Fiskars you’d have to rake all the leaves just to mow the grass and it would obviously be useless if you simply wanted to run over the yard to just pick up and mulch the leaves after the grass went dormant for the winter.
WEEDS: When I first got the Fiskars reel mower my grass was in great shape. I had a few weeds but it was 95% nice grass otherwise. I noticed that Fiskars struggled with the weeds but it wasn’t a big deal at the time. After our son was born I slacked off on lawn maintenance so it was more like 30% weeds all of a sudden. Crabgrass, creeping Charlie, dandelions, spurge, clover… it was a weed party and my lawn was hosting. It quickly became apparent that Fiskars could not handle such non-conformity: weeds would just bend under the blades and party on.
RAIN: Relatively minor but I definitely had to consider the weather. If the grass was wet it was difficult to cut so I had to get into a habit of checking the rain forecast and schedule my lawn duties around that.
APPEARANCE: When the weed party started it became obvious that cutting with a gas mower would leave the lawn looking better than with Fiskars. After Fiskars weeds were left taller than the grass which resulted in a much less presentable appearance. Some days it would look like I weed-wacked the entire yard instead of mowing. I knew it was bad when my wife started asking me to cut with the gas mower any time we were expecting guests at the house.
REVERSE: As in “it doesn’t do crap when you go backwards”. With my gas mower I can go forward and backward and it continues to cut in both directions. Not so with Fiskars as it cuts only while going forward. This got old fast as I had to spend extra time and effort in areas where a few back and forths with a gas mower used to get the job done much faster.
I can live with one or two of these shortcomings but not all at once. I realized that my dreams of becoming ICE-free when it comes to my lawn equipment were not to be. I could continue cutting the grass with Fiskars but I’d still need to use the gas mower once in a while. Now I was looking at having two lawnmowers in my garage which defeats the whole purpose.
I tinkered with my gas lawn mower over the winter and figured out that all the starting problems were caused by a faulty choke mechanism. After adjusting it the mower starts on the first pull. I also solved my noise problem by getting a pair of these – dorky, yes, but for me it’s the difference between hating life while mowing and saying “hmmm, I can actually hear myself think”. Too bad it does nothing for my neighbors.
In the end, I enjoyed my time with the Fiskars mower but it was time to put it up for adoption on Craigslist. I‘d still recommend it to anyone with a smaller lawn full of nice grass. This model really does work surprisingly well, just not on my post-baby lawn. I hope this honest review of the Fiskars reel mower didn’t turn you off to the whole idea of going ICE-less. It’s a great product but you should go in with your eyes open.
Now I’m back to feeling bad every time I pull out my gas mower and create all kinds of pollution for 30 minutes. I may even secretly wish for its engine to seize so I can spend an unreasonable amount of time researching this. Based on everything I’ve read it’s a great no-compromise way to go all “green”, quiet and low maintenance on your lawn.
Are you thinking about ditching your gas mower? Have you ditched it already? What are you using to cut grass and how do you like it? Leave a reply below!