Brill Reel Mower
Human-powered lawn mower
When I first realized that my housemates were serious about me using a push mower to cut our yard, I was a little skeptical. Eventually I was won over by the environmental benefits and the sense of accomplishment that I received from using a “reel mower”. The first mower we purchased is literally called the “Prison reel mower” and I wouldn’t recommend it. The Brill Luxus 38 Reel Mower on the other hand is a sweet piece of engineering. It is very light at 17 pounds, weather resistant, and has variable height ranges. It feels good in your hands and seems very well designed. Now that I use it, I wouldn’t even consider buying a gas or electric powered mower for an average size yard. But let me warn you, using a manual mower is physically much harder, takes more time, and is very difficult if not impossible with tall grass (which means regular mowing). Whether you choose to look at that as an environmentally friendly and money-saving workout or a punishment is up to you.
— Patrick Chen
For the past 20 years I’ve cut my lawn with a hand reel mower. Reel mowers are wonderful — when they are new. The major drawback is not the mild workout, but keeping the blades sharp over time. You can’t sharpen the helical blades of a reel mower without a special jig (at least I can’t). Yet getting it sharpened at the shop will set you back $50 each time. That adds up real fast. And if a reel mower isn’t razor sharp (unlike a power one) cutting the grass does turn into punishment. That’s why the Brill is so interesting. Because its blades do not touch the cutter bar, it claims the average interval for resharpening is 8 years. I don’t know anyone who has had one that long (German-made Brill is big in Europe but new in the US), but in theory this could prolong the duration between sharpenings and change the equation for keeping a manual reel mower going. That is good news because I’ve found that I can cut our small irregular lawn just as fast, and with no more sweat, using a sharp push mower.