Most of us use a standard rotary lawn mower. One with spinning blades rotating on a vertical axis under a cutting deck, that can be adjusted up or down depending on the height we need to cut our lawn.
Rotary mowers have a cutting deck with rotating blades on a singular vertical pivot point. Rotary lawn mowers cut your lawn with fast rotating blades, usually with 2 but sometimes more. The blades chop at the grass as they rotate. Rotary mowers will work best on a medium to high cut.
But this isn’t the only way to cut your lawn. The alternative cutting mechanism is a reel-based system which has blades that cut your grass on a horizontal axis.
There are two main types of reel mowers. There are push reel mowers, which require a little extra grunt work as they are manually driven by human force only, without any additional form of power for propulsion.
Push reel mowers, push forced cutting blades on a horizontal axis. Reel mowers generally have somewhere between five and twelve exposed blades at the front of the mower that rotate around trapping and slicing the grass against a fixed bottom plate, much like a pair of scissors. The more blades there are the better the cut. This cutting action works best on a low or short cut and will not be able to cut long grass. This will mean more frequent mowing, as many as 2-3 times a week during the growing season to ensure a good clean cut.
There is also battery or petrol-powered reel mowers, more commonly known as a cylinder mower.
Cylinder mowers have a similar set up when it comes to the cutting mechanism, but the reel itself is powered by a petrol or battery powered motor.
Reel mowers, cylinder mowers in particular, will have a better quality of cut due to the slicing ‘scissor’ action. This action is superior to that of the chopping action of a rotary mower, when comparing both with sharp well-maintained blades.
Having said this, a rotary mower with sharp blades and decent power produces a good enough cut that most people would be happy with. The versatility that rotary mowers have over large lawns with more debris will generally make them more practical for most homeowners. If you are someone who enjoys regular mowing and a fine cut well-manicured lawn though, then a cylinder mower would be the go.