It's Keen, a "reel" beauty!

I've mentioned that I've been cleaning out the garage lately. One garden tool that I've had for a few years but was buried behind a lot of, um, important stuff (not junk, honest!) is an old reel mower that I got from my mother-in-law:

I've been thinking about trying a reel mower for the last ten years, so maybe it's time to take a closer look at this beauty.


The push reel mower has made a comeback in recent years as an eco-friendly way to mow your lawn. No pollution, needs no petroleum-based products (besides a little bit for lubrication), is quiet, and gives you exercise -- it's the "perfect" mower!

If you've got a small, flat yard that is.

The modern versions of reel mowers are lightweight, "not like those heavy old clunkers you mowed with as a child". How heavy could this old clunker be? Well, it's not just the weight of the machine, but the fact that you're causing the blades to spin as you push -- it seems very heavy.

At least the handle feels comfortable, and is simple but beautiful:

You're not going to find a wooden handle on any modern mowers, that's for sure.

This machine needs some work: cleaning, lubrication, adjustment. A good sharpening.

Those blades may look sharp, but they're not.

I wonder if I'll ever know how old this model is. One clue is that the Shapleigh Hardware Company bought the Simmons Hardware Company in 1940. Simmons owned the Keen Kutter brand, and Shapleigh kept the well-known brand name. (Both were St. Louis companies.)

So this mower could be as much as 70 years old! You'd never guess it from the like-new rubber wheels:

I'm joking of course -- these wheels are rock-hard, and haven't been rubbery for decades I'm sure.

It advertises that it's "Ball Bearing", which must be important somehow:

I can't imagine how difficult a model that does not have ball bearings would be to move.

In any case, I may get this machine "tuned up", then try cutting my front lawn with it. I did a little test strip the other day, and it's quite satisfying the way it scissors the grass off. The only drawback is that it can't be raised high enough, and cuts much shorter than I like:

I wonder if I can easily modify that so it cuts higher?

Still, it's a nice old machine, and I'm eager to give it a try. I'd also like a better idea of its age, so if you have any information about these mowers, please let me know!


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (May 31, 2011 at 1:44 PM)  

You might be able to sell it as an antique and get a modern push mower instead :-).

Beautiful photos, by the way. I'm a sucker for images of old machinery.

greggo  – (May 31, 2011 at 2:39 PM)  

I would buy that from you, as I am an old golf course superintendent and find those to be valuable to me. Actually they're not to hard to adjust, but hard to sharpen. Usually 45 to 50 bucks.

Cat  – (May 31, 2011 at 2:53 PM)  

Oh this brings back memories! My grandfather had a mower like this back in the day.

The Sage Butterfly  – (May 31, 2011 at 8:48 PM)  

When we lived in a townhouse with a small yard, we used one of these. They work really well. And they last and last...

Unknown  – (October 26, 2016 at 11:55 PM)  

I have 1 but iys just the handle down missing the mower part

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