Monday, July 4, 2011

Non-Power Lawn Mowers: Buying and Sharpening

I've had enough questions recently about the acquisition, care, and feeding of non-mower lawn mowers that it is worth a general email.

I use a Great States mower that Fred bought umpteen years ago. He thinks he paid about $80, but neither of us trusts that memory. It is MUCH lighter than the antique in the garage when we bought the house in 1975 with which I struggled until it died. I like my Great States mower.

However, even more recent info about non-power lawn mowers are in the emails I compiled below from entries to the Montclair Watercooler three years ago. (Incidentally, the current phrase for non-power mower is "reel mower," developed to distinguish it from the "push mowers" that can now be powered and distinguishes them from sit-down mowers. I resort to "non-power.")

The only care needed for a non-power mower (unlike those hungry ones that need to be fed) is a sharpening at least once a year. We've been taking ours to a place where they keep it for a week, so I was glad to copy this paragraph from the Watercooler this past spring:
"I had a reg lawn mower blade sharpned at schneider hardware on main stwest orange while i waited. Most other places send them out and you have to get up to a week later but gerald schneider sharpens himself. He has a sign in the shop that says we sharpen evrything from Axes to Zissors. He also has a lawn mower repair shop. I'm pretty sure he canhelp you out."

Today my long-term lawn mower dream came true when Fred noticed a sharpener truck on our block. I ran out and had my paring knife and lawn mower sharpened. I also got the card of Visidor DeCarlo, whose father was a sharpener before him. His rates are amazingly low. His telephone number is 201-936-5705, and his email is He tells me he comes to people who ask for his services. If you ask him to come, it might be nice to tell your neighbors about his availability.

Middle class lawns have only been around since the 1840's when lawn mowers were invented. Before that you had to have a team with scythes to cut your lawn, so only the very wealthy had lawns. By my childhood a century later, lawn mowing time was a child's time to be with her daddy. We loved to play around him and talk with him at that time.

Some people have decided that lawns are unneeded and find either more fruitful (or vegetable-full) ways to use their property or an approach with lower maintenance. When my mother saw my lawn disappearing, she plead with me to save some for children to play on. When the kids grew up, I needed other justifications for a lawn. The front yard is useful for my environmental "fairs" when I'm having an open garden in the back, and the way back is good for parties and for conversations amid the garden tours.

Still, I do not want to be perceived as advocating a lawn. IF you want a lawn, however, I advocate a non-power mower.

Happy Independence Day (from power companies)!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 20 Sep 2008 15:24:36 -0400 (EDT)
From: Pat Kenschaft
Subject: lawn mowers

We bought a human push power mower at the local hardware store ACE in Hawthorne NJ. Husband has had good luck with it so far. I think it was American brand made in China!
I bought a push mower from Sears, a while ago, maybe five or six years ago. I love it. It cuts very well. Don't know if they are still selling it, but it's worth an inquiry.
FYI, In 1999, we bought a push mower from Home Depot. It was a Great Eastern brand. It worked okay, though it needs sharpening every few years. It's a lot of work to push it over the grass multiple times so sometimes I use a scythe that I bought mail order from a company in Maryland. That takes some technique.
I've bought a number of manual lawn mowers over the years to take care of various properties I've owned, and my favorite model is the Sears Craftsman. I think it's actually made by Great States Mowers (just as Sears' "Kenmore" appliances are made by Whirlpool or GE) but the Craftsman model lawn mower I bought at Sears was nicer than the Great States I had bought a few years earlier at Home Depot. It has a wider track and an extra set of small wheels on it that seems to improve traction and cutting ability.

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