The lawn mower was invented during the first half of the 19th century when an Englishman named Edwin Budding designed a contraption to help make cutting sport grounds and gardens easier. Since its invention, the lawn mower has continued to evolve, powered at times by hand, draft animals, steam, kerosene, gasoline and electricity. There are two basic blade types that lawn mowers use: rotary and reel. Both are used today, although the reel was the original invention. Presently, there are reel lawn mowers, push or walk-behind lawn mowers, electric lawn mowers and riding lawn mowers. The newest type of lawn mower is robotic, programmed to automatically cut your lawn without you having to lift a finger.
Two Basic Types of Lawn Mowers
The two basic types of lawn mower are reel mowers and rotary mowers. As mentioned, the original invention was a reel mower. In its modern design, it uses several helix-shaped blades that rotate around a horizontal axle that is attached to the wheels. As the mower is pushed, a set of gears puts the cylindrically-shaped set of blades into motion. When you stop pushing the mower, the blades continue to rotate until they lose momentum.
The rotary mower, by contrast, features one or more blades that rotate on a vertical axis. The blades are contained in a cutting deck at the base of the lawn mower. Rotary mowers make up the majority of lawn mowers, whether gas or electric powered. Whereas a reel mower is propelled by gears as the mower is pushed, a rotary mower requires an engine to move the blade(s) fast enough to effectively cut grass. Although manual, reel lawn mowers give grass the cleanest cut while not tearing and damaging the turf.
Popular Lawn Mower Brands
There are a great many manufacturers that produce lawn mowers. Some offer a full line of reel mowers, gas mowers, electric mowers and riding mowers while others limit their production to one or two types. There are slight differences between the products released by the numerous brands; most have to do with engine size, body design, special features and accessorizing. Among the biggest producers of lawn mowers are John Deere, Murray, MTD, Husqvarna, Sears Craftsman, Black & Decker, Toro, Snapper and Cub Cadet. Companies that limit their production to push reel mowers and electric mowers include Brill and Gardena.
Reel Lawn Mower
While McLane produces several gas-powered reel mowers and Brill produces an electric reel mower, the vast majority of this type are completely manual. Powered only by human strength, push reel mowers nonetheless give your lawn the best cut and do the least damage to it. They require no gasoline, electricity or batteries, and the only maintenance that must be done is largely preventative, such as keeping the bearings and gears oiled and the blades sharpened. In terms of sustainability, push reel mowers are unsurpassed. For the gas and electric reel mowers mentioned, sustainability is diminished. The average push reel lawn mower is the least expensive type of lawn mower to purchase, even from a top brand. Its simplicity and capabilities keep it in demand despite the many other options.
Push Lawn Mower
Technically speaking, a reel lawn mower falls into this category, but it mainly includes gas-powered walk-behind lawn mowers. This is still the most common type of lawn mower, although that is changing where municipalities have placed restrictions on emissions. Gradually, the gas push mower is being eclipsed by the electric mower. Gas push mowers run the gamut from basic models that use an engine to power a rotary blade but still require manual propulsion, to more advanced mowers that have self-propulsion systems. The most common engine found on gas push mowers is made by Briggs & Stratton, but some feature Kohler engines as well. Another capability of gas push mowers is 3-in-1 cutting. This allows the operator to switch from mulching to side bagging to rear discharge, in many cases with a single lever. Push mowers usually have a cutting deck no smaller than 18 inches up to 22 inches.
Electric Lawn Mower
As a much more sustainable alternative to the gas push mower, electric lawn mowers utilize the same rotary blade but feature an electric motor to power it. They are much quieter and produce no emissions, making them the ideal choice for the environmentally-minded consumer. They are limited in terms of the power they provide, and that, coupled with the power cord limitation, make them best suited for small lawns. In response, battery-powered electric lawn mowers have gained market strength. Using a rechargeable battery, they do not need a power cord, but they have an operation time limited to the charge in their battery.
Riding Lawn Mower
At an entirely different level of lawn mowing capability is the riding lawn mower. Rather than be pushed from behind as with the other types, riding lawn mowers require the operator to ride it. Many of the same brands that produce gas push mowers also produce residential and professional models of riding lawn mowers. The engines are much more powerful, they are equipped with a transmission and steering system, and they have a much larger cutting deck. The different types of riding lawn mower include lawn mowers, lawn tractors and zero turn riding lawn mowers. The main distinction between a riding lawn mower and lawn tractor is that tractors can be fitted with numerous accessories for other work. Almost all riding lawn mowers are gas powered, but Ariens makes a battery-powered model.
Lawn Mower Accessories
Accessories for lawn mowers are numerous. They include replacement parts, add-ons to make the work more comfortable and attachments to perform other jobs. For reel and push mowers, accessories are fairly limited to covers, side and rear baggers, blade sharpening kits and extra blades. Accessories available for riding lawn mowers, though, are of a much wider variety. Canopies, cushier seats, floor mats, extra-large grass catchers, trailers, plows, tillers, covers and headlight guards are just a few of the accessories available for riding lawn mowers.