So I Built a Lawn Mower

Hobbies are weird. Getting older is weird. The older i get the more of these weird little hobbies i find myself interested in. There have been (and still are) many hobbies that make no real sense. Making beer, home improvement. I don’t get them. Most men my age, take up golf or fishing, but no I picked the lamest of middle aged hobbies. Lawn Care.


Throughout the pandemic while stuck at home, like so many people, I looked around and noticed all of these little things around my home that I was generally unhappy with. I hated the color of the family room, so we painted every square inch of the interior. The back porch looked terrible (and was falling apart in places), so I designed a new one and replaced it.

It was during all of this that I looked at my lawn and noticed all the dandelions, crabgrass, along with several baldspots. It became one of those things that I couldn’t unsee. Every time I’d walk by, I’d see a clump of crabgrass, or yet another fucking weed. Where the hell did that come from, I just pulled those!

The only reasonable thing to do was to take to Youtube, and find a solution. Friends, I’m not going to lie, I fell down the lawn care rabbit hole, hard. Every video I could find on trying to pretty up my piece of crap patch of grass. Spraying, fertilizing, tenacity, sea kelp, milorganite. I couldn’t get enough of it. Anything that might help my terrible little lawn. Somewhere along the way there began discussions of best practices and height of cut for your lawn. These lawn nerds of the internet were not satisfied with your standard lawn mower. They have these incredible British mowers. On the proper lawn, they create these immaculately pruned lawns that make a putting green jealous. It was a type of mower called a reel mower.

I will not bore you further with the details about why a reel mower is a better solution than rotary mower; trust me this is for the best. Suffice to say, reel mowers are the perfect machine to produce a crisp looking cut, with the best potential for adding those sweet, sweet stripes to your lawn.

There is a problem though. Most of the powered versions of a reel mower are eye wateringly expensive. They feature the sort of price that make you question if any of this shit is actually worth it, and maybe xeriscaping is a better alternative after all. So I did the next reasonable thing. I headed over to the Facebook Marketplace and bought a $50 Fiskars!

Oh yes, we’ve now entered the, buying an antiquated lawn mower off of Facebook from some rando to try scratch the lawn hobby itch, territory. I feel no shame in this, because now I have a reel mower!

At this point, it’s time to try this thing out! I take my new toy out that is going to give me those crisp edged cuts. I was completely beside myself in anticipation. That excitement lasted fro about two point three passes. I was winded. What the hell? Why was I suddenly so tired. Ohhh, crap I’m now the engine. That’s fine, that’s fine. I can use a bit more exercise.

Two point three more passes….

I’m standing there looking at my beautiful lawn. It’s the strangest thing. It’s patchy. That’s not quite the right description. The beginning and end of each turn is wholly uncut, and then in between there are sections when where there is less cut grass than there should be. Genuine puzzlement replaces the horror at what’s happened to my lawn. What is going on here.

So I take another pass, but now I concentrate on the reel to try to understand what is happening. Momentum. The blade is driven off a chain fed sprocket from the wheel. There needs to be enough momentum to get the sprocket spinning enough to make an effective cut. Also… the gear ratio on the sprocket is all wrong, it needs to be spinning faster period. And with that, I suddenly understand why no one ever buys a manual reel mower.

The thing is, I am a farm kid, so I’m a natural tinkerer. I know what needs to be done. This thing needs a motor!

This is where we sit today, still needs a bit of work, but she’s a fun (if kind of scary) little piece of nerdy lawn kit.

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