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How to choose the right reel for your lawn

Just like in life, the saying “Less is more” is more than valid for choosing the reel for your lawn. It is not always true that more blades will be a better fit for your lawn and mowing style. It is dependent on multiple factors, such as mowing intensity and quality or thickness of the mowed lawn.

What is a reel and how is it different from mowing with a rotary mower?

Even though this may seem as a redundant question to experienced lawn enthusiast, there are still many people who have not been familiarised with the principle of reel mowing. In short, it can be explained that a reel mower does not cut the grass like a knife of a standard rotary mower; it trims it. Every grass blade is gently and cleanly trimmed on a scissor-like principle.

Grass Under Magnifying Glass

On a mowing reel, there are blades arranged in a helical configuration (standard 5-10). Individual blades meet a passive bedknife, as the reel spins. The bedknife is positioned right above the level of the terrain, which ensures trimming individual grass blades. A perfect cut without frayed grass blades results in a greener appearance of the lawn, quicker regeneration, less stress and higher resistance to diseases and pest.

Cylinder on the lawn

What reels are the most common?

You will come across a 5-blade reel the most often, primarily in hand-led reel mower with a manual drive. They are used because of the lower weight of the mower and because of their practical usability. A reel with fewer blades can trim longer grass. On the contrary, a 10-blade reel can be frequently found on golf courses, which need to be mowed more often and to a lower height.

Swardman hand cylinder mower

What does the number of blades say about reels?

The maximum mowing height of a self-propelled reel mower is usually between 8 and 10 mm (0.3 - 0.4in). Nothing very different is practically possible because of the front roller. It drives before the reel and lays individual grass blades down so that they can rise again and can be trimmed by the reel. Taller grass would not be able to rise and the mower would ride over it.

Infographic - Number of cylinder blades affects maximum cutting height

The number of blades also influences the cutting frequency, which is a key parameter of reel mowers. This frequency indicates how many times the blades of the reel can cut within one meter. For example, a 10-blade reel and a low number of revolutions can mow worse than a 5-blade reel with a high number of revolutions. The revolutions must be set up so that they ensure a high-quality cut, but without unnecessary damage to the blades due to overly high rev count. This influences the longevity of the reel and a possible number of sharpenings. High revolutions also usually cause more reel noise.

Infographic - Cutting frequency is affected by the number of blades

Which reel is right for me?

Each reel has its pros and cons and it is impossible to make an absolute statement that a 5-blade reel is worse than a 10-blade reel or vice versa. However, it is clear that the 5-blade and 6-blade reel have more practical use than the 10-blade reel. But if you wish to maintain a true English-style lawn or even a green, it will need a more regular care and more frequent mowing with a reel with a higher blade count.

Characteristics – 5-blade reel

  • Cutting frequency is 60 cuts per meter
  • Recommended mowing height is 25 - 45 millimetres (1 – 1.8in)
  • Most frequently used in manual and electric reel mowers
  • Successfully mows the lawn even in a non-regular routine, can mow taller grass, can also handle mowing frequency 1x per week (but not less)
  • Thanks to 5 blades, it has a lower cutting frequency, which in the case of a low and dense lawn can cause a lawn "corduroy" or a ridged effect after mowing. If this happens, it is time to switch to a reel with a higher number of blades.

Swardman 5-blade reel

This type of reel is practically risk-free. It has the biggest mowing range, so it does not require complete discipline in mowing regularity (but it does not mean you will get an English-style lawn without discipline). The 5-blade reel is also a little lighter and cheaper to produce. Therefore, it primarily addresses the customers who require a lower weight of the mower and a lower price. This is the most appropriate option for those who have not mowed with a reel mower and who are not yet used to the mowing regularity. It is also a good fit for those who travel a lot and are not always able to mow the lawn according to their plans, or as a backup reel for users of a 10-blade reel, for cases such as a sudden spindle dulling or when mowing after returning from vacation.

Characteristics – 6-blade reel

  • Cutting frequency is 72 cuts per meter
  • Recommended mowing height is 20 - 40 millimetres (0.8 – 1.6in)
  • Most frequently used in reel mowers with a drive
  • Good cut, ideal for gardens
  • Requires mowing 1x to 2x per week
  • Thanks to 6 blades, it has a middle to lower cutting frequency, which in the case of a low and dense lawn can cause a lawn "corduroy" or a ridged effect after mowing. If this happens, it is time to switch to a reel with a higher number of blades.

Swardman 6-blade reel

This type is a good choice for everyone who have already had a reel mower or who are used to mowing twice a week and want to cut their lawn under 25 mm (1in).

Characteristics – 10-blade reel

  • Cutting frequency is 120 cuts per meter
  • Recommended mowing height is 10 – 20 millimetres (0.4 – 0.8in)
  • Most frequently used in reel mowers for golf greens
  • Excels with dense cut, suitable for low cutting up to a few millimetres
  • Requires mowing 2x to 4x per week; cannot mow taller grass

Swardman 10-blade reel

This type is suitable for everyone who wants to increase the quality and density of their lawn or those who want to keep a home green. Of course, it is also intended for classic golf greens, driving ranges and all extra short lawns and for users who have already been mowing with a 10-blade reel. It can also be used as a spare reel with a 5 and 6-blade reel for when you have the time to mow more often.


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