Scotts Classic Push Reel Mower

For those following my discussion of push reel lawn mowers (posts here and here): I returned the Brill Luxus 38 mower. With some research on Colorado grasses it quickly became apparent that the grass needs to be cut at 2.5 to 3.0 inches. This contributes to better root growth and more efficient use of water. The Brill only goes up to 1.8 inches, so that just wouldn't work.

Not wanting to abandon the concept of reel mowers, though, I bought the only mower fitting my requirements: the Scotts Classic. Following is my experience with it over the past several months.

The Scotts Classic is about twice as heavy as the Brill mower, but it's still much lighter than any gas or electric rotary mower. Pushing it is still easy. In fact, the extra weight helps you push the mower smoothly through higher grass. Where the Brill would stall or chatter, which happened a lot on my lawn, the Scotts simply goes right through it. It doesn't stall unless you catch a twig in the blades. This is a very welcome feature.

The downside of the extra weight, however, is that the wheels compress the grass in their tracks. On the next pass you overlap the wheel tracks, but the compressed grass has only partly risen back. After the grass has fully recovered (say an hour later), the grass is slightly higher where the wheels had tracked. For better or worse, this leaves patterns in your grass visible even a week later. I will contact Scotts to see if they have suggestions for eliminating this.

The mower appears to be well-constructed. The rear follower wheels are what set the cutting height -- a clever design. The blades contact the cutting bar, as opposed to the Brill's "silent cut" design that leaves a gap, so the Scotts mower makes the distinctive clatter sound that reel mowers are known for. The Scotts is about twice as loud as the Brill, but still far quieter than even an electric rotary mower.

I did some tests to see if the Scotts actually cuts better than the Brill. My hypothesis was that since the blades contact the cutting bar, I expect this mower to leave behind fewer uncut blades of grass. This appears to be true. With the Brill I needed to overlap every row at least 50%, thus giving the mower two chances on every blade of grass. With the Scotts I only need to overlap by a couple inches to get a similar cut. In some cases, however, I go back over wheel tracks later, trying to even them out.

Overall I'm quite pleased with the mower. The mowing season is mostly over in Colorado, but I've had several good months of using it, and I expect many more.

UPDATE: I asked Marjorie King of Reel Mowers Etc. about the patterns left in the grass, and also if attaching a weighted roller like the Lawn Striper might help. Here's what she had to say:

I think the grass should be springing back faster than this. Is it possible that it needs to be watered a little more often? Your local Master Gardener program should be able to offer the best lawn care advice for your area.

I will check with Great States and see what they say, too.

The Lawn Striper lays all of the grass down, so it would be like having a wheel go all the way across - it is 21 inches wide. You go one direction, then the other to get the striped look. You can add weight to it also to maximize the effect.

Marjorie is likely correct that watering is a factor. I had adjusted my watering schedule several times this fall while taking care of a grass fungus issue, and that could certainly be contributing to the problem. I am tempted to try the Lawn Striper in any case -- that might give the lawn a nice finish.

Great States (manufacturer of the Scotts Classic mower) replied:

There is nothing wrong with the mower, it is just the mower wheels laying the grass down. You might suggest that if he is mowing back and forth that he go around the yard and this would give that grass time to raise up to get cut evenly. Or suggest he go back over those areas that are higher.

(I never asserted anything was wrong with the mower; this is just a property of how it works.)

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I think watering less often and more each time can help. Also this is better for the lawn, it makes it so the grass has to grow deeper roots which also helps the lawn compete against weeds.

Josh, I just purchased online a new Brill 38 mower thinking it would be a good replacement for my old(but still functional)Scotts mower and would not need annual sharpening and be lighter. Got it yesterday and spent a frustrating hour today watching the Brill skip and stall a lot ; my old Scotts handled the same patch of gas nonchalantly.Then I read your blog from Nov05 and concur totally. Do you recommend i get a Scotts Classic; does yours still perform as well as when you got it, especially in high grass? Thanks.

Jim, I never could get a very even cut from the Scott's mower, so I bought a Black and Decker CMM1000 cordless electric mower in early 2006. This gives a very nice, even cut. I have about 5000 sqft to mow and the battery will last for about 1.8 mows. I know this because I forgot to plug it in a couple times, and sure enough, it gets to exactly the same spot on the second mow before running out of juice. :)

While I love the concept of a fully people-powered mower, I just couldn't get a reel mower to keep my grass looking nice. I definitely can't recommend any corded electric mower (huge PITA) but the B&D cordless has been super. I've gotten lots of compliments from the neighbors on my lawn, too. I need to get the blade sharpened but other than that, it's no maintenance. Just plug it in after mowing, it'll be ready to go when you need it.

I'd recommend sticking with the Scott's if it's doing the job for you -- it seems to be the best reel mower out there. Otherwise I'd strongly recommend the B&D. It looks like the CMM12000 is the current model. Home Depot doesn't carry it anymore, I noticed they now have a house brand cordless electric. This may be the same mower with a different piece of plastic on top, but I don't know. Amazon would be another good source.

I just bought the Scott's Classic and feel superior to my neighbors with thier gas mowers. The Scotts does a fine job for me and my fairly bumpy lawn. Not that it matters that much, but I think the Classic has a great deal of industrial beauty to it - no frills, functional and has a high quality feel to it.

One complaint: The foam covered handle STINKS. Here I thought I was cleaning up the environment but the fumes coming off the handle make me wonder. It stunk up the garage so much I had to put it outside, even walking by it outdoors the smell is noticeable.

If it does not gas out soon, I'll cover the handle with electical tape.

I mostly like my scotts classic reel mower but I have three serious complaints about it:

1) the handle is of a really horrible design and is prone to bending and breaking

2) it is helpless at dealing with tall grass

3) it is hard to find places to sharpen the reel and I've heard many of those charge more to sharpen the blade than a new mower

Does anyone know of a good sturdy handle that can fit the Scot's Classic Mower?

Solutions to the other two problems would be nice as well

Mower is okay, but the handles are defective. Part number 31098-3 is defective and breaks in approximately one season. If you have a bumpy lawn, it will break even faster. Unfortunately, there are two 31098-3 parts in the upper handle assembly, one on the left and one on the right. After the right one broke, I tried to get one online at for $7.05 + tax & shipping. The website has a hack that will not let you check out. When your cart is full and you hit the Check Out button, it forces you to log in again. This means you can never check out. I informed customer service this was the case, but they did not fix or even reply. I duct taped the two cracked pieces together and modified how I pushed the mower. Today, the left handle failed in the same place as before. I tried the website again, but it still has “Checkout dysfunction.” The handles fail simply because they are cheap thin aluminum. If you buy this product, be prepared to fool around with handles, “Checkout challenged” websites or more expensive handle repair kits here ($9.50 + tax & shipping):
When considering this product, be sure to add the handle repair / replacement costs and aggro when comparing to other mowers. The Amazon 1 and 2 start ratings have the handle as a consistent complaint:

My daughter & S-I-L bought a Scotts Classic 20" Reel Mower in April of 2008. The handle side

rail broke, and I have been researching replacement parts. In doing so, I have come to see that

it is not an uncommon defect. What is their recourse? I can't find a parts list anywhere on the

internet. Scotts doesn't make any reference to the product on their website. It appears that

some outfit named Great States is the manufacturer, but they don't appear to have a website

either. Not a very good way to run a business, IMO.
There are 2 things I want to do:

1. Get the handle parts, and;

2. Find out who or what are the actual people or entity in charge of making this inferior product,

and, in my own inimitable way, help them understand the problems with their product and

business philosophy.

Thanks in advance for your time and attention.

The handle on mine was flimsy and i thought that from the first time I used it. After 2 years, I replaced it with the handle from an old power mower that I had kicking around. It fit the same, I just had to modify the end a little bit with a hacksaw. Now it works find and is much more sturdy

I love the job this mower has done for me and the lawn looks great, but the flimsy handle is a big problem. The handle broke on my first one after three years, so I bought a new mower, figuring I had gotten my money's worth. Then the handle broke on my new mower with a couple of months of mowing. I'd be grateful for any suggestions on how to modify the handle to reinforce it. I don't have an old power mower handle to try as suggested in another post.

I completely agree about the cheap handle. I love this mower, but the handle--which has just broken on mine, too--is the exception that proves the rule. Until I can fix this handle, my mower is useless. Scott's has GOT to solve this problem. It is, apparently, too widespread and serious a defect to be allowed to continue. It is a huge design flaw fast becoming a big marketing negative.

I saw all the coplaints about the handles on the Scott's Classic 20" mower and immediately got discouraged. I called Scott's from the number at and was transferred to American Mower Co. 800-618-7474. I left a message describing my problem and then called back to see if I would talk to someone. As it turns out they will replace the handle (with a sturdier build) free of charge and ship it to you.

Following Joe's advice, I called Scott's. They're sending me the sturdrier, redesigned handle for free!

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