Rotary Mowers

This versatile mower allows you to cut almost anything within reason, including wet grass and weeds several feet tall (a reel mower can’t handle these).

The rotary blade is easy to remove or replace when it is worn or cracked. You won’t need to do this often, however; the blade will cut even when dull—the mower’s tremendous speed simply rips the grass in half.

Most rotary mowers throw their clippings out the side; however, some throw them out the rear, others out the front. If no bag is attached to the mower to collect clippings, don’t point the exit chute at a house, person, or animal; if the mower should throw a rock, a window might get broken or someone might get hurt. And rear-throw mowers must have a bag to catch the clippings; never operate these machines without one.

Battery-Powered Mower

This mower is quieter than the gasoline-powered version and is an excellent choice for use on smaller lawns (under 1,500 square feet). Under normal cutting conditions, the battery operates for about 45 minutes. It comes with a recharging unit that plugs into any 110-volt household outlet. The mower has a 16- to 18-inch cutting swath. Weighing around 50 pounds, it is lighter than some other types of mowers, which makes it a good choice if you don’t have strong arms.

Electric Mower

The electric mower is a popular choice for homeowners with small to medium-size lawns (under 4,000 square feet). Like the battery-powered mower, this one is relatively lightweight. It is also very easy to start and essentially maintenance-free. If a problem does develop, take the mower to a qualified repairperson.

Electric mowers have a 16- to 20-inch cutting swath and will operate on an extension cord, from 100 to 150 feet from an outlet. Determine your mowing pattern in advance to prevent running over the cord.

Economy Mower

This is the standard, no-frills mower that cuts thousands of lawns across the country. It has either a two-cycle or four-cycle engine of 3 to 4 horsepower, with a standard ignition system. It is not self-propelled—only the blade is powered, not the wheels.

The cutting swath is 19 to 21 inches, and cutting heights generally range from 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches. The height is easy to adjust; just shift a small lever near each wheel. All models have a pull-recoil starter. Some newer machines may have a switch to release engine compression to make starting easier. Electric starters are available for similar mowers, but this adds to the cost.

Engine speed is controlled by a throttle on the handlebars near the operator’s hand. The handlebars generally can be folded for convenient storage or transport.

Self-Propelled Mower

The self-propelled, electric-start mower is in the luxury class. Both wheels and blades are driven by 4 to 6-horsepower engines with up to four different walking speeds. For safety, the gear-driven wheels are engaged by a “deadman” clutch on the handlebars, which stops the forward motion when released. Cutting swaths are 20 to 22 inches. The electric start is provided by a small, rechargeable battery mounted near the engine. All such mowers also have a recoil starter, should the battery fail.

Most of these mowers now have a trouble-free, transistorized electronic ignition, which eliminates the breaker points and condenser used in standard electrical systems.

Engine speed is controlled either by a throttle on the handlebars or by a switch that offers high and medium speeds. Most of these models have an automatic choke and a governor to provide constant engine speed under varying grass conditions.

Mulching Mower

Mulching mowers are similar to a standard rotary mower, except that they have a special blade to cut grass and leaves into a fine powder. This powder is then blown back into the grass as a mulch, which saves you the trouble of raking or bagging. On most models, the grass clippings can be directed into a catch bag when the grass is too long or wet for effective mulching.

Mulchers also are available as accessories for some mower models and can be easily attached or removed when necessary.

Air-Cushion Mower

These mowers need no wheels, since they ride on a cushion of air. An impeller just below the engine pulls air down and out under the housing, thus lifting it. Since this rotary blade cuts the grass almost as finely as a mulcher and deposits it back in the lawn, there is no discharge chute.

Both electric and gas-powered models are available, with cutting swaths ranging from 15 to 20 inches. The mower floats about 1/4 inch off the ground, and the cutting height is adjusted by raising or lowering the blade rather than the mower. These low-profile mowers slip easily under low bushes and along borders and ride over the edge of downward slopes without scalping them.

Because they have no wheels, these mowers must be carried to and from the cutting site. Weights range from about 25 pounds for electric models up to around 40 for the gas-operated types. The mowers do not handle tall grass well and should not be run across dirt areas—dirt will be sucked into the machine and damage the blade.

They have limited value on slopes. They handle slight and even slopes easily if you don’t try to cut sideways on the slope, but they are less suitable on hilly or steep lawns.