Originally designed for manicured golf courses and sports fields, cylinder mowers have recently become incredibly popular with homeowners who like to keep their lawns looking pristine. Cylinder mowers offer a ton of benefits that run-of-the-mill rotary mowers don’t, so to the average joe, purchasing one may seem like a no-brainer. But is it? Let’s jump into the nuts and bolts of cylinder mowers and whether it’s worth you investing in one.
What is a cylinder lawn mower?
A cylinder lawn mower is essentially a battery or petrol-powered reel mower – where exposed cutting blades at the front of the mower rotate as you pass over the grass, slicing it against a fixed bottom plate. Unlike a regular reel mower, cylinder mowers don’t require push-force to cut, instead, the reel itself is powered by a motor. Keep in mind that much like a razor, the more blades you have, the better the cut will be. Cylinder mowers work best on low or short-cut grass, so you’ll need to re-think your mower if you have plenty of long grass to cut.
Why use a cylinder mower?
Thanks to the slicing ‘scissor’ action of a cylinder mower’s blades, this type of mower is well known for giving a cleaner cut than rotary mowers. The rotating cylinder features horizontal blades and a stationary bed knife so that when you push your mower over the grass, the reel blades guide the grass to the bed knife to be cleanly cut. The slicing action also doesn’t tear the grass blades, which means a healthier lawn for you.
Cylinder mowers can cut anywhere between 35mm to 2mm, so it’s best to do your research on the type of grass you have to ensure you buy a mower that cuts at the right height for your grass.
The clean cut of the cylinder mower makes it an ideal choice for the homeowner who enjoys a well-manicured, healthy lawn and has time to mow it regularly.
The cons of using a cylinder mower
All this being said, cylinder mowers are most effective on a flat, debris-free lawn. If you enjoy getting outside to mow your lawn regularly and prefer a very manicured look, a cylinder mower would be the one to go for. However, rotary mowers provide more versatility over rougher terrain and won’t have an issue with whatever debris is strewn about your lawn, so they’re usually the more practical choice for time-poor homeowners.
Cylinder mowers require you to be mowing your lawn weekly at the very least, as the blades aren’t designed to cut through long grass and your mower will likely get clogged if you attempt to cut grass that’s too long.
Our tips on how to use a cylinder mower
1. Mow regularly
We can’t stress this point enough – cylinder mowers require regular mowing, otherwise, you won’t be cutting through anything. A good tip to follow is to change the direction you’re mowing in each week so the grass stands straight up for a clean cut.
2. Identify your grass type
Different mowers suit different grass types, as many turf varieties like to be cut at different lengths, which can vary through the months. Knowing the preferred cut height of your grass type means you can select the mower that’ll best suit your lawn. Knowing the seasons in which your grass type grows more or less will also help with keeping your lawn healthy.
Sir Walter DNA Certified Buffalo’s best mowing height is between 25-40mm, increasing this by 10-15mm in the winter. In shaded areas, you can leave your lawn at about 50mm. Sir Walter should be mown once a week in summer, but once the weather cools down into autumn and winter, this can be slowed right down.
For TifTuf, you’re looking at a mowing height of 20-40mm. While it does require less mowing than other couch lawn types, we suggest mowing it weekly during summer. If you prefer an ultra-manicured look, you can mow 2-3 times a week during the growing season.
Nullabor Couch on the other hand, should be cut quite low, within the 5-20mm bracket. It can be mown every 2-10 days during summer (depending on the look you want).
Sir Grange Zoysia and Eureka Premium VG Kikuyu prefer to be cut between 15-30mm, with Zoysia needing ⅓ of the blade cut every 10-14 days and Kikuyu preferring to be kept at 30mm year round. Kikuyu requires annual scarifying in the spring months but should be mown weekly through summer, and monthly during the colder months.
Maintenance: How to back lap a cylinder mower
A nice sharp reel is essential for your cylinder mower to achieve a clean cut. Back lapping is essentially the process of maintaining your cutting cylinder blades and making sure they stay sharp.
To do this, switch off your cylinder mower and tip it backwards to access the reel and bedknife. Then take a Mill Bastard file to the round edge of the bedknife, moving the cylinder reel away from the pinch point. Use the file to create a sharp cutting edge on the bedknife.
If you have one, use a back lapping machine (or a cordless drill) to turn the cylinder reel backwards, wetting down the reel and bedknife with water while it’s spinning. This is where you’ll apply back-lapping compound/paste with a small paintbrush, taking extra safety precautions as the reel will be spinning. Once you’ve coated the blades, wash off the paste with a hose and adjust the cylinder position evenly to the bedknife, making sure both sides touch the bedknife and the cylinder is spinning smoothly. We suggest checking the sharpness with paper first – it should cut cleanly like a pair of scissors.
We also recommend spraying your cylinder, bedknife and other moving parts with a lanolin spray or WD40 to prevent rusting.
Please note – safety is the number one priority when working with sharp blades, so keep your hands as far away from the spinning reel as you can while you do this.
Can you use a cylinder mower on any grass?
While cylinder mowers can be used on any turf variety, they’re best suited to flat, stone-free lawns. If you have long grass (taller than 35mm) or a bumpy lawn, a cylinder mower will struggle.
Can you cut long grass with a cylinder mower?
No. Cylinder mowers are specifically designed to cut lawns between 2-35mm, so anything taller than this will only clog up your mower.
Is a cylinder mower better than a rotary?
It depends! If you like mowing your flat lawn every week, then yes, a cylinder mower is better. But if you have an uneven lawn with debris and long grass, or you just don’t like mowing very often, rotary would be the way to go.
Is it worth getting a cylinder lawn mower?
If you get as excited as us about your lawn, then we’d say yes, it’s worth it. While rotary mowers are a great all-rounder mower for those who don’t have the time to mow or just aren’t as concerned about the look of their lawn, they can’t provide the precision that a cylinder mower can. Yes, you have to mow more often, and yes, you have to make sure you’re cutting at the right length for your turf type, but in the end, you get a beautiful lawn, so we think it’s worth every cent.
Not sure what type of turf you have? Or do you have a cylinder mower already and aren’t sure which type of turf you should purchase? Our friendly, expert team is always available to answer all your turf questions, just give us a buzz on 1800 736 326.