This Fiskars Reel Mower Cuts Better Than the Competition
Those seeking a low-maintenance lawn mower with zero emissions might find the Fiskars reel mower to be an ideal choice.
Push reel lawn mowers have been around for a long time and still retain a loyal following for many good reasons. These simple machines offer impressive benefits for those with small to midsize yards, as they are compact, lightweight, durable, and don’t fling dust, rocks, and debris around during use. Reel mowers are inexpensive both to purchase and use since they consume no electricity or gasoline—and being fuel-free, they produce zero emissions. Plus, they don’t make much noise, require very little maintenance, and are easy to store.
So why did so many homeowners move on from reel mowers when gas-powered rotary models came along? For one thing, reel mowers required considerable effort to push, and even with that physical exertion, they had traditionally been hindered by a lack of power so that a small errant twig could bring yard work to a halt. That meant the inconvenience of thoroughly cleaning the yard of minor obstructions and debris before mowing. Plus, keeping the blades sharp was a bit of a hassle. So when Fiskars claimed to have addressed these concerns with its StaySharp Max reel mower—resulting in a manual mower that is 60 percent easier to push—it seemed like it could be a real game changer. I was eager to test the StaySharp Max to find out—and I’m glad I did! Just ahead, find out why.
Fiskars StaySharp Max 18-Inch Reel Mower: At a Glance
- Power source: Manual
- Mowing swath: 18 inches
- Mowing height: 1 to 4 inches
- Blade count: 5
- InertiaDrive system increases cutting power, minimizes jamming, and makes the mower easier to push than standard reel mowers
- StaySharp cutting system reduces blade wear and frequency of sharpening
- Easy single-lever mowing height adjustment from 1 to 4 inches
- Inset wheel configuration allows a full-width cut and eliminates uncut edges
- Reversible chute directs clippings either in front of the mower or behind
- Nearly double the price of other push reel mowers
- May struggle to maintain dense lawn grass species at a low height
Get the Fiskars StaySharp Max reel mower at:
What is the Fiskars StaySharp Max reel mower?
The standard reel mower design has remained relatively unchanged for more than a century, so it was due for an update. Several of the details built into the Fiskars StaySharp max reel mower finally make manual mowing noticeably easier and more enjoyable than before. The Fiskars reel mower features a five-blade cutting reel, adjustable mowing height from 1 to 4 inches, and a padded ergonomic handle. It weighs in at 52 pounds, and an optional grass catcher is sold separately.
Some of the biggest differences between the Fiskars StaySharp Max and other reel mowers include its reduced blade friction, increased cutting power, offset wheel configuration, and single-lever cutting height adjustment. The chain-driven blade reel is mounted in front of the drive wheels and behind the rollers, allowing a clean cut all the way to the edges. The blades are made of hardened steel, and they never contact the bed knife, which increases cutting power while reducing friction, making it much easier to push the mower. The height adjustment lever allows users to quickly and easily match the mower height to the lawn conditions. In my tests, this mower produced the classic scissor-cut reel mower effect with way less effort.
Is the Fiskars StaySharp reel mower easy to use?
In our test of the Best Reel Mowers, the Fiskars StaySharp reel mower proved to be the easiest to use overall. Although it weighed almost twice as much as the others we tested, the weight seemed to work in its favor, maintaining a steady blade height without adding noticeably to the work of pushing it around the yard. The unique chain-drive design and low-friction blades more than offset the additional weight, making it much easier to push.
In addition to reducing friction, the drive design allowed the reel to spin freely under its own inertia after the drive wheels stopped, similar to the way a bicycle continues to roll when the rider stops pedaling. The continued motion reduced the effort required to resume mowing when avoiding an obstacle or changing direction, for instance. In all the other reel mowers we tested, movement and stoppage of the reel was directly linked to the movement and stoppage of the drive wheels.
Another aspect of the unique mid-mounted reel was that it enabled the Fiskars mower to operate on different types of terrain. Where other reel mowers were more limited when it came to bumpy or rocky ground, or mowing over exposed roots, this design combined with the heavy build made it a relative breeze to raise the blade and roll across more of these obstacles with less risk of the mower getting jammed or stuck.
How well does the Fiskars StaySharp reel mower cut grass?
The Fiskars reel mower did a great job cutting typical lawn grass. I tested it on tall fescue, Bermuda grass, and centipede lawns with varying weed presence. Like other reel mowers, it cuts with a scissor-like motion as the blades on the reel pass over the stationary bed knife. It left clean cuts with no ragged edges left behind to turn brown.
It did not perform as well where the lawn had grown so tall that the grass blades had begun to fall over, or where there were springy weed flowers and seed heads. Gas-powered rotary mowers produce a strong airflow under the deck that stands grass blades upright before cutting them. To cut tall grass with this mower, I had to raise the reel to its highest setting and then mow the area twice. This is not a great option for mowing areas that are infrequently maintained.
Is the Fiskars StaySharp reel mower worth the money?
At retail prices around $200, the Fiskars StaySharp reel mower may seem a bit pricey. This 18-inch reel mower, for example, costs less than $120. Both mowers offer five-blade reels and 18-inch cutting swaths. But the Fiskars mower weighs in at 52 pounds while the competitor only weighs 27 pounds. Spending the extra money on the Fiskars reel mower is an investment in a better design and higher overall quality.
The Fiskars StaySharp Max boasts a heavier build and much easier operation than competing reel mowers. Another significant difference is the offset wheel design. Since the competitor’s wheels are positioned outside the width of the cutting reel, they create tracks in the unmowed grass that may not stand up in time to get mowed on the next pass. But the mid-mounted reel on the Fiskars mower extends beyond the width of the wheels, ensuring that all the grass gets cut before it is tracked down by the mower wheels. The results are cleaner and more consistent.
Is the Fiskars StaySharp reel mower right for you?
The Fiskars StaySharp Max reel mower performed well on all our tests and was much easier to push than other reel mowers. Typical lawns were a snap to mow, even with twigs and weeds that caused old-style reel mowers to struggle. However, this mower may not be ideal for everyone.
Those with very small yards, narrow spaces to navigate, or limited storage space might consider a smaller reel mower, but be aware that height adjustment and other features will differ from those found on the Fiskars model. For small lawns with heavy weeds or those that are mowed infrequently, a corded electric mower or a battery-powered mower might be a better choice.
I really liked the Fiskars model for routine lawn care. The height adjustment lever made it easy to match the mowing conditions for different types of grass and varying terrain. The offset wheels rolled effortlessly over bumpy and rocky ground. At a pace of 2 to 3 miles per hour, an operator could use it to mow between a third and a half acre per hour. As one of the best manual mowers available, it could be an excellent choice for anyone with a small to midsize yard who wants to reduce their dependence on gasoline and batteries.
Where to Buy the Fiskars StaySharp Reel Mower
Get the Fiskars StaySharp Max reel mower at:
Meet the Tester
Mark Wolfe is a writer and product tester with an extensive background in the nursery and landscaping industry. For more than 20 years he mowed, edged, planted, pruned, cultivated, irrigated, and renovated beautiful landscapes. Now he tests and writes reviews about the latest outdoor power equipment, hand tools, lawn care products, and other outdoor-living goods.