Advice Needed on a Used Mclane Reel Mower

hbcsc153April 13, 2009


I live in Southern California (San Fernando Valley) and have about 5,000 sq. ft of Bermudagrass. The gardener we have cuts it once a week with a regular powered mower. Was told that I should cut with a Reel type mower. Anyway, picked up a McLane 17 inch on Craiglist for $75. Thought that getting it serviced would be best, and the nearest lawn mower placed wanted $375 to replace belts and service it. He said that it seems bearly used, and was a 1980 (I think) model. Decided that it was not worth the money. The buddy who went with me said that he will give it a shot to start it up. He changed the gas and replaced the air filter. Second pull it started up fine.

The gardener says that the blades need to be sharpened, but not sure. After reading this forum, I am not sure how I should proceed. My options would be to lower the cutting height and try it again, get the blades sharpened (approximately how much to sharpen) and try, to just put it back on Criagslist and let gardener continue with his "weed spreading" mower, or some other option.

Experts, please recommend.

Thanks in advance.



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I'd cut my losses and get rid of the 17" McLane. Even in good condition it's not a very good mower. Yours is almost 30 years old, which means it has the old "points & condenser" ignition if it is original Briggs & Stratton. Besides $375 to service is outrageous.

Suggest you look for a 20" McLane or go a little further upmarket for a 20" Trimmer or 21" Tru-Cut. All are widely available in the LA Basin thru the Recylcer or Craigslist.

The Mclane 20" is a much better design than the 17" and should provide years or service if properly maintained. It was basically a less expensive redesign of the original Trimmer Mower, using belt drive, stampings instead of castings, and self-threading fasteners.

The Trimmer and Tru-Cut come in both Homeowners and Professional models. The home versions will use bushings instead of ball bearings, and cut a few corners. The home models are a step up from McLane, and the pro models are just that.

Any power reel mower is going to need full sharpening every four to five years, and should be back-lapped annually or every other year to get best cutting performance. A sharpening with a relief grind should be about $100 to $125. A spin grind should be cheaper, but if the mechanic doesn't have relief equipment (Foley, Near, or Fate-Root-Heath) he'll try to tell you that spin grind is just as good. Backlapping will cost about $50, but this is something you can do yourself, if you are patient.

You should be able to find an older, but serviceable 20" McLane for $100 and up. Later model will set you back $300 to $500. Trimmers and Tru-Cuts start at about $200 and you can go north of $600 for a good one. Be careful looking at high mileage Trimmers and Tru-Cuts. Many have been used commercially, and rode hard and put away wet.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 3:44PM
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Thanks for the advice. Would your suggestions changed in the following situation? I called a different lawn mower place, and they charge $7 per blade to sharpen, and $65 to service it. Thoughts?



    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 12:49AM
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The servicing figures at the new place seem more realistic, although I have never had sharpening quoted that way. Are you sure they know you are talking about a reel mower? Proper sharpening involves grinding the reel (or cylinder as its known across the Atlantic) and then grinding the bed knife, and then lapping the two together, and then finally setting final clearances. $7 a blade sounds more like the quote to sharpen a rotary mower blade.

Also, at the end of the day you are still left with a 17" McLane, which I consider an inferior mower. You don' say whether your 17" has 5 blades or 7 blades, nor whether it is push or self-propelled. It's ultimately your call, but I do not consider any 17" McLane to be a keeper.

Again, I'd recommend getting rid of the 17". If it runs as well as you say, you should be able to get $50 to $75 from Craigslist or the Recylcer, and then invest the proceeds as partial payment towards a 20" McLane. Get one with a 7 blade reel, and once professionally sharpened you should be good to go.

If you go Trimmer or Tru-Cut (20" or 21") a 5 blade reel is adequate although 7 blade is better. Both use cast spiders and heavier blades and bed knives, so the 5 blade produces a better cut than the 5 blade McLane.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 12:01PM
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Is rebuilding a lawn mower engine worth the cost? or buy a new engine?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2015 at 1:33PM
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I'll assume you are talking about a horizontal shaft motor for a McLane mower or similar application.

There is no simple answer. It depends whether you are doing the work, or having the rebuilding done professionally. Also, the extent of the work also makes a difference.

If you are talking about a full rebuild, including boring the cylinder, replacing piston and rings, cutting valve seats and grinding valves, and possibly replacing main bearings and connecting rod; the answer is NO. You can easily get to $300 or $400 in this scenario. The engine will last another 20 years if you keep oil in it, but I don't think it's economical.

IF you are mechanical and do the work yourself, you can cut the cost in half; more if you have a machine shop bore the cylinder, less if the bore is OK and you simply replace the rings.

Keep in mind that a new Briggs or Honda OHC (GC) engine is about $200 to $225. A premium engine (Honda GX OHV) is about $400 or more. The Chinese Honda clones are a viable option and run $120 to $140. Five or ten years ago, I would not have recommended a "Chonda" clone, but they have proven to be pretty good motors, especially for the money. They are sold at outlets like Northern Tool, Harbor Freight, Tulsa Engine Warehouse and others.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2015 at 3:24PM
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