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The Difference Between a Rotary Lawnmower and a Cylinder Lawnmower

Are Cylinder Mowers Only for Lawn Enthusiasts

When a customer is selecting their new lawnmower, one of the most common questions asked is about the difference between a cylinder and a rotary blade. Atco (who manufacture cylinder lawnmowers) say the difference is like using a pair of scissors over using a knife for cutting string, You can try it so see what they mean, but its not quite as simple as that.

The Physical Difference Between Cylinder and Rotary Machines

Underside of a rotary lawnmoer The Front View of a Cylinder LawnmowerA rotary lawnmower has a metal bar underneath the lawnmower that has two sharpened knife type edges. This is spun at great speed, parallel to the ground and at right angles to the growing grass and this cuts the grass by smashing into it, essentially chopping the grass.

A cylinder lawnmower usually has six blades at the front of the mower that are rotated and then trap the grass against a bottom plate, slicing it like a pair of scissors.

Cylinder Mowers Gives a Better Cut

Because of its slicing, scissor type action a well maintained cylinder lawn mower will give a superior cut to that of a rotary mower. As one enthusiast put it to me, 'It is like the difference between cutting a loose piece of string with a knife or a pair of scissors.' Other cylinder supporters will use cutting hair in the same type of analogy.

Other gardeners are less impressed and will tell you that a rotary mower with sharp blades and sufficient power produces a cut that is so good that most people can't tell the difference and see the cylinder brigade as 'purists'.

Rotary Lawnmowers Have Lower Mower Maintenance Costs

Maintaining a cylinder mower is more complex than the maintainable of a rotary mower. The blades will need to be kept keen for both types, but rotary mower blades can be sharpened by you, whereas sharpening process for a cylinder machine is far more complex and costly. Furthermore, if you try to cut the grass with blunt cylinder blades then the mower will ‘chew’ the grass producing a terrible cut - worse than a blunt rotary mower.

The blades on a cylinder mower will also need regular adjustment to ensure that the slicing, scissor action is kept to optimum performance. If you just want to get out there and cut the darn lawn, then avoid cylinder mowers.

Height Adjustment

Perhaps a more important difference between rotary mowers and cylinder mowers is the range and type of height adjustment. A quality cylinder lawnmower can ‘shave’ as close as 3/16” and can be raised up to about an inch without too much loss of mowing quality. A typical rotary lawnmower on the other hand won’t go much below 1/2” and can be raised up to perhaps 3” or even 4” without deterioration in cut.

The narrow range of height adjustment on a cylinder mower often means mowing at least twice a week in the growing season to keep within the 'one third rule'. This also enables the mower to work properly and cut the grass cleanly. For your information, bowling and golf greens are usually cut every one to two days in the playing season!

Final Thoughts On Selecting Your Lawnmower

A good quality rotary mower with sharpened blades will give you a cut you can be proud of so why do you want anything more? Well, personally I just love the whole sound of the blades whirring, the machine ticking over and I do love the finish that I get with the keen cylinder blades and the heavy rear roller. Others can seriously tell the difference in cut quality.

A slightly more tongue in cheek way of putting it is to say that cylinder mowers are for serious lawn enthusiasts or pro greens keepers (your local golf club and bowls club will use a cylinder mower) and that rotary mowers are for normal people.

Buxtons Can Help

Buxtons stock a wide range of rotary lawnmowers and cylinder lawnmowers from all the top brands like Qualcast, Atco, Honda, Bosch, Mountfield, Stiga, Viking and Hayter

If you would like to have a chat with one of our machinery specialists we can help you find the right machine, whether you are a normal person or purists like me. Either way, please feel free to call us on 01785 712 397.