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Discussion Forum

Sickle Bar Mowers

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03-16-2003 19:09:39

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I am wanting to get at least a 6' sickle bar mower for my 960. I would like a rotary mower, but I am not rich. I have heard that I should stay away fron the pitman arm type mowers and try and get a belt drive. Any advice?

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03-17-2003 12:21:24

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 Re: Sickle Bar Mowers in reply to Dan, 03-16-2003 19:09:39  
I have run all three types as well, sickle bar, mower conditioner, and brush hog (rotary mower). Never run a disc mower, but Paul is right, they can mow much quicker and in wet conditions, but aren't worth the cost unless you are cutting for hay. I have an 801 that I run a 6' brush hog behind and at one time I was mowing about 45 acres with it. The 6' made the 801 a little light on the front end, but not bad. Your 960 could handle one without a problem. The advantages of a sickle mower is that it does leave the grass lay long, so it is good for hay, but if you aren't picking it up, it can lay on top of the good grass. Another advantage that has not been listed is that a sickle bar can be used to mow roadbank and pond banks at an angle and get into places that you can't get to with another mower because it sticks out from the tractor, like under low hanging trees and branches.
I would not use a sickle in heavily brushed areas with anything thicker than your thumb. That work should be left to a brush hog. A brush hog can handle smalls trees up to about the size of your wrist. If used in a field, a brush hog will "mulch" the grass better so the good grass can come up through. If you want a yard like look, I would look at a finish mower.
I have not had many problems with the pitman arm. Yes, I have broken a few, but normally it is my own fault, trying to run the bar at too steep of an angle. You won't break any in an open field.
So, I would recommend a brush hog or finish mower, unless you have a lot of banks to mow. If you are in open field, you will also save time with a brush hog or finish mower. Mowing with a sickle bar takes some getting used to.

Hope this helps.


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Phil Munson

03-17-2003 09:57:12

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 Re: Sickle Bar Mowers in reply to Dan, 03-16-2003 19:09:39  
I have a six foot bush hog and a six foot sickle mower. The bush hog uses power like crazy and leaves a mess compared to the sickle mower. I prefer the sickle mower. If you have your land in shape you will seldom be replacing sickles and guards. Pitman sticks, unabused, usually rot from the weather, which takes years. When replacing the pitman stick make sure you get the knives in register. For better cutting make sure the lead is right on the cutterbar; a quarter inch per foot of length.

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Fighting suburbia in NC

03-17-2003 05:57:25

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 Re: Sickle Bar Mowers in reply to Dan, 03-16-2003 19:09:39  
By rotary do you mean a flail mower? Or a regular bush hog type blade mower?

Sickle bars can be used for some heavy woody stem brush cutting if it has the thicker serrated blades on the cutter bar. A bush hog is probably a little stronger in the heavy stuff and doesn't clog up and bog down like a sickle can. If the sickle teeth are dull you will really have to go slow in the thick grass. Pitman arm types are prone to snapping the sacrificial arm link under heavy shock.

I think Jim, UT has an old Ford sickle with the wooden Pitman arm and has had good luck with it. Maybe he can enlighten everyone on the pros and cons and the proper way to run one.

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03-17-2003 12:02:29

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 Re: Re: Sickle Bar Mowers in reply to Fighting suburbia in NC, 03-17-2003 05:57:25  
Actually, I have a John Deere #9 with a 7' blade and a wooden pitman. The first two years I used it I broke a pitman per year. Then I finally wised up and realized that the pitman only breaks while being used...thus needing immediate replacement since the field is only 1/2 when it breaks. So I bought a spare pitman to keep on the shelf. Since then I have not broken any pitmans. I think that's because I have finally learned how to keep the end of the sickle out of the fence and I remove the pitman stick at the end of each season and store it indoors during the winter. Now I'm trying to figure out how to stop breaking the grass board! (I've got several spares all cut and ready to install).

My JD#9 works real well on my grass/alfalfa. Last year I cut a neighbors field that he was trying to rejuvenate after several years of neglect. It had lots of reedy weeds and tumbleweeds. The sickle got clogged up several times. A bush hog type mower would have done a better job in that instance. This year we'll keep that field cut before the tumbleweeds get too tall.

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03-17-2003 07:08:09

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 Re: Re: Sickle Bar Mowers in reply to Fighting suburbia in NC, 03-17-2003 05:57:25  
sickle bars are designed to cut tall grass and leave it long for forage and haying.. otherwise they are a terrible pain... you must have clean fields, no sticks or rocks or stumps.. you are always repairing broken guards and replacing blades,, they dont cut well in one direction and cut great in the other.. it leave very very long cuttings. and you must trave the correct speed for the cuttings to clear the blade.

so unless your haying,, get a shredder or if you have a yard, get a finish mower.. both will work better for common mowing with less upkeep.

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03-17-2003 07:18:22

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 Re: Re: Re: Sickle Bar Mowers in reply to bill, 03-17-2003 07:08:09  
reread your post,,you Are haying?? yes,, sickle bars are actually starting to replace disc cutters.. yes,, disc cutters are not cracking up to what they are supposed to be.. you have to change the blades each day and sometime at noon when cutting. they wear out quickly and require too much maintainance, so lots of hayers are actually going BACK to sicklecutters.. newholland actually has a newer one with double cutting teeth that is working really well.. but to answer your question,, the old ford 500 series and newholland 450, 451 series last forever for haying.. but yes, i usually break a guard or blade every time even in clean fields. so be prepared to grind out the rivets and replace a $1.50 blade or replace a $7 buck guard.. dont jump into a disc cutter,, as i think they may be going away or need some serious improvments. if you do get a disc cutter, get one that you can replace all the gears from the top,, as your will be doing this.. and even though blades are cheap, you will have to change them often...

so a sickle is not a bad way to go... a cutter- conditioner is better but you dont need to condition light crops..

good luck,, bill

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03-17-2003 08:39:13

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 Re: Re: Re: Re: Sickle Bar Mowers in reply to Bill, 03-17-2003 07:18:22  
Hum. I've run a 501 with a wood pitman on 20 acres or so for, oh, 25 years. Never changed the wood, and only broke 2 guards - when I caught the culvert in the road ditch. I have lots of hills & lots of rocks.

I hear the belt drives are better, but when the wobble box wears out, it's big bucks.

Now, my mower/conditioner picks up every single rock I have and I a few I don't have - I replace a sickle or guard every 5 acres it seems.

Disc mowers will cut much faster & in wet conditions, but of course cost a lot more. Much longer time between breakdowns, but they are more expensive to repair.


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