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String Trimmers & Hedge Trimmers

String Trimmers & Hedge Trimmers: a buying guide

Finishing Touches to Your Lawn

After you finish mowing your lawn, a string trimmer and hedge trimmer can spruce up your yard by trimming hard-to-reach areas mowers can't get to. Touching up areas along fences and driveways gives your lawn a polished look and helps to improve the overall appearance of your home. So stop fiddling around with those hand clippers and pruning shears, and make things easier by adding a little extra outdoor power to your life.

String Trimmers & Hedge Trimmers: At a Glance

There are several different kinds of string and hedge trimmers to choose from, each with their own unique set of features. Before you buy, ask yourself a few important questions:

How large is my property?
Gas trimmers and hedgers offer great power and mobility, making them ideal for larger trimming jobs. Electric and rechargeable trimmers work better in smaller yards, where portability may not be as important.

What type of tasks will I be using my trimmer for?
If your lawn requires heavy-duty trimming, look to a gas trimmer or hedger to measure up well. Otherwise, an electric or rechargeable model should do the job for a lower initial purchase price.

Should I look for a trimmer with a straight or curved shaft?
Straight shaft trimmers make it easy to reach under fences and bushes, while a curved trimmer makes it easy to trim up close objects and may be more comfortable to use due to its well-balanced design.

Type  String Trimmer   Hedge Trimmer 
Gas
  • Cordless
  • High powered
  • 2 or 4-cycle engine
  • Ideal for lawns with many flowerbeds and boroughs
  • Straight or curved shank
  • Cordless
  • Offer maximum power and portability
  • Ideal for larger lawns with heavy-duty trimming needed
Electric
  • Corded
  • Lightweight
  • More economical and eco-friendly
  • Straight or curved shank
  • Corded
  • Lightweight
  • Less expensive than other models
  • May limit maneuverability
Rechargeable
  • Cordless
  • Battery powered
  • Charging required
  • Ideal for lawns with minimal trimming required
  • Greater portability than electric models
  • Eco-friendly
  • Cordless
  • Requires batteries and regular charging
  • Ideal for smaller trimming jobs

Choosing the Right String Trimmer

Trimmer Engines

Trimmer Engines

Gas trimmers are the better choice for cutting through tough grass and moving easily around flowerbeds and trees. Trimmers with 2-cycle engines run on a mixture of oil and gas, but models with 4-cycle engines offer the convenience of filling up your trimmer with the same fuel you put in your lawn mower. A 4-cycle engine will run cleaner but tends to be heavier than 2-cycle engine trimmers, causing you to tire quicker. An occasional tune-up will also be required on gas trimmers. These models also require pull-starting, so if you think you may have issues revving up your trimmer consider an electric-start model.

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Electric & Rechargeable Trimmers

Electric & Rechargeable Trimmer

If you're looking for a light and inexpensive trimmer, consider an electric trimmer to perform comparably as gas models. Electric trimmers are quiet; produce no exhaust emissions and will start with a simple pushbutton. Your range of motion may be limited by their power cord, and depending on your trimming chores, you might want a model with a higher amp volume for those tougher jobs. A rechargeable trimmer without the need for a power cord will let you move quicker and more quietly, but may deliver less power overall. These models may also need recharging depending on the longevity of your unit's battery.

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Trimmer Shanks

Trimmer Shanks

When it comes to your trimmer's shank, or shaft, you really only have two options – curved or straight. Straight shank trimmers are longer and make it easier to reach under fences and bushes. The extra length of these models will be better for taller users when reaching beneath bushes and shrubs, and also put more distance between the operator and debris near the cutting area, making them somewhat safer. Curved shank trimmers are easier to handle when trimming objects up close, and may be more comfortable to use over long periods of time due to their curved, more well-balanced design.

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Features to Look For:

Bump-feed line heads
Gives quick, easy line advancement without having to turn off the engine or cut power

4-cycle engines
A 4-cycle engine will run quieter than a 2-cycle engine, and requires only gasoline so you don't have to spend time mixing oil and gas

Pushbutton start
A pushbutton start will help you easily power-up your trimmer without the use of a pull-starter

Translucent fuel tanks
Gas trimmers with a translucent fuel tank let you closely monitor fuel levels to make sure you don't run out in the middle of a job

Rotating head
Trimmer heads that convert 180 degrees allow you to easily edge along borders, sidewalks and driveways

Choosing the Right Hedge Trimmer

If you only have one or two hedges in your yard, then a good manual hedge trimmer might do the trick. But if you have intricate landscaping, you'll likely need a gas or electric hedge trimmer to help keep things under control. With a host of options available, you can be sure to find a hedger designed to tackle the toughest jobs.

Gas vs. Electric Hedge Trimmers

Gas Hedge Trimmer

Choosing between a gas and electric hedge trimmer largely depends on the size of your yard, your budget and what you plan to cut. Gas hedgers offer maximum power and portability, and are ideal for heavy-duty trimming jobs, but tend to be noisier and smoky due to their fuel. A rechargeable hedger will offer less power than a gas model, but also give you freedom to roam wherever hedges need upkeep. They're also lightweight and clean to use, but you'll have to plan ahead to make sure you have a properly charged battery.

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Electric Hedge Trimmer

Corded hedge trimmers offer the convenience of immediate and continual use, and are relatively inexpensive compared to other models and will deliver the same cutting power as gas hedgers. However, these units will require extension cords to operate which may inhibit your distance when operating. If you plan to work some distance away from a power outlet, you may want to opt for a cordless or gas hedger.

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Hedge Trimmer Blades

Hedge Trimmer Blades

Take into account the size of hedges you'll be cutting in order to purchase a trimmer with the right length blade. Generally, the longer the blade length the more area it can cover, and the quicker you'll finish the job. Trimmer blades vary in size, with the range generally running from around 13" to 40". However, longer blades may be more difficult to handle with precision. The distance between the teeth, known as the blade gap, will determine the size of the branch the tool can handle. Professional or commercial grade trimmers tend to have a blade gap of 1" or more, but trimmers for residential use will work fine with a gap of 3/8" to 3/4".

Blades can also be single or doubled-sided. Single-sided blades – where only the top blade oscillates – are relatively safer because you can always make sure to trim away from your body. However, double-side blades are more common and will cut in both directions, helping you to work more efficiently.

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Features to Look For:

High-carbon steel blades
High-carbon steel blades last longer and provide more effective cutting, and can be sharpened to prolong life

Lock-on
If you're working on long and difficult tasks, a lock-on feature can help reduce fatigue by letting you to keep cutting without depressing the trigger

Telescopic shaft and pivoting head
A hedger with a pole extension and pivoting head allows you to trim hard-to-reach areas easily

Extra battery packs
If you purchase a cordless electric hedger, an extra battery pack will extend your hedger's runtime during larger jobs

A Word about Safety

As with any power tool, proper operation is the key to safety when using a trimmer. In addition to reading the user's manual, always remember the following safety tips before operating:

  • Wear proper safety protection, including goggles, gloves, boots and hearing protection
  • Turn off the trimmer when it's not in use, and when near bystanders
  • Disconnect the power when refueling and during maintenance
     
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