What makes brushcutters and trimmers so great is the diversity of models, power ratings and attachments. And with such a huge range it can be difficult to know what to choose. Should you opt for a bent shaft or straight? Are loop or bike handles better? What’s the difference between models powered by two-stroke, four-stroke and hybrid engines? Do you need a hand-held or backpack machine? How much power is required? What attachments do you need?
Fortunately, there are some rules. Let’s start with the attachments. Nylon-line heads are designed to rip through grass and are suited to trimming along fence lines and around obstacles such as trees, signposts and headstones. Grass blades come into their own where the vegetation has been allowed to grow long or has become dense, or where it is contaminated with weeds such as thistles or docks. Saw blades are effective against shrubby growth and saplings.
The key point to remember is that if you think you will need a blade now or in the future, you must choose a brushcutter with a straight shaft with bike-style handlebars. Never attempt to fit a blade to a machine with a curved shaft or that has a simple loop handle.
Yes, you are probably thinking that loop-handled trimmers are for domestic use anyway. However, they can have a place in the professional workplace. This style is particularly useful for cutting vegetation on steep slopes and along the edges of ditches and streams because they can out-manoeuvre the bike-handled versions. Operators can find it easier to maintain a good balance in these conditions. The loop-handled machine is also a good type to have in the shed for those quick “grab it and trim” jobs, because it saves climbing into the harness.
Loop-handled machines tend to be lightweight and easy to use, but make sure the unit has sufficient power to do the job and accelerates rapidly so the work is done quickly and efficiently.
Where there is a lot of mowing work to be done, and especially where the ground is flat, the bike-handled machine is the best option because it is designed to enable the operator to maintain a scything action. This is the style to choose where long hours of work are anticipated, but it does require the operator to wear a harness.
Frequency of cut is also important. In conjunction with the type of vegetation, the density of growth will determine the most suitable power rating. Grass that is left to grow for eight weeks will be much more dense and need a more powerful machine than grass that is trimmed every three or four weeks.
As with loop-handled trimmers, you should check out the acceleration of the unit and make sure it is an efficient machine. Brushcutter work can be tiring, so select one that is lightweight, well balanced and comfortable to use — especially if you will be using it for long periods. The harness needs to spread the load over the body and must be a good fit while still allowing movement. Adjustments such as moving the holding position on the harness and altering the position and angle of the handlebars should be quick and easy to make. Check that the handlebars can be folded flat for transport and storage.
As with all hand-held power products, it is important to inspect the anti-vibration features and ask for details of the vibration and noise levels as these will determine how long the machine can be used for and what hearing protection is required.
In noise-sensitive areas such as cemeteries and public gardens, it is worth looking at four-stroke machines and those with hybrid engines.
If you need to trim hedges, edge lawns and cultivate between plants in a border, you may find one of the quick-change multi-tool systems is useful. It could also save you money.
Ideally, you should see a demonstration or test the machine yourself before purchase. And, although some models are relatively cheap to buy, you must remember to enquire about dealer support, warranties and the availability of spare parts.
Finally, be sure to check that you have all the appropriate protective clothing and equipment that you will need, and that they are in good condition.
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