The main considerations when looking at buying a handheld hedgetrimmer are the amount and frequency of trimming to be done, the size of hedges and the species involved.
Petrol-powered hedgetrimmers are recommended for large hedges. However, if regular clipping of extensive formal hedges is required — and for situations where a hedgetrimmer has to be used for many hours at a time — you might consider an electric trimmer. Electric trimmers are much lighter in weight than their engine-powered counterparts and, therefore, tend to be less tiring on the arms, shoulders and back. But, of course, you will need access to a power source and it can be a nuisance constantly moving the cable.
Petrol-powered trimmers offer increased mobility over electric units. Generally, they also have greater cutting ability — up to 25mm, depending on the model, compared to 12mm or so for electric models. Against them, petrol-powered machines are weightier and likely to require more maintenance.
The size of hedgetrimmer and its blade length will depend on the size of hedge to be cut. A 40cm blade is usually deemed sufficient for an average-sized hedge up to 1.50m or 1.60m high. Trimmers with blades up to 75cm are available for larger hedges. Look for a model with plenty of power and sharp blades.
You also need to consider whether single-sided or double-sided blades are more appropriate. Efficiency is one of the major attractions of double-sided blades. Such trimmers can be used in large sweeping movements, both horizontally and vertically, while standing in the same position. Safety is a big selling point for single-sided machines because it is easier to hold the cutting edge away from the arms and body. Many users also prefer single-sided trimmers for cutting conifer hedges.
Consider the hedge height. Low hedges can mean stooping for hours at a time. High hedges are just as much of a problem. Ideally, you want to keep the back straight and both feet on the ground, regardless of the hedge height.
One of the greatest innovations is the long-reach or telescopic trimmer. It doesn’t matter whether the hedge is high or low; these trimmers can eliminate the need for work platforms and can save hours of back bending when working on low hedges. With articulating cutting heads, the blades can be angled to cut the sides or along the top. Check how many different positions the head can attain — some models have infinitely variable changes up to 180?, others may have a set number of working positions.
Noise, emissions and vibration are a concern to all operators. As well as affecting the user, noise and emissions can also be an issue when using two-stroke machines in public places. Recent developments in hybrid engine technology have resulted in a new generation of quieter, less smelly machines. Of course, neither noise nor emissions are a problem with electric trimmers. Investigate the anti-vibration features on petrol-powered models. Dual reciprocating blades, where the blades move past each other, tend to have reduced vibration.
Always consider the weight and balance of a machine. This is a good example of where it is important to handle the goods before purchase. Check the handles are comfortable. Some machines have handles that twist to different positions. Safety features — such as hand guards, stop buttons and throttle trigger — should also be investigated.
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