Q: What power rating and blade length should I use?
A: Old, dense hedges will need a more powerful trimmer than one that is cut on a regular basis. A 40cm blade is sufficient for hedges of 1.5m to 1.6m. Improved productivity can be expected if a 75cm blade is used on taller hedges. Consider using a long-reach or pole trimmer on tall hedges. Models with articulating heads allow tops to be trimmed.
Q: When should I opt for an electric model?
A: These are of benefit when you need to use a hedgetrimmer for a long time. They weigh less than petrol-engine units and can have lower vibration levels. Significantly lower noise levels and lack of emissions mean they are also good in environmentally-sensitive areas. Electric units require less maintenance than petrol-powered machines, but they do require a suitable power source and cables will need moving constantly.
Q: Why are there singleand double-sided units?
A: Hedgetrimmers with double-sided blades can be used in both directions - outward and return on the horizontal and the vertical - maximising performance and increasing efficiency.
Safety is the main selling feature of single-sided units because it is easier to keep the cutting edge away from you. They are also preferred for conifers.
Q: Are battery-powered hedgetrimmers just a gimmick?
A: It's not that long ago that cordless hedgetrimmers were only suitable for domestic use. Recent developments in battery technology, however, now mean we are starting to see the introduction of models for professional use.
The first battery-operated commercial-grade hedgetrimmer, Echo's DHC-30, came to the market two years ago. It has a 12V sealed rechargeable battery, carried in a backpack. It should give 4.5 to five hours continuous use. The cutter is 750mm long and single-sided, operator presence control is fitted onto both handles and weight is just 3.5kg.
Last summer, Stihl moved into the market with two hand-held cordless units of professional quality. The HSA65 and HSA85 are powered by clean and long-lasting 36V lithium battery packs, giving up to 3,000 strokes per minute for a smooth and swift cut through material up to 22mm thick. Model HSA65 has a 500mm cutting bar with diamond-ground teeth, while the HSA85 has a 620mm bar and teeth that are ground on both sides. Cutter speed is varied by the rear-handle control.
At the heart of the trimmer, the AP 80 battery pack has 20 lithium-ion cells characterised by low self discharge. Running time is approximately 45 minutes and performance is maintained even if the battery is only partially discharged before being fully recharged.
Stihl offers a choice of two compact chargers - the standard AL100 charges the battery pack to 80 per cent capacity in 70 minutes, while the quick charger AL300 achieves the same level in just 25 minutes. The HSA65 comes with one battery and the standard charger, but model HSA85 is supplied with two AP80 battery packs and the AL300 quick charger. Changing the battery takes only seconds and is tool-free, so one battery can be charging while the other is in use. Additional batteries can be purchased separately at a cost of £106.38 ex VAT.
Q: Who supplies Little Wonder hedgetrimmers and Shindaiwa models?
A: Mantis UK distributes Little Wonder hedgetrimmers, which are electric, make 2,700 cuts per minute and have a cutting capacity of 127mm. The Stockport-based company imports eight models. You can choose between singleand double-sided units, 110V or 230V motors and blades of 610mm or 760mm.
Petrol-powered Shindaiwa machines, including long-reach articulating models with hybrid C4 engines, are now supplied in the UK by Echo Power Tools.
Q: Are there any new electric-powered trimmers?
A: Makita has added the UH4860/2 slimline electric hedgetrimmer to its range. This model has 480mm-long double-action, double-sided blades and is powered by a 400W motor. It will cut through branches up to 15mm in diameter and has a maximum blade speed of 1,600 strokes a minute.
The trimmer has a two-hand control system whereby releasing the forward handle activates the brake to stop blade movement in less that half a second.