Tested This Issue
Tondu TMT 26-5
The Review Panel
Mike Baldwin, director of learning, Derby College (assisted by second-year horticulture students)
With a multi-tool kit you can do just about anything - trim round trees, clear vegetation, reach up to prune the lower branches of trees or cut hedges, including high hedges - all from a neat, compact package comprising one engine and a variety of attachments. That means just one engine to maintain. It also means everything will fit into a small van or shed.
Multi-tool kits are great if you only have a small but diverse area to maintain around a property, a garden round or are just starting out in business and the bank was less than helpful. Instead of paying out for hedge cutter and engine, line trimmer and engine, brushcutter and engine and pole pruner and engine, simply invest in one engine and the cutting heads that you need. Some kits also include pick tines and powered brooms so you can fluff up the borders and clean the driveway as you finish the job.
Although ideal for saving space as well as for saving money, there is a downside to consider when investing in a multi-tool system. Remember that you are relying on one engine to do many jobs. In the event of that engine failing, hedges and grass will go untrimmed and pruning will have to wait until the fault can be fixed.
With most of the outdoor powered product manufacturers offering at least one kit, there are many from which to choose. They work on a split-shaft system and most are two-stroke, with some form of scavenging to reduce emissions, but there are kits with four-stroke engines and also kits that are powered by battery. In this review, led by Mike Baldwin with the assistance of second-year horticulture students, we look at options from DMMP and Barrus. The weather on the day of the test was fine and sunny.
If you are looking for a commercial machine that will cut hedges, trim grass around obstacles, prune branches and even cut back reeds in ponds, this one is worth a closer look. If much of your work is on banks, in bunkers or ditches, or wading through water to remove aquatic material, there is a backpack version to help you keep your balance.
Perhaps not the best-known in the UK, Maruyama is a leading Japanese manufacturer of commercial-grade power equipment, including pumps and sprayers, for use in agriculture, horticulture, landscape maintenance, disaster control and industry. The company is based in Tokyo and for more than a century has been an innovator in the design and manufacture of engine technologies. Today Maruyama prides itself on producing tools to work for a living.
Our first test of Maruyama equipment was at Cannington Campus of Bridgwater College (HW, 20 March), where we were impressed with its line trimmers and brushcutters.
We may laugh at our attempts to pronounce the name, but Maruyama tools are serious kit. There is a lot to like about them, not least the five-year warranty - that's five years on the engine and a lifetime warranty on the drive shaft.
The students gasp as they take in the information and there are quizzical expressions as they work out probable implications in terms of purchase cost. "This is going to be expensive," one mutters.
One look at the equipment and it is clear to see that the Multi-Cutter system has been designed with versatility and productivity in mind. Adapting to most applications, the system transforms from brushcutter to hedge trimmer to edger to pruner quickly and easily, making use of just one engine - although there is actually a choice of three different power units.
Power unit number one is the 2600RS, a 25.4cc two-stroke engine with 0.6-litre fuel tank and solid-steel split driveshaft. Weighing in at 4kg, it is a handheld unit and features a D-handle with kick bar - some would call it a P-handle. A big advantage is Maruyama's Reverse Start. It means an effortless gentle pull is all that is required to fire the engine into life. It costs £299 + VAT so is already more expensive than the whole Tondu system also tested today. But we must not forget the five-year commercial warranty.
A more powerful option is the M321 (not tested here). This has the same 7mm solid-steel split driveshaft, Dor P-handle and 0.6-litre fuel tank but weighs a bit more at 4.38kg due to the larger 31.8cc engine. The cost of this power unit is £319.95 + VAT.
For anyone looking for good balance and stability while working on banks, in ditches or wading in streams and ponds, the M42BK is Maruyama's backpack power unit. It has a flexi cable, 8mm solid-steel split driveshaft and offers even more power from a 41.8cc engine spring-mounted on the backpack.
As you would expect, the cost is higher again (£699.95 + VAT) but vibrations are substantially lower - factory recorded at 2.5m/s2 for the front handle and 3.6m/s2 on the rear when using the nylon line trimmer. This compares with 5.6m/s2 and 7.4m/s2 for the 31.8cc handheld version (measurements according to ISO 22867).
The attachments are individually priced, all have five-year warranties and all fit each of the three power units. There is also a 21in extension bar to increase reach when using the hedge cutters or pole pruner.
For safely working from ground level, the pole pruner has a 1.5m driveshaft and is fitted with the well-respected 10in Oregon bar and low-kick chain. Oil flow is regulated with a screw. There are three options for cutting hedges - one short-reach fixed and two long-reach articulated models. Each is made from hardened chromed steel with blades precision sharpened on three edges for a smooth cut. The short-reach cutter has 60cm blades and will cut a maximum diameter of 6.5mm.
Articulating through 132 degs, the 40cm hedge trimmer attachment has an overall length of 1.31m, while the 60cm model gives 270 degs articulation and is 1.51m long. Both trimmers have a maximum cutting diameter of 5mm. Prices for the hedge cutter attachments range from £220 to £395 + VAT.
We also look at the nylon cord trimmer, offered with fixed, bump or Maruyama's ULflow head, and at the Landscape Blade. The latter, having a self-sharpening scissor action, is seen as a huge step forward in safety in that it does the same job as a line trimmer or brushcutter but lays cut material down rather than throwing it.
With brushcutter safety margins now suggested at 15m, the Landscape Blade is the perfect choice if you are working close to windows, cars or other objects that could be damaged by projectiles. We find it is also much more pleasant for the operator.
We run through the prices again. They seem steep compared to some kits but then Maruyama is quality and there is that five-year commercial warranty. Baldwin tells the students: "This clearly is the type of kit you need to keep your contracts running smoothly. You may not be able to afford it straight away, but it is something to aim for in the long term and then consider it an investment."
He adds: "The handheld Multi-Cutter works well and if you needed more power you could always upgrade to the bigger one. For work on banks and in water, anywhere you need to be sure-footed, the backpack machine comes into its own - although it is a lot heavier. The straps are well padded but you need to make sure they are adjusted correctly and fasten the belt so some of the weight is taken on the hips.
"The attachments are all good but the Landscape Blade is particularly impressive, allowing you to work quickly and efficiently close to buildings and cars while, hopefully, avoiding claims for compensation."
1 2600RS Handheld 25.4cc two-stroke with 7mm solid-steel, split-shaft driveshaft, 4kg, £299 + VAT
2 M30 Handheld 31.8cc two-stroke with 7mm solid-steel, split-shaft driveshaft, 4.38kg, £319.95 + VAT
3 M42BK Backpack-mounted 41.8cc two-stroke engine with flexi cable and 8mm solid steel, split-shaft driveshaft, 10.4kg, £699.95 + VAT
Fuel tank capacity 0.6 litres
Line trimmer Straight shaft, 81cm long, 1kg, £220 + VAT
Landscape blade Straight shaft with circular scissor-action blade, 1.7kg without shaft, £220 + VAT
Hedge cutter (fixed) Straight shaft, 94cm long, carrying 60cm blades with 6.5mm cutting capacity, 2.7kg, £220 + VAT
Hedge cutter (articulating) 1.31m long with 40cm cutter articulating through 132 degs, 2.2kg, £295 + VAT/1.51m long with 60cm cutter articulating through 270 degs, 2.7kg, £395 + VAT
Pole pruner Straight shaft, 1.5m long with 10in (25.5cm) guide bar giving 18cm cutting capacity, oil flow regulating screw, 2.9kg, £260 + VAT
Other attachments Extension shaft and landscape sweeper
Warranty Five years, commercial use
Tel DMMP - 0845 643 9776
Tondu TMT 26-5
£249? Including VAT? That gets you a hedge cutter, line trimmer, bladed brushcutter, pole pruner and an extension piece to let you reach higher up the hedge or tree. I won't tell the tester and students the cost until they have all tried it. They will not believe it.
The Tondu TMT 26-5 five-in-one multi tool was introduced in the UK by Barrus last year. It is called a five-in-one multi-cutter, although it is really a four-tool set-up but with an extension that can provide an extra-long hedge cutter or an extra-high-reach pole pruner. Could that mean it is a six-in-one kit?
At its heart is a 26cc two-stroke engine with full crankshaft and a 0.6-litre fuel tank. The attachments are simple to fit - line up, push together until they click and tighten the hand nut. The package of tools is intended to supply what you need for any cutting or trimming job in the garden and to save money over buying individually powered items. Well, it certainly does the latter. Quick arithmetic gives us a total of at least £1,000 or £1,600 upwards if you go for one of the well-known brands.
For tough overgrown areas the Tondu kit provides a brushcutter attachment with three-tooth metal brush blade, while lighter trimming of grass is catered for with a bent-shaft, nylon-line trimmer. It has a 42cm cutting width and tap 'n' go bump feed, so trimming up or light mowing should be quick.
The hedge cutter attachment has a 40cm blade length, double reciprocating is suitable for medium-diameter growth. The cutter head can be rotated through 180 degs in 12 positions via a simple lever system - no pins to insert, no nuts to tighten. By itself the hedge cutter reaches high but by adding the extension shaft a further 70cm can be attained to get at those difficult branches.
The powered pruner head comprises a 25.5cm chainsaw head with automatic chain lubrication. This too can be used with the extension to give an additional 70cm of height. Cutting capacity is up to 18cm.
Power unit and all attachments are remarkably lightweight, despite being solid and well constructed. Users should find them easy and less tiring than heavier machines. Let's find out.
Baldwin needs to trim some excess growth from trees in the arboretum. Click. The attachment is quickly fitted but there is a pause while he tries to adjust the chain tension - a task made difficult by the screw being tight up against the guide bar. Then he asks me to start the engine. Choke on, a couple of pushes on the primer bulb and pull the starter. The engine fires on the second pull but then dies.
Choke off and pull again. This time it fires into life but, as I pull the starter, my fingers catch the choke lever and put it back to the "on" position. They are so close together. It is a small detail, perhaps, but something to be aware of when starting this one.
In use, the pruner exceeds our expectations. We want to try another attachment but cannot easily disconnect the pruner head. We find that a tough fingernail or the blade of a screwdriver is all that is required to pop the latch and release the head.
Line trimmer, brushcutter and hedge cutter all work superbly and with little noticeable vibration. Adding the extension pole gives a little flex in the shaft but less than might be expected when adding extra length. Overall we are impressed, with the students noting that it is extremely lightweight and easy to use. "It's good, and so light. I like it," one informs me. I tell them the price. There is a gasp of disbelief.
"It's lightweight and simple to use," says Baldwin. "It will take up little room in the shed and is easy to transport in the van or even car boot. It does have one or two annoyances - catching the choke when you pull the starter and fiddling to get shafts apart to change the head - but you can put up with that.
"Using it commercially you only have a 90-day warranty, but it seems robust and for anyone doing a little work it is fine. Certainly for those starting up a business it means they can get on with earning money and getting contracts. They could always trade up to something more commercial later."
Engine Two-stroke, 26cc
Drive Centrifugal clutch
Shaft type Straight, split
Harness Single strap (shoulder)
Fuel tank capacity 0.6 litres
Line trimmer Bent shaft with two-line nylon head giving 38-42cm cutting width, 1.9kg
Brushcutter Straight shaft, 65.5cm long with three-tooth metal blade giving 20cm cutting width, 1.8kg
Hedge cutter Straight shaft, 65.5cm long with articulating head adjustable through 180 degs in 12 positions, carrying 40cm double reciprocating blades and weighing 2.2kg
Pole pruner Straight shaft, 65.5cm long with 10in (25.5cm) guide bar giving 18cm cutting capacity, automatic oiling, 2kg
Extension shaft 70cm for use with hedge cutter and pole pruner, 1.2kg
Warranty Two years homeowner, 90 days commercial use
List price £249 including VAT and attachments
Tel Barrus - 01869 363636.