But our tester, surveying the display of gadgets, looks sceptical. He has seen multi-tool systems in catalogues but has yet to be convinced they have a place in the professional market.
“People usually buy them for a specific reason — the hedgetrimmer is the most popular,” continues the rep. “Then they come back for other bits as they need them.”
The evolution of multi-tool systems is a tale dating back almost 50 years to when Stihl first added a choice of attachments to one of its forestry chainsaws, enabling the engine to drive a range of tools. Ongoing developments have brought us the clearing saw, with a variety of heads — from nylon lines for grass trimming to metal blades for brushcutting, and a circular saw blade for thinning saplings.
In the 1990s, the story took a twist when the company offered a clearing saw series where the head could be replaced with a hedgetrimmer, pruner or cultivator. In 2000, the CombiSystem was launched, using the “splitting shaft” concept to provide a power unit and attachments that connect simply and securely without the need for tools.
The Combi is available with two types of engine — the Stihl two-stroke or the Stihl 4-MIX — and with either loop or bike handles. We prepare the KM130
4-MIX version for hedgetrimming. Changing the attachment is remarkably fast. There’s no fiddly lining up of the shafts, latches or awkward clips. Two wire guides ensure the shafts connect, so it’s simply a case of inserting the pole and turning the hand nut.
We find the CombiSystem, with the hedgetrimmer in place, is easy to manoeuvre and the 4-MIX engine is quiet.
A quick change of implement and we have the scrub cutter in place — an option only available from Stihl. This has a skid plate underneath. We use it on the estate boundary where Lainston meets rural countryside. The scrub cutter is a “cut and drop” unit. It does an excellent job in the nettles and brambles, and we reckon it would be well suited to work on river banks and for cutting reeds.
The harness has been designed to provide comfort and control for pole pruner users and was developed after seeing TV camera operators on sports-pitch touchlines. Suspending the pole pruner from an aluminium jib mounted on the user’s back should give control, freedom of movement and comfort as well as relieving the spine from strain and leaving the wearer’s hands free to operate the tool.
The harness has a soft, padded backpack with washable padding and, using a key provided, is designed to adjust for a small, medium or large fit.
We move on to Stihl’s MM55 MultiSystem. It arrives, handles folded, in the back of an estate car. It is lightweight — less than 8kg — and is easy to lift out of the car. The handles are easy to straighten and secured by means of a wing nut. This unit has a 27.2cc two-stroke engine and is described by Stihl as “a powerful assistant to many garden and grounds maintenance tasks”. Not all the attachments make use of wheels, so the wheel kit is extra.
The capabilities of the MultiSystem lie in three groups of tasks — keeping things tidy (sweeping); cultivation, using pick or bolo tines to prepare a fine tilth and mark out drills; and lawn care. The last of these includes aeration, scarification and edging.
We reckon both systems are suited to landscapers working from a van. The CombiSystem in particular would also be useful on estates, with the hedgetrimmer, line head and brush combining well, taking up little space in the shed and being perfectly capable of performing the tasks required.
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