It’s important to assess the type of vegetation that requires cutting as this will determine whether you need a blade — and this is a very good starting point. Nylon-line heads are designed to whip through grass. They do a really good job of trimming around trees and obstacles, and are particularly useful for clearing up areas left after mowing.
Blades, on the other hand, like it tough and rough. There are various styles of blade available, the three-bladed ones being effective for cutting dense grass or areas contaminated with brambles and briars, while saw-toothed blades are for woody material. The latter come under clearing-saw applications and should only be used for taking out saplings and brushwood.
The reason it is important to consider the type of cutting head first is because it affects not only the power rating but also the shaft and handle configuration of units to go on your shortlist. If you suspect you need to use a blade now or in the future, you should choose a brushcutter with a straight shaft and bike-style handlebars. Blades can only be fitted on this type of unit — you should never ever attempt to fit and use a blade on a loop-handled trimmer.
Small loop-handled trimmers are often dismissed as domestic products but they can be useful in the professional workplace. As lightweight units they are particularly suited to work on banks, uneven ground and along the sides of watercourses. In these situations, loop-handled machines are more manoeuvrable than bike-handled ones and you’ll find it easier to maintain balance when working on slopes and difficult terrain.
Bike-handled models come into their own when the work area is flat and extensive. For large areas you need to adopt a mowing action and with this type of machine it is easy to “scythe” the vegetation with a swaying motion.
It’s important to realise that bike-handled units will require a harness. Make sure the harness is comfortable if you need to mow for long hours and that it has some quick-release mechanism.
The “grab and trim” nature of loop-handled machines means they are best if your work is only in short bursts and infrequent. But in all cases weight and balance are important.
Engines vary from 18cc up to 52cc and need to be matched to the type of vegetation and its density. Clearly the heavier the vegetation, the higher the power needed. Look at the expected intervals between cutting to determine the power rating most suitable.
These days it is essential to consider vibration levels and how they will affect the length of time you can use the kit. Also, for noise-sensitive areas it could be worthwhile looking at newer four-stroke and hybrid-engine machines. Some models are part of multi-tool systems, so think about whether the ability to convert the brushcutter to a hedgetrimmer would be useful to you. Above all, make sure you have appropriate personal protective equipment and if you are at all unsure about using trimmers and brushcutters, go to your nearest training organisation.
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