Hedge trimmers reviewed

Our testers brave wet weather conditions to try out a selection of the latest models, Sally Drury reports.

Makita trimmers - image: HW
Makita trimmers - image: HW

Tested This Week

STIHL HS 56C-E

Efco DS 2800H

Efco TG 2750XP and TGS 2750XP

Makita EH7500S, EH7500W, EH6000W and EH5000W

Shindaiwa DH2200ST

The Review Panel

- David Lewis, National Trust volunteer, Charlecote Park, Warwickshire

- Eddie Nolen, park and garden assistant, Charlecote Park, Warwickshire

- Paul Smith, gardener, Charlecote Park, Warwickshire

- Nick Woodman, National Trust volunteer, Charlecote Park, Warwickshire

We wanted to test battery and electric hedge trimmers as well as new petrol models on the day. But the weather was against us. What started as a drizzle soon turned to a run-for-shelter downpour. Then it eased. Then it came again.

While work has to continue in all weathers, battery hedge trimmers do not like the rain. We had a quick look at the models from STIHL and Makita, but not sufficient to review them.

Instead we concentrate on the latest petrol units from Italian manufacturer Efco (Emak UK), the German-made STIHL HS 56C-E, a whole family of new machines from Makita and Shindaiwa's lightest trimmer to date - supplied by Countax.

Staff and volunteers from the National Trust's Charlecote Park estate in Warwickshire donned wet-weather gear and tested the machines on a mixture of hedging material.

STIHL HS 56C-E

As soon as you pick up the HS 56C-E, you know there is something special about it. This is the longer of two new machines from STIHL yet, with 60cm (24in) blades, it weighs a mere 4.5kg. Hold in one hand and check the balance - this trimmer will sit almost horizontal.

Respected for cutting performance and reliability, STIHL has long been a top choice for professional gardeners and maintenance contractors. It is a position the company does not intended to lose.

"This is so light and well balanced," Smith enthuses. "I like the way they have put the fuel tank at the front - it makes a world of difference." The fuel tank at the front? Glances of disbelief radiate around the group. How on earth has STIHL achieved that?

Those clever design engineers have ensured the machine is comfortably balanced by turning the engine through 90 degs. Complex configuration means not only does the fuel tank now sit at the front, where it is still easy to fill, but the whole trimmer is far more compact.

The low weight is achieved by using tough yet lightweight materials such as high-performance plastics and magnesium components. This is a trimmer you do not mind swinging around and stretching up for those high branches. Everything is covered by polymer housing - there are no exposed wires waiting to be caught.

Size and weight are important, but so too is starting. Again, STIHL scores a first, in the form of a single-lever control for all engine functions. "No fuss" control of choke, warm-start and run/stop are combined into a straight forward three-step starting system, making it a doddle to fire up. And it has ErgoStart, so a gentle pull fires the engine into life.

The exhaust is turned away from the user so there are no "in-your-face" emissions. In any case, the new STIHL 2-MIX engine cuts emissions by up to 70 per cent compared to standard two-strokes, and fuel consumption is reduced by 20 per cent.

We reckon the HS 56C-E will prove useful for all-round cutting of a mixture of hedge and shrub varieties. It certainly is not short on power. Add to this the teeth, spaced at 34mm and sharpened on both sides, and this trimmer cuts thumb sized branches with ease.

"I could use this all day - the balance is perfect," says Lewis. Nolen adds: "The tip protector is useful when trimming plants against walls. I also like the position of the gearbox where I can use it as a guide when straightness is really important."

At £357.50 + VAT, it comes at a bit of a premium, but as Smith says: "If you are going for a machine that has to be used all day, money is not a consideration - especially if it is the right weight and it is comfortable."

Specifications
Engine: 21.4cc STIHL 2-MIX
Power output: 0.65kW (0.9hp)
Fuel tank capacity: 0.28 litres
Blade type: Double-sided, double-edged
Blade length: 60cm (24in)
Cutting capacity: 34mm
Stroke rate: 3,600rpm
Dry weight: 4.5kg
Vibration: Left 4.7m/s2; Right 5.5m/s2
Sound power level: 107dB(A)
List price: £357.50 + VAT
Promotion: Until 30 September, the STIHL HS 56C-E and the smaller HS
46C-E are offered with a pack of free goodies worth more than £60
including smart cap, safety glasses, ear defenders, fuel can, secateurs
and a torch
Tel: STIHL - 0800 137 574

Efco DS 2800H

It is always the best option to work with both feet firmly on the ground, and this model will let you do just that. With the blade assembly mounted on the end of the shaft arm, the DS 2800H will reach up to 3m without having to fetch a platform.

This trimmer has raw power to slice through thick stems. The 50cm-long steel blade has a 35mm pitch and combined with the high power of the professional-grade, eco-friendly 27cc engine, plus the truly heavy-duty gearbox, there is a good chance you can cut the growth you left last year for want of sufficient reach.

"It's cutting through some heavy material - inch-thick branches - with ease," says Nolen.

As we would expect with a long reach, it has a rotating head. It surprises us how easy it is to adjust to any of 12 positions - from 0 degs to 180 degs - simply by pulling the lever and clicking the head home in any of the easy-to-line-up slots. We especially like the way the head folds back against the shaft to give a neat and tidy tool for transport or storage.

Starting the DS 2800H is straightforward. A primer helps with cold starts. In use, we find that it is a relatively quiet machine. No tester reports any vibration. There are A-V elements on the engine cowling. "It's a smooth runner. I didn't notice any vibration," Woodman confirms.

Everyone opted to use the harness because it aids manoeuvrability and control. The 26mm-diameter aluminium shaft is comfortable to hold, having soft-rubber inserts for safe, non-slip grip whatever the operating position.

The rear handgrip is well designed to present all the controls - throttle trigger, safety lever and on/off switch - just where you need them. "I've used lighter machines but the balance and weight of this one is good," says Smith.

But it does not just cut hedges. It can be used to give a neat trim to grass and also for underwater reed mowing, which could be a bonus for some. The biggest advantage, however, is the price.

Specifications
Engine: Emak two-stroke 27cc
Power output: 1kW (1.3hp)
Fuel tank capacity: 0.6 litres
Blade type: Double-sided, double-edged
Blade length: 50cm (20")
Cutting capacity: 35mm
Angle of head rotation: 0 degs to 180 degs in 12 steps
Machine length: 2.43m
Dry weight: 7.4kg
Vibration: Left 8m/s2; Right 7.5m/s2
Sound power level: 102dB(A)
List price: £424.68 + VAT
Tel: Emak UK - 01543 687660

Efco TG 2750XP and TGS 2750XP

Both have a 25.4cc two-stroke engine complying with Euro 1 standards and featuring generous torque output with a linear power curve, even at low revs. Both have a diecast cylinder with chromium plating, forged connecting rod and crankshaft. Both have pistons with two rings, giving constant efficiency, even in conditions of prolonged operation.

And there are more similarities. Both have an aluminium gearbox, drivetrain with pinion mounted on bearings and connecting rod with roller bearings for low noise operations, reduced vibration and longer life.

Both have digital coil with speed limiter, allowing constant engine control at all operating speeds. And by optimising combustion, both boast reduced fuel consumption and fewer polluting emissions compared to ordinary two-strokes.

In many ways, excepting the blade type, the TG 2750XP and TGS 2750XP share the same specs. Yet, when we used them, they were worlds apart. One we might consider buying. The other, as used on test day, we would not.

There is no doubting the quality of the steel blades. Whether you are using the TG double-sided hedge trimmer or the TGS single-sided model, you can be assured of a good-quality cut, which is important for maintaining a healthy hedge.

Starting each machine proves easy. There is a primer to draw fuel mixture into the carburettor, hence promoting starting. These machines also feature the Lift Starter mechanism that automatically inhibits the choke when the throttle is opened fully.

This feature eliminates the risk of flooding - good if you have volunteers or occasional users picking up the machine. And we liked the rotating handle on the TG 2750XP. There are five positions, so it is easy to work up against a wall and clip holly without risking a scratch.

Maintenance is simple. There is a snap-fit filter cover and a specific grease nipple makes gearbox greasing a breeze. The spark plug is easily accessible.

But in use we found these two test machines as different as chalk and cheese - and we do not just mean the fact that one is double-sided and the other single.

Of the double-sided machine, Smith says: "I like the handle rotation. It means you are not catching your hand on the hedge - a good feature when you are cutting holly or hawthorn."

Nolen adds: "I can feel the weight when pulling the machine up but it cuts brilliantly. It cuts straight through thick wood easily and that can mean a straighter hedge."

On the TGS single-sided machine, Smith admits: "I wouldn't want to use it for too long. There is some vibration, especially on the front handle, and that wouldn't be any good in this situation."

Nolen adds: "I couldn't do our long border with this one but you can get the shaping quite precise with the single blade."

Checking the vibration figures, it is clear that our experience does not tally with the data. The TGS should have substantially lower vibration. Yet we find its vibration noticeable. Could it be due to the demo model we use in the test having a bent prong on the blade guard? We would like a retest with a new machine.

Specifications
Model: TG 2750XP/TGS 2750XP
Engine: Emak two-stroke 25.4cc (both)
Power output: 0.9kW (1.2hp) (both)
Fuel tank capacity: 0.6 litres (both)
Blade type: Double-sided/Single-sided
Blade length: 750mm (both)
Cutting capacity: 35mm (both)
Dry weight: 5.5kg/5.2kg
Vibration: Left 6m/s2; Right 7.7m/s2/Left: 3.2m/s2; Right 3.2m/s2
Sound power level: 105dB(A)
List price: £357.45 + VAT (both)
Tel: Emak UK - 01543 687660

Makita EH7500S, EH7500W, EH6000W and EH5000W

The single-sided EH7500S has been available for about a year. The other three are so new they have just been unpacked from their transport crate.

Looking at the brand new models, it is clear that they are all related. In fact, if you took the blades away, you would have three identical bodies. The engine and other components are also found on the EH7500S.

Commonality of parts is something we appreciate. Even if you do not keep a few spares yourself, the dealer will probably lay his hands on anything you need quickly.

Blade length is the only difference. The single-sided model is 75cm, giving a 72.8cm cutting length. The newcomers' blade lengths are 75cm, 60cm and 50cm. This means balance varies from machine to machine.

Smith selects the 60cm trimmer. As we expected, these machines weigh more than the new STIHL. Nevertheless, at 5.2kg, the heaviest of the three new units is not unduly weighty. Neither is it cumbersome.

All four units carry the same 22.2cc two-stroke engine. Power output is fractionally more than the new STIHL. But what we particularly like about the units is their robustness, especially the heavy-duty gearbox.

"Machines we use need to be tough," says Smith. "Because we use volunteers, we have to think lightness and comfort but also strength."

All four trimmers prove easy to start and use. "I think they are the best blades we have seen today," says Nolen. Smith is particularly impressed with the single-sided EH7500S. "There's no vibration in this handle. It's light and I could happily use it for long periods of time."

Specifications
Model: EH7500S/EH7500W
Engine: Two-stroke 22.2cc (both)
Power output: 0.68kW (both)
Blade type: Single-sided/Double-sided
Blade length: 750mm (both)
Cutting length: 728mm (both)
Cutting capacity: 21.5mm (both)
Dry weight: 4.7kg/5.2kg
Vibration: Left 3.5m/s2; Right 3.2m/s2/Left 2.3m/s2; Right 2.3m/s2
List price: £610 + VAT/£670 + VAT
Tel: Makita UK - 01908 211678

Model EH6000W/EH5000W
Engine: Two-stroke 22.2cc (both)
Power output: 0.68kW (both)
Blade type: Double-sided (both)
Blade length: 600mm/500mm
Cutting length: 588mm/483mm
Cutting capacity: 21.5mm (both)
Dry weight: 5kg/4.8kg
Vibration: Left 2.8m/s2; Right 2.7m/s2/Left 2.5m/s2; Right 2.5m/s2
List price: £660 + VAT/£650 + VAT

Shindaiwa DH2200ST

At 4.4kg, this hedge trimmer is the lightest in the test - by 100g - and it comes with a generous two-year professional-use warranty.

Soft Start means a gentle pull is all that is needed to fire the 21.1cc into life. It is a machine you do not mind stopping and then restarting. Cutting with it is remarkably smooth.

"I do like it," Smith admits. "It is on par with the STIHL. It's light, well balanced, very manoeuvrable and has plenty of power." Fuel consumption is about 0.5 litres per hour.

Nolen reaches high on the hedge. "There's no strain in the arms and I can't feel any vibration. It looks like the most straightforward trimmer we've used. It's good," he says.

The blades look unusual. They were developed to improve cutting performance and enable blade clearance. Combined with the new-style blade top protector and anti-jam fixture, they cut quickly and well.

While the blades are strong, parts of the body do not look quite as robust as some of the other trimmers. But Shindaiwa gives a two-year professional warranty so clearly has confidence in it.

Nolen twists the handle. An easy-to-reach, single lever provides quick rotation to left or right. "After you have rotated it once, you don't even have to look for the lever," he notes.

Specifications
Engine: Two-stroke 21.1cc
Power output: 0.6kW
Fuel tank capacity: 0.4 litres
Blade type: Double-sided
Effective cutting length: 484mm
Cutting capacity: 35mm
Stroke rate: 3,600rpm
Dry weight: 4.4kg
Vibration: Left 2.4m/s2; Right 3.5m/s2
Sound power level: 103 dB(A)
List price: £399 + VAT
Tel: Shindaiwa (Countax) 01844 263886


Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Read These Next

Sophora

Sophora

A graceful habit, attractive foliage and often fragrant flowers are all selling points, writes Miranda Kimberley.

Business planning - Planning for uncertainty

Business planning - Planning for uncertainty

Planning, organisation and discipline are all areas where horticulture firms can take lessons from the military, says Neville Stein.

Weed control: effective management

Weed control: effective management

Control is needed in urban areas as well as on sports turf and nursery sites. Sally Drury looks at the best ways to manage weeds as well as costs.


Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.

Horticulture Week Top 50 Landscape and maintenance contractors

See our exclusive ranking of landscape and maintenance contractors by annual turnover. 

PLANT SUPPLIERS GUIDE

Free to subscribers, the essential guide for professional plant buyers
 

Download your copy

Products & Kit Resources