Shear Perfection

Trimmers are known by all sorts of names–line trimmers, weed eaters, weed whackers, weed whips, whipper snippers and garden trimmers. Whatever you call them, you will need the right one for the job at hand. Choosing an appropriate string trimmer depends on the amount of property you intend to trim and maintain. If there are only a few sidewalks and flower beds, a residential trimmer may be suitable since they are meant for light duty and infrequent use.

On the other hand, if you have several driveways, sidewalks, fence posts, trees, shrubs and flower beds, a commercial trimmer is probably a better fit. Commercial trimmers are manufactured to higher specifications and better technology to withstand constant use; they feature solid-steel straight shafts and well-balanced crankshafts in the engines, which help to reduce vibrations as well as operator fatigue. In addition, commercial trimmers have more power, and are much more durable than their residential counterparts.

As with mowers, there are different options to choose from, depending on your needs.

Engine Types

Most string trimmers have what is known as a two-cycle engine, which means you need to mix gasoline with some type of oil. This is needed because, unlike your car, it does not have an oil reservoir, so the oil needs to be mixed with the gasoline to lubricate the engine. (Two-cycle engines also make trimmers weigh less.)

Some manufacturers have begun to experiment with four-cycle engines because they claim emissions are reduced by up to 70 percent; however, the machine is slightly heavier.

Shafts And Heads

Most residential trimmers have a curved shaft that resembles a long spring running from the engine to the head. This type of shaft is less expensive to manufacture, but be aware it is not as durable as the straight shaft on a commercial trimmer, which is balanced for less vibration. The straight shaft also makes the trimmer longer than the residential, which helps with fatigue.

While there are several heads to choose from, the bump-and-feed head is one of the most popular models. It is loaded with string, and when more is needed, bumping the head to the ground releases more string. Although it sounds simple, the string has a tendency to become tangled, and the friction sometimes causes it to melt, which makes for lost time trying to untangle or readjust.

Fixed-line heads also work well–just cut the string to predetermined lengths so they can be changed and affixed to the head.

Even a blade can be affixed to the trimmer–use a steel blade for cutting brush and a plastic blade for trimming grass and small, woody plants.

Decisions, Decisions

Look at your operation to determine what fits your needs. Prices vary, so budgets may ultimately dictate what is purchased. Be sure to take the time to shop around and, more importantly, talk to the operators since they are the employees who will be pushing the mower or carrying the trimmer. And if you can make them happy, the result will be well-maintained facilities.

Sean McHugh, CGCS, is director of Golf/Turf for Cleveland Metroparks. He can be reached via e-mail at spm@clevelandmetroparks.com

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