Line Trimmers

Man using a line trimmer

It doesn’t matter what you call it. A string trimmer, line trimmer, weedeater, weedwhacker or a whipper snipper we are all talking about the same tool.

This machine is a must for lawn care contractors. Your job will not look professional without one.

I can usually tell the lawns mowed by the owner because the edges have not been trimmed.

After using this machine for over thirty years, I feel it is an extension of my arm but I am still constantly amazed at the number of contractors I see out there just using the machine wrong.

Before we look at what I would consider the most effective and time efficient way to trim a lawn I will talk a little bit about the machines themselves and what you should consider when choosing a line trimmer.

Design

Line trimmers come in a lot of different sizes, and it is always good to get a size that suits the work you intend to do. The significant difference that separates the domestic from the commercial line trimmer is the shaft.

Bent Shaft vs Straight Shaft

It goes without saying that a bent shaft trimmer is cheaper to buy then a straight shaft and you may be tempted to get one if you are starting a new business. When I first started, I owned a few bent shaft line trimmers at different times. The primary benefits are the price and the actual weight of the machine. However, there are some drawbacks. The bent shaft makes it immensely hard to get under things such as shrubs, trampolines and fixed garden furniture. I was never 100% happy with the results. Another thing is if you are using the machine on a daily basis you will most likely need to replace it every year. A good straight shaft machine can last you up to five years, so there is definitely a cost benefit with this machine over the long term.

If you have your heart set on a bent shaft machine or you’re buying a machine for home, I would recommend this machine. I ended up buying a couple of these over the years, and they were the best bent shaft machines I have owned.

 FS380Stihl Trimmer

Stihl FS38

These days I use nothing but straight shaft line timers. I have a straight shaft machine that I still use as a backup, and I bought that in 2011.

Fuel

I am not going to talk a lot about electric line trimmers in this blog as this is not something I have used. However, the designs and batteries are getting better all the time, and some brave lawn care contractors are starting to use them. I have handled the machines and personally find them a bit top heavy. The drive is in the head, and the battery on the back of the trimmer is meant to serve as a counterweight. The change in weight distribution can take a bit of getting used too.

The two main types of line trimmers there are two strokes and four strokes. The main differences between the two machines are

Two-stroke

  • Requires a premix of oil and petrol.
  • Louder noise.
  • Can produce more power than a similar sized four stroke.
  • A two-stroke can cut through thick grass with less engine strain.
  • A lighter machine.
  • Cheaper.

Four-strokes

  • No premix runs on straight petrol.
  • Quieter.
  • Run more efficiently.
  • Heaver machine.
  • Usually more expensive.

I have half a dozen line trimmers and they are all two-stroke. Although four-strokes do have advantages including not needing a separate container for fuel. I have never used one so I cannot comment as to how they perform in the field. I have used most of the brands available in my local market but I now primarily use Shindaiwa most of my machines are this brand. I don’t have many problems with them and my oldest machine is seven years old and still goes well. If you do a lot of overgrown lawns I would suggest something a little larger like the T262X  but if you are just wanting something to use in your day to day work then I would suggest you try this machine. I usually run this 095 cord and find that works well.

Shindaiwa T262

Shindaiwa T262

Using a line trimmer.

As I said earlier on, I see a lot of contractors not using line trimmers correctly. Not only is this dangerous it can also increase your time spent on the job.

When I trained new guys, and they were using a trimmer for the first time I usually ran through the basics of how to handle the machine. Once I was happy with that, I would send them on their way. I didn’t think much about until I started noticing the way they went about performing the work. I made the mistake of assuming that they would work following the same path I would take on a lawn. However, the way they were working was what I would call a “hunt and peck method.” This method is the same way a chicken pecks for food. They run from one place to another with no rhyme or reason.

Just casually walking around a lawn trimming “this and that” is not efficient. Not only does it take longer you can also miss areas. The quickest way the trim edges on a lawn without missing anything is not hard. It’s mostly common sense.

  • When you arrive at the lawn trimming is the first thing you should do.
  • Always trim counter-clockwise. This way all grass and debris are thrown onto the lawn. You will reduce your chances of breaking a window and it will leave less mess on the concrete to clean with the blower when you are done.
  • Hold the trimmer on a 45-degree angle. This will help tapper the cut so you don’t get a flat line the width of the string on your edges. This does not look good and if you are holding the head of your trimmer flat on the ground then this is the effect you will get.
  • Follow a counter-clockwise line completely around the property. If there is a tree or object in the lawn that requires trimming around the step of your line then trim around the tree and step straight back to where you were. In your mind picture one path and do not deviate. If you do this correctly you will end up where you began. You should never end up going along the same line twice and nothing in the middle of the lawn will be missed.

Safety

Always wear safety glasses and earmuffs when using a line trimmer. Never walk backward or sideways with a trimmer. This can be a really bad habit to get into. As long as you are walking forward with the machine with your left shoulder facing the grass you should have good control. When doing footpaths in front of properties always stop to let pedestrians pass. Always be aware of what is going on around you and when you are working around stones or anything that can be thrown reduce your revs on the machine.

Accessories

If you are going to use your machine occasionally to do a thing like light scrub cutting you are going to need to fit a blade. For any real success, your trimmer is going to need to be over 22ccs. Even with an engine this size, it will still be a struggle. You really do need a bigger machine for this kind of work.

Some line trimmers come with a detachable shaft where you can fit another tool such as a chainsaw, wheel edger or hedge cutter. These are called a multi-tool. This can be a great tool to have if you want to vary your work for additional income. For this job, I use a Shindaiwa M235. You need to buy the accessories separately but it is cheaper than buying a new tool for each job as you only have to purchase one engine.

Shindaiwa M235

Shindaiwa M235

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