Selection And Use Of Hedge Trimmers

Richard L. Parish  |  12/10/2004 11:40:44 PM

Hedge trimmers are perhaps not as popular now as a few years ago. Many people now realize that it is healthier for plants to be selectively pruned rather than sheared.
Nevertheless, there are some situations where shearing plants to shape is appropriate. The formal, sheared look is still attractive to many people. A hedge trimmer is usually the best tool for the job.

Manual Hedge Shears
Most of us are familiar with the old long-nosed hedge clippers. They have been around for generations. These shears require some muscle power, but they may be the best solution for one or a few small bushes. They are certainly the least expensive and safest option.

Electric Hedge Trimmers
Electric hedge trimmers have two blades with multiple teeth (Figure 1). One blade moves back and forth, shearing the plant material as the teeth on the two blades pass each other. Electric hedge trimmers are available with battery or 120-volt ac power. They are light and easy to maneuver. The battery models have less power than the 120-volt models but also dispense with the need for a cord. Some electric trimmers can cut with both sides of the blade. This is handy when cutting in awkward positions. Electric trimmers are the tool of choice for most homeowners since they are inexpensive, quiet, reliable and require little or no maintenance.

Gasoline Engine-powered Hedge Trimmers
Hedge trimmers with small 2-stroke engines (Figure 2) are preferred by professionals and are appropriate for homeowners with many plants to trim or remote areas not readily accessible to electric power. They offer complete versatility and freedom of movement. Some hedge trimmers have the engine at the base of the cutting head; others have the engine at one end of a long tube and the cutting head at the other end. This configuration allows the operator to extend his reach. The downside is that this type is heavier and more expensive. As with any tool using a 2-stroke engine, oil must be mixed with the gasoline. Noise and exhaust fumes are negatives with gasoline engines. Maintenance will be higher than with electric trimmers.

Safety Concerns
With any hedge trimmer, you should keep both hands on the trimmer handles. It is much more difficult to amputate a finger if your fingers are grasping the handles. Wear gloves when using a trimmer; cut-resistant gloves give the most protection. One problem with corded electric trimmers is the potential for cutting your cord with the trimmer. In addition to being inconvenient and embarrassing, this can cause electrocution. It is important to run electric trimmers or any outdoor electrical tool from a GFCI-protected outlet or use a GFCI-protected extension cord.
With any gasoline engine-powered tool, you need to be careful with gasoline and not add fuel or even open the gas tank when the engine is hot. A hot muffler is another hazard to avoid.

Hedge trimmers can make short work of shearing hedges or individual shrubs. They will not cut heavy branches, but cleanly cut small branches up to about 1/4 inch in diameter. They are easy to use. The type of trimmer you need will depend on how much you have to trim and how accessible the area is. A few reasonable safety precautions will help prevent injuries.

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