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Choosing Hedge Trimmers

When hand-operated trimming becomes too laborious, hedge trimmers are needed for pruning rows of shrubs, perennials, ornamental grasses, ground cover, and for detailed landscape trimming. Whether gas- or electric-powered, high-quality machines provide clean, even cuts. A variety of blade sizes, types, and materials are designed to handle different types of pruning tasks. Decide which hedge trimmer(s) is best for you by analyzing the landscape and identifying the different types of trimming applications needed.

Parts and Features of a Hedge Trimmer

Discover the parts and basic features of a hedge trimmer.

Motor

Regardless whether the hedge trimmer is gas-powered or electric-powered, the strength of the motor depends on engine swept volume and the amount of amperage respectively. Most powered hedge trimmers have motors as large as 8A, but can be much lower such as 2.8A.

Blades

Hedge trimmer blades are flat metal plates with teeth lining the edges that move back and forth to cut. The blades are either stainless steel or high-carbon steel; with carbon-steel the more durable material.

Blade Lengths

Blade lengths vary from as little as 6" to 40". Shorter blades offer the user more precision while longer blades allow for greater cutting efficiency.

  • 16" blades or smaller: ideal for small- to average-sized hedges.
  • 18" blades: ideal for average- to larger-sized hedges.
  • 20" blades: idea for larger, established hedges.
  • 20" blades and larger: recommended for areas where the ragged cut edge is not visible such as the tops of tall hedges.

Blade gap

The amount of blade gap determines the size or diameter of the branch that can be cut. If the gap is ¾", then the branch diameter it can cut is also ¾".

  • Residential hedge trimmers have blade gaps of 3/8" to ¾".
  • Commercial trimmers have a blade gap of approximately 1".
  • Blade gaps of larger than ¾" are much more dangerous for the safety of the user.

Double or single-sided blade teeth

Hedge trimmers come with either single- or double-sided teeth on the blades.

  • Single-sided teeth: safer because they are always cutting away from the user’s body.
  • Double-sided teeth: cut in two directions and are therefore more efficient at cutting larger hedges. If the user is left-handed, then double-sided teeth blades are recommended.

Handles

A variety of handles are available based on the size and type of the task as well as for the specific needs of the user.

  • The most common handle is the wraparound handle that provides added control because the cutting is achieved via a variety of angles.
  • Adjustable handles allow the user to trim with more comfort, safety, and control.
  • Other handles include:
    • The 4-position front handle
    • The anti-vibration control
    • The rotated handle
    • The ergonomic handle
  • Some models have more than one handle for added control.
  • Telescopic handles allow the user to reach trees and tall shrubs such as arbor vitae.

Machine Weight

  • Gas-powered hedge trimmers tend to be heavy, but they can handle larger projects.
  • Electric-powered models are lightweight.
  • Using a light model is important for the user’s endurance.
  • Using a lightweight model can make the trimming projects more manageable and precise.

Lock-on

The lock-on feature allows the homeowner to accomplish a large task without needing to keep the trigger pushed in. The user’s mechanical efforts are therefore minimized.

Translucent Fuel Tanks

When using the hedge trimmers for an extended period, a translucent fuel tank may be practical. Applicable only with gas-powered models, a translucent gas tank allows the user to quickly assess the fuel level.

Pigtail

A pigtail is the short length of cord that is attached to the trimmer and is used to connect to an extension cord.

Kits

Powered hedge trimmers are available as part of a kit that may include string trimmers, patio brooms, and other useful outdoor landscape tools.

Storage bags

Depending on the manufacturer, useful storage bags may be provided for the hedge trimmers.

Types of Hedge Trimmers

Take the time to consider the sizes and types of trimming projects when selecting a powered hedge trimmer. At the same time, consider factors that would affect how you would use the equipment on a regular basis. Since some landscapes may have different types of trimming projects, purchasing more than one model may be best.

Tips for using a hedge trimmer

Here are a few tips to maximize the use of your new trimming tool.

  • Carry the hedge trimmers by the handles and turn them off when walking around.
  • Before turning on the hedge trimmers, hold both handles, one in each hand. Stand firmly when trimming and make sure to wear safety equipment such as protective eyewear, hearing protection, gloves, and footwear.
  • If trimming the tops of hedges, begin by using a wide, sweeping motion with a slight downward tilt. Trimming new growth from hedges should be fairly effortless. Avoid trimming any branch that may have a diameter of ¾” or more as most residential hedge trimmers are not designed for anything larger.
  • If trimming the hedges level is an issue, consider using a leveling string. Stretch the string out along the length of the hedge in the front of the shrubs to use as a guide.
  • When trimming the sides of a hedge, begin from the bottom and sweep upwards.
  • At all times, plan the trimming motions before beginning the work. Keep all the trimming activities within reach.

Safety Features

Various safety features are available to protect both the user and children from accidents. Since the blade moves quickly, it is important to be aware of potential accidents.

Keep safety issues in mind when selecting a model, when planning the pruning, and during the trimming time.

  • Tooth extensions protect the user’s legs and body from contact with the teeth.
  • Some models allow the power to the blade to stop as soon as the trigger is released.
  • Other models have front-handle shields to protect the user’s hand from slipping towards the moving blade.
  • Dual switches that require two-hands to operate and switches that lock in the “off” position are great child-safety features.
  • Read the user’s manual before using the equipment and follow their safety warnings.
  • Always wear protective eyewear, gloves, and non-skid footwear.
  • Wear ear protection for noisy gas models.
  • If using a corded-electric model, plan the cutting so as to prevent accidentally cutting the extension cord.

Maintenance Tips

Powered hedge trimmers typically have 2 year warranties. The following tips can help you extend the life of your new trimming tool.

  • Clean the machine after each use with soap and water. If the blades are sticky, use a solvent-soaked rag.
  • Wipe down the blades with penetrating oil such as WD-40 after cutting.
  • Hang the equipment on a wall hook for storage.
  • Tune-up gas-powered models yearly either by the homeowner or by a professional.
  • Purchase extra battery packs for backup power.
  • Hone cutting blades yearly to make sure the leaves are clean cut, not mangled.
  • Honing powered hedge trimmer blades must be done professionally.

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