How to Use a Hedge Trimmer

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How to Use a Hedge Trimmer

Traditionally, as most garden owners are only too well aware, many, if not most, gardening chores are not only labour-intensive, but also very time-consuming. While these chores can be pleasurable to some, most people consider them something that they would rather spend as little time on as possible. Fortunately, gardening power tool technology has taken the drudgery out of many of those gardening tasks. One task that falls squarely within that category is hedge trimming. Given that most hedges are highly visible, keeping them neatly trimmed is a chore that can’t be put off indefinitely. For those who want a neatly-trimmed hedge without the manual labour involved, or having to pay for someone else’s manual labour, a powered hedge trimmer is the answer.

About Hedge Trimmers

Powered hedge trimmers are power tools equipped with efficient cutting blades that are designed to cut and trim hedges in a fraction of the time that trimming them manually with garden shears take. They are an increasingly affordable and, unsurprisingly, increasingly popular gardening tool.

Types of Hedge Trimmer

Powered hedge trimmers come in three basic types, each designed to operate from a different power source:

Electric Corded Hedge Trimmers

Electric corded hedge trimmers are powered by electricity from the house mains power supply via a long power cord attached to the trimmer. Having direct access to the mains power supply ensures a cheap and uninterrupted supply of power to the trimmer. While there’s no limit to the amount of time that the trimmer can be used, there’s a definite limit on where it can be used. The length of the power cord limits how far from the power source that the trimmer can be operated. In all but the smallest of gardens, an extension cable is usually a required extra that needs to be attached to increase the overall operating distance. However, long cords can also restrict movement. They have the annoying habit of getting themselves tangled around various garden objects, forcing the user to backtrack and free the cable before moving on to the next bit of the hedge waiting to be trimmed. It’s also necessary to be aware of the potential dangers of mains power, especially when working outdoors. Accidentally cutting the cord with the blades of the trimmer could result in severe, and possibly lethal, electric shock. To avoid such problems, a residual current device (RCD) should be fitted between the power source and the trimmer.

Battery-powered Hedge Trimmers

Battery-powered hedge trimmers are powered by a rechargeable battery that is built into the unit. With no power cord limiting the operating distance, battery-powered trimmers can be operated anywhere. The lack of a power cable is a definite advantage, not only in terms of freedom of movement, but also in terms of safety. Unlike the corded trimmer, there’s no risk of electric shock. The lack of mains power, however, is a disadvantage when compared with their mains-powered counterparts. They rely on the available charge of the on-board battery, which, at best, is limited to not much more than 30 minutes, after which it needs to be recharged or replaced with a fully-charged spare if there’s still some trimming work to be completed. Re-charging takes around seven hours. Most people, however, find a single charge sufficient for their hedge-trimming needs.

Petrol Hedge Trimmer types

Petrol hedge trimmers are powered by a petrol-fuelled engine. They tend to be among the most powerful garden trimmers available and, like battery-powered trimmers, can be used anywhere. The downside is that they are heavier and require more of an effort to operate. They can also be noisy and smoky. As well as being the least environmentally friendly, petrol trimmers are also the least economical of the three types of trimmer due to the cost of refilling with fuel.

Power Type - Advantages and Disadvantages summary

Electric-corded

Uninterrupted power from house mains supply. Environmentally friendly.

The cable length limits operating distance from power source and the cable may snag on various objects in the garden. As mains power is potentially hazardous, an RCD should be used in the power feed.

Battery-powered

They can be used anywhere. They have the safest power source of all three trimmer types.

They have a relatively short operating time of around 30 minutes. Recharging the battery takes a long time – typically 7 hours.

Petrol-driven

They can be used anywhere. They have the most powerful cutting action of the three types.

They are less economical than the other types. They tend to be quite noisy. They are heavier and more awkward to operate.

Cutting

The cutting blades of hedge trimmers vary in both length and width. Basically, longer and wider blades are designed for larger, well established hedges with thicker and tougher stems. The blade width equates roughly to the diameter of the hedge stem that it is capable of cutting through cleanly. Longer blades are far more efficient than shorter ones as they enable a greater ‘cutting sweep', which significantly reduces the time spent on trimming. In general, small hedges need a blade length of less than 45 centimetres, while larger hedges need to be tackled with a trimmer having a blade length of at least 55 centimetres.

Design Features

Most hedge trimmers follow the same basic design. Some, however, are better equipped than others, with various features such as safety guards. Some models enable the blades to be swivelled to 90 degrees. This is especially useful for trimming the tops of hedges that are taller than the person operating the trimmer. It avoids having to use a ladder and the associated risks that operating a power tool while balanced on a ladder entails. Some hedge trimmers have a collector attachment that captures most of the trimmings after cutting, which saves time and effort in sweeping up later. This is also a definite advantage when working on the tops of hedges that form borders with neighbours’ gardens. Few neighbours will appreciate someone else’s hedge cuttings flying over and landing on their lawn. The collector attachment helps to avoid that situation. In general, extra design features are reflected in the price of the trimmer, so it’s a good idea to know which features are considered useful enough to pay extra for.

Using Hedge Trimmers Safely

The design specifications of trimmers regarding safety are reassuringly strict in the UK, and trimmers manufactured by reputable companies and sold by reputable dealers are completely safe. The operation of any hedge trimmer, however, requires some common-sense precautions. Hedge trimmers of all types have a powerful cutting action that can result in severe injury if not used in accordance with the manufacturers supplied operating instructions. These include the following:

Use Only in Dry Conditions

Hedge trimmers, especially electric-corded trimmers, shouldn't be used in wet or damp conditions. Additionally, a residual current device (RCD) should be used in the power source of electric corded trimmers. These simple safety devices ensure that if the cord is accidentally cut by the trimmer blades, the power supply will be instantaneously shut off without risk of electric shock.

Children and Pets

As with all gardening power tools, children and pets should be kept well clear of them when in use.

Keeping Clear of the Blades

Removing any trapped foliage within the cutting blades should only be done when the blades have completely stopped. Some trimmers have a brake mechanism that stops the blades almost immediately when trimmer is switched off.

Flying Debris

As an added precaution, gloves and goggles can be worn to avoid being hit by cuttings.

Finding Hedge Trimmers on eBay

One abundant source of trimmers of all types for UK-based garden owners is eBay’s UK site. There’s no shortage of them and they are conveniently categorised according to their various features, such as: power source, power rating, condition (new, refurbished or second hand) and brand. By entering the search term ‘hedge trimmer&’ into the search box on eBay’s homepage, a list of relevant categories will be returned with the number of hedge trimmers available within each particular category. This depends on how the sellers have chosen to list those that are currently available, but the vast majority are listed within the Power Tools subcategory of eBay’s Garden and Patio main category

Conclusion

Advancements in gardening power tool technology have ensured that modern hedge trimmers are efficient, safe, and increasingly affordable. Most owners will agree that the relatively small investment made in purchasing one is repaid many times over in terms of the time and effort saved doing what used to be a much longer and more tiring gardening chore.

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