Canadian Woodworking

String trimmers


String trimmers (a.k.a. weed whackers or weed eaters) are available as corded electric, battery powered and gas models that can have 2- or 4-stroke engines.

Author: Carl Duguay
Illustration: Len Churchill

String trimmers (a.k.a. weed whackers or weed eaters) are available as corded electric, battery powered and gas models that can have 2- or 4-stroke engines. Cordless and corded models are lighter, much quieter, require less mainte­nance, non-air polluting and less expensive than gas models, though they are some­what less powerful. While most trimmers are handheld, heavier models (in particu­lar professional-grade gas trimmers) can have a shoulder strap or harness and large two-handed handles. The shafts (a.k.a. shanks) can be straight or curved, which some people find easier to maneuver. Any trimmer can be used as an edge trimmer simply by tilting it to one side. This can be tiresome if you have a lot of trimming to do. On some models the trimmer head can be rotated into a vertical position to make edging much easier. Some newer mod­els are attachment-capable, allowing you to remove the trimmer head and replace it with other landscaping accessories such as a pole saw, hedge trimmer, chain saw or leaf blower. Trimmers have either an automatic string feed mechanism or bump (a.k.a. tap) feed feature. With a bump feed trimmer, you have to tap the head on the ground when the string gets too short; centrifugal force pulls the string from the spool. String (a.k.a. line) is typically made of nylon and available in different diameters and shapes. Some trimmers have spools that feed two strings making them better suited for heavier patches of grass and troublesome weeds. Trimmers referred to as brush cutters use blades rather than string and are designed for cutting shrubs and saplings.

Power source: corded (120 AC), battery (18V – 36V), gas
Cutting path: 12″ to 15″
String thickness: about 0.065″ to 0.110″
Price range: $50 to $900

Get the Most Out of Your String Trimmer

Learn how to use the trimmer

The way you hold the trim­mer and the speed at which you run it vary depending on whether you’re trim­ming, tapering or edging. Don’t be a know-it-all; read the user manual.

Use the right size string

Use the string size rec­ommended by the manufacturer. String that’s too thin can reduce cut­ting power, while string that’s too thick can strain the motor.

Use quality string

If the string on a trimmer you purchased breaks too easily, upgrading to a higher quality string will work wonders.

Can you handle it?

Large trimmers can be quite heavy, upwards of 15 pounds, and awkward to handle. Choose a trimmer that you can easily handle for your yard size.

Be safe

The string on a trimmer spins at several hundred miles per hour and can dis­lodge rock shards and the like into the air. Always wear eye and ear protection along with leg coverings and gloves.

Last modified: September 29, 2023

Carl Duguay - [email protected]

Carl is a Victoria-based furniture maker and the web editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.

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