String trimmers, sometimes call weed whackers or weed eaters, use an electric or gasoline engine to spin a hub which holds a piece of string. When the string rotates at a high speed, it cuts grass or other plant materials around trees, foundations and other obstacles in lawns and yards. They have been the predominate tool used for trimming lawns since their introduction in the 1980s.
String Trimmer Types
While string trimmers are commonly used lawn care tools today, they do have some drawbacks. Gasoline powered string trimmers are heavy and awkward to use. The noise and exhaust fumes are also objectionable to some people. Electric string trimmers come in two types. Those powered by an extension cord have the drawback of requiring the user to drag a cord all around the lawn but have sufficient power to do an effective job. Battery powered electric string trimmers are heavier due to the battery and are often underpowered.
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There are safety concerns with either type of string trimmer. The string can kick up small stones and other materials. Operators are urged to wear safety glasses and long pants while using a string trimmer.
Homeowners wishing to avoid using a string trimmer have two options. Before the advent of string trimmers, property owners kept their lawns trimmed with hand trimmers. These scissors-like tools were powered by squeezing the handle and relied entirely on the hand and wrist strength of the operator. They remain a useful tool for small yards and may be available at garage sales and at hardware or home improvement stores. Their major advantage is low cost and simplicity of operation. A hand trimmer will not require the purchase of more string or cause problems by being difficult to start. Another option is to prepare the landscape so no trimming is required. Remove the sod for 6 inches to one foot around any obstacle in the yard. Place landscape cloth as a barrier to prevent future plant growth and fill the area with small stone, bark or some other decorative material. Both options are quieter, produce less noise and fumes and are safer than string trimmers.
Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.