How to Use a String Trimmer Like a Pro

We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options. Looking to tidy up your yard without bringing out the heavy machinery? Make the chore a little easier with a string trimmer. These weed whackers will make light work of maintaining any yard, as they come in both gas and electric options with enough power for smaller home gardens as well as professional landscaping jobs.

1) Husqvarna 967055801 Straight Gas String Trimmer | 2) WORX WG163 GT 3.0 20V Cordless Grass Trimmer/Edger | 3) GreenWorks 21142 10Amp Electric String Trimmer | 4) BLACK+DECKER LST420 20V MAX Lithium Trimmer and Edger | 5) BLACK+DECKER LSTE523 String Trimmer/Edger | 6) BLACK+DECKER LST136W 40V String Trimmer, 13 | 7) BLACK+DECKER ST8600 5 Amp 13″ String Trimmer/Edger | 8) GreenWorks 2101602 G-MAX Cordless String Trimmer | 9) 16″ Electric Corded Grass Trimmer | 10) Cub Cadet 22 in. String Trimmer | 11) Homelite 26cc Gas Powered Shaft Trimmer | 12) DEWALT DCST920B Brushless String Trimmer | 13) Echo GT-225 2 Cycle Gas Trimmer | 14) Remington RM2700 Ranchero Brushcutter | 15) HONDA VersAttach Trimmer A | 16) Husqvarna 128LD 17-Inch String Trimmer | 17) Makita XRU02Z 18V LXT String Trimmer | 18) Murray 16″ 25cc 2-Cycle Gas String Trimmer | 19) Ryobi Expand-It Universal Cultivator | 20) Ryobi RY34007 Expand-It 4 Cycle 30cc Trimmer | 21) SRM-225 String Trimmer, 21.2CC | 22) Ryobi Cordless Electric String Trimmer | 23) HONDA VersAttach Multi Too | 24) BLACK+DECKER MTC220 20V 3-in-1 Trimmer/Edger | 25) Remington 22-Inch Trimmer Lawn Mower | 26) BLACK+DECKER LSTE525 String Trimmer/Edger | 27) DEWALT DCST920P1 20V MAX 5.0 Ah String Trimmer | 28) Husqvarna 961730006 HU625HWT Trimmer Mower | 29) Troy-Bilt TB525 Curved Shaft Trimmer | 30) Southland Outdoor SWSTM4317 43cc Wheeled String | 31) Troy-Bilt CORE TB4200 40V Cordless String Trimmer | 32) BLACK+DECKER MTE912 6.5-Amp Trimmer/Edger |

There are a few simple secrets to maxing out your string trimmer. They’ll help minimize scalping, scarring and shredding your lawn. Know what landscapers know and use your string trimmer like a pro.

Trimmer Type

While curved-shaft string trimmers may be the best tool for some users, I find that a straight-shaft tool is far easier to control and much more effective. Plus, you can get it under things like shrubs and small trees more easily than with a curved tool.

Spin Direction

The biggest thing I see people struggling with when they use a string trimmer is spin direction. Just as a circular saw needs to eject sawdust as it works, a trimmer needs to eject debris from its cut path. If your trimmer spins counter clockwise, it ejects material from the left side of the tool and cuts best with the right side.

So if you’re moving along a walk, curb, or low fence, keep the right side of your body closer to the work, which will position the head of the tool so it can cut and eject to the left. If you go the opposite way, you’ll eject material into the cut path, and there’s nowhere for it to go. It piles up along your cut line, bogs down the trimmer, and makes scalping (cutting too much of the blades of grass) inevitable.

Cutting Techniques

It seems like trimming your grass evenly should be simple—just hover the string trimmer above the grass and the whirring strings will cut it to length. But this isn’t the best approach, and in fact will lead to some serious scalping.

To turn an unruly tool into a precision machine that gives the cut I want, I rely on a few important techniques. Before you begin with them, it helps to understand one thing: The ends of the string are where the cutting power is. The faster and freer these move, the easier lawn life is.

Tapering: I treat the lawn’s edges in two ways: by tapering or edging. Along a curb, retaining wall, fence, or tree, I like to taper. This means that I hold the tool so the string strikes the grass at a slight angle.

The problem with not tapering, or holding the tool so the string is parallel to the ground, is that the entire diameter of the string has to cut a full swath of grass. One telltale sign that a person didn’t taper is a channel of grass the trimmer clearly cut shorter than the mowed grass.

On the other hand, when you pitch the string tips toward the object you’re trimming against, you’re cutting less grass and leaving a tight, tapered edge, and also blending the edge with the height of the mowed grass for a clean look.

Edging: Where surfaces are essentially parallel—say, between grass and driveway or walkway, I like to edge. I turn the trimmer so the string is vertical. I then walk the tool into the cut path so that it can eject material where I just cut.

Expect to pull up dirt, rocks, and other debris doing this. In yards that haven’t been edged before, I don’t try to cut a crisp edge all at once. Instead I’ll cut more lawn each week until I “sneak up” on the edge I want. After that, maintaining it is a snap.

Scything: When up against an obstruction I can’t easily walk along or working in tall grass, I like to “scythe.” This means bringing the tool into and out of the work in a shallow U motion. Overlapping the scythes evens out the cut.

Screeding: For grass and weeds growing in driveways, paths, and sidewalk cracks, it’s fast and effective to do what I call screeding. Tip the tool so that the string tips are just glancing off the pavement, then move into the weed’s base, cutting flush to the hard surface.

But be careful: Angle the tool too shallow and you’re just eating string and not cutting effectively. Too sharp an angle and the string can’t hit enough of the plant base to cut evenly.

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