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You may not think there’s much to using a grass trimmer. Hold it near long grass, and let it cut.

Simple.

And to a point, you’re right. If you hold it near grass, that grass will be cut. But over and above that, there are real dangers in not using your grass trimmer correctly. With the fast moving parts and lack of the uniform cut control that a mower brings, there are a few things that are worth remembering when you are next trimming your grass.

Grass Trimmer Basics

Grass trimmers (otherwise known as string trimmers or brush cutters) cut using an extendable string (usually nylon) rotating at high speed to cut through high growing or hard to reach grass. They are usually controlled with two handles, the motor resting on the hip, and the shaft extending down to the ground.

They are the perfect tool to cut back plant life in areas that you are unable to get a standard mower to, like lawn edges or flower beds, or they can be used to replace your mower altogether.

Trimmer Types

There is only really one feature of grass trimmers that may dictate the way they are used, and that is whether they have a curved or straight shaft.

While curved-shaft trimmers are certainly available, and can often be better to use for those with a back condition or limited movement, they are far less common than the straight shafted variety. For people who are healthy and mobile, a straight-shaft trimmer will be easier to control, and will allow you to get in and under trees and bushes far more efficiently than a curved-shaft will.

Which Way Does It Spin?

Your cutting technique will be governed by the direction your grass trimmer spins its string. There’s no rhyme or reason as to which way a manufacturer decides to make their trimmer go, so give it a quick test.

If you imagine a circular saw, it cuts at its front end and releases waste from its back end. Don’t we all. The same principle applies to your grass trimmer. If your trimmer rotates in an anti-clockwise direction, its cutting side will be on the right, and its waste release side will be on the left.

In practical terms, this means that if you’re cutting up against a retaining wall or fence, you want to work your way along it with the barrier on your right side. This will allow the grass to be cut cleanly, and ejected out away from the wall or fence. Work the other way, and your clippings will pile up against the wall, clogging the patch you’re working on.

Obviously if your grass trimmer spins clockwise, reverse these instructions.

Cutting Techniques

Your grass trimmer may be a more flexible tool than you realise! There are a variety of ways you can use your trimmer, depending on what look and feel you want to give your backyard.

Before getting into specifics, it’s important to note that when cutting, the very outside of the string is where the cleanest cuts are made, as that’s the fastest moving part of the string. If you lower a trimmer onto a patch of grass from directly above, and use the slower moving part of the string, you can end up tearing and scalping the blades, which can affect the grass’s health.

Parallel cutting is how most of us use a grass trimmer, by just holding it level to create a straight cut. While great for fences/walls, a small slip up can result in an uneven height, as the entire trimming string is in use.

Tapering is a technique that involves cocking the trimmer on an angle so that only the leading edge of the string is used to cut the grass. This can create a cleaner, angled look to your fenced edges.

Edging is the process of turning the trimmer so the cut is made vertically, and then lowering the string straight down. Perfect for when you’re cleaning up a lawn bound by paving or concrete.

Scything is a handy technique for bigger long-grass jobs. If you need to cover a large area, swing a parallel cut in a U-motion around you by swivelling your hips. If you keep yourself steady, you should get a fairly level cut.

If used correctly, a grass trimmer is a flexible bit of kit, and can add the sharp and clean look to your lawn that you’ve been hunting for.