Thursday, July 29, 2010

What Makes a Good Electric Lawn Edger

Best Electric String Trimmers and Lawn Edgers Review Part 12: What Makes a Good Electric Lawn Edger

Specialized lawn edgers cut vertically, along the limit of where a lawn stops, be it alongside a sidewalk, a mulch bed, or a flower bed. They normally have two heavy rear wheels, to support the weight of the edger, and one narrow guiding front wheel. The ability to precisely guide the cut path, and to drive a stable, steady line, is critical to the success of an edger, which is why hybrid trimmer/ edgers cannot rival regular edgers.  Because lawn edgers are supported by the ground through a set of wheels, their attributes are radically different from those of lawn trimmers. Lawn edgers are also more specialized and focus on lawns, where trimmers may have more of a mixed use with weeds and brush as well.

Reliability and longevity. Lawn edgers, as a whole, seem to show more reliability than the dismal string trimmers. Nonetheless, like most home gardening power tools they are less than stellar, and, if you wish to use your lawn edger more than one season, you should pay careful attention to reliability as a criterion, and to the user reviews which allow you to gauge the models' record.

Safety. An edger's fast blade can be extremely dangerous to its user - significantly more than the string of a trimmer.  The mechanical protection from the blade is critical. So is the way the cord is protected from injury by the tool, when we deal with a corded tool.  At the same time, because the blade mounts vertically, and because the tool is wheeled and constrained to a horizontal plane (the ground:-), there is less potential danger, overall, than a lawn trimmer with no contact to the ground and the capability to quickly inflict injury in a wide volume of spaced.

Precision. Edging is aesthetically pleasing because of its precision - so precision is central to the mission of the lawn trimmer. It is a compound attribute, which depends upon weight and weight distribution, global design, and handle shape. Being able to precisely follow an edge through its straight lines and its tight curves is what the tool needs to be able to achieve. Straight line stability is somewhat dependent upon wheel design and placement - a larger set of rear wheel is slightly better. Following tight curves is helped by having a small steering wheel and having it positioned more forward, and having more of the weight over the front wheel. As usual, line stability and curve handling are somewhat antithetical. 

Usability. As always, the usability of the tool makes a huge difference to the user's comfort and the eventual product's use. A very usable product ends up being used more. There is some trade-off being lawn edgers and trimmers, and, in some cases, it is possible to trade one for the other - typically the more usable one gets the nod...

Fit and finish.  Lawn edgers are more complex than string trimmers, and cost more. Probably because there is more margin, lawn edgers, as a class, appear to see relatively better fit and finish than the terrible trimmers.

Trenching. Some edgers are able to also trench to a fairly shallow depth. A trenching edger will have at least one cutting position, and often two to four, where the blade actually makes contact with the ground.

Power. As lawn edgers are really there to cut lawn and the soil underneath it, power does make a difference, primarily in the speed that you can have when following an edge. Overall, we have seen very few negative comments about lack of power for lawn edgers, even in the low end models. We have occasionally seen comments about some high end, powerful edgers that users feel allow them to finish the job faster. However, in general, power affects primarily the trenching ability of an edger. Overall, we feel that power is an important attribute for professional lawn edgers that get used all day, day in, day out, but that it is a secondary attribute for home use. The power of a gas edger is largely proportional to the gas engine horsepower rating, to the electric motor Amp rating, or, for a cordless edger, to the DC voltage of the edger battery.

Blade. Edgers use a metal or composite blade, which needs to be changed periodically, typically once a year. A spare blade can sometimes be hard to find, depending about the edger brand. The length of a blade has some impact on the trenching ability of an edger.

Weight. Because edgers are fully supported, weight is a secondary attribute, unless the edger is truly extraordinarily light or heavy.

Next we discuss when to use gas vs. electric lawn edgers... So come back soon!

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