How to Use an Electric Hedge Trimmer

Overview

Homeowners face a variety of chores around the yard. Gas hedge trimmers are a necessity for those with extensive properties, but for those of us with city or suburban lots, an electric trimmer is usually a more economical choice that is also easier for most adults to use. Models are available with or without cords and prices range from under $100 to several hundred dollars. If you've bought the right model and maintain it carefully, you'll wish you had more shrubs to trim.

Step 1

Familiarize yourself with your trimmer. After assembly and any required lubrication, find the trimmer blade lock (which is only found on some brands and models), the safety cutoff switch and the trigger that operates the blades. Find an outlet with a ground fault interrupter (GFI)--most GFI outlets have red "reset" buttons in the center--to power your trimmer.

Step 2

Attach a piece of kitchen string to branches on either end of the hedge to establish a level line. Without this step, it's hard to keep the top level as you cut. Lay ground cloth under hedges, especially privets and other small-leafed shrubs or those mulched with stones or lava rock. Plug an extension cord into the GFI outlet that is just long enough to reach the furthest point you will trim--longer cords can get tangled easily.

Step 3

Check your trimmer to make sure the safety switch is off and plug the extension cord into the receptacle on the back or bottom. If the trimmer has a cord retainer--usually a hook or hole in the handle--loop the cord through it to secure the cord.

Step 4

Hold the assist or brace handle that parallels the shield at the end of the blade, raise the trimmer to waist height and release the safety switch, generally found on the side or top of the operating grip with the other hand. Operate the trimmer by squeezing the trigger, which is usually found inside the operating grip. Hold the trimmer with both hands and trim close to waist level. Never reach higher than eye level.

Step 5

Trim across the top to level the hedge, starting at the furthest point out and working in toward the beginning of the hedge. Move back and forth in sweeps across the top of the hedge until it is level. Check the extension cord periodically to make sure that it is behind you. Always engage the safety switch when you set the trimmer down.

Step 6

Trim one side of the hedge, beginning at the bottom and moving the trimmer upward in gently curved sweeps. Move to the other side and complete that side. Make the bottoms of the hedge thicker than the top so that sunshine and air can get to all of the leaves. After final shaping, engage the safety switch and unplug the trimmer before cleaning the blade and storing the unit.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never use electric trimmers in the rain or standing in or near water. Opt for hand shears near ponds or other water features instead. Never use an undersized extension cord. Use at least a 16-gauge (electric gauge rating numbers decrease as the size of the wire increases) cord rated for outside (marked "WA" in the U.S.) use by the Underwriters (UL) Laboratories. Always wear eye protection and gloves while using power trimmers to protect against flying twigs and branches. Never wear loose clothing that might become tangled in blades or branches. Don't use electric trimmers on branches larger than half an inch--they are light-duty machines that will catch and chew on larger branches.

Things You'll Need

  • Electric hedge trimmer
  • Outdoor heavy-duty extension cord
  • Cotton string
  • Safety glasses
  • Drop cloths
  • Rakes

References

  • Galt Buying Guides: Hedge Trimmers Reviews
  • Weed Eater: Electric Hedge Trimmer Manual

Who Can Help

  • Popular Mechanics: Electric Trimmer Reviews
Keywords: hedge trimmer, electric trimmer, yard chores

About this Author

Chicago native Laura Reynolds has been writing for 40 years. She attended American University (D.C.), Northern Illinois University and University of Illinois Chicago and has a B.S. in communications (theater). Originally a secondary school communications and history teacher, she's written one book and edited several others. She has 30 years of experience as a local official, including service as a municipal judge.