Although the term "weed eater" generally refers to any string trimmer, it is actually a brand name that also covers blowers, hedge trimmers, edgers and mowers. The string trimmer was invented in the early 1970s and subsequently the "Weed Eater" brand was born. Edgers and trimmers have two different purposes in the landscape. An edger creates an edge around sidewalks, beds or other things; a trimmer chops weeds with a string.
Trimmers have a long shaft, either curved or straight, with a handle on one end and a string housing on the other. The string whips around in a circle quickly creating a stiff surface of cutting power. Most string trimmers are for use on herbaceous plants and weeds, although some will cut through small woody plants. You can also use a string trimmer in areas that you can't reach with a mower, such as along fences, light posts or other items.
Edgers are either manual or powered. They create a clean separation between two areas. Common uses for edgers are around sidewalks and driveways; the edger creates a small trench and line that separates the grass from the concrete or other surface. Landscaping beds are often edged to create a clean line between the lawn and the bed. Sometimes the mulch is pushed into the small trench to create a seamless transition from grass to bed. Not all edgers are handheld; walk-behind edgers are available, as well.
Like many other things, lawn tools have evolved to create simpler, more powerful and more useful products. Many modern trimmers have detachable heads that you can replace with other tools, including edgers. This allows a homeowner or professional to have an arsenal of lawn tools that doesn't take up a lot of space in a shed, garage or truck. To replace the head, you simply unlock it and remove it and place the other tool on the end of the shaft.
Heavy Duty & Powered
Heavy-duty trimmers for brush and woody plants are also available as either stand-alone items or attachments for tractors and other vehicles. These types don't always use string like the smaller, handheld items. Both trimmers and edgers come in either gas or electric models. Electric models are typically lighter weight, although corded electric models have the limitation of the length of the extension cord you can find. Gas products, while heavier, are sometimes more convenient because you can take them anywhere. Researching different brands is important when making your decision on either of these tools; quality is important. Like all powered lawn tools, use safety and common sense when operating, as both can be dangerous or life-threatening.