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String Trimmers and Brush Cutters

The first time I laid hands on a string trimmer, I felt like the Wicked Witch of the West. The gentlest squeeze of my hand activated the whirring string at the base of this broomstick-like weed-whacker. It leapt into action, grinding away the messy outer edges of my yard and garden. Straggling weeds lay felled at my feet. Errant grasses cowered and succumbed. I felt a maniacal laugh coming on.

If you are of a certain age, you may remember how manicuring the yard used to be done—the primary trimming tool of choice was the dreaded, carpel-tunnel-injury-inducing, handheld grass clipper. I remember as a kid spending hours on my knees in penance to a neat-as-a-pin suburban yard. It was my job to trim the no-man's-land-area that the push mower couldn't reach. Begrudgingly, I clipped long wisps of grass that huddled furtively along the edge of the house. Grasping the awkward, out-of-balance tool and squeezing together the reluctant blades, I grew to hate clipping. I was never so happy to have a younger brother as the day that he was deemed steady enough to work these treacherous blades and inherited the job.

Simply put, a string trimmer is a yard-care necessity (unless you're Edward Scissorhands). As with most modern conveniences, you are presented with more options than you may know what to do with. String trimmers are available in both gas- and electric-powered options. You can purchase gas-powered string trimmers in both two- and four-cycle engine models. Two-cycle engine models require an oil and gas mixture to run, and may be the best choice for heavy-duty trimming of rough and inconsistent plant material. Four-cycle models run on straight gas. Both are fairly loud—creating a high-pitched whine as they efficiently cut their way through your weeds.

For quieter and emission-free grass trimming, an electric-powered string trimmer may be for you. You can get an electric trimmer in either a corded (requires an extension c