From hand clippers to string trimmers

Like most of you in the grounds-care industry, I had my fist exposure to turf maintenance when I was 9 years old and was assigned chores on the home lawn. I wasn't allowed to operate the mower then, but I had the honor of being named chief lawn trimmer. Back in the early 1960s, we didn't have the luxury of powered string trimmers--in fact, they weren't manufactured until 1971. We had manual grass shears--the kind with spring-loaded handles that you squeeze to make the blades cut like scissors. I had to cut the grass around the entire foundation of the house as well as around the tree bases in the yard. The first five minutes weren't that bad, but as my hands got tired and the blisters appeared, the job wasn't so honorific anymore. The slow pace and the tedium were the worst parts of the task. I dreaded doing the job. It's a wonder I pursued a career in the grounds-care industry after that experience.

Nowadays, grounds-care tasks are much easier and quicker with the development of powered hand-held grounds-care equipment. The list is long: string trimmers, brush cutters, blowers, chain saws, power brooms, hedge trimmers, power pruners and more. They have become tools that grounds managers are lost without. Learn about the history of hand-held power equipment in our opening feature, "Pioneers transform hand-held equipment."

One of the first developments in powered, hand-held grounds-care equipment was the chain saw. The heavy clunkers that were first introduced have given way to the lighter, safer and more powerful models of today. Still, the dangers of felling trees with a chain saw or buck saw remain the same. Fortunately, techniques have been developed that make tree felling safer. Tim Ard and Soren Eriksson, chain saw training consultants, discuss the proper way to fell a tree in "How to: Fell a tree" on page 33.

Hedge trimmers are another one of those wonder tools that save loads of time, compared with manual hedge shears. Although some will argue that manual shears are more accurate for specialized cutting such as topiary, they can't deny the productivity of powered hedge trimmers. Learn about powered hedge trimmers in "Equipment options" beginning on page 38.

With few exceptions, most hand-held power equipment will start with the pull of a rewind starter rope. If the unit is not in top condition, you may have to pull and pull and pull to get it started, if you can start it at all. For larger grounds-care equipment, such as riding mowers, utility vehicles, tractors and trucks, you don't have to worry about pulling your arm off to get them started-a 12-volt battery will do the trick. Still, you can run into starting problems if you don't care for your battery properly. Douglas Hammond, assistant professor at the State University of New York-Cobleskill, gives you tips on how to service, recharge and store batteries in "Give your batteries staying power with proper care" on page 64.

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