Semi-Pro String Trimmer Buyer's Guide
Pick the Perfect Mid-Grade Gas Handheld Trimmer
If you're the type who takes great pride in your lawn, you want a string trimmer that'll provide the power and precision to meet your needs. An entry-level string trimmer provides the basics, but you need a step up in features and performance.
Mid-grade gas handheld string trimmers offer more power and features, similar to those of a commercial-grade string trimmer but without the commercial price tag.
Mid-grade (also called "semi-pro") trimmers are designed to be used for about five to ten hours per week and are excellent for large yards with lots of thick growth. Because of this, you'll see differences in several features between mid-grade gas trimmers and entry-level models:
- String guards or shields
- Handle styles
- Shaft styles
- Engine types
You spend a lot of time on your lawn, so choose a string trimmer that compliments your efforts and will never let you down.
Mid-Grade Gas Trimmer Shields
The shield or guard is the part of the trimmer that serves as a barrier between the string and the user's legs or feet. String trimmers use three different types of shields:
- Full shields
- Half shields
- Bikini shields
Bikini shields provide excellent maneuverability but less protection. They're best suited for use with string or line as your cutting edge instead of a replacement blade. As a result, they're most often included on entry-level or residential trimmers.
Instead, when it comes to mid-grade trimmers, you're likely to find half shields in place. These allow you to get into tight spaces while still providing you with protection. Full shields are available but are more common on commercial-grade trimmers.
Mid-Grade Gas Trimmer Handles
The semi-pro gas handheld category is where you start to see more variety in the types of handles. In general, there are a few different kinds of handles available on string trimmers:
- D-shaped handles
- J-shaped handles
- Bicycle-style handles
D-handles are especially common on residential trimmers; they're available on several mid-grade trimmers, too. Because they extend to either side of the trimmer's shaft, they can be held with either the left hand or right hand in front.
However, once you decide to upgrade to a mid-level gas trimmer, you'll notice trimmers with J-handles and bike-style handles as well.
Comfort isn't the only reason for this, although many people find J-handles and bike handles well-designed for longer hours of use.
The other reason is safety. If you decide that you want to replace your trimmer line with a blade for cutting thicker swaths of growth, OSHA requires the trimmer to have bicycle-style handles in place.
(A trimmer blade also can be used with a D-handle trimmer, but only if the trimmer has a barrier bar in place as well. J-handle trimmers can be fitted with blades, but they might not meet OSHA guidelines.)
If a user encounters kickback while working with a bladed trimmer, bar-style handles will provide more control and prevent the blade from causing the user serious harm.
Even though OSHA standards apply only in the workplace, it never hurts to keep safety in mind while you're using a high-powered mid-grade trimmer!
Mid-Grade Gas Trimmer Shafts
While you'll find more variety in the types of handles available for mid-grade handheld trimmers, you'll find less variety in the types of shafts. String trimmers can feature one of two shaft styles:
- Curved shaft design
- Straight shaft design
Curved shaft trimmers tend to be lighter and shorter and to offer the user more control. So why is the straight shaft design the one more commonly used for mid-grade (and commercial) string trimmers?
One answer is maneuverability. Curved shaft trimmers have a harder time trimming in small, tight spaces. Straight shaft trimmers typically are easier to angle into those hard-to-reach corners that you expect a higher-grade trimmer to reach.
The other answer comes back to replacement blades. Blades cannot be used with curved shaft trimmers.
Part of this is due to the design – the string or blade on a straight shaft trimmer rotates clockwise (while the string on a curved shaft trimmer turns counterclockwise), and blades are designed with that in mind.
But part of this is due to safety concerns, too. Because curved shaft trimmers are held closer to the user than straight shaft trimmers, blades would present a serious safety risk.
Your mid-grade trimmer is a powerful machine. It comes with safety warnings to match.
Mid-Grade Gas Trimmer Engines
The power for your semi-pro gas trimmer comes from its engine.
Like other types of trimmers, mid-grade trimmers are available with either 2-cycle or 4-cycle engines.
The 4-cycle engine is common among mid-grade trimmers because of the torque it offers. A 2-cycle trimmer will produce more power by operating a higher speed, which means that thick grass and weeds can slow it down and reduce its output. A 4-cycle trimmer depends on torque, or rotational force, for its power output, which means that heavy growth won't stand in its way.
Whichever engine style you prefer, you'll notice that gas trimmers in the mid-grade category overall provide more power than their entry-level counterparts. Residential trimmers usually offer between 20cc and 30cc of horsepower. However, mid-grade trimmers extend their horsepower into the 30-40cc range (and even into the low 40s!).
Whether you're a professional or semi-pro user, or a homeowner with a large, unruly yard to tame, you'll find that a mid-grade gas handheld trimmer provides plenty of power at a perfect price.