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How do you pick a brush cutter?

Posted by westcoastbroke Z8 OR (My Page) on
Tue, Jun 27, 06 at 19:08

I've got a couple of tasks to deal with. A 150 foot frontage with a ditch, that needs to be cut. This *could* be a lawn mower, except for the slope - it's basically grasses. I figure a good sturdy string cutter would work.

I also have 300 feet along one property line, with about three to six feet of brush, with trunks up to 1/2" diameter. Much of it is blackberries, which have REALLY nasty thorns. Climbing in there with hands and knees puts the upper part of one's body at risk, even with husky clothing. A power tool with handle is what I'd like - like a "brush cutter", I"m envisioning something like a string trimmer, but with a metal blade instead.

Another property line is 500 feet long, this one has a mixture of desirable oak and fir trees, with some brush growing up around them.

The final task is the most onerous - a patch of blackberries that's about 50 X 75 feet, that I want to completely clear out. For that task, I may rent goats or pay a farmer with a tractor, so I don't HAVE to be able to deal with this particular infestation with the brush cutter.

Once having cleared out the excess growth, the blackberries here grow as much as six inches a day, so there's continuing work to do that's really beyond doing it manually.

Are there brands to avoid? Brands to want? I've noticed someone on ebay selling a brand called "Power King" for relatively cheap. Any good? How do I pick a size? The ones on ebay have 25CC engines. Is that big? Small?

I'm a newbie to buying anything less common than a lawn mower, so thanks for any help!

WCB


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

Your best bet is going to be a rental.
You won't really find anything that is up to the task until you hit the commercial end of things.
The starting point is around 300$


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

Stihl FS250 with bicycle handlebar. It's a great machine, plenty of power with string or saw blade. It is however a commercial-service unit - $400+ new. About 1/2 price on eBay.


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

I wrote a longer reply earlier but I guess I did not hit the submit button.

Basically, I said you could do it yourself but you noted it is alot of work.

Stihl makes some larger units intended for heavier brush (FS250, 350, 450 and 550). They put out 2-4bhp.

Don't go by displacement alone. The Stihl FS80 (25cc) puts out 1.27bhp, while the less expensive models with a 27cc engine put out 1.01bhp.

You could either rent or contract out the bulk work. From what you describe you could maintain it with an FS80 or in the Echo line a 230 but more likely a 260.

If you buy a trimmer/brushcutter, go with one from a dealer. You will likely need support at some point. An ebay special would be hard to find parts for.

Makes of good quality in no particular order: Echo, Stihl, Tanaka, RedMax, Shindaiwa. Again, get one that has good/great dealer support.


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

I suggest you look at the split boom trimmers. I have one from Echo and I can switch from a brush cutter to a string trimmer (with .130 string) in less than a minute. I also have a hedgecutter, an edger and a cultivator attachment.

One powersource, but 5 different uses.... and they make other attachments as well. Buy one good one and it will take care of your needs for years to come.


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

I too have a Stihl FS250. I like it very much for clearing undergrowth on our 55 rural acres. I use both a trimmer head and brush blade. I cut down up to 2" saplings with the brush blade. It's easy to change back and forth. The engine is 40cc.

As for your blackberries, I use a 2% solution of Remedy for such plants. It must be sprayed on foliage. You may have to apply twice. Cutting blackberries just invigorates them.

Good luck with your purchase.

Mike


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

Masiman, what kind of "dealer support" do these things require? I've never used a dealer for support for lawn mowers or automobiles, just a competent repair guy. Can't a "small engine" shop generally deal with them?

Michael_east_texas, a good bit of the perimiter blackberries are already dead - I killed them last year with "Crossbow". That leaves them very tough and difficult to remove. I had better luck this past spring, when the soil was moist, pulling live blackberries out of the soil by hand. If I got enough of the root, they did not come back.

Thanks all!

WCB


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

When you are spending your hard earned money for quality tools, it pays to go with a reliable dealer.

Some of the small stuff you may be able to handle yourself, but that one time you need quality service, you willwant that dealer who knows you and your purchases.

Having said that, I would recommend either Echo or Stihl. Again, talking to a knowledgable dealer about your needs will help you assess the exact piece of equipment you will need for the job.

I'll pass on the blackberry issue. No experience with them at all.

Enjoy the journey.

eal51 in western CT.


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

They don't really require alot of dealer support. But if there is a problem, getting it resolved with likely be easier through a dealer (warranty work, parts in the case of Stihl, specialized experience, etc). Most small engine shops could do all the repairs you might need. They might not be as good at them and take longer if parts are needed. I know when I have need of a part or a repair, I can get turned around in one visit at the dealer. If you are comfortable being off the grid then you will likely do okay. For the amount of work you are thinking of though, I would still recommend you stick to the name brand equipment.

Of course all above is free advice/opinion. Given freely and worth as much :).

Let us know what you decide to do and how it works out. Someone else could learn from your experiences.


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

Westcoastbroke. I can relate to what you are saying about them being tough and difficult to remove. I guess it depends on what you hope to do with the land you are clearing of blackberries. We have more of a problem with, what is called around here, briar or brambles. Very invasive thorny stuff.

When killed with herbicide, it is indeed very tough stuff, but it is also quite brittle. After killing it, I cut it as close to the ground as I can with a brushblade. This works best with one person using the brushblade, another with a rake. But then, my main goal is to keep this stuff from choking out everything else along our roads. It doesn't matter to us if the "stubble" is coarse or prone to puncture, we aren't trying to return the area being cleared to any productive purpose.

If I were trying to return an area to pasture or yard, I would probably do what I am doing now, followed by tilling or plowing.

You mentioned pulling live blackberries by hand. I don't know how thick or how tall these plants are, but I wonder if you could wrap a chain around a bunch and pull them out with a truck? We've done this sometimes with overgrown underbrush. Our experience is similar to yours, this works best when the soil is moist.

Good luck.

Mike


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

Dealer support can be summed up quickly.

Did you buy it from us? We can service it and have it ready during the busy season in a week to 10 days.

Did you buy it from a big box store like home cheapo or sprawl mart or on the web?
Six weeks if we are caught up on our regular customers.


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

If you want to buy, look for at least 40cc displacement and bicycle handlebars. (That's bigger than the Stihl FS250 - I have a Redmax which is sized about the same as the Stihl 450, and of course is much better quality.) With a trimmer in this size range you can run it as a string trimmer OR with a brush blade. Caution: these can swing sideways suddenly from kickback, so DO NOT let anybody come near you at all when you are using a blade.


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

Hi,
I purchased an Echo SRM-261T and a brush blade kit this past week and it did an awesome job clearing out the heavy brush in our woods. I'm talking about sapplings 2"+, no problem. The 261T was $299 with another $40 for the brush blade kit. It is similar to the 260 but 50% more torque. If you need to do Blackberries or heavier this will work very well.

IMO, the issues with purchasing cheaper models is even though the engine size is ok, the the drive shafts and gearboxes are not upto the task of brushcutting. I had a John Deere (made by Homelite) with worked fine as a string trimmer, but when converted to a brushcutter was a PITA. It lacked enough torque and was always getting bogged down and bound up. Eventually, the cable shaft broke when cutting into a sappling. You need a high quality drive shaft and gearbox for brushcutting. If you sweep the blade into some rough stuff and hit something unexpected it you want the shaft to hold up.

If you just want a string trimmer for homeowner use cheap is fine, no need to shell out the $. For cutting into heavy brush spend the extra $ for better quality, cheap probably won't last long. All the multiple brand dealers around here say Echo trimmers are their most popular. Just my .02 :).
Dave


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

Patentnonsense, your handle suggests a person who at the very least, dislikes misinformation.

You are misinforming our membership when you say the FS250 is less than 40cc. This is a very easy fact to look up on Stihl USA. An FS250 has a displacement of 40.2cc. The largest Redmax I find listed, the BC4400DW or BC4401DW, has a displacement of 41.5cc. The Stihl FS450K has a displacement of 44.3cc. Unless you have a bigger model that I can not find listed, that puts your Redmax closer to an FS250 (1.3cc bigger) than it is to an FS450K (2.8cc smaller).

I've heard good things about Redmax. You could be entirely right about the quality of your Redmax as compared to the FS450, I certainly could not comment on that, since I have no personal experience with either. The Redmax BC4400DW sure sounds like a sturdy machine at .9 lb. heavier than an FS450K and 5.1 lb. heavier than an FS250. It could be the sturdiest, most well built trimmer/brushcutter in the world, but that doesn't justify misinformation.

I have a personal distaste for brand bashing. IMHO, combined with misinformation it is just immature and misleading.

Mike


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

Well, I got busy with other stuff and ignored this topic for a while, so my yardage is in worse shape, LOL!

I finally went to the Stihl dealer. Good idea. Cleared up some misperceptions. First off, they said that they felt their role was to listen to what I needed to do, and help me pick something that was not too big. The most common mistake they say is people buy something too big. At my land size (less than ten acres), they said a clearing saw was way overkill and steered me toward an FS80 with the bicycle handlebars (e.g. brush cutter), with a few blades for grasses and the blackberries.

I asked them about dealer maintenance and they laughed. "Maintenance? You do that yourself. Keep the air filter clean and give it a new spark plug every year and you won't need us for ten years. Nobody uses a dealer for maintenance on something as simple as a brush cutter. We'd be happy to take your money for it, but frankly, if you're willing to do this kind of work on your land, you can handle any maintenance item that comes up. You can call us for the parts, we'll charge your card and mail you the parts."

It looks like an FS80 with some attachments is in my future. And an honest dealer, too.


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

westcoastbroke, it sounds as if your dealer is giving good advice. I own a Stihl FS-250 and actually enjoy using it to mow down large, messy, tangled brush. I'll strongly suggest you purchase the triangle blade Stihl sells. This is an amazing blade that cuts through everything with ease. A family member recently purchased a Stihl FS-83 with the bicycle handlebars and I was very impressed at how well it sliced through very dense Sumac growth. I imagine it's similar to the FS-80 so you should be very happy with the results.


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

I'd go rent a brushcutter for a day. Something like a DR or Billy Goat brushcutter. You could clean up the whole property in a weekend. Then get a decent string trimmer to keep it clean. An actual brushcutter like a DR or Billy goat will be far easier and way faster than setting up a string trimmer with a blade.


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

aesanders, have you ever actually had Himalayan blackberries on your property? During peak growth season, they can grow six inches per day. You go on a two week vacation, and when you come back, you've got blackberries with 1/2 inch diameter trunks where you used to have bare dirt. Last year, we had one area cleaned out, and I ignored it. I thought it was free of blackberreies, but this spring I went in there and holy camole - a blackberry canopy arched over my head - they had completely encircled a hedge of rosebushes!

A string cannot deal with them. Somehow or another, you must have a device that's capable of a blade. My neighbor has a string trimmer with brush cutter attachment and says it's about three minutes from string to blade or blade to string - doesn't sound too bad, really. I figure I'll set it up with string, and do everything that can use a string one weekend, then set up with blade the next weekend, and hopefully just do weekly touch-up during growing season with the blade.

Maybe you're right that for initial clearing, I need something bigger - I'll find out soon enough. But I am very certain that a string will be inadequate for routine maintenance. I can't imagine keeping after these blackberries with just a string...a blade is going to be required.

Himalayan blackberries are a non-indigenous invasive species that, so far, seems to be concentrating on the Pacific Northwest...have never heard of them on the eastern seaboard. I used to live in Georgia, and they are much more invasive than, for instance, Kudzu.

Here is a link that might be useful: Description of Himalayan Blackberries


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Got it - and am pleased!

A bit worn, from five hours of using a tool that's new to me, but not bad for an out-of-shape old man.

We bought an FS90, not the 80 as recommended. Mainly because they had the 90 in stock, and also because this one came with a "4 power" engine; a two-stroke with some added valves to make it a tad less stinky.

I started using it with the double string, making short work of the grassy ditch. My wonderful bride saw the tool in action and headed me toward the rose bushes and bermed garden area. I discovered that by beating the strings against the ground, I could completely clear the soil between desired plants, and radically reduce the amount of weeding she's going to have to do. Also runs through string pretty fast while doing that, since soil is, in general, abrasive. After many hours of doing that (half done with an amount of weeding that she had predicted would take four to six weekends), I slapped the blade on (a one-minute changeover) and went to work on the blackberries. The engine temperature indicated how much harder the machine was working. Basically, the rate at which I clear blackberries is dictated by how quickly I can rake the decimated plants out of the area.

I'm going to have to get fairly good at sharpening blades, but otherwise, this tool's going to do the job just fine.

This one weighs about 12-13 pounds, I'm glad I did not get a bigger one.


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RE: How do you pick a brush cutter?

I didn't actually mean for you to use the nylon string to do the cutting. You can set up most decent string cutters with a blade and it sounds like you got one. I'd still go rent a heavy duty walk behind rotary cutter (bush hog type machine) for the day to cut all the blackberries down. It will make short work of them.


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correction...

I didn't actually mean for you to use the nylon string to do the cutting. You can set up most decent string cutters with a blade and it sounds like you got one. I'd still go rent a heavy duty walk behind rotary cutter (bush hog type machine) for the day to cut all the blackberries down. It will make short work of them.


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