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Anyone who owns a lawn wants to look after it as well as possible, but also with as little effort as possible. In particular, cutting edges and clearing, which used to be very time-consuming and mostly done on your knees, is becoming easier and easier with the use of modern technology. Here we explain the differences between lawn trimmers and when thread, knife or scythe are the right choice.

Grass trimmer purchase advice

A universal purchase advice for the perfect lawn trimmer cannot be expressed. Because which variant is most suitable depends heavily on the planned area of application. Strictly speaking, before recommending individual tool attachments, it is even necessary to differentiate between different devices:

  1. The lawn trimmer
  2. The brush cutter or brush cutter

There is no clear, universally recognized distinction between the two devices. In principle, both devices are suitable for trimming lawn edges and pushing back overgrown vegetation into the lawn. The general differences between the two devices are based on the following points:

  • drive type
  • engine power
  • device weight
  • device dimensions
  • handiness
  • typical tool attachments

grass trimmer

When you buy a grass trimmer, you typically use it to cut grass in all those areas that you can't reach with your lawn mower. These are the edges of the lawn, as well as the immediate vicinity of tree trunks, bushes and other objects such as garden benches or bird baths. Accordingly, this device is also intended for cutting grass, weeds or, at most, young shoots of plants that have only just broken through the ground. This application results in typical properties that clearly differentiate the grass trimmer from the motor-driven scythe:

  • Type of drive: electric, wired or battery
  • Motor power: approx. 250 to 600 watts
  • Weight: approx. 1 to 2 kilograms, a little more depending on the tool
  • Dimension: small, light drive with control panel, linkage for standing use with tools just above ground level
  • Handy: Due to its low weight, it can also be used under bushes and trees, as well as along hedges, sometimes with an adjustable shaft for kneeling work
  • Common tools: thread on a spool or nylon knife
  • Costs: simple devices from approx. EUR 20, branded devices with multiple uses (changeable tool attachments) between EUR 100 and 150

brush cutter

The brush cutter, often also referred to as a brushcutter, is a more powerful version of the grass trimmer, so to speak. Stronger and more robust, it is able to cut branches and twigs as well as grass, as well as more developed young plants on the lawn, but also in woody areas remove. The brush cutter can be equipped with various tools so that it can be used in a variety of ways, from classic lawn trimming to real brush cutting and clearing:

  • Drive type: electric or petrol driven
  • Engine power: electric from approx. 800 watts and up, petrol-driven up to approx. 3 to 5 hp
  • Weight: depending on the drive up to around 5 kilograms, very large models even more
  • Dimension: with increasing power heavier engine block, more stable shaft for high power transmission, overall more robust and stable design, often with carrying harness and two-hand grip
  • Handiness: significantly less than grass trimmers, can usually only be used in an upright position
  • Common tools: two-, three- or four-bladed knife, rarely thread on a spool, optionally also a saw blade
  • Costs: inexpensive entry-level models from EUR 80 to 100, high-performance devices with interchangeable tools (e.g. hedge trimmers, pole pruners, etc. in addition to scythes) from approx. EUR 200; Premium devices from EUR 500 to approx. EUR 1000

notice: The motorized scythe is generally able to take over the tasks of a lawn trimmer. The lawn trimmer, on the other hand, can only perform the tasks of a brush cutter to a limited extent because of its lower performance and less resistant tools.


While the purchase advice for the actual devices is strongly individualized and can ultimately only be carried out by the user on the basis of his future plans, it is far easier with the tools that can be used with them. On the one hand, these are wearing parts that you buy again and again. In addition, the costs are also significantly lower here, so that it can be both technically sensible and financially affordable to equip a device with changing attachments depending on the application.

thread spool

A nylon thread is rolled up on a spool and is unwound a little. Set in rotation, the nylon thread cuts through grass, weeds and other soft plant parts. If the thread breaks over time or after contact with a solid object (stone, metal post, tree trunk, etc.), it is simply unwound a little again at the touch of a button.

  • Strengths: low material costs, fast thread replenishment without significant work interruptions, no damage to tree trunks, solid woody plants or components
  • Weaknesses: only limited cutting effect, cutting through by tearing rather than real cutting, only suitable for lawn and weed cutting.


Equipped with two, three or four blades, a knife already achieves significantly more mass and thus also cutting performance than a thread. The ground cutting edge does the rest. Knife attachments are available in two versions:

nylon knife

They are used on lawn trimmers as a more permanent alternative to line. Once dulled, they are replaced while regrinding is not possible.

  • Strengths: better work performance than thread, longer work intervals possible
  • Weaknesses: cannot be resharpened, mostly destroyed when in contact with solid objects

steel knife

A steel knife is usually matched to the powerful engine of a scythe and can also cut through twigs and other wood due to the weight and cutting edge in connection with the drive power of the device

  • Strengths: high work performance, regrindable
  • Weaknesses: cannot be used on grass trimmers, requires a lot of strength to control when in contact with solid objects, danger of snagging due to the lack of a cutting edge all around

saw blades

Saw blades are explicitly designed for the toughest clearing work. Very similar to a circular saw blade for wood, they are only used in conjunction with real motor brush cutters. As a rule, it is primarily the petrol-driven models that have the power required to use the saw blade sensibly.

  • Strengths: very high work output, can even be used for thicker trees, in contrast to knives no risk of snagging due to the round shape, easy to sharpen
  • Weaknesses: Can only be used with a certain engine power, very expensive to buy, definitely not suitable for lawn trimmers

If you look at the individual tools, it becomes clear how wide the range of possible applications for lawn trimmers and brush cutters can be. Now it is also clear why one can hardly cover all work equally well with one universal device. Either a brushcutter seems oversized for trimming edges, or the power of the lawn trimmer is only partially sufficient for real clearing work. Thorough consideration of the actual requirements is therefore essential in order to be able to buy your personal device in a targeted manner and not exaggeratedly.

tip: On the other hand, if you want to cover as wide a range of work as possible or perhaps don't even know where you want to go in the future, you will probably be well served with a smaller model of brush cutter. The device is handy enough for everyday trimming work on the lawn, but has sufficient power reserves to be able to handle even smaller free-cutting jobs. Ideally, there is the possibility of equipping it with a line spool and metal knives, so that the optimal tool is available for every job.

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