So you’re at one of the big box stores shopping for a new string trimmer. You have several decisions to make. Gas or electric. What size engine? What size line? Straight shaft or curved shaft. Many homeowners prefer curved shaft trimmers, and they do have several benefits. They tend to be lighter and cheaper, easier to carry. The curved shaft puts the cutting head closer to you, giving you more control than straight-shaft trimmers. That extra control makes it easier for you to get a level cut, as opposed to shearing the grass off at the ground level, which will kill the grass.
So, why do most professional lawn workers not use curved shaft trimmers – and believe me, most don’t. I carry one in my trailer, but seldom use it – and by seldom I actually mean ‘never.’ I have two straight shaft string trimmers with two different gauges of line.
The primary advantage of curved-shaft trimmers is also the biggest disadvantage. Remember, I told you the business end of a curved-shaft trimmer is closer to your face, making it easier to control. Because it’s closer than on a straight-shaft trimmer, it also means your face is closer to grass, sticks, rocks and other debris that fly up at you. And your feet and legs are also closer to the heavy line on a curved-shaft trimmer. That means you have a greater risk of injury with a curved shaft. (Lawyer’s disclaimer: Whichever type you select, be sure to wear safety glasses and take all necessary safety precautions to minimize the risk of injury.)
Straight-shaft trimmers give the operator added reach to trim grass in areas that are a little more difficult to trim with a curved-shaft trimmer. Because the cutting head is farther away, it’s less likely that you’ll get whacked in the face with flying debris with a straight-shaft trimmer. However, they do tend to weigh more, which can be hard on the back. On the other hand, using curved-shaft trimmers usually requires bending over, which also can exacerbate back problems.
If pressed to make a blanket recommendation, I’d go with a straight-shaft trimmer. But there are several individual factors to consider. My suggestion is to spend some time at the store holding different types of string trimmers. See which is most comfortable. If you’re tall(ish), you probably will feel most comfortable with a straight-shaft trimmer. Those of you who are more vertically challenged might find it’s more comfortable using one that’s curved. (By the way, my lovely wife is 4’11”, and she finds the term ‘vertically challenged’ preferable to ‘short.’)