Early this past spring, Troy-Bilt sent me a Troy-Bilt 20-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Electric String Trimmer (model TB57) to review. You should know that in the past, two of my grown sons have been employed maintaining the grounds of the local mental health facility. As a result of this employment, they have used a lot of string trimmers, and purchased a super-duper, heavy duty, gasoline-powered commercial model for our family which they knew could take the abuse that maintaining country property requires. And as they usually wait a little longer than ideal to cut back the weeds in the ditches and such, it does take abuse. And still works fine.
So why did I want to try Troy-Bilt’s Lithium Battery String Trimmer? Because of eyelash edges.
So, when Troy-Bilt asked me if I’d like to try this trimmer, I thought, “This trimmer sounds like something I could handle. Not heavy like a super-duper heavy-duty gasoline-powered trimmer (which we already have), and no cord trailing behind me, getting tangled up in who knows what. I, myself, could eliminate the eyelash edges, without spending hours cutting a new edge on all those beds. Yes, I want to test that trimmer!”
Read The Fine Print
I am one of those people who believe in reading the manual before assembling anything. How else can you be sure you are putting it together correctly? Furthermore, I had never operated a string trimmer before in my life. (I know, you non-manual-readers are thinking, “How hard can it be?”) And so, for it to be a fair review of Troy-Bilt’s trimmer, I had to read up on the trimmer’s operation. Much to my surprise, this turned out to be my greatest challenge.
You see, the actual installation and operating instructions are in very small print. At first I mistook them for the warranty.Not so long ago, I had better than 20-20 vision, and now, here I was, putting on my bifocals to read an instruction manual. How the mighty have fallen! Furthermore, this hindrance to string trimmer enlightenment was intentional: I’m all for reducing waste, but to me, this just seems penny-wise and pound-foolish. What do you think?
How Do You Work This Thing?
Okay, so I was a little paranoid. I’ve been struggling with back problems all summer, and I was afraid using this thing would hurt my back. So I practiced holding the trimmer correctly before I put the battery in. There’s a picture of a teensy (13/16 of inch, I measured) man illustrating the proper grip. What I discovered, is that the only way I could hold my slightly bent right arm on the housing grip and my straight left arm on the D-grip and keep the cutting heat parallel to the ground, was by positioning the tool diagonally across my body, instead of straight out in front, as I had expected. And I realized that holding it as the manual instructed did not strain my back as I had feared. Sometimes it pays to read the instructions.
The Battery Is Heavy
The battery is easy to insert in the charger and easy to insert in the trimmer. You can figure it out without reading the manual. (It is wise to design such things so that even idiots can’t screw it up.) But it is heavy. Once I put it in the trimmer, it changed the whole balance of it and I had to practice my proper holding technique all over again. In fact, the whole time I operated it, my right forearm was busy pushing down on the weight of the battery.
It Works, But…
My moment of truth had arrived. I was going to operate a string trimmer. Eyelash edges would be a thing of the past. I decided for my first time I would attempt something a little more fail-proof than trimming a flower bed’s eyelashes. I’d trim the grass at the base of a stone wall. I might wear out the string a little faster, but no plants would be hurt by my klutziness.
At first it didn’t seem to be cutting very well, but then my photographer said, “Try holding the trigger down more!” Whee! It sure spun around faster with just a little bit of encouragement. I followed the manual’s advice to “cut grass over 8 inches (ahem!) by working from top to bottom in small increments,” but these instructions confused me: “Cut from right to left whenever possible. Cutting from the left improves the unit’s cutting efficiency.” Huh? To my mind, the second sentence contradicts the first. For me, it seemed to work best when I started with the trimmer head on the left and moved it towards the right.
Since this was the first time I had ever used a trimmer, I have nothing to compare it to in terms of efficiency. I did have to make a couple of passes to get things trimmed the way I wanted, but the grass was high and also damp–which it’s not supposed to be. We’ve had such frequent rain and heavy dews that I despaired of ever finding the ideal conditions for trimming. So I just did it, manual be damned.
Poor Ergonomic Design
I found I quickly tired of holding down the trigger, so that I had to take frequent pauses to rest my hand. That cuts down on efficiency. If you look at my right hand in the photo above, it is bent and twisted as it is holding down the trigger. My wrist is not in an ergonomically neutral position, and it is holding down a button the whole time. The fact that I had to be told to press the button down harder indicates that I had to use more finger strength than I normally do to achieve efficient operation. I never got a backache, but my shoulders and my right arm ached. After no more than twenty minutes of use, I had a shooting pain radiating from my wrist along the inside of my forearm. To someone who struggles to keep tennis elbow and other repetitive strain problems at bay, this was not a good sign. I’m going to have to find a different method of eliminating eyelash edges. I just can’t risk re-injuring myself.
My son Lachlan, who has worked for the grounds department, also found the design bothered his wrist. For him, the problem was exacerbated by the short length of the tool’s shaft. As you can see in the photo, he has to bend over to trim, even with the telescoping shaft fully extended. The short length means his wrist must be at an even sharper angle in order to keep the trimmer head parallel to the ground. While he agreed the design made the trimmer uncomfortable to use, he thought it cut grass satisfactorily for a battery powered trimmer. But he wouldn’t want it to be his main trimming tool.
The Bottom Line
This Troy-Bilt Lithium Battery String Trimmer falls short of its potential because it doesn’t accommodate the human body satisfactorily. Even fully extended, the shaft of the tool is only a tad too long for me, five foot two inches when I’m practicing my best posture. The trigger location on the handle forces the operator’s hand into an uncomfortable position, and the stiffness of the trigger makes the fingers work harder than necessary. It’s too bad, because the lithium battery-powered motor has the potential to make a lighter, quieter, and more convenient alternative to the super-duper, heavy duty, gasoline-powered commercial model that does the lion’s share of trimming around here. I guess I’d better dig out the edge cutter and the grass shears.