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Blower beast: get to know Stihl’s 800 Magnum

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Coincidence can bring lots of fun and excitement into your life. A few months ago I got to test the new and beautiful Stihl Magnum blower. And on that same day, I purchased a copy of The Atlantic magazine with a story by James Fallows about a successful blower ban in Washington, D.C. See “Get off my lawn“, The Atlantic, April, 2019. I had no idea landscapers could have so much fun in one day.

 

The key information

(Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with Stihl).

The new Stihl Magnum is beautiful. And here’s the key selling point. Stihl’s previous models had great air speed with low volume; and then they increased air volume but air speed suffered. Now, the two volumes meet successfully in the Magnum.

This is why your leaf blowing season is about to get better. The Magnum has good air volume AND air speed. It’s a fantastic blower that will make you fall in love with blowing. Unless you’re a writer from Washington, DC.

Key features

1. innovative 2-stroke, stratified charge engine, providing outstanding performance, plenty of power, a 20% reduction in fuel consumption and up to 70% fewer exhaust emissions

2. automatic starting position and automatic choke reset, very simple to start

3. professional anti-vibration system, making them very comfortable to use, reliable and user-friendly.

 

Vas tested

 

The features from above are all sales copy from Stihl’s website. I prefer to do my own testing in the field so this blog isn’t full of fiction.  My field testing went really well. I believe this is the best blower I’ve ever used. Why?

  1. It has tons of power so it can move large amounts of debris
  2. It feels great on my shoulders
  3. It doesn’t feel heavier than the previous models
  4. It really starts nicely
  5. And I don’t notice any extra noise

 

If you have larger properties to maintain or sites that get very leafy, this would be a great blower to invest in. I think the new Magnum will make you fall in love with blowing again.

 

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My favourite local dealer is Tri-City Power Equipment, 98 Fawcett Road, Coquitlam BC V3K 6V5, 604-520-3000

 

How to have fun with the X-Mark 30 walk behind mower

By | Lawn Care, machines | No Comments

How do you cut a flat strata site with several long open lawn sections and some tighter spots? You use X-Mark’s 30 walk behind mower. Standard 21′ mower would be fine but it would require extra passes; and a big ride-on mower can’t access many of the tight spots.

I don’t often get to use the X-Mark 30 walk behind because, as a landscape supervisor, I usually move around different crews; and we often leave mowing to the newer workers.

But once in a while people go missing, especially during the summer months. There are weddings to attend and camp sites to populate. Then I get to help out and everything starts with lawn care.

Why X-Mark 30?

  1. Obviously, the larger deck means you have to make fewer passes which reduces user fatigue. As a landscape professional I’m used to fatigue but new guys get spooked by their own sweat. Fewer passes is a dream for them. It was so much fun cutting long straight stretches of lawn, it inspired this blog post.
  2. Because the mower is bigger, it takes some getting used to. It’s self-propelled and feels like a tank. It will crush any garden gnome that gets in the way.
  3. One drawback is that you will need help to load this beast on and off your truck, unless you have a ramp.
  4. The gas tank is huge so you can cover a huge area before re-fuelling.
  5. One cool feature is that the front wheels get adjusted separately: just lift the pin and the wheel pops out so you can insert it into whatever height you desire, quickly.

 

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Making fewer passes on long straight lawns is a bonus.

 

X-mark tech notes

You can read X-Mark’s notes on their website if you like. All I want you to know from this blog post is that the X-Mark 30 walk behind is surprisingly fun to use. If you have long straight stretches of lawn definitely try this beast.

 

 

 

 

 

Another shocking waste of time

By | landscape maintenance, machines | No Comments

New landscape foremen gain experience as they work in the field with their crews and you can expect them to surprise you. I often think I’ve seen it all, but it’s not true; I will never run out of blog topics.

Consider my recent visit to one work site. The foreman and his helper were behind on mid-season pruning and finesse work. Really behind so I was called in to help out. That’s my role as landscape supervisor. I help out and train workers as we go.

Polished heads, really?

After finishing line edging, I found both workers by the truck washing and polishing their line edger heads!? Completely shocked and annoyed, I asked them why we were polishing machine attachments at ten o’clock when there was tons of pruning and weeding to do. “That’s how I like it” was the foreman’s reply.

 

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A nicely polished head but what’s the use when your site is burning?

 

Luckily, I kept calm and left to resume pruning. But this sort of time wasting shows the crew’s inexperience. They wash and polish attachments that will get dirty again the next day instead of doing important work. Logistics can be done at the end of the day before the crew leaves the site. Ten o’clock in the morning is prime time for pruning and weeding.

Blind

The crew’s inability to see their time wasting and lack of focus is extremely shocking. Having extra people on site should have been a good hint. But no, they polish their attachments after every use and chat while their sites burn. The front entrance area was full of large weeds and it could have been cleaned up in the time it took to polish two attachments.

So, what is a landscape supervisor to do? Well, first I write a blog post about it to educate others about time wasting in landscape maintenance. Second, I went online to have some fun. I posted a question on several lawn care Facebook groups, asking their members how many of them washed their line edger heads after every use.

Results

Because the Facebook groups are populated by professional lawn care dudes who run their own shows they laughed hard. Not a single individual washed his attachments after every use. That’s because most of them run businesses; they don’t work by the hour for bosses. They hustle all day so they don’t have time to waste.

My way

Following the latest feedback research, I informed the crew what I would do. I would focus on the site by taking care of mid-season pruning and finesse work. Then, if I still worried about the condition of my attachments, I would polish them after loading up the truck at the end of the day. Maybe. In practice, I never polish my attachments. I lubricate them periodically; and I replace worn out parts.

Focus on real work, never waste time!

A perfect mower for small lawns

By | Lawn Care, machines | No Comments

There I was cutting long stretches of lawn on a huge strata site when I hit the corner pictured below with my commercial Honda mower. I took one quick look at the reel mower by the wall and dismissed it as a toy for homeowners. But I’ve been thinking about it and now I feel like reel mowers deserve their own blog post.

 

 

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Lawn size

Lawn size determines the right type of mower to use. Considering the miles of lawn I had to cut on this day, using a reel mower would have been out of the question. But reel mowers are perfect for small lawns. Like this one.

 

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This is a perfect lawn for reel mowers.

 

Reel mower

A reel mower is a mower in which the blades spin vertically (north to south) and use a scissoring action to cut the blades of grass. A reel mower should have between three and seven blades, depending on the model type. Don’t forget to get them sharpened once in a while for a nice, clean cut.

Modern reel mowers are light-weight, easy to maneuver and they start every time! They are quieter and since they don’t burn gasoline they are cleaner. Using a reel mower is a great form of exercise and you don’t have to suck unhealthy exhaust fumes.

You can check out the various reel mower models available here. The owner of the reel mower above sounds perfectly happy with it. He cuts his small lawn between our weekly cuts so his lawn stays nicely cut and he gets his exercise.

And all this happens without generating any kind of pollution. According to the Audubon Society, 800 million gallons of gas are used to power lawn mowers annually in the United States, which produces significant amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

So the next time I run into a reel mower parked against the wall, I won’t dismiss it. I just wish I could use it to cut the miles of lawn I have to cut.  Sadly, it won’t happen. But if you have a small lawn, don’t even think about buying a gas-powered mower. It would be expensive overkill.

 

How to rescue stepping stones from encroaching turf grass

By | Landscaping, Lawn Care, machines | No Comments

Regular readers of my landscape blogs will know how much I love the blade edger machine. The machine can redefine hard and soft landscape edges and it can prevent turf grass from swallowing stepping stones and drains.

So I got to make myself happy recently when I filled in for our regular foreman on a small strata site. As always, lawn care came first; mowing and line edging. Then when I did the blade edging I noticed many stepping stones and drains on site with turf grass creeping over the edges. Left alone, the grass will eventually cover up the stones thereby defeating their original purpose. And that would most likely give me a nasty rash.

Luckily, I was on the case armed with a brand new blade. New blades are best for soft edges between lawn and beds. For hard edges you can always use older blades and grind them down to “stumps” that can be later recycled.

 

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For best results use fresh blades for soft edging and stubborn overgrown stepping stones.

 

Distress

Take a look at the picture below. It’s not a complete disaster, yet, but the stones could look sharper. Now. Right now. And I had time because the site was small and I was filling in for the regular foreman.

 

 

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It’s not a complete disaster yet but these stepping stones could use some redefining.

Step 1

Blade the edges just deep enough to re-establish the hard edges. If you go too deep you will kick up a lot of dirt. Remember, you’re not building a ditch.

I normally run the entire right line out, then the left side back before finishing each stone. Doing each stone separately makes me dizzy.

 

Step 2

 

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Stubborn edges like these must be raked out. If you just rely on your blower you will have to make a debris pile anyway. The rake worked just fine in this case.

 

Step 3

 

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Blow off the stones and note how beautiful they look with their sharp edges; separated from the lawn. This should be done periodically between May and November when the lawn grasses are the most active. This is NOT a weekly task. This work should hold for several weeks.

And don’t forget round drains while you’re at it. They actually serve a more crucial function in the landscape so keep an eye on them.

 

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A rescued drain.

 

If you have yet to fall in love with a blade edger, I hope this blog post will inspire you. It’s important to check lawn creep around drains and stepping stones and redefine all hard edges periodically.

Why landscapers will fall in love with the new Stihl HS 82T model

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I love testing new machines in the field and forming my own opinions of them instead of relying on online reviews or sales pitches. I did this recently when I got my dirty landscaper hands on a new set of Stihl pruning shears. And I had a blast testing them.

HS 82T

I will give you the key idea of this blog post right now: the T stands for precision sculpting and trimming which should make all landscape professionals smile. Most landscapers have used the R models which are for “rough” pruning, say, for laurels like Prunus laurocerasus ‘Otto Luyken‘.

But what if you have to prune something like boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) which is much finer? You use the HS 82T model because it has much higher blade RPMs than the R models.

That’s the key idea of this blog post. So if you’re busy stop reading and go prune something. Or stay and see my work and read about the HS 82T specifications which are available online.

Boxwood

I tested the new power shears on boxwood at a large strata site and I was very happy with the results. It helps when the shears are new and sharp. Always make sure your blades are sharp and use ear and eye protection. I guided the blades over the  hedge and let the high blade RPMs handle the rest.

The unit didn’t feel heavy, it started well and I didn’t really notice any vibrations. I gave the power shears 5/5 in my review on Stihl’s website.

 

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The shears performed really well on this boxwood.

 

Features

The HS 82T power shears are gas-powered but Stihl promises 20% better fuel-efficiency over other models which should add to your bottom line. The other important feature on newer machines is the low-vibration technology which I absolutely love. It really does reduce operator fatigue. You may also consider using anti-vibration gloves. I used to buy them and quickly lose them.

I didn’t really have any issues with unit weight and I pruned  for over six hours with half an hour lunch break in between.

Conclusion

The Stihl HS 82T power shears will be the go-to model for “precision sculpting and trimming” as the Stihl USA sites mentions. I tested this unit on boxwoods and laurels and I was happy with the results. I suggest you test one unit soon. (Disclaimer: I am not in any way associated with Stihl.)

 

New Stihl toys for professional landscapers

By | machines, Reviews | No Comments

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If you read my blogs regularly you will know that I am not really a machine type dude. But testing new landscape “toys” is always exciting, even for a guy who prefers soft plant material.

Today was one of those days when I got to see a shiny new Kombi engine from Stihl. I always wonder what improvements have been made and how they will help my work in the field. The beauty of the Kombi system is that it allows professional landscapers to operate with one engine and several attachments.

 

KM 91R

 

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KM 91R Kombi engine

 

The new KM 91R Kombi engine weighs 4.4 kg and comes with a suggested retail price of $419.95. It’s always nice to get to know your local dealer so you can get a better deal or at least score some freebies.

Key points:

a) The KM 91R comes with a larger fuel tank which should result in 30% longer running times. Of course, you will pay for this as you shoulder the extra weight but frequent re-fuelling is annoying.

b) Stihl is promising improved handling and control

c) The new stop button must be depressed; one touch!

d) The choke button is also new. It must be depressed and then turned. I wonder how this will work once the engine is subjected to rain and dirt. Only time in the field will tell.

 

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One touch stop!

 

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The new choke. Depress and turn.

 

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All set with these new toys!

 

 

 

Power shear attachment

 

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Ok, so this articulating attachment has been out for a while but since I got to see the set I thought I’d write a few notes about it. I absolutely love the reinforced blades! They might add weight but the stiffness is spectacular. The older attachments would over time start to bend which made it awkward when you tried to cut the top of your cedar hedge straight.

 

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The solid bar on top gives the attachment super stiffness.

 

Sometimes the tip of the shears would start vibrating which was annoying when you stood on top of a ladder trying to get a laser line on top of your cedar hedge. This new stiffer attachment eliminates the vibrations. It’s such a nice feeling! Using the old style attachments feels like punishment.

If you do a lot of shearing during the season, definitely consider upgrading to these new shear attachments. You’ll love it.

There are many dealers in the Lower Mainland so search for one closest to you. One dealer I love is Foreshore Equipment on Byrne Road in Burnaby. Go see their show room and ask the helpful, knowledgeable staff. Tell them Vas sent you. Also, grab some Stihl candy from the counter on your way out.

 

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