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Beech hedge reduction - tools required?

Hi guys, first post here - great forum!  I have a job booked in two months time to reduce a beech hedge (once birds have flown nests).  It's around 9-10ft tall, 4-5 ft wide and 150ft long.  It needs to come down to around 6 ft high (so a fair bit of green waste).  After the reduction I'll be trimming one side.  Time-wise I reckon it'll take about 1 and a half days (the first day the bulk of it should be done).  A terrible pic attached for your refference...(the owner had already hacked away at this hedge last year to get clearance of the pavement - the crowning part will be coming off - basically half way up the pic).


The thing that's confusing to me is that although I've had experience cutting small trees and trimming hedges, this one is kind of in-between (lots and lots of, say, "finger thick" branches).  With thick branches this is quite quick and easy; you just cut them with a saw etc and the lot comes away, or with triming (maintenance) the hedge cutter does much of the work.  With this though the chainsaw would likely get choked/jammed or the branches wouldn't have anough rigidity for the saw to cut against.  A hedge trimmer would likely struggle with the size.  Loppers would take forever.


One issue is I do many jobs (yeah sorry I'm one of those guys lol, but I do take pride in my work), so cannot justify spending a fortune on specialised equipment.  Currently I have an Ego chainsaw, polesaw and hedge trimmer (one pole version too).  I have corded versions too, nothing like professional standard but they get me by for what I do.  They're great for general maintenance and one off jobs.


My thoughts are to bunch the branches together and use a silky saw?  Or would you recommend hiring a heavy duty hedge trimmer?  Any inside secrets for a quick/efficient finish?  Thanks in advance!


PS - I'd also love to hear what your favourite style of ladder/plaform is for hedges around 8-12ft tall  :)




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  • PRO

    I use a single sided hedgecutters as these can cut thicker stuff than the doubles, dont use the polesaw on thinner stuff as it just rags them to bits before cutting them and it looks bad. Would not use the silkey on the thinner stuff as it will take an age just use a good pair of sharp secatures. loppers with extendable handles will be handy too. Tripod ladders allow you to get right into the side of hedge and are very safe and sturdy I use Henchmen ones with adjustable height feet. Keep eyeing the sides up to make sure you get it  parallel. Also be careful that you dont cut out a branch that has a lot of growth further up and make a hole.

  • if you are topping half way up the photo a chainsaw to get the thick bits then followed by the hedge cutter to get the thin bits and leave a level finish also it wants to be cut at least 6 in lower than the desierd hight so that it can grow back up and you are not cutting back to where it was topped 

    idealy it should have been done in early spring, tripod steps for me mutch more stable than normal steps  

  • Thanks for the feedback!

    I'd say the cut needs to go just above half way up the photo (so mostly the smaller branches). Pretty sure the customer already accounted for the growing in, but I'll double check. Yeah timing it early Spring definitely would have been best. Unfortunately as is quite usual in this line of work, customers tend to call you once the problem has escalated beyond ignoring :)

    Right now I'm shopping around for the tripod ladders (great idea), thought that'd be the cheapest part but seem to hover around the £300-£400 mark. Not sure whether to go for a substantial size (e.g. 3-4m) in preparation for larger jobs, or a more medium one (e.g. 2m) for the sake of not being over-kill on say an estate?

    Next mission is to decide whether to invest in a single sided hedge cutter...wow, equipment bill's mounting up lol. Could easily get up to 4 types of hedge trimmer for different jobs (it'd only be £2500+!). At a crossroads with my work, need to bite the bullet and get specialised.

    • I rarely use my single sided hedge cutter. The HS81R does it all, from fine everegreens to thick chomping.

      Get an 8ft henchman with 3 adjustable legs. It'll do almost all hedge trimming you wish. 

      That job above I'd probably do the vast majority with the pole saw. 

  • paul check out this site https://www.northernarbsupplies.co.uk/ for your ladders its just a alternative to henchmen 

    also tripod ladders are quite wide at the base just somthing to think about for transporting but i would never go back io normal step ladders 

    Arborist Tree Surgeon & Landscape Gardeners Equipment - Northern Arb Supplies
    Rope, ladders, chainsaw boots, trousers & all your Arborist, Tree Surgeon & Landscape Gardeners equipment from Northern Arb Supplies.
    • PRO

      i can second the ladders from here as i got two sets and wish i had got them sooner plus alot cheaper


  • Well, I've ended up spending more than planned, but have pretty good reasons.

    Been convinced and now have purchased the STIHL HS 82 RC-E (I believe that's the latest equivalent model of the 81R).  Having bought equipment in the past for every single specific job I've realised that it can get over-kill and needlessly expensive, especially considering how I often have my "go to" tools, leaving some to gather dust.  Was considering a second hand Stihl but again, I've been burned in the past with tools that never lasted (i.e. false economy) and with no fall back (guarantee).  In my mind, you only would sell a good tool like that once it's well past its prime - that is, only a few more years left in it.  Therefore went for a brand new one to give good cuts and a longer lasting tool. It may be a high upfront expense, but this can absorbed in my pricing.  I'll be taking on more hedge cutting customers from now on.

    Regarding ladders, the tripod style were unanimous so no brainer there (will come in handy for other jobs too).  Went for the 8ft henchman with 3 adjustable legs in the end - wanted something versatile and the upper deeper platform (for tucking legs in etc) was a good selling point for me.  Sorry David and WLGM!

    Thanks again for the tips. If I'm in the mood and not dying of exhaustion I'll post update pics at the end :)


  • Let us know how long it took in the end; I think your day and half may be too ambitious. Happy cutting!


    • Sorry it took so long getting back to this thread, only just starting to recover from feeling burned out lol.

      Steve. you were absolutely right about it taking longer, much longer! Ended up reducing the 70m hedge from around 10ft tall to 5-6ft (almost half taken away). Some parts were over 5ft wide.

      Time to complete = 32 hours!!! (4.5 days) That included waste removal which is almost half the job.

      Between underestimating the time to complete it, and the weather....this was by far the worst job I've done this year. It snowballed all my other jobs too, was a nightmare balancing my schedule.

      Oh well, big lesson learned there.  Hopefully this thread will be of use to someone else about to embark of this type of job for the first time.

      PS - my go to tools were the tripod ladder (lifesaver, thanks guys for that recommendation....used them for many other jobs too), the STIHL HS 82 RC-E 22.7CC PETROL 30" HEDGE TRIMMER, and a cordless Ego chainsaw. Even though I used it, the chainsaw wasn't suitable for the job as the chain kept coming off (a common problem with that model). Initial cuts to get the string-line were done with loppers, and I had started only using the loppers but it was hopelessly slow, especially as the types of branch varied so much from spindly to thick.

      • Hi, Sorry to hear you had a nightmare- it happens to us all from time to time. I find if I have underpriced a job it's worth mentioning to the customer that i will honour the price but I got the price wrong just so they don't expect you to work for the same daily rate next time.  I find jobs that are in between a hedge cutter and chainsaw are always hard work as I am like you- doing different jobs so you can't buy the best tools for everything occasion. Regards, martin. 

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