How to Use a Whipper Snipper

Written By:
Scott Carroll
Published On:
August 21, 2023
Whipper Snipper Cover

Australian gardeners and landscapers need whipper snippers, often called line or string trimmers. This strong equipment can accurately trim and edge grass around trees, fences, and garden beds where mowers can’t reach. Whipper snippers are essential for keeping beautiful Australian lawns and gardens because of their adaptability and efficacy. 

If you’re a professional landscaper or just love gardening, you have to understand how to use a whipper snipper to get that perfect appearance. This article will teach you how to use this essential tool, tailored to Australian gardeners’ needs and tastes. 

What is a whipper snipper?

A whipper snipper is a portable gardening instrument for cutting grass, weeds, and other tiny plants. 

It is made of a long handle with a spinning head at the end and a cutting string used to trim or slice through plants. Whipper snippers are usually powered by gasoline or electricity. 

There are several common types, each catering to different needs, such as curved or straight shaft models and variations in power and cutting width. For more insights into different head types, check out our article on whipper snipper head types.

What is a whipper snipper used for?

Whipper snippers are used for several tasks, among the most common applications are:

  • Edging lawns: Cleaning up pathways, driveways, and garden beds.
  • Trimming grass: Cutting grass around trees, posts, and benches, where most mowers can’t reach.
  • Clearing weeds: Removing weeds and overgrown grass in neglected areas.
  • Shaping bushes: Some models have attachments for shaping smaller bushes and hedges.

These features make whipper snippers a useful tool for professional landscapers and home gardeners in Australia, providing greater precision and flexibility in garden upkeep. Their efficacy stems from their capacity to access tight spaces and provide a finishing touch that compliments the job of a standard lawn mower.

Whipper Snipper head

How does a whipper snipper work?

A whipper snipper works by rapidly rotating a string or line, producing a cutting action that cuts grass, weeds, and other tiny plants. The string is coupled to a spinning head powered by a motor, which can be gasoline or electric. 

Due to centrifugal force, the string expands outwards as the head spins, becoming tight and acting like a blade. The string’s elasticity allows it to cut vegetation without hurting hard surfaces such as concrete or metal. 

A guard shield, for example, prevents debris from flying towards the user. Understanding this fundamental capability will allow users to utilise the product more safely and efficiently. 

For a comparison with line trimmers, see our line trimmer vs whipper snipper article.

Choosing the right whipper snipper for your needs

The right whipper snipper depends on several criteria, including your individual needs, budget, and the environment in which you will use the item. Here’s a checklist to help you decide:

  • Power source: Electric models are quieter and lighter but may need a power outlet or frequent battery charge. More powerful petrol line trimmers are heavier and louder.
  • Shaft design: Taller users prefer straight shafts for reach and balance, while shorter users prefer curved shafts for comfort.
  • Cutting width: Wider widths cover more ground faster, while narrower widths are more precise.
  • Attachments and features: For versatility or comfort, consider versions with adjustable heads, replaceable attachments, or ergonomic handles.
  • Budget: Models range from affordable to high-end. Think about your budget and what features you need.
  • Environmental considerations: Choose vehicles with fewer emissions or electric choices.

By considering these aspects, you can get the greatest whipper snipper for your gardening needs, whether you’re a professional landscaper or a weekend gardening enthusiast in Australia. 

It’s also a good idea to contact local gardening stores or trusted online sources, such as Australian government websites, to learn more about the finest models for your area.

Getting started with your whipper snipper

Before utilising your whipper snipper, there are certain important actions and considerations to guarantee a smooth and safe operation. 

Here’s what you need to get yourself started with a whipper snipper:

  1. Cord installation (for electric whipper snippers): Insert the power cord into an outlet and secure it with an extension. Fully charge cordless versions.
  2. Fueling (for petrol models): Fill the fuel tank with the appropriate fuel/oil mix, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Adjusting the cutting head: Adjust the cutting head to the job’s angle or width. Specific instructions should be in your whipper snipper manual.
  4. Handle and harness adjustments: Adjust the handle and the harness (if using) to a comfortable position to reduce strain during use.
  5. Safety precautions: Wear appropriate gear such as goggles, ear protection, gloves, and guards.

By following these instructions, you are not only ensuring the proper use of your whipper snipper but also reducing hazards and increasing comfort.

How to start whipper snipper

Starting a whipper snipper may differ slightly according to the brand and kind, whether electric, battery-powered, or gasoline-powered. 

Here’s a broad guideline:

  • Check the manual: Consult your whipper snipper’s user handbook for precise directions.
  • Position the whipper snipper: Place it on a stable flat surface.
  • For electric models: Simply turn it on.
  • For battery-powered models: Charge and insert the battery before turning it on.
  • For petrol models: If required, choke the engine, prime it, hold down the throttle, and pull the start cord until the engine catches.

Remember that knowledge of your specific whipper snipper is essential; thus, studying the instructions will pay off in terms of simplicity of use.

How to hold whipper snipper

Holding a whipper snipper correctly not only allows for a nice, even cut but also provides comfort and reduces strain during continuous use. 

Here’s how to hold a whipper snipper properly:

  • Use both hands: Hold the handle with both hands for best control. The handle encourages this grip in most standard whipper snipper models.
  • Adjust the handles and harness: Adjust the whipper snipper’s handles and harness to match your body.
  • Hold it at waist level: We find holding the whipper snipper at the waist level is the most comfortable and affords the best control.
  • Angle the cutting head: To cut grass evenly, tilt the cutting head slightly to the ground.
  • Mind your posture: Avoid back pain by standing upright with a small knee bend.

In our experience, correctly holding the whipper snipper makes the job easier and allows you to operate safely and efficiently.

How to whipper snip

How to user whipper snipper

Whipper snipping is a simple skill that needs attention to precision. To get you started, here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Prepare the area: Remove obstructions and debris.
  2. Start the whipper snipper: Follow model-specific beginning instructions, or use our guide on how to start a whipper snipper.
  3. Hold it correctly: Hold the whipper snipper at waist height and use both hands.
  4. Begin cutting: Walk carefully across the grass with your head tilted from one end.
  5. Work in sections: Systematically divide the space into workable portions.
  6. Monitor your progress: Check and adjust your cutting regularly.

Cutting techniques

Here are several whipper snipper cutting techniques for optimal results:

  • Directional cutting: For most models, cut from right to left, as this tosses the chopped grass onto the already trimmed region.
  • Gradual cutting of tall plants: Cut tall grass or weeds down gradually, beginning at the top and working your way down.
  • Throttle settings: Tailor the throttle to work at hand. Lower speeds are best for mild trimming, and higher speeds for tougher patches of grass.
  • Tapping technique: Some models allow you to touch the head against the ground to release more cutting lines.

Tips for urban spaces 

Whipper snipping in urban or small gardeners requires some adaptations, this includes:

  • Use guards: Guards should always be used to prevent debris from flying into sensitive locations.
  • Choose the right time: Avoid early mornings and late evenings to respect your neighbours’ quiet times.
  • Work slowly: To avoid blunders in confined settings, take your time.

Common mistakes to avoid

Avoiding common mistakes can save you time and frustration:

  • Avoid cutting too short: This can harm the grass. Aim for an equal height when trimming. 
  • Don’t ignore safety gear: Wear adequate safety equipment, such as goggles and gloves, at all times.
  • Avoid overloading the motor: Attempting to cut dense brush or wet grass can cause the motor to overheat. Always remember to take these things one at a time.

Ultimately, these tips may assist you in mastering the art of whipper snipping, allowing you to keep your garden margins and grassy areas in beautiful condition.

Maintenance and troubleshooting

Regular maintenance and rapid troubleshooting can help keep your whipper snipper running well. 

Here’s what you should know:

  • Line feeding issues: If the line isn’t feeding properly, look for knots inside the spool or replace the line if worn out.
  • Engine problems: Problems starting the engine could be caused by faulty spark plugs or a lack of fuel. For specific troubleshooting advice, consult your manual.
  • Vibration excess: Unusual vibration might mean that the cutting head is unbalanced. Check for any lodged debris or uneven wear.
  • Cutting inefficiencies: Inspect the line for damage or the blades for dullness if the whipper snipper isn’t cutting well.

We recommend consulting your user manual or contacting the manufacturer for more complicated situations for more specific advice.  

Aftercare and storage

Proper upkeep and storage are required to extend the life of your whipper snipper:

  • Cleaning: Remove grass and dirt from the cutting head and other parts after use.
  • Lubrication: As the user handbook directs, lubricate the moving parts regularly.
  • Storage: Keep the whipper snipper dry and cold, away from direct sunlight. When storing for an extended period, empty the fuel tank or use a fuel stabiliser.
  • Regular checks: Regularly check for wear and tear, especially on the line, and replace parts as needed.

Key takeaways

Whipper snippers are multipurpose tools vital for Australian gardeners for accurate pruning and edging where mowers cannot reach. They come in various styles and are driven by either gasoline or electricity. They are used for edging lawns, trimming grass, clearing weeds, and shaping bushes. 

Understanding how they work, which requires a fast-rotating string, is critical. Power supply, design, cutting width, and environmental issues all influence selection. 

Proper usage necessitates particular steps, safety precautions, right holding skills, and cutting method proficiency. Regular maintenance and careful storage maintain the longevity and efficiency of the equipment. 


What not to use a whipper snipper on?

A whipper snipper should not be used on hard surfaces like rocks or metal, as it can cause damage to the blade or line. Avoid using it close to delicate plants or objects that can easily be harmed.

Should you mow or whipper snip first?

Generally speaking, mow before using the whipper snipper. Whipper snipping after mowing allows fine edging and reaching spots the mower can’t reach.

Can you whipper-snip long grass?

You can whipper snip lengthy grass but do it gradually in stages. This minimises machine overload and guarantees an equal cut.

Can you whipper snipper weeds?

Whipper snippers can trim weeds in confined spaces and around obstructions. It’s effective for weed management, but always consider the type and best removal procedure.