Gardening: Tool Box: Cut above the others

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THERE is a belief that hedges are to gardens what frames are to pictures. A notably neat lawn, colourful flowerbed or immaculate vegetable patch can be let down by its hedge, which may also serve a useful purpose as a windbreak. Trimming hedges was a dreaded chore when I was a boy, hacking away with shears being regarded as a poor substitute to playing cricket.

Today, power tools are available to take most of the sweat out of this and many other tasks. Qualcast's new Hedge Master 380 does just that. It creates a favourable impression for reasons that include good balance, an efficient cutting action and the fact that the manufacturer equips its 40ft of cable with a plug.

Qualcast's determination to reduce vibration - a major cause of fatigue - explains the presence of a belt drive instead of a gearbox. The specification includes 'double-action' blades whose movements also reduce vibrations. It does, however, lack a scabbard to protect the blades.

Listed at pounds 49.99 and powered by electricity, the 380 has a 15in cutting length. It is the basic machine in a four-model range whose top price is pounds 79.99.

Atco-Qualcast Ltd, Stowmarket, Suffolk IP14 1EY (0449 771449).