Power tools used to clear vegetation and brush often get confused with each other. I know plenty of people who use the terms grass trimmer, brush cutter, and clearing saw interchangeably even though they’re all very different tools!
In this article, I’m going to break down the difference between a clearing saw vs brush cutter, including key features, performance, and functions.
Clearing Saw Vs Brush Cutter
- Heavy-Duty power tool (15lbs+)
- Gas-powered, 2 or 4 stroke engines
- Wide Range of Cutting Blades
- Cuts Scrub, underbrush, thicket, small trees
- Features a harness and dual handles
- Requires regular servicing
- Light to Medium power tool (10-20lbs)
- Gas or Battery powered
- Trimmer Line and Some Cutting Blades
- Cuts, grass, thick weed, brush, brambles, etc
- In-Line handle
- Versatile, ideal for domestic use
What Is a Brush Cutter?
Brush cutters are essentially heavy-duty grass trimmers with interchangeable tool heads. These heads can be swapped out for trimmer line, cutting blades, and cutting saws to tackle a variety of garden tasks.
Available in gas- or battery-powered models, this power tool is heavier than a typical home grass trimmer. Brush cutters also generally have longer shafts, significantly more power, and a higher rpm. Some models are sold under terms like weed eater or weed wacker.
Most brush cutters feature an in-line handle, meaning the tool is held with a similar grip to a string trimmer — i.e., one hand on the power end, where the trigger is, and one hand on the shaft. Brush cutters range from 10 to 20 pounds in weight, depending on the battery or engine size and the gauge of the materials they are constructed from.
What Are Brush Cutters Used For?
When loaded with a trimmer line, according to Husqvarna, a brush cutter is great for use on overgrown areas of residential lawn and weeds. The trimmer line head has the advantage of being lightweight, low-vibration, and producing minimal kickback if the line strikes a hard object like a tree stump or pathway.
You can further ramp up performance by switching to a head fitted with a plastic polymer blade to cut thicker growth such as tall weeds, nettles, and thick grass. These blades have a level of flexibility to soften the effect of kickback if they strike a hard object.
Professional- or premium-quality brush cutters can also be fitted with a metal blade. These attachments are intended for cutting thin woody growth and general brush, such as brambles and other thick vegetation. You can buy retrofit or replacement knife blades here on Amazon.com.
What Is a Clearing Saw?
A clearing saw is very similar in terms of design and features. They generally have two parallel handles at waist height and are back-mounted via a harness to reduce arm fatigue. A long, straight shaft supports the cutting head, which accepts interchangeable cutting discs, brush saws, and other types of powerful cutting tools.
Lightweight models are very similar to brush cutters and can be battery-powered. However, more often than not, they are gas-powered with a 2- or 4-stroke engine.
What Are Clearing Saws Used For?
These power tools are perfect for clearing uneven ground and overgrown wasteland. Clearing saws are formidable when paired with a chisel tooth circular saw or brush knife cutter. They’re capable of cutting through all grasses, weeds, thick dense vegetation, and even slicing through juvenile trees, bushes, and underbrush.
In my experience, this is the ideal tool for paddock management, orchard maintenance, and landscape clearance. It can be fitted with many heavy-duty blades. There are basically four blade types:
- Knife Blades: Feature a sharpened blade edge perfect for cutting through dense vegetation. This is by far the most common blade type in my experience.
- Chisel Blades: Feature lots of serrated chisel teeth around the perimeter of the disc. Perfect for cutting woody scrub.
- Mulcher Blades: Feature a straight steel blade with a sharpened edge for chopping and mulching vegetation. Similar to a lawnmower mulching blade.
- Chainsaw Tooth Blades: Feature a metal chain along the perimeter that is perfect for cutting wood branches and stems.
- Smasher Blades: Feature chains or flailing metal blades that smash rather than slice. Suitable for wet vegetation or grassy growth. No longer available in many countries due to the hazardous nature of the product. I recommend avoiding this type of blade even you can get your hands on one.
Are Clearing Saws Dangerous?
When using any high-speed blade, the potential for an accident is never very far from my mind. However, when following good safety procedures and applying a little common sense, these machines can be operated safely and efficiently.
These are the basic steps I advise following before operating any type of powered lawn equipment:
- Wear steel toe boots, eye protection, and ear protection at all times.
- Do not lift the blade head more than a few inches above ground level when in use.
- Check the landscape for hard objects such as rocks, concrete, or metal. Hitting hard objects may cause hazardous kickback and could potentially cause mechanical damage to the machine or blade. Damaged machinery is more liable to cause injury in the future.
- Be sure to maintain your yard and garden power tools. Perform regular service and replace any parts that display wear or damage.
Final Thoughts On Clearing Saws and Brush Cutters
I would define a clearing saw as a heavy-duty power tool that’s great for tackling large-scale thicket and scrubland. A brush cutter can handle similar terrain but is less powerful — it is basically a hybrid between a clearing saw and a grass trimmer — making it perfect for domestic home use around the garden and backyard.