DR Power TRM 875 Meets Texas Hill Country
The Fat Rancher’s motto? “Better living through power tools.” DR Power knows the drill.
So when it comes to taming the Texas Juniper (Juniperus ashei; AKA ashe juniper, post cedar, mountain cedar, blueberry juniper or *incorrectly* cedar), it’s time to pull out all the stops.
Everybody’s seen them: Those late night ads with WASPey guys in razor creased khakis merrily obliterating all that’s trashy on the “estate.” The Fat Rancher thought: “That’s me!” And when I saw that DR Power had the TRM 875 Pro-XL Trimmer/Mower on sale as “reconditioned,” I had to give it a try. Not only is it a heavy duty string mower, but DR offers the 12″ Beaver Blade and the DuraBlades ™ as options.
The thought pattern was this: Use the DuraBlades to clean up the fence line, use the Beaver Blade to blitz the juniper saplings and small trees. As we’ll see, the reality turned out a little different.
The 8.75 Pro-XL is an electric start 8.75 ft.lbs. string trimmer with optional self-propulsion. Wheels are either
16″ on the non-propelled version or 14″ on the self propelled. While the wheel size difference escaped me while I was making a purchase decision, in operation it became apparent why the DR Power people downsized the wheel. I’ll elaborate later.
The electric start Briggs and Stratton engine is a Professional Series™ 190cc overhead valve, vertical shaft power plant. In addition to the electric start (Facilitated by a small gel-cell battery located at the back of the engine), it this gasoline engine sports a dual-sealing “commercial-grade” air cleaner, Super Lo-Tone™ muffler.
Most importantly, it has a fuel-cutoff valve! As I have mentioned before, ethanol laced gasoline is a hazard to lawn power products. And the only way to assure that you don’t gum up your $1400 piece of equipment while it’s sitting in the barn is to run the fuel out of the carburetor system at shutdown. This inexpensive feature is important (as is fuel additive).
The Business End
The included trimmer head is a nifty arrangement of several string plates that are sandwiched together. The result is a trimmer head that can be filled at various heights above the mower ball.
Installing string is simple as long as you have re-hydrated the mower string. It loops over in a straightforward fashion providing 4 strings on opposing sides for cutting action. Why does the DR string require hydrating? I don’t have the foggiest idea. But apparently hydrating does to facilitate installation and reduce breakage of the line.
An optional aluminum mower ball is required to be used with the Beaver Blade. But it’s a pretty bulletproof item to have on the end of the drive shaft with all accessories. The included anti-wrap shield above the mower head also serves as a locking ring to facilitate removal of head tools.
The Beaver Blade™ appears to be the love-child of a circular saw blade and a chain saw. The 12″ product sold with the DR TRM 875 has an aluminum hub encircled with your run-of-the-mill chain saw blade. The chain can turn on the hub under strenuous conditions (over heat of the blade or jam with something solid), but that shouldn’t occur under normal use. As mentioned before, DR requires their aluminium mower ball to fasten this blade in place.
The last trick up the sleeve of DR Power is the DuraBlade™ kit for DR Trimmer/Mowers. DR claims that the DuraBlade turns the Trimmer/Mower into a light brush and bramble cutter, slicing “…through 3/8” woody
material and tough weeds with ease!” In fact, these blades are a mini-flail cutter with three swing blades comprised of sheet metal encased in plastic.
The TRM 875 arrived via UPS in a single box. I must say, the box looked like it had been to Timbuk2 and back with skid marks and loose sides. The mower arrives with wheels remove and the mower supported by two cardboard braces under the axles. While this arrangement should have reduced the chance of damage, in fact, the right axle was slightly bent, apparently from a drop.
UPS had already left and, honestly, I didn’t want to have to mess with a claim or replace the axle myself. So I didn’t bother calling DR and asking for a replacement axle. I merely bent the axle back and mounted the wheels. Two things: First, the packaging apparently couldn’t withstand the freight manhandling. Second, in my opinion, if the axle isn’t strong enough to handle a short drop, then the axle design is too light. I shouldn’t have been able to bend the axle back in place.
Installation of the auxiliary brake (required with Beaver Blade) was straightforward, as was installation of the wheels. In no time I had the string hub installed and oil added to the engine.
Startup was quick and easy with the blade clutch and propel leaver just as expected. It was time for some string trimming!
As expected, trimming was non-eventful. The heavy gauge string worked well on the wild grasses and what-not around the house.
The self propel feature works as advertised, with speed controlled by the amount of pressure applied to the movement handle. However, what I found was that with any unevenness in the terrain, using the power drive was problematic. First, the wheels are so small that any root or stone brings the mower to a halt. Second, the limited amount of propulsion torque available meant that a running start was necessary to navigate over exposed roots and crevices.
Now I understood why DR made the wheels on the powered model smaller: To deliver more torque to the wheels. However, it’s still not enough. So I found myself rolling forward until it stopped against a root, then pulling it back and taking a flying run to keep going. Sub-optimal all around.
Worse, the free-wheel feature requires that power be removed from the wheel and the unit pushed forward a little to disengage the drive mechanism. Obviously if you have been stopped in place by an obstacle, that’s not possible. So the operator ends up dragging the mower backwards with the drive still engaged (though not powered) to reposition the mower. Tiresome at best.
Memo to DR: This self propel feature will be useless to those who don’t have smooth lawn. Which is probably about 80% of your market. Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps it’s only in Texas where we have stones, exposed roots and ruts. In retrospect I should have purchased the model with larger wheels and no propulsion.
Next up: The Beaver Blade. I really had a hard time containing my excitement as I installed the Beaver Blade and made my way to the cedar break I was clearing. That is, until I got off the driveway and started trying to push over natural terrain. The Mower/Trimmer just didn’t want to go over the surface roots and rocks, and the power drive didn’t have enough torque to plow through.
Once I finally wrestled the machine to a likely victim (a 6 foot juniper with a two inch trunk) I figured out that unless the trunk was straight up or leaning away, there wasn’t enough blade left outside of the drive unit to go all the way through the trunk. I powered the Pro-XL up and tipped the blade into the trunk and it zipped right through. Success!
I moved to the next tree: It was leaning the wrong way. I tried to reposition to the other side, but low hanging branches prevented “optimum positioning.” Memo to DR: 3 inches of usable blade is not very practical.
Finally, I set up the DuraBlades to work on the fence line. Remember the issues I had with mobility while cutting saplings? Treble that pain with brush involved. It was very difficult get the trimmer head into the positions I needed. And powering down a fence line? No way.
Worse, the DuraBlades would not effectively cut green vines or tree root suckers. What I was left with was skinned and bent branches. I resorted to pruning shears.
While the DR Power Pro-XL looked like a good solution for several tasks, I found it only marginal at all.
It’s pretty cumbersome as a string trimmer, grossly undersized as a tree cutter, and ineffective as a brush flail.
While DR has an aggressive return policy, The Fat Rancher dislikes returning products which have been used hard. So I’ll probably try using it a few more times and then probably sell it on Craigslist.
I also may try to find an 18″ wood cutting blade that will fit on the machine. Then maybe I can do some damage to those pesky junipers.