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Remembering George Ballas: inventor of the Weed Eater

Consumer Reports News: June 30, 2011 04:41 PM

Thanks to George Ballas, or rather the poisonous snake that bit his groundskeeper, we no longer have to get down on our hands and knees with shears to trim the weeds away from our gardens and patios. Instead of feeling snakebit when he lost his worker, Ballas got inspired and created the first string trimmer out of a popcorn can and some wires. “It made a helluva noise, but it ripped up the turf and tore away the grass,” Ballas, who died Saturday at 85, once told the Los Angeles Times.

For Ballas, a dance studio owner, mowing the grass was one thing. But tidying up the edges of his three-acre estate was quite another, according to an obituary in The Wall Street Journal. Looking for inspiration, he found it in a car wash when he saw that the spinning washer bristles cleaned without harming the vehicle. So he took an old popcorn can, attached some unruly wires, attached the contraption to a rotating edger and revved it up. Bingo. Soon after, Ballas found an engineer to help bring his design to market. The first Weed Eater models, which you can see in

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