In my view garden chipper shredders can be can either be incredibly useful tools or intensely frustrating ones.
Incredibly useful, because there is something very satisfying, almost magical, about clearing away your tangled mess of clippings, prunings and fallen leaves reducing them in volume and turning them into perfect material for mulch or your compost heap.
Intensely frustrating, because quite often the machine you are using turns out not to be ideal for the type, size or volume of material you are asking it to process.
Believe me, I’ve used all sorts of these machines over the years and I think the biggest takeaway from that experience is that it is pretty hard to find a garden chipper, shredder, mulcher (whatever handle it goes under) that can do all of the chipping and shredding you might want to do.
Maybe we have to accept that that one machine is probably not going to be perfect at doing everything. Different machines will be better for different jobs like processing perennial or vegetable stalks, shredding leaves or chipping small branches.
It’s therefore essential you ask yourself the right questions about your needs in order to get to the right your choice of machine for you.
Realizing that you require one of these machines is the first step. Now you just need to decide which one is best able to accomplish the jobs you have in mind.
The essential garden chipper shredder buyers’ questions (the EBQs)
Here are what I consider to be the chipper shredder EBQs. Remember, that one machine might not be perfect for all jobs, so ask yourself what you need the machine to do most often.
- What kind of material will you need to process? Some industrial wood chipper shredder machines are capable of chewing up entire small tree limbs. Smaller, electric models are only capable of handling twigs and leaves. What’s more, the chipper models are not really designed for processing softer material, like leaves. You need to think about what you will mostly need the machine to do and check out the machine’s advertised capabilities carefully.
- How often will you use the chipper shredder? Will you use it several times throughout the year, or will you only need it in the fall to help clear your yard of leaves? If you only intend to use the machine sparingly, you may not require the most durable, heavy-duty unit. However, if you plan to use it regularly, you will need to choose a tough machine.
- How large is your property? If you have a large yard that will require you to use the chipper shredder in a variety of settings, you should purchase a unit that you can easily move throughout your property. Also, if your yard is fairly large, you may not be able to use an electric model effectively, since you may not always be around electrical outlets.
If your property is small and you have very little debris to process, you could probably do well using a stationary electric model. If your yard is of average to large size, but you do not have large debris to clear, you might want to consider a walk-behind model.
- How much stuff will you need to process in one go? If you have large volumes of material to deal with at any one time, you’ll need to look for a machines that can accept reasonable volumes of material in one go. Some machines will get jammed if you try to process more than a branch or two at once or in quick succession. This makes the job very time consuming, not to mention a serious pain in the backside because you’ll have to keep stopping to unjam the machine when (as you will) you just try to add that extra little bit more to speed things up.
- What is your budget? If you find that you can effectively do your work with a small, economical, electric unit, you may not need to concern yourself with the price. On the other hand, if you require a gas-powered chipper shredder, cost will be a factor. As with most items, you tend to get what you pay for. You certainly do not want to pay for features for which you will have no use, but don’t under-buy. Because you’ll end up buying twice.
- Gas or Electric? Gas powered wood chipper shredders powered by gasoline are more powerful and portable than electric models, but they also require you to fill them with costly gasoline. They are also heavier, and will require more maintenance. Electric chipper shredder models are lighter and tend to be easier to operate. However, electric chipper shredders are not capable of operating far from a power outlet, plus they are not nearly as powerful as gas-powered models.
Types of Chipper Shredders
On this site we’ll consider the various types of chipper shredder under the categories of:
- gas-powered wood chipper shredders,
- electric chipper shredders, and
- walk-behind chipper shredder vacuum models.
But you also have to bear in mind that there are:
- machines that shred – These are suitable for leaves and soft material, all fed into a wide hopper at the top of the machine,
- machines that chip – These are suitable for branches and woody prunings and usually have a narrower chute entry point,
- machines that chip and shred – These are suitable for both sorts of processing with both a hopper for soft material and a chute for branches. An example is the Earthquake model a the top of this piece,
- machines that vacuum up debris – mostly these are walk-behind models but some other units have a vacuum option like the Earthquake model featured.
Knives, blades, flails and screws
Because chipper shredders can use a variety of methods to process material, it is worth covering the most frequently used types here.
Chippers most often use flat blades or knives which are bolted to a spinning fly wheel. As the branch is fed into the machine the spinning blades slice it into wood chips.
These blades need to be kept sharp, though they will usually last 20 hours or so between sharpening as long as they are not blunted by stray stones or metal objects being introduced into the machine.
Generally, blades don’t cope well with soft green material or conifer leaves. They are also for use with freshly cut branches and will be quickly blunted if used to chip large quantities of old branches.
Some European-manufactured chippers (e.g. some Bosch models) use a screw type mechanism which cuts and chips the material as the screw is turned.
Shredders, most often use a number of flails (painted blue in the picture above) which are smaller steel blades mounted on a rotor. The rotor spins and the flails shred the material that is entered into the machine.
When making a purchase for a piece of outdoor power equipment, choosing the perfect model for your specific needs is not always easy.
The ideal model will be one that comes from a reputable manufacturer, has the features you require, and can be purchased at an affordable price.
On this site, not every model will be featured, but the best machine in each class will be highlighted. For more information, please take a look at the pages on this site referring to gas, electric, and walk-behind chipper shredders specifically.
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