Owning a home is part of the American dream. You have a beautiful house, a nice car, a loving family, and a debris covered yard. Oh yes, you read that correctly. Part of owning that beautiful house is having to do yard work and that’s something that many people don’t particularly enjoy doing.
Maybe if you’re lucky enough, you can have someone do it for you, either kids who want that expensive new gaming system, a husband who uses yard work as “me time,” or you can pay a landscaping company to do it for you.
However, if you have to do it yourself, you’re probably well aware of how much work it is to clean up the yard and stuff the yard debris is those paper bags for the trash company to come and pick up. What if there was a way that you could do the yard work and get rid of the debris, and create nice mulch for your gardens and walkway, instead of buying the expensive mulch from a garden store?
You can with a wood chipper.
Now you may think that a wood chipper at a residential home is something out of the movie, but it has a much more practical (and less murderous) use! You can actually use it to chip up wood! Who would have thought?
All joking aside. When you have a branch chipper, you can make quick work of your yard work without worrying about having to pack the debris up in bags.
In this article, we are going to talk a lot about wood chippers, their uses, the different types, and so much more. Without further ado, let’s get started.
Why Do You Need A Wood Chipper?
A long time ago, you used to be able to simply burn off any yard debris in your own backyard. Today, most people will line their curbs with those brown paper lawn bags full of lawn stuff for the garbage man to pick up. However, in some places, you can’t do that because it’s illegal. So, what are you going to do with the stuff in your yard like leaves, pruning debris, and fallen limbs and branches?
That is where a wood chipper, leaf shredder chipper, or even a tree grinder is going to help you out. These tools are ideal for turning that pile of leaves, the left over clippings from your forsythia bushes, the pruned hedge clippings into a nutrient rich fertilizer or mulch for your flowerbed.
It’ll allow you to line your walkways with uniformed chipped wood that you didn’t have to buy at the garden store. It’ll allow you to turn this stuff, as well as unused kitchen waste like egg shells, vegetables and fruits, into compost.
Sure, you could do all of that by hand, but it is going to take you a very long time and it’s going to be quite labor intensive. With one of these large tools, you can accomplish this in a very short time with minimal effort.
What Is A Wood Chipper?
Before we can get into the meat of this article, first we need to understand what a wood chipper is. A chipper is a large power tool that you use outside to greatly reduce the amount of debris you have in your yard and make disposal much easier.
These are useful for gardeners and landscapers who live in an area where it is illegal to have the garbage men pick up the waste or open burn the waste. The chips that are produced can be used for walkways, put in your flower beds or use as a compost.
Some people who are interested in a chipper will often assume that a wood chipper and a shredder are the same. That isn’t the case, as there are several differences between the two.
A wood shredder will look like a small wood chipper. They are going to have a chute where you can put the material into the machine and there is going to be another spot where that refuse comes out. Inside the machine, there is going to several flails.
These semi-blunt blades are going to break down the wood, leaves, and other organic material into small pieces. Many modern shredders will give you the option to choose what size the shredded pieces will be.
Since a wood shredder uses a smaller engine and the blunt flails, it isn’t going to have the ability to break down larger branches. That means these machines are best suited for smaller yards, home gardeners, and those who only have small branches a leaves to shred. Heck, the smallest type of shredder will use a nylon strong instead of the blunt metal flails.
These shredders are going to work more like a weed whacker, except that the strings are going to vertical and they are attached to a drum. These shredders are primarily used for leaves and other soft organic material. You can spot these shredders because they will be called a “mulch” or a “compost” shredder and you shouldn’t use wood in them because they cannot handle any kind of hard objects.
A wood chipper is going to come in a variety of sizes and styles, but they all function the same. The wood goes into a chute, the sharp blades inside the chipper is going to break that organic material down into chips that will range between 1 to 3 inches in length. The chips are then spat out from the machine, or they could go into a bag or bin if that particular model comes with it.
A wood chipper is going to be able to chip up dry and fresh wood, unlike a shredder. You can even feel branches through the machine with the leaves still attached. The size of the wood that you feed through the machine will depend on the size of the chipper as well as the type of blades inside.
There are several different types of wood chippers that you may come across when looking for a chipper.If you want a tool that is going to want the best of both machines, then you are going to be interested in a chipper shredder combination. These are much more popular among homeowners because the machines are versatile and will allow you to choose if you want wood chips or mulch.
Large horizontal drum with blades inside that are set at regular intervals.
Use a lot of energy and the chips vary in size.
Vertical disk with blades inset that are going to cut wood at a 45 degree angle.
Fast, energy efficient, and uniform chips
Best for smaller branches. Excessively fibrous materials will slow the machine and stress the engine.
Blade is shaped like a large screw and the rotating action pulls the wood through the chipper.
Blade needs to be changed if you want to change the size of the chip produced.
As you would expect, these tools are a lot smaller than a commercial wood chipper. They will feature a chute where you can put the material in, but you may also find models that features different chutes so you can feed different materials. Many combination shredder/chipper tools will be able to handle limbs up to 3 inches in diameter, and they’ll be perfect for your general yard maintenance.
With these tools, the organic material is going to go through a chute and it’ll be broken down into smaller pieces by the chipper blades. Most models will give you the option to leave it in a chip size, or you can let it continue on to the flail part to get shredded material.
Most models are also going to feature a screen attachment that will prevent the material from falling out of the machine until it is the size that you are going for.
A tree grinder (sometimes also known as a stump grinder or a stump cutter) is a power tool that will use a rotating cutting disc that is going to chip away at the wood. Sometimes these are as small as a lawn mower and can be used on smaller trees. These tools use a high speed disk that have teeth that will grind stumps and roots into small chips.
We want to point out that a tree grinder, especially the large ones, is often used by a qualified professional. You do have the ability to rent these tools from a tool rental place if you are confident that you will be able to use it safely.
So now that we’ve discussed why you may need one of these wood chomping machines and the difference between a chipper, a shredder, a combo, and a grinder, let’s take a look at the type of engines these machines use. For this article, we aren’t going to go into much detail about a tree grinder because they are much larger than what most homeowners require.
The size of the engine in a wood chipper is going to affect how powerful the tool is and how well it is going to perform. Most small wood chippers are going to use an electric motor, but there are some that are gas powered. If you require a large wood chipper, that will probably use a gas powered motor.
Let’s take a look at the benefits and disadvantages of both options:
Electric motors are cleaner than a gas powered motor. They aren’t going to need to undergo the same kind of maintenance as the gas counterpart and it is going to be more affordable to purchase. However, an electric engine isn’t going to be as powerful as a gas powered chipper, so this type of machine is only really good for smaller jobs.
Also, be mindful that because it is electric, it’ll need to be plugged into an outlet, which will limit its mobility.
Gas Motors are going to be able to give you more power than an electric chipper. They’ll also be able to handle larger loads and because they aren’t going to be tied to a power source like a wall socket or an extension cord. If you’re looking for a portable wood chipper, than your best bet is go look at gas wood chippers rather than an electric wood chipper.
How To Use A Chipper
After you’ve decided that a wood chipper is something that you’re going to want or need for your yard, you’re going to want to know how to properly use it. You just can’t turn the machine on and start shoving stuff into it. By doing that, you are putting yourself at risk of some serious injury.
Step 1. Preparing the Work Area
Before you start using your machine, you’re going to want to make sure the area is clear from debris and there aren’t any holes in the ground. You’re going to want to make sure that the path where you’re going to be walking is cleared so that you don’t have to worry about tripping on anything. You’re going to want to make sure that your safety isn’t going to be compromised while you’re chipping wood.
Next, you’re going to want to make sure that the wood chipper is going to be expelling the chippings in a spot that isn’t going to be in your way, causing you to trip or slip on them, but also so they aren’t going to hurt anyone or anything.
It’s always a good idea to have your material sorted before you start the chore. Not only will these expedite the process, but you can be certain that there isn’t going to be any foreign objects going through the chipper. This means look out for nails, screws, PVC, plastic, and other things of that nature.
Make sure that you’ve positioned your chipper downwind so that no dust that’s produced from the machine flies back and hits you in the face.
Step 2. Starting the Machine
Before you start your machine, if you’re using a gas wood chipper, you will want to make sure that there is enough gas and oil in the engine so that it will work properly.
Check the shredding chamber and the turbine of your machine to make sure they are empty. If there is anything in these areas, your starter mechanism is at risk of overloading, which isn’t good for your machine.
You are also going to want to make sure there aren’t any feeding tools (the stick or device used to push the material through the hopper) inside the hopper.
Check the safety grid and make sure that it is closed and the safety switch is engaged. If not, most machines will not start.
After doing all this, you can start the machine. We recommend that you do all this before plugging the machine into the electrical source if you’re using an electric chipper.
Note: Always make sure you’re operating the machine on flat ground. You don’t want to work on a slop because that is going to be more dangerous for you, not only carrying the material to the machine, but also as you feed it through. You could lose your footing on the slope and fall into the machine.
Safety Tips For Using Your Wood Chipper
Although we went over how to use your wood chipper, we want to press upon you how important it is that you understand general safety rules when using these machines. While the smaller machines may not pose too much of a risk, as the feeding hole is less than three inches wide, the larger machines can suck you in a worst case scenario!
If you’re working with a heavy duty chipper, we want you to be safe and keep these safety tips in mind.
Materials You Are Chipping
Be sure that you are only putting small amounts of debris through your machine at a time. By putting too much wood, or wood that is too large, through the chipper is going to increase the risk of injuring yourself or someone else. In fact, blunt force trauma is a very common injury that results when feeding a large piece of wood through the machine.
The blades of your chipper is going to be moving at a very high speed, and that high speed is liable to spew large bits of material that could hit you pretty dang hard, which could result in a severe injury.
That’s why you should always check your material before you feed it through the chipper to ensure there isn’t any stones, metal, or other hard materials embedded in the wood. Not only are they dangerous to you, but they could cause real damage to your machine as well.
Feeding The Chipper
When you’re putting material through the chipper, don’t throw it in there all willy-nilly. Use a long pole or a twig to help push the material through the hole. This is going to ensure that your hands are going to be a safe distance away from the hopper.
By being too close to the opening increases the chances of getting injured. Be careful when you are putting things into the hopper because even a second of being distracted could be disastrous. If you need to feed small limbs and leaves, it’s always a good idea to use the transport compartment.
Keep Clothing Contained
It is very important that you keep any and all clothing contained when you’re feeding through the chipper. A loose or baggy shirt or jacket can get caught in with the material and pull your arm in. Avoid any hanging sleeves or cuffs, don’t wear any jewelry, and keep any belts secure.
Wear Protective Gear
It’s a good idea that you wear gear that is going to protect your eyes, ears, and your head while you’re working should any debris fly out from the chipper. It’s also a good idea that you wear steel toed boots, or at least something sturdy while you’re using the machine. Chipping up yard debris can be a dangerous chore if you aren’t careful.
Clean Up As You Go
Even though your chipper may have a collection bag or bin to collect the chipped up debris, you are still going to want to make sure you clean up the area where you are working. Sometimes limbs will break off and collect around the work space. Some leaves may fall out from the bunch you’re feeding through. By keeping the area around your chipper clear, the chances of you tripping or slipping reduces significantly.
Wood Chipper Wrap Up
Let’s face it, no one likes doing yard work, much less trying to figure out how to get rid of all that refuse if your municipality doesn’t allow you to pack it up and put it out for the garbage men to collect it.
Fortunately, there are tools that can help us get rid of such things without worry. Not only are wood chippers useful for getting rid of that debris, they can provide you with mulch and chips so that you can accent your garden and walkways without spending money on the stuff that the stores offer. By mulching your own refuse, you’re saving money and getting nutrient rich material for your garden. It’s a win-win!
Before you do go out and purchase any old chipper, you are going to want to do your research so that you are choosing a device that is going to suit your needs. If you are a landscaper by profession, then you’re probably going to want a professional grade, large wood chipper that runs on gas.
However, if you are just a homeowner with a small garden and little debris, you can do well with just a small, electric unit. Whichever unit you decide will work best for your needs, we hope that you will remember the five safety tips we discussed. While cleaning the yard is important, your safety is much more important.
Read our in-depth Buyer's Guide and find perfect wood chipper.