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Getting the best from your Chipper Shredder

Mulchers, chippers and shredders help reduce garden waste, also producing beautiful mulch.

Electric or Petrol Powered – what's the difference?
Chipper/shredders generally require a larger and more heavily treed property to make them worth their price, but once you own one you will wonder how you survived without one.

There is no precise guide to choosing the right product, although if you're only going to use a machine once or twice a year for spring or autumn clean-up, consider renting through an equipment dealer, hardware store or rental outlet.

Smaller electric machines start at about three horsepower and then petrol powered units increase in power from there. Electric machines are simple to use, but extremely limited on the size and range of material to be cut, plus the chipping/shredding speed and feed.

  • Electric machines will only cut through small twigs up to 20-25mm (no matter what the brochure might say) as the cut surface is on an angle so the small electric motors can usually only cut a true diameter of around 1” (25mm). They are restricted on input size so you don’t overload them, so are limited in chipping speed and feed access.
  • Entry level petrol machines can handle larger branch size – say 40-50mm true diameter and can chip much faster. Many have “dual feed” chutes – one for wooding branches via a chipper chute and a second hopper chute for softer material and foliage. The material must be prepared and separated out so the correct material type goes in the correct aperture.
  • Larger brush chippers (eg. HANSA) are much quicker to feed through the single open hopper design. They have more aggressive chipping capability and the job is done much quicker as the preparation time is greatly reduced. These machines are gravity fed.
  • Commercial machines with hydraulic feed – getting into serious tree care machinery, you will need industrial class chipping capacity with a hydraulically controlled feed system. Visit www.hansaproducts.co.nz to find out more.

 Keep in mind – machines with less horsepower will take longer to get the job done.


Types of material to be chipped
Larger machines are mostly the preserve of municipalities, golf courses, nurseries and landscaping contractors. Besides the amount of waste you'll be chipping and shredding, consider what kind of material it is. The harder the wood, the more power it will take to cut.

  • Inside the chipper is a flywheel that rotates one or two blades fast enough to whittle branches down more efficiently than a chef dicing carrots. Grates at the bottom of some machines allow it to spit out chips as small as fingernails that pile up beneath the chipper or collect in a detachable bag. Some machines have a chute discharge.
  • The most efficient way to chip material is to strip leaves away from branches, then feed them separately through the appropriate hoppers. However, you needn't be so finicky if you don't mind partially shredded leaves mingled with your chips (unless you have a HANSA, in which case this is not necessary).
  • The machine can take freshly cut or even wet wood, although the chips will often be stringier than material left to age before it's chipped. The fresher the material the easier it is to cut. By leaving the material to dry out will make it harder to chip up hence requiring more power to do the job, as well as the vibration being hard on the hands.
  • There are two basic types of ‘Chipper Shredder’ 1: the straight disc and knife blades, more common with electric and heavy-duty commercial machines. For around the home use, about 50:50 with Hammer-Mill. 2: the combination disc, knife blade and flail steel hammers, called the Hammer-Mill process. The Hammer-Mill process basically whacks everything to a pulp requiring added energy to complete the process. The result will be finer shreddings. However, Hammer-Mill process is slower and will not tolerate any fibrous material or sticks much over 15mm. The full disc with cutter blades ‘Chipper Shredders,’ can generally take whatever is thrown at it. The exception being flax or high fibrous grasses, cabbage tree leaves etc. Whichever machine you choose the result will be much the same – a nice pile of broken down vegetation. Talk with one of our consultants to help choose which type will be best suited for your application. Once completing the task, you can spread the mulched and chipped material directly onto a ‘bed’—or put it into your composter, where it will break down more rapidly. 

 Damaged vegetation from any chipper or shredder will cause bacteria and microbes to enter the vegetation, starting the ‘breaking down’ phase in which nature intended. Thus, the end result size from any machine will be great for composting. 

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