What To Look For When Buying A Wood Chipper

Turn your tree prunings into a free source of mulch with a wood chipper.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Watchcaddy/Flickr

Buying any piece of farm equipment requires research to determine exactly what you need, and wood chippers are no exception. If you frequently prune trees and find yourself with a lot of branches on hand, purchasing a wood chipper and grinding the branches into wood chips can be a great idea. Not only will this save you from having a pile of dead branches somewhere on your farm, it will also provide you with a steady supply of wood chips that can be used for mulch—what can be better than that?

To help you sort through the various options and features that you’ll find in wood chippers, here are some tips on what to look for when buying a wood chipper.

What Size Branches Can They Chip?

Every wood chipper has a maximum branch diameter that it can successfully reduce to wood chips, so you’ll want to get a chipper that matches the size of the branches you plan to be processing. If you’re planning to grind up small fruit tree branches or even young sapling trees, a modest chipper capable of grinding branches up to 3 inches in diameter might be more than you’ll ever need.

In contrast, if you’re planning some heavy-duty work involving big branches and larger trees, a larger, more powerful chipper—say, one that can chip branches up to 6 inches in diameter—might be the way to go.

Electric, Gasoline Or PTO-Powered?

Wood chippers come in a variety of strengths and sizes, and can be powered by electric motors, gasoline engines or the PTO on your tractor. Electric chippers are small, portable and don’t require much maintenance, but they also can’t handle very large branches. Chippers powered by gasoline engines and tractor PTOs are larger and require more effort to move around, but their power and ability to handle large branches can’t be matched by electric chippers.

What Is The Reduction Ratio?

The reduction ratio measures how well the chipper can reduce the size of debris. A chipper with an 8:1 reduction ratio will reduce debris down to 1/8 of its original size, while a machine with a 12:1 reduction ratio will reduce debris down to 1/12 of its original size.

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Does It Have A Separate Shredding Chute?

Some chippers have smaller secondary chutes for shredding small debris, such as leaves. This can be a very useful feature if you’re doing general yard work, rather than exclusively chipping branches.

What Is The Bag Capacity?

Some chippers come equipped with bags to catch the wood chips as they emerge from the machine. This is very convenient, but the size of the bag is something to consider. A bag that can hold 10 bushels of chips will need to be emptied much less frequently than a bag that only holds three bushels, though if weight is a concern, you might want to go with a smaller bag.
Of course, there are other features to consider, as well, such as fuel tank capacity and whether the chipper uses gravity or mechanics to grind through the branches, but these features should get you started on your way to buying the perfect wood chipper.

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