Wood chippers are strangely satisfying to watch, especially at an industrial level. Seeing tonnes of dead tree trunks pass through the chipper’s funnel to emerge seconds later from its spout in a tempest of wood and bark is a visual display of just how useful these machines have become.
Jesus turned water into wine, it was a pretty neat trick, but it’s kind of less unique when you consider that wood chippers do the same thing every day. Dead tree trunks and branches are burdens to properties and worksites, forming thickets or obstacles that give no benefit to the land they sit upon. Cut them into wood chips and all of a sudden you’ve got mulch for your garden, a gentle surface for a playground’s floor or even a renewable energy resource.
How Do Wood Chippers Work?
Wood Chippers (sometimes referred to as limb shredders or log chippers) are eponymous machines with their purpose literally being to chip wood, or put more eloquently, to convert large quantities of wood into small, refined wood chips. Believe it or not, the machine isn’t filled with tiny lumberjacks, and the inside of the machine is stacked with sophisticated technology.
Typically the machine will be formed by several parts that will include the hopper, the collar, the chipper and the collection bin. As with any piece of high powered machinery, the engine will either be powered by fossil-fuels or electricity and will be connected to blades via pulleys and v-belts that are controlled by a gearbox. These systems function together to pull the blades with the pulley at the speed and power set by the internal gears.
The blades inside of the chipper will likely work on either separate shafts or intermesh, both offering different speeds and chipping precision. The matter is then spread between two chutes, with one shredding trees into chips and off into the collection bucket, while the other, equipped with additional tools, will mulch the alternative material (leaves etc). The mulching chute will be the larger of the two.
Some industrial wood chippers will also have layers of curtain chains attached to the inside of the machine that function as bark chippers and strip the bark from the wood passing through. Depending on the type of chipper, there may be different variations within the machine that determine how the machine chips the trees. Take a look inside this flail chipper for example.
Types of Wood Chippers
Due to their application often involving travel, wood chippers are almost always portable and will be offered with wheels or as extensions to trucks and tractors. However there are differences within the functions of available wood chippers that make some more suited to specific jobs.
If you are using your chipper in a residential setting you will probably be looking for a high-torque roller. These wood chippers have become popular among urban arborists due to their quiet nature. High-torque rollers use electric engines so they don’t create much sound, as well as low speed grinding rollers and anti-jamming features, meaning no excess dust.
For the ultimate commercial wood shredding machine, look no further than a disc style wood chipper. These are kind of like the grandaddy’s of the wood chipper field, having been around since the 1920’s and long known as the original chipper. Disc chippers operate by using hydraulics to power large wheels that carry the material from the hopper to the disc, which will be fixed at a square angle. The disc rotates until the knives reach the wood and slice it into chips. This style of chipper can manage a material diameter capacity of 16 – 18 inches and requires 4000-5000 hp to operate, making it less energy efficient than the drum style chipper.
Drum chippers are relatively new and use a steel drum powered by a motor and positioned across from the hopper. This steel drum spins towards the output chute, sucking the material through as quickly as it chips it and spits it out. These chippers are incredibly efficient, but have drawbacks in their noise and potential safety hazards, making them more suitable for commercial style chippers. The drum style chippers have overcome inability in recent years and are now able to handle a material capacity of 6 to 20 inches.
If you’re like me, you may think that wood chippers, shredders and mulchers all seem like they have similar duties, well the truth is, they kind of do. Multipurpose chippers are now a thing, a very useful and beautiful thing. Chipper shredders that operate as 2-in-1’s are available for residential duties, with the shredding side of the chipper able to turn the leafy and fibrous material into mulch. These machines are also as compact as lawn mowers and make a great addition to home garden work.
Wood Chipper Brands
Wood chippers are generally offered in different sizes and with different functions, meaning some brands have cornered the market on their chipper of choice. To help make the market a little easier to read, take a look through the brands below before chasing down a wood chipper for yourself.
- Hansa – A Brisbane based Australian leader in mobile chippers and shredders, Hansa produce what is arguably the best range of chipper shredders/mulchers. If you are looking for some extra equipment to maintain your garden and produce mulch, Hansa have chippers that can take on small diameter material as well as professional models for commercial chipping.
- John Deere – A force within the machinery industry, John Deere are pretty much capable of crafting anything with an engine in it. Their chippers are available in WC11 and WC12 models, both capable of being towed (tractor and vehicle respectively) and able to handle materials of up to an 8-inch diameter.
- Bandit – Bandit tree chippers and wood chippers have made their way to Australia from the U.S and offer 18 models of hand-fed or whole tree chippers from a 6″ to 36″ chipping capacity. The medium Bandit chippers are perfect for commercial arborists, being reliable and refined chippers.
- Rayco – Rayco chippers and equipment are also products of the U.S, but have been welcomed in the Australian forestry industry. Rayco offer brush clippers from a 6-18″ chipping capacity and use high horsepower gas engines to power through the most dense jobs.
- Morbark – Another company based out of the U.S, Morbark have been making wood chippers and mulchers for 60 years. The company leads industrial chipping machine production, having a wide range of high capacity chippers including drum chippers, chiparvesters and flails.
- Wallenstein – If you are looking for a portable wood chipper but haven’t been able to find one that suits your towing vehicle, you’d best check out Wallenstein’s range of products. The company specialises in portable wood chippers and shredder that come in compact and commercial sizes.
Buy or Rent?
So by this point you probably want to know, how much is a wood chipper going to set you back? Well, that depends of course on the job size, what brand you’re after, how long you’ll need it for and whether or not you want to purchase or just rent one.
How Much Does a Wood Chipper Cost to Purchase?
It is kind of difficult to put a figure on this. Chippers such as Hansa’s c13 are often quoted to a customer’s specifications whereas other chippers like Morbark’s M15RX are priced on application. As a more general indication, there are used Hansa chippers with a 65mm capacity going on marketplaces for $2,800AUD. Put that into perspective with new high-torque rollers with 254mm chipping capacity being sold brand new for $10k. The best option when scouting the markets is to make inquiries with the OEMs, dealerships and online marketplaces, as the huge variety of wood chippers makes for an equally diverse price range.
How Much to Rent a Wood Chipper?
Renting a wood chipper is always going to be an appealing alternative to buying one. With the machines being relatively simple to understand, they can be rented and quickly put to use from anywhere in Australia. There are plenty of websites out there that offer small capacity chippers/shredders from $350 a day to $3,200 for a month, depending on the season. And for chippers with 15″ plus capacities and trucks for catching/towing, you’re starting to look at $900 a day plus.