need advice on chipper/shredders

liolaniMarch 19, 2010

We recently purchased a two-acre property of neglected and overgrown plants which need a lot of clearing and pruning. Since the soil needs help as well I was keen to get a chipper/shredder to turn the overgrowth into compost. We live on Maui, and there isn't much choice in chipper/shredders here. Ordering from the mainland is possible, but shipping isn't cheap and there is the issue of who will/can service the machine. We decided to rent what is sold here, and were extremely disappointed with the results. We rented an Echo Bearcat chipper/shredder. I don't know the model number, but it is supposed to be able to chip branches up to 3" in diameter. Hah! We rented the machine for a day, and hardly got anything processed. We spent the majority of the time trying to push things into the shredder. We weren't trying to chip oversized branches or particularly hard wood. The only material that it would actually pull in and chip without a struggle was about as hard as carrots. Is this normal for chipper/shredders or was this a rental that wasn't sharpened properly? This model costs well over $2,000 to buy here, and I have to say that I won't be a buyer. Is my only option to buy a larger machine or hire someone who has a larger machine? Thanks for your input.

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I have an MTD 5 HP and if the chipper blades get dull it is very frustrating. After I sharpen them it works great. I'm sure a rental probably has dull blades. If you have a tractor w/ 540 rpm PTO, maybe a 3 point hitch chipper would be better since you'd have more available HP.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 7:30AM
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Hi liolani,

I agree with Mla. A dull blade makes a small capacity chipper a real nightmare to use and a rental place is likely to have missed a dull blade on your chipper.

Another thing to consider is that small chipper have a small throat. I have a BCS BIO-100 and it works great if you can get the material in to the blade. Extremely bushy or twisted material is hard to get in because the throat will only take three inches of material. A Christmas tree with a three inch trunk, for example, needs a lot of prep work to get into the machine. This is true no matter what 3 inch capacity machine you buy. They are great for a moderate amount of work a couple times a year, but fall down on large catch-up jobs like you describe.

If your rental place has it, rent a 6 or 9 inch capacity monster for the initial cleanup. It'll cost more per hour, but if you have everything cut and ready to go, it should take a fraction of the time to run everything through.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 7:50AM
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bbriggs(z5 IA)

I rented a Bearcat with 3" capacity years ago; as I recall it had a separate flail shredder and a blade chipper. It chipped OK but the shredder was not pleasant to use. The path to the shredder was not straight, and material does not want to change direction on the way in. The MacKissic models have a straight path to the shredder and do quite well. The 12PT and SC183 both do much better than the Bearcat unit in my hands. They each work MUCH better if the chipper blade is sharp, but the shredder blades on these models is not sharp in the first place nor do they need sharpening.

I'd be perfectly happy with the little MacKissic, but I have both and the SC183 is bigger and therefore better. Maintenance is pretty straightforward for a handy owner and would be easy for any small engine shop. Parts are readily available straight from the factory, but aside from a spare blade or two it will be many years before you need any parts. If you can afford to get one to Hawaii I think you'd be happy.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 7:34PM
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Thanks for your help and information. I will need to research larger machines.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2010 at 2:13AM
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I wanted to thank the people who took the time to share advice with me a couple of years ago. I appreciate your help very much. I thought I'd let you know that my new MacKissic SC183 has recently arrived here on Maui. I kept putting the purchase off, since the price tag for the one my husband insisted we needed was a little daunting (especially here in Hawaii). I finally got tired of driving pickup truck load after pickup truck load of yard waste to the green waste site. Getting a MacKissic here was no small feat, though. I had to hire a small engine repair guy to put it together for me and get the 700 lb. machine on the ground at my place, since the dealer through which I bought it is located on the island of Hawaii. They just drop-shipped the machine to me. I should mention that the people at MacKissic were very nice, but their dealer here in Hawaii put very little effort into the sale. Half the time they didn't return my calls, and they never even checked to see if the machine made it to me. Anyway, after it was delivered we started it up to test it out and the shredder surprised me by ripping an Areca palm frond out of my hand. Yikes! What a big difference from the Bearcat we rented two years ago! The chipper is less scary, but easily chips the shockingly hard coconut palm fronds I feed it. It makes beautiful palm frond mulch. To move it around the yard I bought a two inch ball hitch for our John Deere X300 lawn tractor, and it pulls the MacKissic easily up and down our sloping yard. I have not figured out how to get light things down into the shredder, though. The flaps that separate the chute from the hammermill chamber are stiff enough to keep light material out. I had a large pile Wedelia that I had cut and left to dry, leaving it much lighter than the rest of the yard waste I processed. I was unwilling to try to push it with anything that could not be processed by itself for fear of damaging my new machine. Consequently I didn't really have any good pushing tool to use for this. Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 4:24AM
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I don't recall the sc183 configuration but the single 12pt flap can just be lifted out of the way. I assume that it is there to prevent you from doing something really stupid like putting your hand all the way 'down there'. In any case, when stuff doesn't go down, I just push with some semi-rigid stuff like palm fronds in your case. I plan for it and save some convenient branches.

I can't say that I was able to deal with a regional distributor well either, but the head office was and still is very helpful with advise and parts.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 9:00PM
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I did try to push the wedelia down with palm fronds, but that wasn't reliably successful. I believe the flaps are there to prevent things from being thrown back out of the chute at the operator. I checked my machine, and I can't lift the flaps on the SC183 out of the way. They are bolted in place. It has given me an idea for something to push the flaps back temporarily. It would require two people to work the machine, though. Thanks for the input.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 1:12AM
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Perhaps someone else with a 183 could confirm, but I just dug up an old advertisement circular that includes the sc183 and it has text pointing at the top (not clearly visable) that says 'Hinged Lid with Blowback Shield'. This circular is at least seven years old and the unit may have been redesigned but it seems unlikely.

It is certainly true that the flaps are there to prevent chunks and light stuff from being thrown around, but I often use the 12PT with the shoot open. My guess is that you have just assumed that the flaps are anchored. Perhaps there is a hook or something else. Perhaps the bolts you are looking at are there to connect the flap and top to the hinge that may be right by the bolts. Otherwise, I would call MacKissic directly.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 4:24PM
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You are absolutely right, chas045. Thanks for not giving up on me. :-) I guess I was looking for a keep the metal part in place and just move the flaps solution. (not the first time I've felt stupid) It does say on the caution label: For safety, keep hinged cover down to reduce chance of ejecting material from hopper. I hope you don't read about me on the internet in the future: "Stupid Woman Impaled By Chipper Shredder Projectile." Thanks!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 2:01PM
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You are quite welcome. Yes, sometimes I can't find my keys because they are in my pocket. At least I haven't lost my glasses while wearing them, but that brings up the solution to getting crud in your face. Obviously, safety glasses would be better, and goggles better still (although sweat and fog producing), but if you are just chipping the equivalent of leaves, then glasses will do. To be safe, and off the internet, the safety glasses are a far better move because you might pick some gravel under your pile to be chipped.

As I said before, I often leave the lid off while chipping small branches and wood chunks, and significant crud does fly out but almost never directly at me. The side branch chipper can also eject things and you are almost always in the way from that.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 10:19PM
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Hi Chas,

"Obviously, safety glasses would be better, and goggles better still (although sweat and fog producing), but if you are just chipping the equivalent of leaves, then glasses will do."

I wear my chainsaw helmet while using my MacKissic 12PT9, because it combines full face protection with a dropdown black screenwire face shield and ear protectors. The wire shield provides fog-proof protection. You need ear protectors, because shredding and chipping can get quite loud for a prolonged time. My 12PT9 came with ear protectors, which I don't use because the chainsaw helmet has them built in.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 1:42PM
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Eh? Whats that you said?? Good point zenman. I have sometimes used a flip-down face shield that I use with my lathe.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 8:08PM
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May I suggest that you can wear any goggles/glasses you like fog free with a little "no fog" from a scuba diving supply store. Be sure to get a good brand as they're not all the same. (I've tried them all since it sucks to dive with a foggy mask.) Sadly, it won't do anything for the sweat.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 3:31AM
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