Best sub $900 shredder for my community garden

neonkopiteApril 25, 2010

I have been doing a lot of searching around here and elsewhere for shredder recommendations, but haven't really found a satisfactory thread for my specific needs.

I run the local community garden, which surprisingly didn't use to have any composting program. I built a 3 bin composter, and until recently have been dealing with processing all the waste that gets dumped through stubborn hard work (i.e. bashing it with various implements). I'm training for a long distance swim now and simply don't have the energy anymore.

We are talking mostly just cubic yard after cubic yard of weeds, vegetable waste, kitchen waste. You'll get some twigs and vines, maybe the odd small piece of wood, but nothing that stout, just lots of it. There is virtually no hardwood that would require chipping. Despite the fact that it is socal, there are certain periods where many don't garden much, and after the cold season rains, all of a sudden there will be an 8x20x5ft or thereabouts pile of green and brown waste. I need a shredder to get through this all, and I want to make better compost as well.

We have it in our budget to buy a chipper/shredder, but $900 would be about the limit we could afford to spend. All the recommendations seem to push people to the Mighty Mac or Bearclaw shredders, but these are out of the price range, as the lower end Mighty Mac's say leaves only for their shredder.

I don't care if the chipper is useless, I need a decent shredder that won't get stuck constantly, and will shred waste a few times a year to enable for faster composting.

I need something that is reliable, because the majority of users of the garden are graduate students, and they come and go every few years (as will I) so I can't guarantee anyone could do their own maintenance, and I certainly couldn't.

I've scoured craigslist and ebay for a while to see if anything substantial that is used came up, but I'm not seeing anything more than used versions of the same things I'm seing in home depot and the like, mostly because people in orange county and environs probably don't have much demand for shredders.

There also doesn't seem to be much by way of reviews for the shredding applications of some of the shredders I'm looking at, and many in the price range aren't highly regarded.

Here are the ones I'm looking at:

this brush master:

This, which seems identical to the new troy-bilt ones.

And the earthquake models (which I'm currently leaning to)

Does anyone have any recommendations? Thanks in advance.

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I actually just discovered that the brush master, which seems to be the only hammermill close to my price range, is out, because they won't deliver to CA for some reason (emissions?).

    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 4:15AM
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The Mighty Mac is just above that amount, but a far better deal and quality. Mine was about $1100, but does all tasks.

I know it is out of your price range, but you should compare the HD with the Mac visually for quality.

My regret is that I didn't spend the couple hundred extra for the larger model. I hope your regret isn't the same.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 6:22AM
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The cheapest I can find the SC800 for is around $1200, and that's without shipping.

The $900 is already somewhat stretching the budget. I'm going to see if a different local community garden would be willing to contribute in exchange for its use, but if I can't do that, I really can't go that high.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 1:49PM
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That's the model I have. I see they made some minor appearance changes since I bought mine about 3-4 years ago.

The screen that comes with the unit can be problematic if you grind wet, leafy things because the slots are too small. I bought the larger opening screen and use both. If I didn't have the second screen, I'd make the first grind with no screen at all and then do it again with the stock screen. Or I'd wait until the vegetation was drier.

The motor will never bog down unless the grinding area is full of wet mulch and the screen is obstructed from dropping the grindings. You must keep the bottom area cleared for mulch to fall out.

I have a large property and am very happy with the unit. It does exactly what it claims to do.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 10:22PM
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Anyone have any experience with the 10 hp ardisam, which seems to trade as Simplicity or Earthquake.

It has a far smaller number of hammers (4), arranged around a single spinning wheel, rather than in the more robust configuration of the sc800, but crucially, it's about $500 cheaper, and does have a substantial amount of HP. Yes, it has plastic in non moving places, but it seems to get much better reviews than the typical HD offerings, though not as good as the almost universally loved Mackissic, which I'm not sure I can afford.

It is the same as the simplicity brand chipper/shredders.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ardisam/earthquake chipper/shredder

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 5:01AM
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It could be an OK product. I'd like to see a video, especially doing wet, green vegetation, or freshly cut tree limbs, which is the ultimate challenge for any shredder, even the Mackissic.

If the Mackissic is universally loved, there must be a reason.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 6:30AM
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I went with the mackissic, with shipping it ended up at $1,400, but from everything I read I can have the confidence that it will be a joy to use, as opposed to constantly battling with it.

I'm actually really excited about getting it, after two years of chopping green mountains by hand, it's enough.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 4:36PM
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You won't be disappointed. Just remember that if you're doing alot of wet, leafy vegetation, it may clog up the plate. I always do that stuff without the plate and the door angled down.

Also, vine-type stuff can wrap around the impeller.

One thing else. Don't hold on to things you put down the chute and hold loosely if you try to pull up on something that's stuck. They tend to get ripped out of your hand.

Good luck, and enjoy.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 10:29PM
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"Also, vine-type stuff can wrap around the impeller. "

That's true. However, I processed a lot of wild grape vines by feeding them in the chipper chute instead of the shredder chute. The chipper blade cut the vines into small pieces that couldn't cause a wrapping problem.

MacKissic has a couple of optional screens with large openings for processing wet materials. Of course, simply leaving the screen off will work too. The wet screens can do a little better job of shredding the wet material, but your application may not justify the cost of a wet screen.

For dry materials intended for composting (like dead leaves, cornstalks, or dead weeds) I use a ¼-inch screen, which produces a very fine fluffy product with extreme surface area for rapid composting. You would never guess what the processed material had been. With optional screens, the MacKissic shredder/chipper is one of the most versatile hammermills anywhere near its price range. I love mine.

(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned)

    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 1:05AM
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Zenman, do you have any idea where to purchase screens for this particular unit online, I haven't been able to find the optional screens, other than for 120 each, which is twice the already inflated MSRP.

Also, if I had to get only two screens, what would you recommend? I plan on getting the wet stamped screen, should I get the half inch or the quarter? I tend to think a lot of things would get stuck in the quarter inch, because the damp and dry stuff tends to be mixed together.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 3:26AM
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Thank you for reminding me of the term "screen". It slipped my mind.

Canns/Bilco in Alburtis, PA sells them. I know I didn't pay that much for my screen, but I thought the price was high too.

The stock screen holes are about 1" wide and 1 1/2" long. The large opening screen for wet vegetation has slots about 3" long.

It's really no big deal to pitch fork once-composted material back into the hopper, so I do the drier stuff twice.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 6:16AM
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" you have any idea where to purchase screens for this particular unit online..."

I don't know where to get the screens cheap anywhere. I ordered all of my MacKissic stuff through our local MacKissic dealer in Maine, so I didn't get anything online. That was several years ago, and the screens weren't cheap even then. I think they were over $40 each.

"I went with the mackissic, with shipping it ended up at $1,400"

What model of MacKissic did you get? I paid $1,400 for my 12PT9 with optional screens about seven years ago, and prices have gone up considerably since. The current Merry Mac Tow-Behind is $2,000 at Northern Tool.

I did order Pick Tines for my Merry Tiller online from West Power Tools. They have since changed their name to ReBorn Tools and their website appears to be mostly "broken".

"..if I had to get only two screens, what would you recommend?"

Well, I wouldn't get the wet stamped screen (I did, but I was going "whole hog" on screens). But, as has already been mentioned, for wet materials you can just remove the screen altogether. I really like the fine product I get from the ¼" screen. I think you get a 1-inch screen standard. I think my second recommendation would be the ½" screen. That gives you a doubling of hole size as you go up from ¼" to ½" to 1". That would be my selection of two extra screens, because I like to make fine products for rapid composting or for soft mulching or path materials.

When I am using the ¼" or ½" screen and I notice that the screen is starting to clog up, rather than stop and clean the screen or change the screen, I just toss in a smallish chunk of wood as a "screen cleaner." I keep a few appropriately sized chunks of wood handy just for such occasions. That piece of wood keeps bouncing around in there as the hammers bash and re-bash it and the repeated impacts of the wood on the screen scours off the clogs and opens the clogged holes. It's a very noisy process, but you are supposed to be wearing ear protectors anyway. I wear my Stihl chainsaw helmet because it has a screenwire face protector and big ear covers.

Since the screens are now so expensive, you might get by with just one. In addition to the standard 1-inch screen, I probably would settle for the 1/2-inch screen.

As for online sources, I dunno. Right offhand all I have seen is The LawnMower Shop, and their screen prices are higher than what you mentioned as excessive. Do you have a local MacKissic dealer?

(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned)

    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 10:37PM
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I got the sc800. The prices have gone up a lot, as you said.

Thanks for all the helpful advice on the screens. Unfortunately, there is no local Mackissic dealer, as they aren't widely available on the west coast. I'd have much preferred to buy from a local place, if it were possible.

The MSRP on screens for the sc800 are 65, but on some of the few mackissic online dealers, they are lumped in with the more expensive 12p screens.

I'm already paying way over budget for the benefit of our community garden, and I can't on principal pay more than the already high MSRP for a piece of metal.

I'm just not seeing them anywhere else at the recommended price.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 2:43AM
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Apparently it will be hard to find screens for the SC800. I notice that the LawnMower Shop has it for $1300 including delivery, so if they had the screens for it, they would probably be reasonably priced. You might query them (DOLPHIN Outdoor Power Equipment) to see if they have the SC800 screens, but just neglected to list them on the website.

But paying the price for a 12PT10 screen for an SC800 screen would be "highway robbery". Too bad there isn't a MacKissic dealer in your area. You might query MacKissic to see if they would sell you a screen directly. Considering the circumstances, I think there is a chance they might do that.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 9:17AM
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ZM - I bought it from the Lawn Mower Shop, however it's an additional 100 shipping if you are west of vegas, which I am. It's the same everywhere, the freight charge goes up so they won't do free shipping.

I asked Lawn Mower Shop about the screens and they didn't have them. Perhaps I will call Mackissic directly.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 12:47PM
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