Need help selecting Chipper/Shredder

gardenerzone4(5b)September 3, 2011

Every fall, I collect >1000 bags of yard waste (YW) from local neighborhoods. This year, I'd like to have a chipper shredder to help process it all.

Early in the season, the YW is mostly grass mixed with leaves. Then it turns to maple leaves, pinecones, and twigs. Then to oaks.

The grass-leaf mix is OK to just dump onto beds as mulch. The leaves I need to shred before mulching, or they blow everywhere.

I also spread a 2" layer of leaves into my lawn last fall and mowed it in--that killed my husband's expensive riding mower. The repair folks told us that shredded leaves had clogged INSIDE the engine, and that we must stop this practice.

So now I need a way to preshred the leaves before applying to the lawn as organic matter, and before applying to beds as mulch.

Long story short--I need a chipper shredder. The light duty leaf-only shredders won't work b/c most bags I pick up have sticks and other debris in them.

I've looked all over and come up with the following candidates. Someone more handy than me, please answer these questions:

1--Do I want gas or electric? I'm leaning towards electric for less noise, easy startup, and no fumes. But it's also quite expensive.

2--I can't envision myself hoisting 1000 bags of leaves high enough to then tilt and dump into the shredder hopper. Some models have a suction attachment. Others can be leaned onto their sides so you just rake the leaves into the hopper. Are there other ways than to have to dump into a waist-high hopper?

3--What are the "screens" that I keep seeing people write about? What is being screened?

4--Are there other models I should be considering?

Patriot Electric ($939)

Harbor Freight Gas ($399.99)

MacKissic Mighty Mac Gas ($779)

Earthquake Gas (at Menards for ~$700)

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I have a Patriot Electric and after a bit of a learning curve find it to be OK for my needs. I doubt that I shred 1,000 bags of yard waste with it and if I did I'd probably want something more powerful -- probably a gasoline engine. Leaves do tend to clog up in the hopper if I try to feed it too fast/too much at a time. It's not all that difficult to unclog but does require a shut down. Also wet debris tends to clog up the exit port and I have to shut down and clear that when shredding wet leaves and green matter. The chipper port works OK with twigs but vine type matter winds around the shredding mechanism and requires another shut down and time consuming removal. As for lifting bags of leaves up into the hopper, the Patriot won't handle anywhere near a bag full of leaves at one time so you won't be doing that. I've found that one scoop between my yard rake and left hand is about all it will handle at one time. That calls for a lot of bending over and scooping up stuff; however, that gives me a chance to examine what I'm dropping into the hopper which is a good thing considering the other stuff folks put in those bags -- like beer cans and rocks.

Hope this helps, Jerry

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 1:41PM
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Sorry to hear about the mower. I would have thought that might work except for spreading mulch all over.

It seems to me that you are going large scale but want a reasonable price and no lifting. I have the fancy 12pt10 version that would mulch up the stuff but with lifting and you would have to put a 1 in front of the small mac price which is already very high. The screens of varied sizes allow the mulch to be chopped up finer before they fall out of the chipper. These are really heavy plate metal with varied hole sizes and are designed for folks who wan't beautiful mulch of a consistant size. Any mulcher probably has one anyway and it will do what you want already. I suspect that the smaller machines will clog up too much with your work scale and you would need something like the Mac you showed.
Originally coming from California, I would have said build two big corrals of wood and chicken wire and heave the stuff in there and leave it, use the other one next year. I see that even in north carolina (still zone 7), stuff doesn't decay as fast and the wait might be too long.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 4:59PM
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Thanks for the info, folks. My husband is still upset at me for killing the riding mower by asking that he mow leaves into the lawn, despite my assertion that it really is a common practice. We just must have a very temperamental lawn mower--Husquvana? He calls it his Huskie. Huskie has been restored to good health by the repair folks but now I'm not allowed to go near it with any leaves.

Anyway, I'm thinking about the Mighty Mac too b/c it at least lets you tilt it down to the ground for leaves to be raked into the hopper. Everything else I cannot imagine how I'd feed all those bags of leaves in.

Whatever leaves in excess of what I can use as mulch I do pile into my compost bins to rot down for the next year. But if I could shred the leaves and put them onto the perennials as mulch, it would blow away less and allow me to use more leaves in the same space than using whole leaves would.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 11:02PM
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squirejohn zone4 VT

There's a difference between Huskie and Husqvarna mowers. I can't envision how shredding leaves ruined the "inside" of the engine; maybe very poor air intake and/or air cooling design. Many folks use mowers to shred leaves with no problem - see Composting Forum.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 6:02AM
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As has been mentioned, "Huskee" and "Husquvarna" are not the same. Totally different companies and differing qualities of build.

Huskee is, or at least was, a rebadged MTD mower. They may still be making it or they might have changed to a new contractor.

Husquvarna is a much better quality and better built machine.

Regardless, mowing over leaves should have nothing to do with the engine. The only time I've seen leaf debris kill an engine is when mice have created a nest from leaf debris by packing it between the cylinder heads and the engine cooling shroud.

The cooling shroud is the thin sheet metal that surrounds the engine, it's designed to funnel air past the cylinder head to aid in cooling. The mice nests, made from built up of leaf matter, essentially eliminate the cooling air flow and instead insulate the cylinder head, leading to overheating.

Enough about that.

Of the ones you listed, I'd recommend the MacKissic. Not only can you rake the leaves on the ground right into the hopper, but the internal air movement actually helps to suck the leaves into the hopper, making it easier.

You have a huge volume to shred. I have a mackissic 12PT1100, an updated but similar version of the one chas045 has. I have an old table the same height as the top of the hopper that I use as a feed table when doing volume work.

The leaves get loaded from the "back" edge of the table top. Toss a bag up there and dump it out. There are raised sides on two sides of the table, about 6", to prevent matter from sliding off the sides.

An operator with a hoe then pulls the leaves along the surface of the table and into the hopper, which is under the "front" edge of the table.

It goes pretty easy, there's only one lifting of each bag.

The nice thing about the 12pt1100, or any other 12PT model, is the hammermill section. It'll pulverize the leaf matter and reduce it more than any of the models you referenced, plus between the hammermill and the chipping function, it's much more versatile.

You can shred dry leaves, then toss in a few green branches, it'll blend them nicely. If the hopper does clog with leaves, I just feed a whip of a branch down the hopper, the hammermill grabs it and pulls the leaves through, shredding everything and clearing the clog.

You can get a used 12PT for around $500. You'll never need to worry about the hammers, shredding leaves will not dull them at all.

When I've done a lot of dry/dead matter, I'll sometimes sprinkle a bit of high-nitrogen fertilizer into the hopper as I'm feeding the leaves. It'll give the composting a kick start.

I'd recommend gas over electric just for location versatility. But you know your situation better, and sound reduction would indeed favor the electrics.

Sounds like you'll be putting a lot of hours on your machine, watch the lubrication schedules.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 2:57PM
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I have an old MacKissic 12PT and love it. I got optional screens for it, and am very glad I did. As for the sound of gas versus electric, the sound of the engine is only part of the overall noise that a shredder chipper makes. The sound of the stuff being chipped and shredded and bashed to bits is itself considerable. If I replaced my 9hp gas engine with a 9hp electric, my machine would still make enough of a racket that I would still need to use ear protectors while using it. Of course, it wouldn't be practical to make such a replacement, because a 9hp electric motor would be enormous. But my point is, shredding and chipping is inherently not a quiet operation, quiet electric motor or not.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 10:42AM
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