What is a Wood Chipper and How does it Work?

How Do Wood Chippers Work? This question seems simple though not everyone can answer it.

In this post, we are going to get our answers right. Stay with me.

I like to think that the best thing to ever happen to humanity is the technological advancements we witness daily. 

And in this case, the technological growth granted us a wood chipper!

Wood chipper is a jack of all trades, and he will do this work for you. 

In this article, we are addressing all the possible elements of a wood chipper, including giving you instructions on how you can efficiently use it in your woodworking activities.

What Is a Wood Chipper?

Also referred to as a tree chipper, a wood chipper is a machine used for cutting tree limbs, trunks, and branches into chips of your desired size. 

The wood chippers come in the form of a truck as they have room for carrying a much bigger load. 

Using a wood chipper is cost-effective and time-saving; the human resources, time, and budget required to complete a forestry job is reduced with a wood chipper.

Advantages of a Wood Chipper

  • A wood chipper turns large, heavy trees into smaller chunks, which is very helpful, especially when cleaning after a fallen tree. With the machine, you can run the large pieces of wood through it, which eases your job of gathering up the chunks you can use in the best way you want. The wood chipper also saves costs related to removing any green waste.
  • Wood chippers enable recycling as you can turn organic matter which you would otherwise burn into useful recycled material. Doing this is cost-effective as one would save the money which you would otherwise pay someone to handle this waste. 

Alongside cutting down costs, wood chippers are also used to create mulch to nurture and protect plants in a much cheaper way. 

Image of DK2 Power 14HP, our best commercial wood chipperYou can use it to shred the wood chunks, turning old wood into compost. 

The machine’s versatility doesn’t end there; you can also use it to produce pressed wood, which helps make pallets and other furniture items. 

Such advantages mean you could sell the wood chips to customers who need to recycle them into their preferred material.

Thus you wouldn’t have to worry much about how costly it was to rent it.

  • While most people consider burning the quickest way to get rid of waste, a wood chipper offers an alternative to this, hence assisting in environmental preservation.
  • Wood chipper eases the transportation process. Removing trees from a forest or your compound at home can get cumbersome and challenging; one wood most likely needs a professional to do it. A wood chipper makes this process easier for you as the material cut down becomes less bulky and more portable.
  • Alongside a shredder, a wood chipper allows you to create compost that you can use in your garden for your plants at minimal costs. Shredding your wood will make them pulverized, thus making them quickly makes them ready for usage than typical compost methods.
  • Interestingly, you can also use your wood chippers to make biofuels, which help run cars and other machines that use this fuel. This method is time-consuming as transforming wood chips into ethanol (using special enzymes) will take forever. The brighter side is that making biofuel is an excellent method that can potentially replace gas while also conserving our environment.

How Do Wood Chippers Work?

Wood chippers contain several parts embedded into one, including a hopper, a collar, a chipper, and a collection bin. 

While they come in various types and sizes, all wood chippers function uniformly. 

It contains an internal engine powered by an electric motor or a fossil fuel that powers up the device to start working.

A gearbox, another part of the wood chipper, uses pulleys and v-belts to connect the engine to a set of knives. 

The pulley powers up the engine, which controls the rotating blades’ speed. The v-belt transmits energy into the engine. 

Other internal gears are found within the gearbox, which is also used to control the machine’s speed and power.

The wood chipper also contains two chutes used in processing the wood—the smaller chute shreds branches into the chips. 

On the other hand, the larger chute turns excess plant material into mulch by modifying other parts attached to it, such as blades and hammers.

The type of wood chipper you have determines the level of thickness your machine can handle. 

The larger the wood chipping machine, the larger the load it can handle. Blades can function on separate shafts or in an intermesh. 

If the blades work around an independent shaft, the wood would continuously cut down the branches since they are passed through the blades at high speed. 

On the other hand, intermeshed blades are much slower and self-feeding. They independently draw branches into the blades. 

The intermeshed blades also ensure that the woodcut is consistent in size.

Here’s How Wood Chipper Works:

Precautions When Using Wood Chipper

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports show that at least five workers died in chipper-related accidents in 2020. 

While five may sound like a small number, it is disastrous when you or your loved one falls victim. 

To avoid accidents that result in death or other serious injuries, follow the following practices for a safe operation of the wood chipper:

  • Wear the proper safety gear. Safety gears while operating a wood chipper include eye and hearing protection, tight-fitting clothes, and a hard helmet. 

Also, wear gloves and pants that don’t have hooks. 

Avoid slipping accidents while working around the infeed chute; wear pants and gloves without hooks. 

Protect your feet by wearing gum boots or any other recommended footwear. 

Do not wear jewelry or anything dangly, as they may get hooked to the blades. 

Always tuck your long hair or beards away to prevent kickbacks when operating various machine parts.

  • Read through the operating manual before using the machine. 

By reading it, you are familiarizing yourself with its safety controls and proper start-up and shut-down procedures. 

The information will help you in case the machine jams; learn how to stop or reverse it during an emergency before using it.

  • To avoid unprecedented accidents, always inspect the wood chipper before use. 

Always ensure that the disc hood is closed and latched. Also, check the chute to identify any foreign projects. 

Check that the bolts and pins are tight to avoid bolting out. 

Ensure that the knives are not worn out or damaged since operating them in such a state result in feeding the clog, which will kick debris back via the infeed chute.

  • Ensure that the guards are not missing. 

Chipper accidents mostly report the absence of guards or malfunctioning of the device as the leading causes of the accidents. 

OSHA general machine guarding standard demands that chippers should always have or more guards. 

The said guards prevent cases of flying debris or rotating parts that cause injury to the operators.

  • The discharge chute should always face away from people and the traffic.
  • Allocate someone who’ll stand near the emergency shut-off switch during the operation of the machine. When working with a wood chipper, always work alongside a colleague as it is impossible to reach a safety device.
  • Avoid throwing foreign materials into the wood chipper. Also, check for tree debris before feeding it into the chipper; this will help detect foreign objects.
  • Limit the size of the pieces you insert into the chipper by sticking only to the recommended size. Industrial chippers can cut wood from 6-to 12 inches.
  • Before cleaning the chute or changing the chipper blades, always immobilize the disc or roller.
  • Avoid putting your hands near the mouth of the hopper. Use a long branch piece to push the material in.
  • Clean around the tree debris and ensure that there are no stones, rocks, or metals to prevent the blades from ricocheting off.

What Is the Difference Between a Wood Chipper and a Shredder?

A wood chipper is specially designed for use on coarser and harder plant materials such as the limbs, trunks, and branches of trees. 

With the commercial wood chippers, the inches can be as wide as 6 to over 8 inches. 

Shredders, on the hand, are designed to work on smaller plant materials such as the branches and the twigs, stalks, leaves, seed pods, and dead flowers. 

While a chipper uses a flywheel to maintain a heavy rolling action on its blade wheel, shredders use a group of small hammers that work by spinning round and round, shredding the veggie matter as it passes through it.

Summarily, wood chippers handle heavy plant materials like hardwood and cuts using blades, while the shredder handles softer and stalky matters and uses hammers that pulverize them.

Can You Put Pine Cones in a Wood Chipper?

A wood chipper makes your yard clean up, such as a park walk.  

Most people associate a wood chipper with different types of wood, including small branches, yard clippings, tree limbs, brush, and leaves which you can insert into a wood chipper. 

However, most people don’t know that the chipper can also accommodate less common materials such as the pine cone and lumber bamboo, among others.

Ground-up pines provide excellent compost in your yard. It is okay to put pine cones in a wood chipper. 

The only disadvantage in putting a pine cone in the chipper is that the pine cones are always dusty as they explode into fine dust when put through the machine. 

However, you can easily counter this problem by wearing a dust mask.

The cones can also leave sap on your blades; cleaning the chopper after the activity will save your machine from preventable wear and tear.

 Are Chipper Shredders Worth It?

While wood chippers will help you cut large branches and clean up other waste material, a chipper shredder will be more helpful if you work with fewer materials such as leaves and other forms of garden debris; and when in need of tree mulch for gardening.

It is not uncommon for people to confuse wood shredders for chippers as they have several similarities. 

A shredder allows you to choose the size of your output, even though it cannot handle larger branches due to its small engine size and the blunt flail. 

Like a wood chipper, a shredder also has a flywheel with blades on one side, designed for chipping purposes.

A shredder, like a chipper, uses two types of engines; electric and gas-powered. 

Depending on your preference and use, both engines have pros and cons. The electric motor shredder machine is relatively cheap and easier to maintain. 

A gas-powered engine is more effective when dealing with commercial uses.

Shredders have a fewer number of blades than chippers. 

With the few blades, the shredder cannot produce fine particles and end products like the chipper; it also cannot handle bulky material due to this adaptation.

Shredders have vacuum attachments that save you time during the operation. This feature attracts people as it can go a long way.

Conclusively, whether a shredder is a worthy buy or not entirely depends on the type of work you need done.  

If you have several branches or waste that you want to work on, the wood chipper, rather than the shredder, is the best pick. 

However, if you work with fewer materials and require tree mulch for gardening, the shredder is worth your consideration.

 Can You Shred Cardboard in a Wood Chipper?

The functionality of a wood chipper is so flexible that it can process hard and soft branches. 

It can also handle leaves, cardboard, paper, and any other garden waste you may want to work with. 

Using it will save you hours of hard work and grinding down materials to use in your garden. Therefore, yes, a wood chipper can effectively shred cardboard.

Shredding cardboard uses the same process as paper shredding using the chipper. 

Due to the thicker nature of the cardboard compared to paper, always ensure that the cardboard is cut into strips and then feed them into the chipper.

Cutting the cardboard into strips might be quite a sport.

However, you can counter this by soaking it in water and leaving it exposed to the weather for a few days to ease the process.

Adjust the settings of your wood chipper and begin feeding the cardboard strips into it. 

Use a slow speed on your wood chipper to avoid clogging or damaging the cutting machine. 

The process shouldn’t take much effort, so switch your machine on! 

What Can You Not Put in a Wood Chipper?

The cheaper wood does an excellent job cleaning off twigs, leaves, branches, and other organic materials that could fall on your yard after a storm. 

However, other materials can compromise your safety or damage your machine when inserted into the chipper. 

You should altogether AVOID putting the following items into your wood chipper:

  • Bamboo. Bamboo chutes will damage your blades when inserted into the chipper because of their hard nature. 

The deflector will also clog up, leading to further damage. 

Rather than damaging your machine, consider other ways of clearing them from your compound, such as using herbicides or covering them to eliminate the sunlight.

  • Oriented Strand Board (OSB). The OSB can be inserted into the chipper if it is less than 1\2 thick and in 2” strips. 

Doing this is a waste of time. Instead, donate or repurpose the OSB for another project.

  • Pressure Treated Lumber. Avoid putting lumber into your wood chipper, especially if it has been pressure treated. Pressure treated lumber usually contains chromated copper arsenate, which is hazardous to human health when released. 

Besides, the lumber is too hard and will damage your chipper in a blink!

  • Rubber and Tires. Rubbers are too thick to be put in the chipper. Tires are made of steel belts which will quickly destroy your blades. 

The thickness will cause an overheating motor, leading to a breakdown.

  • Corpses. Movies may allude that it is safe to dispose of a corpse in the wood cheaper, but do not! 

The carcass will clog up your machine and require quite an input to clean it up. 

Besides, you will find yourself in the bad books with the law because it is illegal to dispose of human remains into a chipper.

Final Remarks

A wood chipper is an important machine that will help you cut all sorts of timber and other organic related material. 

It will help you clean up your yard and save time and labor. 

This article has addressed some of the uses of a wood chipper and compared it to a shredder. 

We have also considered the precautions to take while using your wood chipper, including what you can and cannot put into your machine. 

That said, ensure that you follow instructions and only put in what the chipper recommends in the manual.

Choose a chipper and a shredder that would best suit your needs.

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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