Wood Chippers For Beginners – Everything You Need to Know

Are you new to wood chipping and have no idea where to start learning about them?

Well you’ve come to the right place because I’ve put together this guide to help you make the best decision on which chipper to get and if you need a wood chipper.

But first of all, let me answer this question…

What is a wood chipper and what’s it used for?

A wood chipper or tree chipper shredder as it’s often referred to is a machine that shreds wood. This wood is often tree limbs. You can even shred leaves with a wood chipper. It reduces wood into chips or sawdust.

A wood chipper comes in a variety of sizes. Some are industrial sized machines used for manufacturing and commercial use. These often have to be towed with a vehicle.

Other wood chippers are portable and can be used at home.

What are some scenarios of me needing a wood/tree chipper?

Let’s say you’re cutting down trees, limbing the branches, and splitting wood. How are you going to get rid of all that?

One way is to simply put those branches through a chipper and get rid of it or you can even use it as mulch.

“A mulch is a layer of material applied to the surface of soil. Reasons for applying mulch include conservation of soil moisture, improving fertility and health of the soil, reducing weed growth and enhancing the visual appeal of the area.” SOURCE

Let’s say you’re having a barbeque and your family and friends are coming over. Well you need to clean up your garden from all the branches. A portable wood chipper will make it super quick and easy to do.

You just have to put the branches through it and your garden will look a lot better and be a lot safer.

There’s no need for you to put the branches and stuff in a bag or try to figure out a way to store it. Instead, you can put it through the chipper and use it as mulch later on.

Let’s say you live in an area where it’s pretty windy and there are often storms. Trees tend to fall over under these conditions.

You’ll often have to cut these trees up and get rid of them. A wood chipper can make it much easier for you to get rid of the limbs of fallen trees.

With a wood chipper you’ll be working smarter and not harder.

I like to think of a wood chipper as a shredder that eats up the leaves and wood in your garden. Then it allows you to use the shredded up leaves and wood as a fertiliser and something to keep your plants healthy.

Parts of a wood chipper

Blade

The blade is in charge of shredding the wood or leaves. There are different shapes, sizes, and quality of blades. Just like any blade, it will eventually become dull.

How long will it take for a wood chipper blade to become dull? That all depends on that particular chipper. Some can become dull after 12 hours of constant use and others can take longer to become dull. 

You will eventually have to sharpen the blade(s) which you can do yourself or by taking it to a professional.

Collar

The collar looks like a big box that’s there to prevent you from accidentally getting your clothes stuck and sucking you in. Which of course, could easily be fatal. Some wood chippers have collars and some do not.

Engine

A wood/tree chipper is made from 2 types of engines. An electric engine or a gas/petrol engine.

The electric engine is typically more quiet and better for small clean up jobs, making it a worthy choice for homeowners. However, an electric chipper is typically not as powerful as a gas chipper.

A chipper powered by a gas engine will need to be refilled after you’ve used the gas.

Pros and cons of a gas chipper:

Pros
  • More powerful than an electric chipper
Cons
  • Loud
  • Needs to be refueled

Pros and cons of an electric chipper:

Pros
  • Quiet
  • Easy to use
  • No gas smells
Cons
  • Need to be plugged into a power source
  • Not as powerful as a gas chipper

Collection bin

A collection bin catches all of the chips from the wood chipper and stores it. Some chippers do not come with a collection bin.

Chute

The chute will typically look like a long tube and it’s where the chips are spat out by the chipper.

How do I maintain my wood chipper?

Keep your blades sharp – If the blades aren’t sharp, you’re going to get weird looking chips. Some will be chunks of wood and that’s because the blade is not sharp enough.

You can either go in and sharpen the blade yourself with a wet stone or have a professional do it. In order to safely remove the blade from the chipper, you’ll have to take a look at your chipper’s manual.

If you’re new to using power tools, this can be a daunting task. This video will help you get a better understanding of what you’ll be doing:

Keep it dry – I’m sure you’re aware that metal will rust if it’s constantly wet. That’s why I’d recommend keeping it dry.

Sure, there are wood chippers out there specifically designed for wet conditions but you still want to keep it dry. You can use something as simple as a rag to go over the chipper and dry it off.

And then you can even try and go inside of the chipper and dry places you can safely reach. This will help keep your chipper in great condition and looking nice.

Clean the air filter – The air filter is there to prevent any debris from reaching the engine. It’s there to catch any wood particles that are going to places they shouldn’t like the engine.

And when you’re constantly shoving things down your chipper, it’s naturally going to get filled quickly. That’s why you want to check it as often as you can and give it a quick clean.

Make sure you empty the gas tank  – If you’re going to be storing your chipper for a while, it’s best to get rid of the gas first. Because if you let it sit for a couple of months, gas can go bad and damage your chipper.

So make sure to suck it out or just pour it in a milk carton and dispose of it according to your state/county laws.

Go over and inside with a brush and towel – After a while, the chipper is going to get greasy and dirty. Filled with all kinds of stuff.

That’s why you should go over and inside of it safely with a rugged brush and a towel to get it clean. 

Safety gear

Eye protection – You never know, something could fly out of nowhere and hit you straight in the eye. And if it does, it could be game over for your eyesight. Sure, this may be an unlikely scenario.

However, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You’ve only got one pair of eyes, so look after them.

Hearing protection – If you’re operating a gas powered chipper, they can get pretty loud. So it’s worth investing in a hearing protection headset. Keeping you sane and cozy whilst you work.

Helmet – If you slip or drop something on yourself, you’re going to wish you had a helmet on. Some people say it looks a bit nerdy but I say those people are stupid.

Please, please, please… wear a helmet. I’d rather look a little bit silly than get my head smashed in.

Gloves – You’re going to be picking up a lot of branches and twigs. So it’s inevitable you’re going to get scratched. To prevent this, you wear some gloves. Simple!

Close fitting clothes – When you’re going to use your chipper, make sure you wear close fitting clothes or at least tuck that shirt in. You don’t want to get it stuck in the machine.

How to properly and safely use a wood chipper

Step 1 – Make sure the wood chipper shredder is on stable ground. You don’t want it tilted or to be easily movable. The last thing you want is for it to topple over. If your chipper has a parking brake, make sure it’s on.

Step 2 – If your wood chipper has a chute, make sure to direct it to the area you want the chips to land. Don’t place it too close to the chipper because you don’t want it getting hit.

Step 3 – Check the power source. If your chipper is electric powered, make sure it’s plugged in. If it’s gas/petrol powered, make sure there’s fuel in the tank. The last thing you want is for it to stop in the middle of a task.

Step 4 – Turn it on and you can start feeding the branches, limbs, and leafs through it. However, make sure to give them a quick shake before putting them in just in case there are any stones. 

When feeding stuff into the chipper, do it with a stick. Because if something is stuck, you don’t want to push it in with your hand, that could be fatal. Simply use a stick to push it in. 

When feeding the chipper, try to mix the dead wood and dead leaves with the live ones. This is to prevent too much moisture or dryness in the machine which could clog it up or overheat it. 

If you can, try and feed it from the side instead of from the front. This is to prevent anything that flies out from hitting you. 

Here’s a short video that shows you how to use a petrol/gas chipper:

Can I use the wood chips for anything?

There are so many uses for wood chips, I don’t know where to begin. Here are just a few benefits to wood chips…

Improve the nutrient level within your solid – If you’ve got a place in your yard where you want to grow trees and plant things, wood chips are the way to go.

You simply place the wood chips above the soli and let them sit. As time goes on, it will feed lots of healthy nutrients to the soil.

Helping it become more fertile and a better place to grow plants. And yes, the wood chips will decompose. 

Helps suppress weeds – Weeds need the sun to grow and wood chips are blocking out that light. In turn, suppressing the growth of weeds.

About 2 inches of wood chips will help prevent weeds from growing. And 6 inches will kill those pesky weeds.

Maintains moisture within the soil – When it rains, it’s easy for rain to go through the wood chips and into the soil.

Now it’s hard for the water to evaporate because it’s hard for the sunlight to get through the wood chips. This saves you from watering as often.

Moderates heat – When it’s hot during the day and cold at night, this can affect the plants in a negative way. With wood chips on top of the soil, it helps to regulate the temperature at a more consistent level.

Protects the soil – The sun can help give life but it can also kill life. Imagine walking in the desert constantly without any water… you’d die.

The same goes for soil, too much sun can kill the soil. The wood chips serve as a protective barrier against the sun. 

Heavy rain can also kill soil because it erodes the soil. With a layer of wood chips, it will help prevent your soil from eroding. 

A more detailed guide on the benefits of wood chips:

Things to avoid putting in

Bamboo – Bamboo is incredibly strong because of all the dense fibers that make it. You’re going to have a really tough time shredding it and you may even break your chipper doing it.

There are only a few chippers designed to handle bamboo. The more industrial kind.

Palm Branches and Fronds – Sure, these are not as resistant as bamboo, however, they’re still a nuisance to chip. Because of the stringy and rubbery texture, it can get tangled in the chipper. So make sure to avoid it.

Coconut Shells – Coconut shells are another incredibly durable item. If you’ve tried to open one, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re looking to shred coconuts, you’ll have to use a more industrial chipper.

Golf Balls – You might think it would be fun to throw some gold balls into the chipper or as a great way to get rid of them. Well it’s not!

They’re incredibly dense and have a rubber texture in the middle. It could destroy your chipper.

Dead animals – You might be thinking you could throw your wood in as well as some dead animals that you found or butcher meat.

Well it’s just going to clog your machine, make it stink, and make it incredibly hard to clean. It’s tempting but avoid it!

Pressure treated wood – You can go to an outlet and get some wood that has been altered to make it extremely sturdy by using chemicals.

Don’t try and shred this kind of wood because it’s too dense. Your chipper won’t be able to handle it.

Do I need a wood chipper?

You needing a wood chipper all depends on what you do…

If you tend to get a lot of twigs and branches falling around your property, a chipper is going to make the clean up easy. So it’s worth getting one.

If you’re dealing with trees by cutting them with a chainsaw and need a way to clean it up. A chipper is an ideal way to do so.

Do you live in a place where there’s harsh weather conditions? A chipper can make the clean up easy.

Which wood chipper is right for me?

If you’re going to be using a chipper for picking up small twigs and branches, a standard lightweight, portable chipper will do the trick.

If you’re going to be dealing with storm/wind clean up, it all depends on the size of the tree and how much you’ve cut the tree up. A 4 or 6 inch chipper will be enough.

If you’re dealing with a tree that has big limbs, you may need a 3 inch or 6 inch chipper.

Are you going to be going all over your ranch or going to other people’s houses to chip? Then you’re going to want a towable chipper. So you can attach it to a car or tractor.

But please keep in mind, wood chippers are designed for cutting through branches and NOT logs.

Can the chipper cut this branch?

To be able to cut a certain size branch all depends on the engine’s power and how many inches can go through the chipper’s mouth.

Because there are so many variations and factors on how many inches/mm a chipper can handle, it’s best to look at the product’s description and manual.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this guide on wood chippers for beginners.

It was supposed to teach someone who know absolutely nothing about wood chippers to being able to decide which one is best suited to them

If you have any questions, please email me at Admin@woodbossadam.com.

Have a great day!

– Adam