The best wood chippers
A wood chipper is an effective way to take small branches and twigs--debris that's of no real value and a nuisance to get rid of--and turn them into useful mulch. It can be spread on the garden to suppress weeds or added to the compost heap. The following quick and easy guide outlines the things you need to look for when choosing the best wood chipper for your garden, including our picks for the best chippers on the market. Our top pick has the power to handle the largest plots with ease, but we also take a look at wood chippers that are suitable for smaller yards.
Considerations when choosing wood chippers
Probably the biggest decision when choosing a wood chipper is the type of power: gas or electric. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
Gas wood chippers
Gas-powered wood chippers seriously outperform their electric rivals and have the freedom to go anywhere, making them the best option for large plots.
However, they're large, heavy, loud machines that need regular maintenance. They're easier to start and cleaner running than in the past, but gas wood chippers can still put off potential buyers. Price is another major factor, with gas wood chippers costing anywhere from $600 to $1,500.
Electric wood chippers
Electric-powered wood chippers are quieter, cleaner, lighter, and easier to look after than gas chippers. They start with the push of a button.
On the downside, they have nothing like the power of gas, so capacity is reduced considerably. They're also restricted by cord length. Even with an extension cable, 100 feet is a practical maximum with electric chippers.
Nevertheless, they are more than adequate for most yards. Prices start at under $100, and very few electric wood chippers exceed $150.
Many gas wood chippers have large hoppers that can auto-feed multiple branches at the same time. Electric models have smaller capacities. It helps to trim off side shoots before feeding branches into electric chippers, and sometimes you need to cut branches in half.
Most electric wood chippers are either 14- or 15-amp (the maximum you can plug into a standard power outlet), so it's difficult to tell them apart. You can compare RPM (faster is better) and compaction ratio (how fine the waste will be chopped). Compaction ratio can range from 10:1 to 20:1.
Gas machines are usually made from steel, which is much more durable than the plastic of electric machines. Cheap wood chippers might have solid plastic or nylon wheels, which can be prone to cracking. Better models have solid rubber tires, and the best tires are pneumatic.
Electric wood chippers often have safety cut-outs. They won't run if you've opened them to clear a jam, for instance. These are not usually found on gas models, so extra care is needed.
It's nice to have a bucket or collecting bag, but few wood chippers come with one. If you need to buy sacks, get heavy-duty ones. Wood chips can easily tear through thin bags.
Other important details
Wood chippers are great with dry branches, less so with green wood, which will sometimes split and cause jams. Though some manufacturers claim their wood chippers can handle leaves, if leaves are damp, clogging is likely. If you have a lot of leaves to deal with, a dedicated leaf mulcher is a much better idea. Both gas and electric wood chippers jam from time to time, so you'll want to look at how easy it is to get to the blade section to release the jam.
Q. What are the recommended safety precautions when using a wood chipper?
A. Basic common sense goes a long way. Wear gloves, a face shield, and ear protection when operating a wood chipper. Never look down the chute while the machine is running in case debris is thrown out. Always turn the machine off before clearing a jam. Keep children and animals away--accidents can occur if you're distracted.
Q. How often do wood chipper blades need sharpening?
A. Manufacturers recommend sharpening after six to eight hours of use. You can tell by the way the machine is cutting. If the blades are blunt, you'll get ragged ends and splits instead of small, neat chips. Some blades can be re-sharpened, while others need to be replaced.
Wood chippers we recommend
Best of the best: YARDMAX Gas Chipper Shredder
Our take: An immensely powerful wood chipper for large plots and small woodland management.
What we like: The 208cc Briggs & Stratton motor has legendary reliability. Steel construction promises durability. Excellent self-feeding chute. Pneumatic tires for easy running over rough ground.
What we dislike: Competitively priced but certainly not cheap.
Best bang for your buck: LawnMaster Electric Chipper Shredder
Our take: A cost-effective solution for the gardener with a modest plot.
What we like: It's cheap, has all the necessary features, is easily maneuverable, and even includes its own collecting bag. A good wood chipper if you understand its limitations.
What we dislike: Quoted maximum branch size is very optimistic. Some issues with build quality.
Choice 3: Sun Joe Electric Wood Chipper Shredder
Our take: A powerful, practical, and popular wood chipper from a trusted brand.
What we like: Smart, compact, and well-thought-out design. Lightweight and easy to move around. Will not operate with lid open. ETL safety approval.
What we dislike: Blades wear quite quickly. Occasional reports of motor faults.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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