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jimbob_racing Dork
5/15/20 3:09 p.m.

I have a suburban property of about half an acre with many mature trees.  Everyday I’m outside picking up fallen sticks from my lawn to keep things looking neat and tidy.  Since I bought the house a few years ago I have been making neat brush piles in the wooded area behind my rear privacy fence with my sticks, leaves and lawn clippings.  The guy that owns the property gave me permission to dispose of my yard waste there and he’s kept his eye on what I’ve been doing and it hasn’t been an issue. Until this week.  On Monday he called me up and told me that I can no longer put any of my yard waste on his property.  I didn’t ask for an explanation and he didn’t offer one.  He’s a county judge and I’m not about to tick this guy off so I have to figure out something else.

The issue is that I have manicured lawn that covers my entire property.  I have no corners or hidden spots where I can start my own brush pile without it being an eyesore to my wife.  My rear fence is right on the surveyed property line so I don’t have any room behind it.  To cut down on the lawn debris I’ll have to start mulching my grass clippings and my township has curbside leaf pickup in the fall but I still need to do something with the accumulating sticks.  I figure that owning a small chipper shredder might be the answer and I can use the chewed up bits for mulch under my shrubs.

I’ve looked at a few chipper shredders online and see that Harbor Freight has one for under $500.00 but I have no idea if that’s a good purchase.  Does anyone have any thoughts or experience on these sorts of tools?  I remember that my dad had a small gas powered MTD chipper more than 20 years ago and quite honestly it sucked.  It couldn’t do branches much more than 1.5 inches in diameter and the chute for loading twigs and whatnot was small and it clogged easily.  Have they gotten any better?  What should I be looking for in a machine for between $500.00 and $800.00?

1988RedT2 MegaDork
5/15/20 3:20 p.m.

I can assure you that the cheap ones you can buy at the home centers have not gotten any better over the last 20 years. 

After we had a big tree come down in a hurricane, and everyone got the big wood cut and split and carried off, I had a couple of huge piles of branches to get rid of.

I bought a used MTD 5 HP chipper/shredder and went at it.  It was no fun, crazy loud, and took a lot of work.  But after I was done, I sold it for about what I bought it for.

Bigger is much better, but expensive.

They work reasonably well when the chipper blades are sharp.  Do yourself a favor--learn how to sharpen them and do it regularly.  If you're running the thing all day, figure sharpening twice a day, and keep a fresh set of blades on hand.

If you have a big pile to get rid of, it's going to suck.  Not so bad if you can do a little at a time. 

Did I mention they're loud?  Hearing protection is a must.

nderwater UltimaDork
5/15/20 4:05 p.m.

I've used my HF predator 212 chipper about half a dozen times so far and it's been great for branches up to about 2.5 in. Anything larger or too irregular goes on the firewood pile.

If the machine was any larger/heavier I wouldn't be able to move it around my sloped yard or stairs. There's no easy way to get a commercial chipper into my back yard without a crane.

nderwater UltimaDork
5/15/20 4:07 p.m.

Datsun310Guy UltimaDork
5/15/20 4:15 p.m.

I traded a coworker for one.  Now I know why he unloaded it on me.   I sold it to another coworker. 

I found it need straight sticks then it worked great.  If it was crooked it jammed. Mine was loud too. 

Gary UltraDork
5/15/20 6:47 p.m.

I have a HF 6.5 HP chipper shredder. Had it for around 4 years. At the time, I paid somewhat less than $500. I say it's excellent value. I've chipped and shredded all my annual branch droppings, leaves, and branches up to 3" that I cut. So, no problem with this product, and one of the least costly ones out there. In fact, I have a huge pile of fall/winter drops that I'll be taking care of next week with this fantastic machine. I'll post pics. And I have all the mulch I need for garden beds.

RX8driver Reader
5/16/20 10:37 a.m.

I've got an older Central Machinery chipper that we got from HF years ago, the yellow one. I don't recommend it. It's been a pain in my butt every time we've gone to use it.

I concur with the straight branch comment, it only likes straight, non knobby branches through the large branch hole. I've had lots of trouble getting it to start over the years, with the vent check valve failing, causing a vacuum in the tank, so it would keep dying, I had to destroy the gas cap to get it open, I've had to replace the cheap pull starter when it broke and I've had to re-string it multiple times. Just about every time I've had to clean the carb to get it to run and it recently broke the bottom screen. The rubber flaps on top made it very difficult to get material into it and once they tore off, allowing it to actually feed, it throws chunks back out the opening (I wear a mesh face shield and glasses when running it). If you feed too big a branch into the larger opening, it might jam and cause the knives to come loose and possibly fly out the opening. It's got new wheels on it now, since the old ones disintegrated after a few years of use. Then, even when it's running well, since it discharges out the bottom, we have to constantly move it or rake out underneath it, since it piles up and plugs the discharge.

It was cheap and we've gotten lots of use out of it, but I'm constantly on the verge of declaring it too much trouble and getting rid of it. I'd definitely recommend getting something better.

RevRico PowerDork
5/16/20 11:18 a.m.

I've got a old Briggs powered 8.5hp I borrowed from s friend. It's a heavy tank of a thing, but it chops up EVERYTHING. Highly recommend it, but you'll need friends to help move it around. 

ThurdFerguson (Freeloader)
ThurdFerguson (Freeloader) Reader
5/16/20 11:30 a.m.
RX8driver said:


 it might jam and cause the knives to come loose and possibly fly out the opening. 

Wow, I believe I would stop using it.


I had a Troybilt one from Lowes years ago when I lived in a house on a wooded property.  It was loud but worked ok for relatively straight branches.  We moved to town and I gave it to my dad who sold it to a friend.



OHSCrifle SuperDork
5/16/20 12:23 p.m.

Rent a commercial chipper for a day. 

Brotus7 HalfDork
5/16/20 5:49 p.m.

I borrowed one from a co-worker, who then moved across the country and didn't pick it up. 5hp choremaster, unsure if it was made by mtd or someone else.

So, with a bunch of pulling and copius starter fluid, she runs.  I hated it at first when I was trying to shred a gnarly bush and vines, then it sat for a couple years.

In the past 2 months I've decided I'm going to use her for all she's worth. Chipped up an apple tree, and now I'm finally attacking a decade of yard detritus.

I can only tolerate it for an hour at a time, which works well to chip crap during my lunches while I'm working from home.  It really only likes thin, straight wood.  It hates cedar.  I want to upgrade, but I'm cheap and I haven't broken it completely yet.  It's a tool I hate, but need.

And most recently, blew a hole in the plastic chute

Dr. Hess (Forum Supporter)
Dr. Hess (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/16/20 8:40 p.m.

I have one I bought at Home Depot or Lowes about 12 years ago.  It will chew up anything up to about 2, 2.5" in diameter.  Bigger than that gets cut into firewood. I am satisfied with the purchase. 

STM317 UltraDork
5/16/20 8:45 p.m.

Fire pit?

The0retical (Forum Supporter)
The0retical (Forum Supporter) UberDork
5/16/20 11:43 p.m.
STM317 said:

Fire pit?

That's what I was thinking too.

I've been clearing thick brush that is intruding into my driveway slowly. I can't imagine using a homeowner grade chipper to get rid of it.

Cut it, pile it, propane torch the green wood until it catches, and be done with it. I've burned yards of brush and have 4x that left. Op does not seem to have that luxury however.

For a bunch of sticks below 3 inches, of something I can identify, I'd firepit it up either with something nice-ish on a patio, get one of those big double wall mobile firepits that won't harm the turf (ie: SoloStove), or buy one of those fancy burn cages.

1988RedT2 MegaDork
5/17/20 7:03 a.m.

Many localities are okay with you having a "campfire" as long as it's monitored.  Assemble large pile of branches, ignite, give the kids a hotdog on a stick.  Problem solved!

rattfink81 Reader
5/17/20 9:21 a.m.

I have a 5hp Troy chipper, bought used on Craigslist a few years ago and it works ok. It is a quite to chore to use so I usually just make a big pile in my fire pit and burn the brush/sticks since I live in the country. 

RX8driver Reader
5/17/20 9:34 a.m.
ThurdFerguson (Freeloader) said:
RX8driver said:


 it might jam and cause the knives to come loose and possibly fly out the opening. 

Wow, I believe I would stop using it.

It happened when I dropped a rather large branch into the small branch opening, which was dumb. It bogged down and stalled and the blade landed maybe 6 feet away, so it probably not much energy when it came out. I definitely won't do that again and I try to never stand in front of the opening, only to the side. If I can get the rotor off the shaft, I'll modify the blade holding arrangement so that it can't happen again.

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
5/17/20 10:57 a.m.
90BuickCentury Reader
5/17/20 6:01 p.m.

My vote would be fire pit of some type. Can put sticks on a log rack or build a small woodshed for aesthetics. Have fire once enough wood has been accumulated. Seems like it would be a huge hassle to drag out a chipper a couple times a week to deal with a few sticks.

jimbob_racing Dork
5/17/20 8:45 p.m.

In reply to 90BuickCentury :

My plan is to pick up sticks daily, break them up and put them on a pair of 40 gallon garbage cans. When both cans fill up, I'll drag out the wood chipper. 

Fire pit really isn't an option because I have asthma.  Cant deal with the smoke.

slowbird Dork
5/17/20 8:49 p.m.

The only thing I know is that I remember the commercials from the 90s for the DR Chipper Shredder.

Can't find it on youtube, dang. Wonder if those things are any good.

dculberson (Forum Supporter)
dculberson (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/17/20 9:57 p.m.

In reply to jimbob_racing :

I'm assuming your city/village/township doesn't offer yard waste pickup?

My experience with the little chippers is limited to borrowing one from my parents. It was a noisy, slow, laborious, tedious pain in the butt. However, reading this thread has me thinking it has dull blades. That would not be unlikely.

1988RedT2 MegaDork
5/18/20 7:19 a.m.

I guarantee if they've never been sharpened, it will be like a new machine after you get them sharp.  The author of this article recommends sharpening every 25 hours of use.  All the work is being done by two little blocks of steel.  When the edges get dull, you might as well be beating on the wood with a hammer.

Order a new set of blades for your machine.  Pull off the old ones and sharpen or replace them.  You can thank me later.


jimbob_racing Dork
5/18/20 8:01 a.m.

In reply to 1988RedT2 :

This is great info. It's probably why my father's old MTD chipper sucked so much.  I doubt he ever sharpened the blades. 


I'm feeling confident that any chipper shredder will work for me as long as I maintain it and sharpen the blades.

nderwater UltimaDork
5/18/20 9:42 a.m.

There's a bunch of comments above about small chippers only liking straight or flexible branches.  I've found this to be pretty true, so I keep a pair of lever action loppers next to my chipper while I'm working--it's quick work to trim out a problematic section of branch then re-feed it.

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