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male using chipper shredder in field

Chippers vs. Chipper Shredders

Once you’ve decided that you want a Chipper (or is it a Chipper Shredder?), you need understand the difference between, well, a Chipper and a Chipper Shredder!

A common misunderstanding is that chipping and shredding are continuous actions—that one follows the other, so that chipped materials are then shredded to reduce them even more.

Chipping and shredding are mechanically distinct functions. Some machines (Chippers) are exclusively Chippers, with no shredding ability, while others (Chipper Shredders) have both functions available to the user. With a Chipper Shedder you make a choice to either chip or shred the material you feed into it.

How CHIPPING works

... A Chipper knife mounted to a flywheel.

Chipping is really “cutting”. A steel knife is mounted to a flywheel that the machine’s engine spins at high speed. When you feed a branch into a chipping chute, you are directing it into contact with the spinning knife, which cuts the branch up into chips. The knife is very effective for materials a minimum of one inch thick (lighter materials aren’t rigid enough for the knife to work effectively). The byproduct—woodchip mulch—is great for mulching gardens and trees or for use as decorative ground cover on walking paths or play areas.


... The ”hammers” in the shredding chamber of a Chipper Shredder.

On the opposite side of a Chipper Shedder’s flywheel is the shredding chamber. Using the same rotational force that spins the flywheel, multiple “hammers” (as few as 8, as many as 24, depending on the size of the machine), mash and pulverize finer materials into a fine mulch, a byproduct that makes a great soil additive. You can integrate into your garden, at the beginning or end of the season, or add it to your compost pile anytime.

Chipper Shredders

Chipper Shredders have two separate input chutes: one for branches, which get CHIPPED, and a bigger one for lighter yard and garden waste, which gets SHREDDED. If it’s primarily lightweight material, one inch or less in diameter, that you deal with and you only occasionally have branches, a Chipper Shredder is what you want.

... Chipper (left) vs. Chipper Shredder (right).

Dedicated Chippers

These machines are designed solely for chipping materials at least an inch thick (though you can feed it side branches and leaves as well), so there is only one chute. Dedicated chippers are the most efficient choice for continuous wood chipping. Compared to models with shredders included, they have heavier flywheels and bigger hoppers.

Which is Right for You?

If you have read the above you are probably already leaning one way or the other. If you are truly on the fence, a Chipper Shredder will give you more flexibility (at the possible expense of higher end chipping power). Whether you go with a Chipper or a Chipper Shredder, you’ll be in equipped to keep ahead of the accumulating debris by transforming it into useful landscaping material—wood chips and fine organic mulch!

... From trash to treasure—wood chips are a great landscaping material!

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Last updated: 7/19/2022


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