Chippers

     Hey, does any one here have their own chipper? I'm wondering how practical they are. I don't have a real big yard but I have 4 big pine trees that seem to loose some limbs every winter from wind, ice, or snow. This year it was ice. I also have fruit trees that I prune every year. Every year, I haul away at least 2 heaping pickup loads of branches. I pay (not much) to leave them at the brush and leaves section of the local land fill. I live in town and can't get away burning very much, so that's not an option. Every year as I stuff my truck full and pile it high, I think to myself, "If I had a chipper, I could be making mulch instead throwing all this away". This week we happened to be where there is a Lowes store. They had one model of chipper for sale. It was a Troy Built that can take up to 3 inch limbs. I figured 3 inches was pretty minimal because the pine limbs tend to go bigger than that. They wanted over $800 for the thing, which is really more than I can justify spending.
So... do I have any other options or should I just keep hauling the stuff?
Steve
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I have one and they are worth having. I have about 200 trees. Get at least a 8 HP unit. The models that can drop the shoot are very handy for raking leaves. Don't expect it to eat a 3" diameter limb with ease--they don't! Use ear protection.
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Steve said:

Consider checking a tool rental place. You may be able to rent a pretty hefty chipper unit. It could be a 'try before you buy' thing. Or, you might decide to stick to renting so you can let someone else do the storage and maintainence.
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Pat Kiewicz wrote:

That thought did cross my mind. There is a place in the next town over that rents equipment. They MAY have one. Other than that, the next possible place would probably be 75 miles away. It's not like having one of my own that I could pull out when ever I needed it. I'll have to think about it. Of course, I'm wishing there was one that actually worked but only cost about $400. Oh well.
Steve
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My recommendation is if you are not going to use it at least once a month for at least an hour, don't bother. If they sit the gas goes bad and the engine needs to be tuned - the spark plug cleaned, etc. I find I spend at least two hours every spring getting mine ready to go. I would suggest that 10 HP is the minimum to have a useful one for chipping, if you just have little stuff and leaves, a smaller one will work, but that will mean anything over 1/2 inch will be fireplace material or have to go out with the trash or burned.
Mine is a 12 HP unit, I have more than 200 trees on my 2.5 acres, including an orchard of more than 30 fruit trees. I still do not use it enough to make it worth the original purchase. I end up not dragging it out after storms and when I am dealing with a single tree. Most of my bigger stuff ends up in the burn pile anyway.
I have had it for more than 10 years and while I like having it, I doubt that the original purchase would have been worth it, if I had not bought it at a going out of business sale.
For leaves a compost pile is much more useful and adding grass clipping to the old leaves accelerates the composting, so in the spring when the grass grows like crazy and want mulch completely with the mower, we add grass to the leaves and by fall we have some pretty useful compost.
For the rest, I admit the hassle of getting it out of the barn, fueling the chipper, running it, and then draining the tank and the lines makes it less than interesting, accept for my spring and fall clean up days.
Rental is always a good idea, you can rent a 50 HP from most Home Depots with rentals on a week day for a reasonable price and they will handle the 4 inch stuff that the smaller ones will not. If you are willing to create a pile of the larger stuff and then chip it once a year - this is a useful thing to think about. Remember your pile in the winter will be rabbit habitat - so if you want more rabbits and small animals in the area chip in the spring, if not, chip in the fall.
my 2 cents, your milage will vary greatly, since your habits are not mine.
Doug
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Doug Houseman wrote:

All good advice... well except about the rabbits. The only rabbits we have up here are snowshoe rabbits and they don't come in town. :-)
Steve (in the Adirondacks of northern NY)
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Steve wrote:

Those $300 to $400 chippers are a waste of money. Most say they chip 3" limbs, but that's a stretch!! If you don't want to buy an 8hp or larger, I too suggest you rent. That's what I do.
Tom J
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[snip]>
I bought a 10 hp model because of the same motivation you mentioned. If I had it to do over again, I would have passed on it. It's not the size of the limb it will take, it's whether it will accept anything that isn't perfectly straight. My chipper would do well with broomsticks and bamboo poles, but it's a hassle to cut up live oak that has twists and bends in it, which won't fit into the chute.
The other consideration is that if you only use it once or twice a year, soon you're going to go out and find out it won't start because the engine seals are dried out, or the carburetor needs work from lack of use. Unless you can do your own maintenance and carburetor rebuild, a gas-powered homeowner-quality chipper can get expensive to keep operable, just from disuse.
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Everyone I know who ever put out $700 or more for a smallish wood chipper from Lowe's or Ace hardware regretted spending the money either because it got used too seldom to justify having it in the way, or the machine just wasn't up to the task expected of it. Might be happier with a higher-end chipper but then you're talking about a WAY bigger price and a storage space not generally practical for home owners.
I've wanted one really bad but get such disappointed reports on the "affordable" (but still pricy) ones that I've settled for renting one once a year.
I sometimes find myself wishing I'd gotten the lawnmower model that had an "up to one inch" built-in chipper. The blades go dull fast using a chipper feature, but I do now suspect it would've taken care of most of my needs since anything bigger than around a half-inch I save for winter evenings in front of the fireplace anyway.
-paghat the ratgirl
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Thanks to everyone who answered. I guess I'm convinced that I'll have to live without a chipper. Just too much money for too little machine. You saved me a lot of time figuring this out on my own and possibly a lot of money if I bought one before I figured it out! This is why I asked.
Steve
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to live

saved me a

you can

They show up on Craig's list pretty regularly relatively cheap, I bet also in places like Little Nickle. And a trip to the same guy who tunes the lawnmower isn't very expensive to get one's used machine in works-like-new order.
I think people sell their mini-tillers not from dissatisfaction, but because they belatedly realize they couldn't use them all that often. A small garden especially, once it's well-plowed and well-planted, you can never tear through it again without damaging roots of everything. If you know that there will be fresh areas to plow at intervals, or plots for annuals or veggies that'll really need a full turning for future re-use, probably wouldn't sell the mini-tiller & it would be a good long-term investment. Otherwise, might as well be from the garden equipment rental for the few times ever needed.
-paghat the ratgirl
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On Tue, 15 Apr 2008 11:43:58 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@paghat.com (paghat) wrote:

After having a chipper/shredder and mini roto-tiller for 15 years I could not do without. Both are time savers. I could turn the soil with a shovel--2 days work, or use a tiller for an hour. Mulch can be delivered and you can pay to haul away yard debris, so spending $800 on a shredder makes sense. Like compost, when you make your own you know what's in it!
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