Choosing the Right Wood Chipper

A wood chipper or branch shredder is a device driven by an electric or combustion motor employed to crush wood pieces such as branches and reduce them to chips. These chips can be used as compost, mulch or disposed of in a recycling center to later be used in other industries such as the furniture and construction sectors. Selecting the ideal wood chipper will help you save time and effort. In this guide, we’ll discuss important information to assist you in your choice.

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  • How to choose the right wood chipper?

    Choosing the right machine depends on the size of the wood pieces you need to cut. In order to best identify the wood chipper which will suit the needs of your project, you’ll need to consider four main points: the engine, the cutting system, the power required and the different configurations. Here are the main questions we’ll cover in this guide:


    • Which engine to choose?
    • Which cutting system to choose?
    • How much power does the wood chipper need?
    • What are the types of configurations for wood chippers?


  • Which engine to choose?

    Electric and combustion motors are the two main types of engines used for wood chippers. Understanding the differences between these engines should help you select the right one for your project. While less common, tractor-mounted (PTO) wood chippers also have certain advantages.


    Electric wood chippers are designed for moderate use and, for this reason, are often used on medium-sized farms. Wood chippers with an electric motor have power that varies between 1,800 W (2.41 HP) and 3,000 W (4 HP) which is sufficient to shred soft branches with a diameter between 35 mm and 50 mm. 


    Combustion engine wood chippers are designed for intensive use. They are recommended for orchards or gardens larger than 1,000 m². These machines, with power that varies between 6 HP and 200 HP, are capable of shredding any type of wood, whether it is softwood or hardwood, up to 75 mm in diameter.


    A PTO wood chipper refers to a wood chipper hooked to the back of a tractor that relies on the tractor’s motor. It’s more affordable and easier to use than a motorized chipper. Also, accessing certain types of land can be difficult to do without a tractor, making a tractor-mounted wood chipper essential.

    image wheeled wood chipper

    Wheeled wood chipper – ELIETNeo³ – ELIET

    image combustion engine wood chipper

    Combustion engine wood chipper – Mega Prof – ELIET


  • Which cutting system to choose?


    The shredder capacity indicates the largest diameter of branches that the it can handle, and there are four main types of cutting systems from which to choose: a blade-holder disc system, a rotor system, a turbine system and a worm screw system. The type of work you’re planning will require one of the four, and you’ll want to be very selective in order to find the right match. 

    • The blade-holder disc system is made up of blades attached to a disc rotating at high speed (from 200 to 450 rpm), it makes it possible to produce very fine shredded material. This type of machine is used for small shredders with occasional use. It is often used to shred foliage and soft branches up to 35 mm in diameter and not hardwood.
    • The rotor system, also known as a drum chipper, is used to shred plants up to 45 mm or even 50 mm in diameter. With its notched wheel and cutting rate of 4,000 rpm, it crushes moderately hard hedges and shrubs. Once the wood pieces pass through the drum chipper, the shavings are relatively coarse and suitable for composting. In addition, this type of machine is quieter.
    • The turbine system works like the the rotor system but it is more efficient. It is designed to grind very hard wood such as that of trees or bushy hedges with wide branches up to 150 mm in diameter.
    • The worm screw system is very powerful. It can grind hardwood with a diameter of up to 250 mm. This grinding system is however very sensitive to jamming. It also requires more maintenance.
    blade-holder disc system - NHS Maskinfabrik A/S

    Blade-holder disc system A350 – Jensen GmbH

    rotor system wood chipper- NHS Maskinfabrik A/S

    Rotor system wood chipper- NHS Maskinfabrik A/S

    turbine system wood chipper - ENZ GmbH Maschinen- und Fahrzeugbau

    Turbine system wood chipper – ENZ GmbH Maschinen- und Fahrzeugbau

    worm screw system wood chipper - RABAUD

    Worm screw system wood chipper – RABAUD

  • How much power does the wood chipper need?


    The power required for a chipper varies essentially according to the diameters of the branches to be shredded and how hard the wood is. The bigger and harder the branches, the more power you will need. The power of a chipper is measured in Watts or HP. The reduction rate describes how effectively the machine reduces wood waste. For example, a ratio of 10:1 means the machine can reduce 10 bags of yard debris to one bag of treated material.


    • Flexible and tender branches of up to 35 mm require power between 2,000 and 2,200 W. 
    • Branches between 35 and 50 mm necessitate power between 2,200 W and 2,500 W. These branches usually require rotor or turbine-type chippers.
    • Hard branches of more than 50 mm need power beyond 3,300 W.
  • What are the types of configurations for wood chippers?

    The types of configurations for wood chippers include towed, wheeled, self-propelled and stationary. While stationary chippers were at the starting point of the existance of this machine, mobile wood chippers have become a mature technology.  

    Towed wood chipper: Wood chippers are relatively heavy machines. If they are towable, they are easier to move. Note that this type of machine can be towed on the farm and on the road.  It’s equipped with a motor for shredding branches but not for traction.

    Wheeled wood chipper: This machine is equipped with small wheels and no traction motor. It can be moved manually or mounted on a vehicle to be moved from one location to another.

    Self-propelled wood chipper: These are machines equipped with a traction motor (combustion or electric). They do not need an external device to move them. They can be equipped with either wheels or tracks known as caterpillar tracks. They’re ideal for very irregular ground, as well as cambers or slopes.

    Stationary wood chipper: This type of machine is generally intended for industrial use for wood processing. It isn’t meant to be moved.

    Towed wood chipper - Jensen GmbH

    Towed wood chipper – Jensen GmbH

    wheeled wood chipper - Zeppelin Maquinaria

    wheeled wood chipper – Zeppelin Maquinaria

    Self propelled Wood chipper -AGRINOVA Srl

    Self propelled Wood chipper -AGRINOVA Srl

    stationnary wood chipper - Junkkari OY

    Stationnary wood chipper – Junkkari OY

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