Having seen a big Bear Cat chipper in action, I was looking forward to testing this chipper/shredder. But nothing could have prepared us for the noise as it winds itself up ready for work. It is not excessively loud or particularly shrill, but the word "uncomfortable" comes to mind. Thankfully, it does not last for long.
This is an American product, imported through Countax of Oxford, which is itself owned by American company Ariens.
The model we are loaned for testing has a Honda engine, though newer versions have a 720cc Subaru engine mounted to the front near the drawbar, rather than at the rear. What is good, if you are mobile, is that this is a road-towable unit - coming complete with lighting kit and mounted on a single axle with stable 1.3m wheelbase. Weight is just over 400kg.
The machine is started by a key but you need to depress a pedal to release the belt when you fire up the engine. Once the engine starts, you gradually take your foot off to engage the drive to the chipper/shredder and away you go. It is the engage of that drive that makes the "uncomfortable" noise. It only lasts for seconds but it is disconcerting and makes you think that you might have done something very wrong.
You get quite a lot of machine for your money with this Bear Cat. Chipping and shredding are separate operations, each with its own infeed hopper. You need to be quite tall to reach the top of the funnels and the narrowness of the chipper funnel means it does not like bent or twisted branches. The quality of the resultant woodchip, however, is excellent.
"It has to be reasonably straight timber. Any curves or forked branches tend to jam up the machine," notes Olleson. And perhaps short people would need steps.
We start the machine again (ouch) for some shredding of general garden waste. There is a five-pin adjustment to change chip or slither size, depending on the material being processed. But even after making an adjustment we find that wet herbaceous material soon causes a blockage. Maybe we should look at the new version?
Engine: Honda (now 720cc Subaru)?
Chipping capacity: 130mm?
Feed opening: 460x360mm?
Chipping mechanism: Four reversible chipper blades
Shredding mechanism: Twelve double hammer flails?
Price: £6,295 + VAT?
Tel: ECHO Bear Cat - 01844 278800
Tested This Week
- GreenMech EcoCombi
- TS Industrie Super Premium 30DR
- Bear Cat 5in chipper/shredder
- Viking GB460
- Jo Beau M300 and M500
- Eliet Major
The Review Panel - Michael Olleson, garden maintenance, Waterperry Gardens, Oxford
David Taylor, gardener, Waterperry Gardens, Oxford
We all know that we should reduce, reuse and recycle, but when it comes to general organic waste material, which machines are up to the job? Generating a wide variety of green waste from its vast gardens and also its orchards,
Waterperry Gardens in Oxfordshire provided a perfect venue for our test.
We looked at the high-performance GreenMech EcoCombi and TS Industrie Super Premium - both designed to tackle 6in wood waste as well the wet, soggy and dirty green stuff from the herbaceous borders. We also investigated the American-built Bear Cat 5in chipper/shredder.
A high-end garden multi-shredder, the Viking GB460, was put through its paces with smaller woody material and a variety of herbaceous material. Finally, we looked at the Jo Beau chipper and the Eliet Major shredder.
Conditions on the day of the test were dry and sunny, although it was a little cool in the morning.