How to buy - Woodchippers

Choosing the right machine can prove tricky with so many available on the market, Sally Drury warns.

Vermeer woodchipper - image: HW
Vermeer woodchipper - image: HW

With fuel prices so high, who can afford to cart lorry-loads of branches and brash? In some instances it may be possible to leave the timber on site, but where it has to be removed a woodchipper is a necessity — and now woodchips are taking on new importance as a commodity for heat and energy.

But with so many woodchippers on the UK market, how can you be sure of getting the right machine and the right deal? For starters, you need to consider the type of material you are most likely to process. If you are a landscaping or grounds maintenance business producing mostly brambles, soft prunings or material contaminated with soil, you should invest in a shredder rather than a woodchipper.

The size and volume of material to be processed will indicate the most appropriate size of machine. Woodchippers are classified by the size of material they can handle, so start by listing those with the appropriate throat size (maximum intake).

Next, look at the power rating to ensure that there is sufficient power for the type of timber you have to process. The speed of operation or throughput will be important where crews of arborists are generating a lot of waste quickly and on one site.

You also need to consider mobility and how the chipper will be transported to site. On country estates, in woodland and large gardens or in parks and on golf courses, it may be possible to use equipment powered by a tractor power take-off (PTO). Since there is no engine, this option will be cheaper.

However, PTO-driven chippers do not suit all circumstances. Any mobile crew planning to work in urban areas is more likely to need a self-powered unit that can be towed. Carefully match equipment and towing vehicle in terms of safe weight and check that the chassis and tyres of the chipper are suitable for likely travel speeds and site conditions.

Recent changes to driving licences may mean drivers need to take an additional towing test if the woodchipper weighs more than 750kg. You should also consider how the crew will travel to site when looking at which vehicle to use for towing and think about how the chips will be contained and transported.

A number of manufacturers offer tracked woodchippers and, while they need a trailer, they could be the right choice for contractors on sites where it is necessary to move the unit over rough ground. A tracked woodchipper with independently extending tracks, such as the Greenmech SafeTrak, can travel and work comfortably on slopes of up to 35°.

Another handy feature, especially when working on roadsides, is a ­turntable. It adds to safety if the in-feed funnel can be positioned to keep operators away from traffic or other hazards. Make sure that the loading height is comfortable.

Investigate all the extras. Some could prove useful, depending on the material being processed, the sites worked and the frequency and duration of use. A winch fixed to a large chipper could provide an easy way of hauling big logs to the machine.

The best way to assess the ­manoeuvrability, performance and productivity of any equipment is to see a demonstration. Remember to inspect the machine to ensure that it has appropriate standards markings. Health and safety is paramount with all machines, but the nature of the woodchipper means operating ­training is a must.

It is worth noting that while ­brambles, soft prunings and material contaminated with soil require processing by a shredder, and timber or woody material should be tackled by woodchippers, combination machines and multi-vegetation ­processors are capable of doing both.

As with all machinery purchases, you should ask about warranties, back-up services including blade sharpening, availability of spare parts and operator training.

See woodchipper product listings, reviews and buyers guides at

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