GreenMech Eco-Arborist 15-23 Turbo

If you are looking for a lightweight chipper that you can tow about town and manoeuvre across turf, the GreenMech Eco-Arborist 15-23 Turbo could be the one for you.

This is a 6' (150mm) chipper; but it's not your typical one. It weighs just 750kg - and in woodchipper terms, that's extremely lightweight - yet it has a 34hp turbocharged engine. And it has a really attractive price tag.

As its name contains "Eco", some of the testers were expecting this machine to run on biofuel. They were disappointed in that respect; this one is strictly red or white diesel.

Weight reduction has been achieved by giving the chipper a smaller flywheel and producing the bonnet from high-density plastic rather than steel. Again, more than one tester raises an eyebrow at this feature. Making the machine a dream to tow is one thing, but will it be up to the job?

The Eco-Arborist has GreenMech's letterbox-style opening (150mm x 230mm), so it will take those awkwardly shaped and forked branches. This means there is a reduction in the amount of time spent preparing material to feed into the machine.

It's also got GreenMech's Disc-Blade system. Introduced in 1996, this system gives the unit the ability to cope with some contamination - although it's important to realise that this is a woodchipper and not a metal cutter or stone crusher. The biggest benefit of the system, however, is seen in the reduced operating costs.

Inspection of the disc blades shows how easy it is to slacken off the bolt and move the disc round a couple of degrees to present a new and sharp edge for chipping.

Turning the blades little and often should give them a tremendous lifespan. In fact, it is estimated that blade life is increased by up to 600 per cent compared to normal chipper blades. What's more - and this is something that we really like - these disc blades also help to keep the noise down.

This woodchipper could be a good choice for those needing to work in urban areas. The Eco-Arborist is noticeably quieter than the other two chippers on test. It has a lower tone and even under full revs you can hear the air blowing through.

In the event of needing to re-blade the machine, a full set of four will set you back £120 ex VAT. Blades can also be returned to GreenMech for sharpening at the cost of £50 ex VAT per set - most of that being the return postage.

A box on the side of the machine displays the pre-heat lamp, along with diagnostics such as temperature and hours worked. The key is turned and the machine sends up a puff of smoke, declaring itself ready for work.

This chipper is quick for its size and the no-stress device works just as the testers like it - not too sensitive but there when it's needed. When it is engaged, it momentarily stops the flow of oil to the twin feed-rollers so that the revs can recover.

The testers feed the machine and a steady stream of chips ejects from the discharge chute. Most of the testers would prefer the curtain to be removed as it blocks the view of the throat. There was little evidence of material being thrown back.

One of the testers throws in a short offcut and the machine is immediately in trouble but it takes only a couple of minutes to remove the culprit - the timber, not the tester.

The feed table looks low but turns out to be a surprisingly comfortable height. It folds to make a compact machine for transport and storage. Control of the feed is on the bar and, because the feed table is low, this is around the top and sides of the in-feed so you don't have to suffer those infuriating trips when loading forked material.

The verdict? "It's a lot quieter, but it has great power when needed and the controls are very good," one tester says. "There was a problem with an off cut but it was quick to fix because everything is so accessible. It's also good to have a lightweight chipper to tow. GreenMech is what you need - but the Predator has all the looks."

The test was carried out by the college's young arborists who were taking down wind-damaged Thuja. Conditions were cloudy but dry.


THE REVIEW PANEL

Darren Chambers, arboriculture tutor, Cannington Centre for Land-based Studies, Bridgwater College, Somerset

Caroline Bartlett, learning support co-ordinator, Cannington Centre for Land-based Studies, Bridgwater College, Somerset


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