Review - Chippers and shredders

We test five of the newest and best-loved models to see how they fare in the real world, Sally Drury reports.

Greenmech Arborist 13-23 - image: HW
Greenmech Arborist 13-23 - image: HW

TESTED THIS WEEK

Hardmet Landforce Duo 235

Schliesing 220MX

Vermeer BC160XL

Greenmech Arborist 13-23

Timberwolf TW350TDHB(t)

THE REVIEW PANEL

- Ian Bawcutt, deputy-head gardener, Sir Harold Hillier Gardens

- Tom Dewey, junior arborist, Sir Harold Hillier Gardens

- Matt Noyce, senior arborist, Sir Harold Hillier Gardens

In this review, we put the Hardmet Landforce Duo 235 through its paces to see whether chipping and shredding really can be done by one, industrial-sized machine. We look at the Schliesing 220MX - a machine you may want to look for on the used-machinery market. We also see whether the BC160XL from Vermeer is what the European market expects.

The machines were tested by the arborists and deputy-head gardener at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens (SHHG) near Romsey in Hampshire. The gardens, established in 1953 by distinguished plantsman Sir Harold Hillier and set in 73ha, hold one of the most important plant collections in the world. There are more than 42,000 plants from around the world, including 12 national plant collections and 300 champion trees. Conditions on the test day were cool but dry and sunny.

From the plant collections at SHHG to the magnificent trees at Westonbirt - we move sites to let the arboretum team test two of the latest models from Greenmech and Timberwolf. The Arborist 13-23 is Greenmech's lightest chipper to date and the TW350TDHB(t) is Timberwolf's biggest. Conditions here were also dry on test day.

HARDMET LANDFORCE DUO 235

The Hardmet Duo 235 is British-built and a bit of a brute. The engine has been upgraded from 54hp to a 61hp Deutz diesel and now almost has too much grunt. While Noyce and Dewey admit it would not be their first choice for pure arboriculture work, we reckon that if you do a lot of shrub pruning, and certainly if you undertake land clearance work, you may want to inspect this one further.

This is a combined chipper/shredder and is designed to cater for everything that you are likely to meet on site. Having a 235mm (9.5in) chipper with nine cutters on the flywheel at the business end, plus a 420x50mm-capacity shredder with 18 blades on the side, the Duo will chop or mince its way through most things.

It is a solidly built machine that should have a long life. It has a galvanised chassis and weighs in at 1,560kg. Not being on a turntable, it takes a few minutes to position the chipper/shredder for work and because it does not have very wide tyres, we had to be careful travelling over the grassed areas. Wider tyres would help compensate for the unit's weight. The discharge chute is rotatable and easily turns through 360 degs to fire material accurately into the trailer.

Safety is built into the Duo. There are micro-switches to ensure the engine cannot be started with any of the hoods up and the machine must be in the work position, with transport pins removed, before the horizontal variable-speed feed-rollers will turn. The controls are simple and work with each other and there are two main control panels for feeding. Dual rollers take timber into the chipper at the rear.

Hardmet Landforce is looking at putting teeth onto the top roller, a suggestion we would back. "The rollers grab the timber but there doesn't seem to be a lot of pressure," says Dewey. We agree that a curtain might be a good idea to prevent pieces firing backwards.

If you are not used to a combined chipper/shredder of this style then you may find the in-feed funnel a bit on the high side for shredding. "I was struggling to see where I was putting the material," says Dewey. On the positive side, the material produced by the shredder is very fine and uniform.

There is no denying the power from the engine on the Duo 235 and there are some nice finishing touches. There is a spare wheel on top of the feed hopper and wheel chocks are stowed on the mudguards. We are also impressed with the protection around the controls.

SPECIFICATIONS
Max capacity: Chipper 235mm/Shredder 50mm
Chipping mechanism: Nine blades/flywheel
Shredding mechanism: 18 blades/helical flight shredder
Engine: Four-cylinder 61hp Deutz diesel
Feed Two hydraulic rollers on chipper
Weight: 1,560kg
List price: £18,335 + VAT
Contact: Hardmet Landforce - 01386 834813

SCHLIESING 220MX

The new Schliesing 235MX woodchipper is now available in the UK and replaces the much-loved and trusted 220MX that we test today. As arborists upgrade to the latest version, we could see an influx of 220MXs on the second-hand market.

This is Noyce's favourite chipper and he makes sure it sees plenty of work.The 220MX is a high-performance trailed machine, driven by a Kubota four-cylinder 35hp diesel engine. It weighs 1,250kg but is easy to tow on its high-specification chassis with the table folding neatly across the funnel and the wide tyres limiting damage when manoeuvring across turf surfaces. With twin independently-driven hydraulic feed rollers, this model has a capacity of 160mm (6in). Best of all, the 220MX has a 270 degs turntable.

"We find the turntable invaluable," says Noyce. "We can go down a ride or track and just keep spinning the unit from side to side. It saves us walking around the machine or repositioning the unit every five minutes."

At the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens (SHHG), the 220MX is used for a couple of hours most days. "It's heavy but so well engineered that it feels as though it was designed and built by people who use it," adds Noyce. "Everything is within your working area. The stop/start buttons are right in front of you, there's an indicator to show when the flywheel is still turning and a handy tool box on top that contains all the spanners you are likely to need. The display even has a smiley face to show everything is OK."

Bawcutt points out the benefits of the noise reduction blades. The V-blades or "Whisper Cut" blades give a 30 per cent noise reduction and ensure a 40 per cent longer life by ensuring that the timber is always fed to the middle.

If the 220MX has a fault, it is the problems it has at fuelling. "Diesel has to be trickled in slowly or it backs up, but it's a small detail," says Noyce. The age of the SHHG chipper is unknown, but only one feature has not stood the test of time. Wear and tear on the drop part of the in-feed funnel meant it finally required attention.

The new 235MX is based on the 220MX and bears the same engine specification and gross weight but has increased capacity of up to 180mm and features to improve the output, efficiency and ease of transport, storage and maintenance of the machine.

SPECIFICATIONS
Max capacity: 160mm
Engine: Four-cylinder 35hp diesel
Feed: Two independently-driven rollers
Hopper: 114cm wide by 96cm high
Turntable: 270 degs
Chassis: 80kmph
Weight: 1,250kg
List price: Dependent on condition
Contact: Schliesing UK & Ireland - 01189 816 588

VERMEER BC160XL

Yes, it is an American name, but the BC160XL has been designed for the European market and it shows. It is compact, easy to use and, as chippers go, quiet. What is more, at 750kg it is convenient to tow, even when ready for work and complete with 18 litres of fuel. The transport length is just 2.7m.

This is the newest machine from Vermeer and it is a disc-style chipper with 160mm (6in) capacity. The unbraked version has been designed specifically to meet the sub-750kg criteria, so things like the mudguards and wheel chocks are lightweight.

Heavy-duty materials are, however, used where needed. The chassis, for instance, is made of high-tensile steel and though the engine may be smaller than the competitors' 160mm machines, the flywheel is heavier than most. Power comes from a 26hp Lombardini engine, which incidentally is badged as Kohler. It is fully enclosed to reduce noise.

We particularly like the twin-feed rollers. They are aggressive and grip the timber to pull it in. The momentum and weight of the flywheel mean short timbers of three or four inches in diameter are easily and quickly dealt with. The autofeed starts when tackling thicker or longer timbers, pausing momentarily while the engine revs pick up and is then off again.

We are even more pleased to find this compact chipper is mounted on a turntable to increase operator efficiency. There are six set work positions within the 360 degs of rotation. Controls on the BC160XL are also simple. A flashing light indicates when the bottom bar has been triggered and the in-feed requires resetting. In the event of the operator falling against the top bar, the feed rollers are reversed in an instant.

"The Vermeer doesn't trip as much as some chippers I've used and I really like the angle of the hopper because it helps to fold in the branches," says Noyce. "But I have to admit, it does throw you a bit when the machine pauses and thinks about bringing the revs back up. You soon get used to it though and then you can feed it and just leave it to collect the next load."

Dewey likes the top bar but is surprised when he hears the machine's price. He says: "That seems a lot of money, especially for a small firm dealing with pruning and crown reductions."

SPECIFICATIONS
Max capacity: 160mm
Engine: 26hp Lombardini (Kohler) diesel
Feed: Two independently-driven rollers
Turntable: 360 degs with six set positions
Chassis: 80kmph
Weight: 750kg
List price: Price on application
Contact: Vermeer UK - 01933 274400

GREENMECH ARBORIST 13-23

This is the lightest road-towable woodchipper in the Greenmech range and is an entry level model with attitude. At less than £10,000, arborists may find it a useful tool in their armoury if they take on a lot of back garden work.

Its small size means it is an ideal machine for accessing those awkward sites. It is also likely to appeal to those professional gardeners who deal with a lot of timber and need something meatier than a garden shredder. What is more, it is small enough to be stowed in the average garage or lock-up.

The Arborist 13-23 is built for the budget end of the professional market and intended to compete with Timberwolf's 20hp TW125 - a model with a 12.5cm (5in) square in-feed. It is officially badged as a 12.5cm (5in) chipper but has a letter box opening of 130x 230mm (6x9in) to ensure that awkward branches will go through without needing much preparation.

The standard unit comes as an unbraked version, with a single hydraulic feed roller. Pay an extra £450 and you can have it fully braked and for another £400 you can have a second feed roller fitted. You can own the upgraded machine, complete with 22hp B&S Vanguard engine, for a grand total of £9,950. If you prefer, you can opt for a version with a 20hp diesel engine.

The machine's features include an electronic start with recoil backup, a direct belt drive with simple system for tensioning, a variable speed control, no-stress, fully greaseable bearings and a metal fuel tank. The construction is robust and the in-feed chute folds for storage and transport.

This may be an economy model but it has plenty of power and quickly finds favour with the Westonbirt team. "For the target market, this is an excellent piece of kit. It's a tidy little machine. I was surprised at the power when we started it up - it has got some velocity for such a small unit," one tester sums up. Another adds: "We have been feeding all sorts of material in from all different angles. It didn't struggle once and is really quick."

One aspect we don't miss - the nuisance of a bottom bar. The height of the in-feed funnel on this machine means the side and top bars are sufficient.

SPECIFICATIONS
Max capacity: 130x230mm in-feed
Engine: 22hp B&S petrol
Feed: Single or twin rollers
Weight: Approximately 600kg depending on specification
List price: £9,950 + VAT for braked, petrol-engined unit with twin
rollers
Contact: Greenmech - 01789 400044

TIMBERWOLF TW350TDHB(t)

The sheer size of this unit and the technology that has gone into it are reflections of Timberwolf's commitment to the UK market. It is the biggest machine the company makes and is a serious piece of kit. At Westonbirt Arboretum, near Tetbury in Gloucestershire, we take down a tree to test it.

One look at the TW350TDHB(t) and you realise this is a machine aimed at the top end of the professional market. If size matters, this machine will impress - though it is not meant for the back-garden boys and its width means you will need to park it carefully on the side of the road. It has a 23x35.5cm (9x14in) letter box-style in-feed and is powered by a 64hp Hatz turbo-charged diesel engine. Timberwolf says the throughput is up to 12 tonnes per hour. This is a massively strong chipper and its total weight is around 2.2 tonnes.

Thank goodness then that the TW350TDHB(t) is on a turntable. Although it is mounted on a single axle to aid manoeuvrability, the weight of this unit means it is not one you are going to want or be able to continually shift to find the most convenient loading position. But the turntable removes that dilemma. This chipper is on a slew ring - - like that of a two-tonne digger - and gracefully spins through 360 degs with remarkable ease. The adjustable-height tow hitch will also be appreciated by those who want to alternate between a pickup and a lorry.

Despite its size and obvious technologies, the construction of this Timberwolf is relatively simple, making it easy to maintain. Belt tension should not be a problem and there are two remote grease nipples for the rollers. The rotor is a twin-disc type and is rigid and strong. At 250kg, it is believed to be the heaviest rotor in any chipper of this capacity in the world and it uses that weight and mass to create the inertia needed to keep the chipper up to speed. There are also four reversible blades, positioned to make the most of the momentum of the machine, and massive external bearings.

We find the new auto-feeding system takes a little getting used to. When it comes across an awkward timber, the system automatically backs off the rollers and tries again without letting go.

The Westonbirt team also finds the height of the in-feed hopper awkward for really big timbers. One tester says: "It's a long way to lift the material, which by the very nature of this machine is going to be large to make the best use of the unit." But we are surprised at the quietness of this big machine.

SPECIFICATIONS
Max capacity: 230mm (9in)
Engine: Four-cylinder 64hp diesel turbo
Feed: Two independently-driven rollers
Turntable: 360 degs
Chassis: Single axle
Weight: 2,200kg
List price: Price on application
Contact: Timberwolf - 01449 765809

Listing of Woodchippers and shredders on What Kit?

Buying advice - shredders


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