Review - Chippers and shredders

Machines designed for general organic waste were put through their paces in Oxford, Sally Drury reports.

Greenmech EcoCombi - image: HW
Greenmech EcoCombi - image: HW

For listings, reviews and specifications on woodchippers and shredders go to

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.


Greenmech Ecocombi

Founded in 1993, GreenMech has a history of good ideas. The EcoCombi must be regarded as one of the best.

It was one of the first machines from the Warwickshire-based company and it is as good today as it has always been.

Being road-towable and easy to manoeuvre, the EcoCombi is ideal for mobile crews needing to chip and shred on site. It not only deals with the timber side of the business - up to 6in in diameter - but it also has a separate infeed chute to take forkfuls of wet, soggy green waste.

Starting the machine could hardly be simpler - hold down the start button and turn the key for a few seconds. The 35hp diesel engine rumbles into life.

The EcoCombi is not noisy compared with the average chipper. This is largely down to the patented Disc-Blades. These unusual round blades cut down on noise and are less susceptible to damage. By only presenting about one-third of their cutting edge for work, the blades also save time and money when it comes to maintenance. Slackening off the retaining nut on the flywheel and turning the blade through 120 degs to present a clean edge, the period between sharpening can be lengthened considerably.

The EcoCombi rapidly munches its way through conifer, makes quick work of herbaceous debris for the compost heap and does not complain when we give it cardboard.

"It's very efficient and does not seem to have any trouble with any size of material," notes Olleson. The woodchips generated are uniform. The testers suggest the material would be good for spreading on beds for weed control and also for mixing in with compost. Shreddings are fine and should rot down quickly.

Taylor is also impressed. "You get the feeling that reversing the rollers would clear most problems," he says, adding that the loading height of both the chipper and shredder infeeds is comfortable.

Engine: 35hp
Chipping flywheel: 500x25mm
Flywheel speed: 2,400rpm
Capacities: 6in chipping/2in shredding
Throat sizes: 155x155mm chipper/800x600mm shredder
Feed rollers: Twin hydraulic on chipper/single on shredder
Drive: Direct belt drive
Discharge chute: 120mm diameter with 280 degs rotation
Fuel tank capacity: 45 litres
Dimensions: (LxWxH) 4.01x1.55x2.15m (transport)
Weight: 1,200kg
Price: £17,950 + VAT
Tel: GreenMech - 01789 400044

TS Industrie Super Premium 30DR

We understand it is a popular brand and a much-liked machine on the continent and we reckon we should soon be seeing more over here. The Super Prem is powerful, efficient, simple to use and we love the price.

Originally built by French firm Saelen as a multi-vegetation processor, the 30DR is now branded TS following the union of Tunnissen and Saelen. It is available in the UK from Eric Hunter of Maidenhead.

Unlike the GreenMech EcoCombi, the Super Prem does not have separate chipping and shredding mechanisms. All material is fed in through a single, flared hopper and onto a conveyor belt that takes it to the heart of the machine - a mixed rotor equipped with 10 tungsten-tipped hammers plus two blades. Sounds complicated, but it is very clever.

The circumference of the hammers, greater than that of the blades, makes them work as a priority, thus protecting the blades against wear to increase their longevity. When a branch is too great in diameter, the hammers retract to leave room for the knives to plane it. The pieces of branch and organic material then go back into the hammer mechanism to be further reduced.

The other difference between the Super Prem and most other chippers and shredders is the Variostress device. This is a preset no-stress programme adjustable for the type of material being processed. There are three settings - timber, wet green waste or something in-between - each dictating the amount of revs the machine can drop before the no-stress device takes over. It makes the Super Prem more productive.

Using the 30DR is comfortable and easy, although we did experience a bit of throw back from the conifer. For soft green waste, the hopper and conveyor make it easy to load with armfuls or forkfuls of material. But it was not so happy about cardboard. Nevertheless, the machine left a lasting impression on the testers.

"I thought I misheard the price," says Olleson. "Its very good value for money and it's such a powerful machine." Note that the petrol version is £4,000 less.

We suggest that the Super Prem would make a good processor for mobile crews, landscape gardeners and also tree maintenance contractors who generate material that they do not want to put through an ordinary chipper.

Engine: 30hp Yanmar diesel
Capacities: 6in (150cm)
Rotor weight: 80kg
Chipping/shredding mechanism: Mixed rotor - 10 hammers/two knives
Feed roller width: 25cm
Drive: Direct belt drive
Discharge chute: 270 degs rotation
Fuel tank capacity: 30 litres
Dimensions: 4.1x1.65x2.3m (transport)
Weight: 1,200kg
Price: £19,967 + VAT
Tel: Eric Hunter - 01628 778644

Bear Cat 5in chipper/shredder

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
Weight: 408kg
Dimensions: 2.34x1.32x2.34m
Price: £6,295 + VAT
Tel: ECHO Bear Cat - 01844 278800

Viking GB460

Clever twin-chamber technology gives this heavy-duty petrol-engined multi-shredder the capacity to tackle a wide variety of garden waste, making it suitable for the larger garden and maintenance contractors working from a small van. It could not be simpler to use.

This unit is powered by a Briggs & Stratton Ready Start engine. That means there is no priming and no choke - just pull it over and away you go. There is no throttle - it is always set at 3,000rpm for performance and fuel economy.

Core to any shredder or chipping machine is the quality and efficiency of its cutting system. The GB460 uses a rotary blade with a set of strategically positioned blades, including sharp reversible blades for chipping woody material, shredding blades that grab and chop soft waste as well as a combination blade to give consistent results.

At the discharge end there is a clearance bar that clears waste off the underside - it is designed to stop any jamming. A chute that folds from the rear allows chipping of timber up to 60mm in diameter.

It is not a heavy machine, weighing in at under 60kg, and with its pneumatic-tyred wheels, plus a handle incorporated into the chute, is easy to manoeuvre. The unit is sufficiently narrow to trundle down garden paths and through gateways.

"It will do everything you need to do around the garden. We didn't have any trouble and it folds up nicely for transport or storage," says Taylor. "But I think the bag is pointless."

The bag provided for the collection of shredded/chipped material can be filled in seconds. Our advice would be, unless you need a perfectly clean job, do not bother with it. What is handy, however, is the neat little tool box at the back. It is there if you need it - we did not.

Engine: 6.5hp Briggs & Stratton Ready Start
Chipping capacity: 60mm
Mechanism: Multi-cut 450 with chipping and shredding blades
Housing: Polymer/metal
Weight: 59kg
Height: 1.36m in working position
Price: £1,374.17 + VAT
Tel: STIHL - 01276 20202

Jo Beau M300 and M500

Inventor Jozef Beauprez - that is where the name "Jo Beau" comes from - built his first woodchipper in 1999. It was mounted onto a Walker ride-on mower. It worked so well that the 13hp M300 and 24hp M500 soon followed off the drawing board. Now the company exports throughout Europe and to the USA, Australia and New Zealand. So what is it about these chippers that have seen their popularity climb?

These are narrow-access machines, both less than 30in wide - perfect for getting down narrow paths, through gateways and into back gardens. The M500 is self-propelled, making it even easier to move around and effortless to ramp onto a trailer. The pneumatic-tyred wheels leave little if any damage to turf and castor wheels ensure manoeuvrability.

"They are very compact. It's an advantage to be able to get through a gateway and into a back garden - should prove useful for garden contractors and for the hire market," Taylor suggests.

The funnel on both Jo Beau units is quite wide, so they will take a certain amount of brashy material and save you some time on preparation. The double-sided blades can be turned to prolong life between sharpening.

It is only a short, dumpy discharge chute, so you need to line the machine up close to the trailer if you are collecting chippings.

In addition to the use of Honda engines, there are lots of sensible features on these machines. The M500 has a jerrycan strapped to the front. Although a regular fuel tank can be fitted if preferred, using the jerrycan means you can have several spare and there is no need to decant petrol over a hot engine.

Both chippers coped with the conifer well and produced a good chip. The main thing to remember about the Jo Beaus, however, is that they are chippers. And as chippers, they are good. We try to feed soft green waste through one but it quickly blocks. The material must be dry.

Model: M300/M500
Engine: 13hp Honda/24hp two-cylinder Honda
Fuel type: Petrol/petrol
Infeed: 440x300mm/500x300mm
Chipping system: Drum/drum
Number of blades: Two (reversible)/two (reversible)
Anvil: One (four usable edges)/one (four usable edges)
Drum speed: 2,200rpm/2,400rpm
Discharge chute: 270 degs rotation/270 degs rotation
Self drive: N/A/yes, hydrostatic
Weight: 120kg/220kg
Dimensions: 1.7x0.71x1.23m/2.1x0.72x140m
Price: £3,995/£8,995
Tel: Vermeer UK - 01933 274403

Eliet Major

Although it can chip wood up to about 55mm, the Eliet Major is predominantly a shredder. We take it to the compost site, where a pile of prunings and old herbaceous plants awaits. This is an entry-level professional machine, compact for transport and easy to manoeuvre.

What makes the Major different is its "hatchet" action. Eliet calls it the "chopping" principle. The blades cut material with the grain, rendering it into small chips in a cycle of chopping and cutting. This results in a well bashed and brushed chip and has a low energy-requirement. Power comes from a 9hp Honda engine.

One of the machine's best features is the easy maintenance. When the hammers start to blunt, they can be sharpened in situ with a hand grinder and then they can be turned.

While the machine is compact, it still has a wide feed hopper. It is just the right height and angle for easy loading and everything goes through this one hopper. If you do pick up a stone or contaminant, it should fall through between the blades.

We start to feed in very wet shrub prunings, grasses and herbaceous materials and quickly find we need to change the screen to prevent jamming. We get on much better with the multipurpose grating, which gives a coarser material.

"I can imagine it working quite a few hours," says Taylor. But Olleson finds a drawback: "The material is building up quickly underneath. We need to move it again."

Engine: 9hp Honda
Capacity: 55mm diameter
Shredding mechanism: Twenty hardened-steel hammer knives
Weight: 120kg
Dimensions: 1.29x0.63x1.28m
Price: £2,500 + VAT
Tel: Pinnacle Power Equipment - 01344 291111

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