Reviewed - Woodchippers

Staff at Westonbirt Arboretum appraise three variously sized power take-off models. Sally Drury reports.

Timberwolf TWPTO/100G - image: HW
Timberwolf TWPTO/100G - image: HW

Tested This Week
Timberwolf TWPTO/150H
Timberwolf TWPTO/100G

Inspected This Week
Bandit 250XP PTO

The Review Panel

Scott Barrett, student craftsperson, Westonbirt Arboretum

Tom Dewey, arborist, Westonbirt Arboretum

Andy Jane, tree team operations co-ordinator, Westonbirt Arboretum

Richard Townsend, tree team supervisor, Westonbirt Arboretum

Greg Wright, apprentice arborist, Westonbirt Arboretum

While most arborists will be looking for a self-powered woodchipper, and most likely one that can be towed on the road, there are occasions when buying a machine with an engine simply is not necessary. Especially useful for estate work, a range of power take-off (PTO) units is available in the UK.

Arranging a test of anything driven by tractor PTO is fraught with problems. Often it is this type of machine that is least available for demonstration. The right-sized tractor must be on hand. Then you must offload the unit and get it working with the tractor.

With machines from TS Industries and Hardmet Landforce being unavailable on test day, and Greenmech's new PTO chipper a couple of weeks away from completion, we greeted Bandit and Timberwolf to the test site at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire. Conditions for the Bandit were warm and sunny. Temperatures were cooler, but it remained dry, when we tested two machines from Timberwolf.

- Timberwolf TWPTO/150H

If you need a woodchipper to process woody material generated on an estate, a golf course or in a park, be sure to take a closer look at this machine. It has evolved from Timberwolf's best-selling, self-powered 150 - the one you so often see travelling on roads - but by using a tractor to power it, the power take-off (PTO) version gives real value when it comes to performance.

What sets this machine apart from some of the competition is that it has its own hydraulic oil tank - it does not have to rely on the tractor's supply. Targeted at larger estates and landscapers, the TWPTO/150H fits neatly onto any compact that has a six-spline 540rpm PTO shaft, category I three-point linkage and 12V electricity supply. Ideally, the tractor should be between 25hp and 60hp. We use the arboretum's John Deere 6210, which is a little on the large side, but we like the fact that the chipper will not work if we accidentally run the PTO at 1,000rpm.

With the woodchipper attached to the tractor and the electrics connected, we put a wide range of material through the machine. It is classified as a 6in chipper, though depending on the horsepower of the tractor being used, you may find that it only copes with timber up to 5in in diameter.

"The thuya is going through it nicely - not all machines cope with that," Dewey notes. We feed a bit of beech through and then lots of birch. The more whippy ends of the birch sometimes wrap round the rollers. We have to be careful not to feed material into the gap above the feed roller. "It's a good machine. But that gap above the top roller is annoying," says Jane.

This chipper is completely self-contained. As well as having its own hydraulics, it has Timberwolf's Auto Feed Control. It works well - this machine hardly stops to draw breath. The quality of chip is outstanding - a nice size and consistent.

Townsend admits he is not familiar with "small-gob" machines, but finds the TWPTO/150H does what it is designed to do. "It is nice and simple and it doesn't put up much resistance, though there is a bottleneck at the rollers, so you need to thin down bushier material to get it to where the roller will bite," he says.

Wright agrees: "If doing large-volume trees, you would be shedding a lot more than we do with our chipper. But it is ideal for estate work where you are doing hedgerow material and smaller trees, rather than big dismantles."

Dewey is impressed. "It's good, it's compact and the discharge is clean. There's no mess - all the chips are going into the truck," he observes. Barrett agrees: "It's a really good aim, very direct and clean." He tries to adjust the discharge chute to get more into the truck, but finds the mechanism fiddly. Work has to stop to reposition the chute as no one can reach the handle without standing underneath the flow. Barrett adds: "I'm 6ft, but I can't reach it."

Max diameter infeed: 15cm (6in)
Tractor requirement: 25-60hp @ PTO (540rpm)
Weight: 400kg
Feed method: Twin hydraulic in-feed rollers c/w Auto Feed Control
Blades: Two 101mm (4in) fully hardened
Length: 288cm (in-feed tray down)/177.5cm (in-feed tray up)
Width: 111cm
Height: 216.5cm
Throughput: Up to four tonnes per hour
Expect to pay: Around £2,800 (trade)
Tel: Timberwolf - 0845 686 1037

Timberwolf TWPTO/100G

If your tractor is smaller but you still want a PTO-driven woodchipper, you could find all you want in this gravity-fed machine. Ideally suited to estate life, the TWPTO/100G has a low-centre-of-gravity, easy-tow, slow-speed chassis. You cannot take it on the road, but you do not have to use the tractor's three-point linkage.

Power can be taken from a compact tractor between 18hp and 40hp, with a six-spline 540rpm PTO shaft. We use a small Kubota and find the combination makes a good match for towing over uneven terrain, as well as for chipping performance.

This chipper has a large, high in-feed funnel. There are no feed rollers, although the edge of the blade and angle with the anvil do create a draw to pull in the material. You have to be prepared to trim material and lift it to the machine. It is also important to understand that you are the no-stress device.

"Ouch." One of the testers feels the vibration and whipping coming back up through the branch. Townsend finds that feeding smaller cuts, no longer than 2m, helps reduce vibration. "You haven't got the roller to control the in-feed - you feed it as and when. You have to be a bit more interactive with this machine, although shorter material can be thrown in and you can walk away," says Townsend. Jane adds: "The bushy stuff is a problem. It catches on the chute."

We find the chipping capacity is easily 3in and it will do 4in depending on the material. Townsend concludes: "If you haven't got the budget, this is a solution. It's ideal for estates and parks."

Max diameter infeed: 10cm (4in)
Tractor requirement: 18-40hp
Weight: 268kg
Feed method: Positive blade feed
Blades: Two 177mm (7in) fully hardened
Length: 246cm/193.5cm
Width: 100cm
Height: 218cm
Throughput: Up to 1.5 tonnes per hour
Expect to pay: Around £3,900 (trade)
Tel: Timberwolf - 0845 686 1037

Bandit 250XP PTO

With capacities from 6in (150mm) to 21in (534mm), numerous engine options from 27hp to 275hp, offered as disc-style or drum-style, along with PTO models, Bandit makes a vast range of woodchippers. It has to be said, the machines themselves are quite large too.

As soon as the 250XP arrives, we are concerned that our John Deere 6210 tractor is not the right match. "It's a beast," Townsend comments. Jane lowers the tractor forks, but it is clear they are too wide to go through the lifting holes.

"What about hoisting it?" Townsend suggests. But if we managed to lift the chipper an inch and drive the trailer away, are we ever going to get the machine back onto the trailer? We settle for an inspection instead. "It's clearly very robust, durable," Townsend notes. We like the idea that a winch can be added to haul timbers to the chipper and raise them into the feed hopper. We also like having the disc set at 45 degs to the feed rollers, allowing larger material to be chipped with the grain and thus lowering fuel consumption. But to know what it is like in practice, we need to ask a user.

Surrey Tree Care has had a PTO-driven 250XP for nine months. Managing director Craig Kettley has the chipper working on a 150hp Valtra tractor, coppicing large hazel.

"It's a hand-fed chipper, but four blokes wouldn't keep it going," he says. "It's a bit of a beast really and generally you need to feed it with a machine because it absolutely mulches material. It's fast and very efficient. It has very good build quality, is really heavy (yes, we noticed) and strong."

Capacity: 30.5cm (12in)
In-feed opening: 31.8x48cm
Tractor requirement: 66-142hp
Weight: Depends on specification
Feed method: Twin hydraulic in-feed rollers
Blades: Disc blades mounted on a 50mm diameter disc 1m in diameter
Length: 609cm/533cm
Width: 210.8cm
Height: 249cm
Feed rate: Up to 60cm per second
List price: POA
Tel: Global Recycling Solutions - 01636 594360

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