How Does a Wood Chipper Work?

A wood chipper fills tha back of a loader.
A wood chipper fills tha back of a loader. (Image: CreativeNature_nl/iStock/Getty Images)

A wood chipper reduces cumbersome branches of trees and woody shrubs into a pile of easily-to-handle wood chips. If you live in a community that bans burning woody yard debris or dumping it in landfills, buying or renting a wood chipper may be a smart solution to disposing of branches and brush. As with most yard machinery, it's important to wear gloves, goggles and keep children and pets out of the area in which you're working. Follow the safety instructions carefully.

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How Wood Chippers Work

A wood chipper uses one or more sharp blades mounted on a powered rotating disc to slice up woody debris. As the woody material is fed into the intake chute, the blades on the rotating disc chop it up into tiny pieces about 3/4 inch wide and 1/16 inch thick. The machine spits out the chips through a discharge chute at the bottom or side. Wood that is green chips easier than dried wood.

Power Sources

Small portable chippers for home use usually are powered by an on-board electric motor. These electric models for twigs and small woody brush typically stand on legs so you can discharge chips out a bottom chute directly into a trash container. Larger portable chippers for homeowners are powered by a gasoline engine and can handle tree trunks or branches up to 3 inches in diameter. These machines typically are mounted on wheels and discharge out a side chute.

Operational Safety

Wood chippers make yard cleanup a breeze but have the potential to be dangerous if safety isn't followed. Do not wear baggy clothes or sleeves that can get caught in the chipper. Before starting a chipping job, always look inside the hopper or chutes to make sure no foreign object has fallen inside it. When operating, do not overfeed or attempt to chip large branches. Always use the tamper to feed debris into the chipper and never push it though with your hands. Always turn off the chipper before attempting to clear a clog.

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