Wood Chippers vs. Wood Shredders

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Wood Chippers vs. Wood Shredders
Wood chippers and wood shredders are large outdoor power tools that are designed to reduce the bulk of yard waste and make disposal easy. They are especially useful to gardeners and landscapers in areas where it is illegal to dispose of yard waste by landfill dumping or open burning. The output from chippers and shredders can be recycled and used to pave walkways, line flowerbeds, and create compost.

There are many differences between wood chippers and wood shredders. It is important to understand the functions of each when deciding which one to buy.

Things to Consider Before Shopping for Wood Chippers or Wood Shredders

There are many choices available for people who are looking to buy a wood chipper or wood shredder. People may find the task daunting if they don't know where to start. The following questions should be answered prior to shopping to help narrow down the choices.

Is the Outdoor Power Tool for Home or Commercial Use?

Wood chippers and shredders that are purchased for commercial use should be built of heavy-duty materials and be more durable than those that are purchased for home use. Also, consider how frequently the machine will be used and where it will be stored.

How Big is the Property or Project Area?

Knowing the size of the project is essential to finding the right machine for the job. Large areas with a lot of branches will require a machine with greater mobility and chopping capability. A single yard with minimal yard waste, such as leaves and twigs, will be fine with a small machine.

Setting the basic parameters for the usage of the machine will make it easier to decide whether to buy a wood chipper or wood shredder.

Wood Shredders

Wood shredders often resemble small wood chippers in outward appearance. They have a chute for feeding material in and an opening for the material to be ejected out. Inside, wood shredders have semi-blunt blades, called flails, that are used to break down small pieces of organic material. Many shredders have the option to choose what size the finished pieces should be. This flail system mashes and shreds items, producing small pieces that can then be composted or used as mulch.

Due to a small engine size and the fact that the flail is mostly blunt, wood shredders do not have the power or energy to break large branches down. They are most useful for small yards, home gardeners, and people who have leaves and small branches to shred.

The smallest types of shredders have nylon cutting string inside instead of a metal flail. These shredders work the same way that a weed whacker does except that the strings are vertical and attached to a central drum. These shredders are only made for leaves and other soft material and are most often referred to as "mulch" or "compost" shredders. They are not considered wood shredders since they cannot handle hard objects of any kind.

Wood Chippers

Wood chippers come in many different sizes and styles, but their basic function is always the same. Wood is fed into a chute, and the blades inside the chipper break the solid pieces down into chips that can range from one to three inches long. The chips are then ejected from the machine. Some models are equipped with a bin to catch the wood chips.

A wood chipper will work equally well on both fresh and dried wood. Branches can be fed through with the leaves still attached. The size of logs and branches that can be fed through the chipper will depend on the size of the chipper and the type of components it has inside.

Types of Wood Chippers

The types of chippers are named for the cutting mechanism inside. There are three types of wood chippers: drum chippers, disk chippers, and screw-type chippers. Drum and disk chippers are the most common types. Screw-type chippers are rare and are often harder to find. Each type has advantages and disadvantages that are important to understand in order to choose the right tool for the job.





Drum Chipper

A drum chipper has a large, horizontal drum with inset blades at regular intervals.

This type of chipper can handle large loads and fibrous material.

These chippers use a lot of energy to rotate the drum, and the chips are not uniform in size.

Disk Chipper


A disk chipper has a vertical disk with inset blades that slice the wood at a 45 degree angle.

This type of chipper is fast, energy-efficient, and produces uniform size chips.

These chippers are best for loads with small diameters. Excessively fibrous material will bog the machine down and cause stress to the engine.

Screw-Type Chipper

The blade of this chipper is shaped like a large screw. The rotating action helps to pull the wood through the chipper.

This chipper produces chips that are uniform in size.


The screw-type blade needs to be changed each time a new size of chip is desired.


Combination Wood Chipper/Shredder

The combination wood chipper/shredder is handy for those who need the best of both worlds. These models are convenient to use and are very popular with homeowners since they offer the versatility of both chips and mulch.

The combination chipper/shredders that are made for home use are much smaller in size than commercial wood chippers. They can have one feed chute or separate ones for different types of material. Most combination chipper/shredders can handle branches up to three inches in diameter and are designed for regular yard maintenance.

The organic material is fed into the chute and broken into smaller pieces by the chipper blades. Most models offer the option to eject the material at this point or let it continue into the flail for shredding. Many models also have a screen attachment that will keep material inside the machine until it reaches the desired size.

Engine Styles of Wood Chippers and Wood Shredders

Once a decision is made about the type of machine needed, shoppers can move on to other considerations that will help narrow down the available listings. One extremely important consideration is the size and type of engine the machine will have.

Wood shredders, combination chipper/shredders, and small wood chippers are available with the choice of an electric motor or an internal combustion engine. Large wood chippers are generally only available with gas-powered engines or tractor mounting bars since an electric engine would not provide the power needed for large projects.

Engine Type



Electric Motor

Electric motors are cleaner and quieter than a gas-powered motor. They require little maintenance and are less expensive to purchase.

Electric engines do not produce as much power as gas-powered engines and should be used for smaller jobs. This type of chipper or shredder will need to be plugged in, which may limit mobility.

Gas-Powered Motor

Gas-powered motors are usually more powerful than their electric counterparts. They can handle larger loads and are not dependent on a nearby power source.

Gas-powered engines make more noise, produce more fumes, and take up more space than electric models. They also tend to be more expensive.

Other Considerations

After considering the criteria above, shoppers should be able to narrow down the available choices and have an idea of the chipper or shredder that is right for the job at hand. There are some additional options and features that can be considered in order to make the choice even easier.

Reduction Ration

The reduction ration refers to the amount of organic material that will be reduced after going through the machine. A reduction ration of 10:1 means that 10 bags of leaves will be reduced to fit into one bag. The reduction ration is good information to have but should not be taken as a sole indication of power.

Number of Blades

A machine will run more efficiently with a high number of blades. Having more blades can also take stress off the engine and increase the longevity of the machine.

Vacuum Attachments

Some shredder models come with a vacuum attachment that can make cleaning up yard waste less time-consuming. These are often hoses that can be removed when needed.

Safety and Compliance

All wood chippers and wood shredders should come bearing stickers from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute and the American National Standards Institute. Be sure to read all of the manufacturer's instructions before operating the machine. Check to establish that all the parts are in working order and that all of the shields and guards are in place. Most machines should come with a tamper to assist in loading the machine safely. If any of the safety components are missing or broken, it is best to move on and continue shopping.

Find a Wood Chipper or Wood Shredder on eBay

To find a wood chipper or wood shredder on eBay, begin on the eBay Homepage. Hover over the link for Home, Outdoors & Decor and click the Home & Garden link when it appears in the menu. Choose Yard, Garden & Outdoor Living from the categories on the left. From there, choose Outdoor Power Equipment, then Chippers, Shredders & Mulchers. Scroll through the available choices or use the options in the menu on the left to narrow down the search criteria.

Alternatively, it is easy to narrow the search greatly by using the search box provided at the top of every eBay page. To search for a particular chipper or shredder, type it into the box and click the Search button. For example, to search for a combination chipper/shredder made by Craftsman, type "Craftsman wood chipper shredder" into the box and click the Search button.


Wood chippers and wood shredders make it easy to reduce the bulk of yard waste and create useful wood chips and mulch. Understanding the differences between chippers and shredders is an important first step in making a purchase. Taking engine size and other features into consideration will help to narrow the results even further. Using eBay to research sellers, brands, and prices, shoppers can feel confident about buying the right tool for their project.

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