A brush chipper can be an invaluable tool for any type of landscape clearing or cleanup, but it has to be used properly to be most effective. Learning how to use a brush chipper safely can help you turn even an overwhelming cleanup job into fast, efficient work.
About Brush Chippers
Brush chippers, also called woodchippers, tree chippers, or wood shredders, are typically portable and easily hauled with a truck, ATV, or tractor. Smaller models, while less powerful, can also be moved by hand and are suitable for a great deal of simple brush clearing. This mobility allows the equipment to be moved to the job site so brush, tree limbs, and branches do not need to be hauled far for processing.
A brush chipper chops, cuts, chips, and shreds woody material into pieces that range from 1-2 inches in size. The overall capacity of the chipper, as well as the horsepower of its engine, the orientation of the blades, and the size of the feeder chute, will vary depending on different models. Smaller chippers may be electric or battery-operated, but most are gasoline-powered for greater functional power and portability. When choosing a brush chipper for a job, select a model that will be able to handle the type of material to be chipped, whether it is small brush, heavier scrub, or the heaviest branches.
Tips for Using a Brush Chipper
Before using a brush chipper, read the operator’s manual carefully and familiarize yourself with all parts of the equipment. This is essential to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries, and will help you feel confident in handling the chipper properly. When you’re ready to use the chipper…
- Inspect the chipper carefully, ensuring that the air filter is clear and the blades are properly sharpened. Tighten any loose nuts, bolts, or other fasteners, as they can loosen over time because of the machine’s vibrations.
- Wear the proper safety gear at all times. This includes ear protection for loud noises, safety goggles, long pants and sleeves, and close-toed shoes. Avoid any clothing with dangling strings or loose flaps that may get caught in the chipper.
- Position the chipper securely on level ground and engage the parking brake. This will keep the equipment stable even as it is fully loaded with brush and vibrating strongly while in operation. Adjust the chute and collar for the most efficient angles relative to wind direction, where the brush is located, and how the chips will be scattered or collected.
- Only feed material of the appropriate size into the chipper. Too-large material will cause dangerous backups and clogs or could damage the cutting blades or overload the engine. Never feed inorganic material such as rocks, glass, metal, or plastic into a wood chipper.
- Feed dry (brown) and wet (green) brush into the chipper simultaneously. This will help lubricate the blades while the machine runs, minimizing the risk of clogs and keeping the equipment in peak condition for smooth operation.
- Use a long pole or stick to push material toward the chipper’s mouth if needed. Never reach into the wood chipper while it is in operation. If it is necessary to reach into the chute, turn the machine off and be sure it has fully stopped first.
- Stay alert and focused on the task at all times. Listen to the chipper carefully for any change in volume or noise that could indicate a problem, and be aware of any other possible hazards in the area, such as animals, poor weather, or other people.
Using Your Wood Chips
Even a small brush clearing job can yield a surprising quantity of wood chips. Fortunately, there are many great ways to use them in the landscape and garden.
- Add extra layers of protective mulch around trees, plants, and garden rows.
- Add a layer to a dog run or outdoor pet area.
- Create casual pathways in the yard or garden.
- Use as bedding for livestock or other animals.
- Cushion a play area such as under a swing set or slide.
- Add to a compost pile.
Extra chips and mulch can also be shared with neighbors or offered to a school, church, or community center for their landscaping needs. However you plan to use the chips, if you’ve used the brush chipper properly, you’ll have plenty to go around.