Testing my new Mighty Mac Chipper/Chopper garden machine.
I have been accumulating brush, garden waste and lots of leaves partly as a result of yard maintenance and partly because I've been actively collecting leaves for compost. It became obvious that I needed a way of shredding all this stuff to reduce the volume and to make mulch and compost.
At this time of year there are lots of chipper/shredders being advertised so I went and had a look at some of them and looked at reviews online. Prices range from very cheap (less than 200 dollars) for an electric leaf shredder, to several thousand dollars for powerful trailer drawn equipment that can handle large trees.
Why did I buy the Mighty Mac Chipper?
Why choose this particular machine at about 1500 dollars + Canadian, rather than one of the less expensive and more powerful machines offered by other local hardwares for half the price?
I chose MacKissic's smallest chipper/shredder/hammer mill for several reasons. What tipped the scale is the centrifugal clutch which allows the motor to be started with no load. This means that only the motor bits move, the chipper parts don't engage until the engine is going fast enough. This allows someone like me, a lady of some years, to start it with no problems. Being difficult to pull is a criticism that many chipper-shredder reviewer have mentioned. Even big strong men get sore backs and have trouble.
It requires about as much pull as the small outboard motor which I have on my Tanzer 22 Keelboat.
Another feature I liked was that the sheet metal and finish was good and thick. It has a feel of quality and strength. The machine is made in the US and had a good warranty. There is also an established company and a real person at the other end of the phone line, who will talk to you and support its products.
This chipper will have 2 main jobs. It will shred a lot of leaves in the fall to make sky high piles of compost. It will also chip the brush and garden waste that the property produces in apparent endless supply. We have just short of one acre and there is a surprising large quantity of junk that seems to accumulate. In the future it may also be used to shred catnip so it can be used in catnip toys I make for a cat charity.
I'm in Canada and the shredder is made in the US. I ordered it from a company called Ben Berg Farm and Industrial Equipment and I would recommend them with no reservations, they answered my questions, got back to me and were not condescending. They are in Wainsfleet Ontario, (Canada) not very far from where I live.
What about the engine.
This shredder comes with a Briggs & Stratton 800 series, 4 stroke engine. The same engine powers lots of lawn mowers and other small equipment reliably. I don't have to mix gas and oil as in 2 stroke engines. It is a relatively small motor at just over 200 cc. It chugs and vibrates some as would be expected from a small one cylinder 4 stroke engine. I'm familiar with this, again with my outboard. It prefers alcohol free gas if at all possible. Read my article about alcohol in fuel and small engines I wrote this mostly in relation to outboards but it applies here too.
There are zillions of these little useful utility motors and I don't suppose it will be difficult to find parts or replace the motor if I even need to have it serviced.
Vibration is a problem that is often mentioned in shredder-chipper reviews and many people have complained that their machines have vibrated themselves apart. I have not had any trouble with the nuts coming undone because the chipper seems to be put together with nylocks, (nuts with nylon inserts that lock the fastener and helps prevent unfastening by vibration.)
What does the cutting
There are 2 mechanisms that cut and shred. This machine is a shredder/hammer mill. On the left you can see 4 of the 8 hammers that rotate and flop around. This quickly shreds any material put through the hopper. There is also a chopping blade for the chipper part when a piece of wood is fed through the side chute.
When a handful of leaves is put into the hopper, the rotating hammers essentially shred the material until it is small enough to pass through the holes of the bottom plate. The smaller the holes the smaller the pieces have to be to get through. The leaves just rotate and get hammered till the pieces are small enough to get out.
By using various sized plates, material can be kept quite coarse or can be hammered very small. The Mighty Mac ships with a one inch hole plate which seems to produce leaves and chips about 3/8 to 3/4 inch size.
On the left I have removed the guard/control plate and exposed the plate with one inch holes. If I wanted smaller pieces I would need to install a plate with smaller holes. The smaller the holes the easier it is to clog though.
The adjustable guard plate helps direct where the stuff is thrown as it comes out of the shredder.
Does it work?
So far I have used this chipper-shredder to shred dry and wet leaves, small twigs and thick bark, I have chipped branches and I have shredded extremely wet material from the garden cleanup including large artichoke branches, sunflower stems and tomato vines.
Small evergreen branches and twigs go through the hopper and come out with short branches which can be several inches long but thin. By putting them through a second or third time the size becomes smaller each time.
Corn and sunflower stalks do the same. Longer thin strands which can easily be put through again.
Leaves go through extremely well. It is important to feed slowly otherwise they bunch up in the hopper and you have to push stuff and untangle the material. By slowly feeding the leaves they can shred and come out properly without jamming. I have shredded both very wet and very dry leaves with no problem. My leaves are hardwood leaves. I don't know if it makes any difference.
I have also chipped small branches of less than 2 inches through the chipper feeding tube with no problem at all. The resulting mulch comes out looking much like the leaves but thicker pieces. No branches or longer pieces are produced by the side chipper. I found that it worked very well. I don't plan to chip much larger branches because larger branches can be cut and actually used in the fireplace. The motor slowed down in the larger pieces so I think it would not be very fast.
When I shredded really wet garden waste I found that the material stuck to the plate with holes and eventually clogged the holes. I removed the plate and the stalks went through with no problems. Both the grate with holes and the safety plate at the front are easy to remove. A cotterpin holds a large metal bar that can easily slipped out. The wet garden waste shredded to sizes that could go to the composter or could be sent back through for smaller pieces. I was surprised how well this worked.
My final experiment was some corrugated cardboard. I wanted to see if the chipper/shredder could be used to shred the cardboard I use to make briquettes. The machine slowed down some but produced perfectly shredded material that would work very well.
My estimate is that this machine works well for leaves, branches and twigs. By removing the hole plate very wet garden waste can be processed as well. It is important not to feed any material too quickly.
This shredder does not come with a bag and the material is expelled to the front and has to be pushed out of the way as it piles up. A bag attachment is available but I'm not sure that would be faster because you would still have to push stuff to the back of the bag.
A note on Safety
This is a potentially very dangerous machine. I say this of shredders-chippers in general not this one in particular. I would not allow a child near it, nor would I allow anyone to operate it who had not read the instructions. It is important to wear ear and eye protection. Gloves are pretty useful too.
I'm not kidding. This machine has very energetic shredding hammers that can be reached with a hand if you are not using a push-stick to push stuff down the hopper. As stuff goes through, in particular small twigs and bark, little pieces are thrown out. Don't look in while the machine is working. You will get hit and it can hurt. As you feed material in, wear gloves because stuff is thrown out. This can hurt. (Ask me how I know!)
If you remove the hole plate keep in mind that there are rotating hammer blades under there and stay away from the bottom. Things do get thrown out and you will get hit so don't put your head or hands near the bottom while the machine is working. Keep the safety plate on.
When you feed branches through the top, the blades can grab the material and pull them in so don't hang on tightly.
The side chopper can grab too so pay attention.
Wear your ear muffs. They came with the machine and I'm grateful to have them.
Other than that, like other small engines, you should disconnect the spark plug if you are going to play in the insides. It is possible to accidentally start the engine otherwise.
This is not intended to be a list of everything that can go wrong. Just a few things that I've noticed. Read the manual and be alert. This particular machine is no more dangerous than any other and it has several safety features. They are just potentially dangerous pieces of equipment.
I have found this shredder-chipper-hammer mill to be really useful and easy to operate. The final product is going to work very well for me. I would get it again in a flash.
It is potentially a very dangerous machine and should be used carefully by mature people.
2 Years Later
The Chipper/Shredder still starts easily, and works well. I find that for really wet stuff like the stems of the canna lilies in the fall, it's better to cut it and let it dry for a while otherwise the really wet mushy stuff clogs the screen.
The shredded leaves turned to compost in record time.
Because it takes a lot of time to process all the leaves, I've found that picking up the leaves by running over them with the lawnmower and using the grass bag is a really good way to collect and roughly shred the leaves quite fast. I then use the shredder to deal with the coarser waste then the leaves.
email me: Christine