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Wood Chippers

How Does a Wood Chipper Work?

Matt By Matt December 27, 2021

A wood chipper uses a set of blades, hammers, or cutting teeth to convert organic material fed through a chute into smaller pieces. The type of material a chipper can accept varies by design and can include tree limbs, small branches, yard debris, and dead leaves. The size of the input material that a chipper can accept depends on its designed capacity and the size of the chipped pieces is determined by its reduction ratio.

If you want to learn more about wood chippers, how they work, and their history then continue reading.

What is a Wood Chipper?

A wood chipper comes in many sizes and shapes and it's a useful machine that can make yard work simple. It's a great choice to create useful wood chips out of yard waste or a large pile of branches.

Wood Shredders

Consumer Wood Chippers

Commercial Wood Chippers

History of Wood Chippers

The history of the wood chipper goes back a long time, more than 100 years. It was invented in Germany in 1884 by Peter Jensen and quickly grew into a well-known tool used across the world.

One of the earliest patents for a wood chipper was granted to H. G. Shortt on January 15, 1901. It shares features with a lot of modern chippers, including a flywheel disc and multiple chipping knives.

Types of Wood Chipper Shredder Cutting Mechanisms

A wood chipper can be designed with several different types of cutting mechanisms. Here are some of the main types:

High-Torque Roller

Many electric shredders utilize high-torque rollers to grind up and shred small-diameter material. The feed rollers operate at a low speed and are much quieter than the chipping mechanisms in gas-powered units.

Disc Chipper

The most common type of wood chipper for homeowners and small farms implements a high speed disc or flywheel with multiple knives and sharp blades designed to chip and grind up material. The flywheel inside these units spins at a high rate of speed and is either fitted to the motor's shaft or connected to a drive belt. In some disk chippers, the flywheel may also include several hammers for shredding purposes.


A drum-type chipper is usually found in commercial chipper models. The drum spins at a very high speed and material is pulled into the chip chute for processing. In this type of chipper, the drum is powered by a belt and the drum rotates at a high speed. Drum chippers are often the most dangerous and safety is a serious concern if the operator gets caught on material going into the feed chute.

Blades, Hammers, Teeth

Every chipper has one or more blades, hammers, steel teeth that are used to chip and shred material. In residential chippers, most blades are between 4 inches to 10 inches long and about 1/4 inches to 1/2 inches thick. As for hammers and teeth, the design generally varies but most are some type of hardened steel and contain a predefined amount of chromium.

Safety Tips for Using a Wood Chipper

All types of chippers and shredders are dangerous machines and should be treated with respect. Every year at least two or three people lose their lives from these machines due to user error. However, many of these involve commercial chippers and not consumer models which are less dangerous.

Proper safety equipment for any chipper includes:

Top Rated Wood Chippers: 3 Great Choices

Are you shopping for a new wood chipper? Here are some of our favorites that we want to share. Also, if you need some help, then be sure to check out our detailed buying guide. It explains some of the important considerations when shopping for a wood chipper.

Best Overall
Patriot Products CSV-3100B Chipper Leaf Shredder
The Patriot Products chipper shredder is ideal for people who have a lot of wood to chip or a large property to maintain. The Briggs & Stratton Vanguard... Read More
Cutting Size:3 inch capacity
Engine:10 HP Briggs & Stratton Vanguard
Capability:Chip & Shred
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Patriot Products CSV-3100B Chipper Leaf Shredder
Most Popular
SuperHandy Wood Chipper Shredder
SuperHandy is a well-known outdoor power equipment brand, and its team has developed a popular line of chipper shredders for homeowners. The SuperHandy... Read More
Cutting Size:3 inch capacity
Engine:7 HP 208 CC RATO Engine
Capability:Chip & Shred
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SuperHandy Wood Chipper Shredder
Best Small Chipper
Sun Joe CJ603E Chipper
The Sun Joe CJ603E is a small but powerful wood chipper. It's intended for smaller-capacity chipping and can handle material with a diameter of up to 1.73... Read More
Cutting Size:1.73 inch capacity
Engine:Electric 15-Amp Motor
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Sun Joe CJ603E Chipper
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