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Garden Shredders & Chippers
– What To Look For

by Jake KenJo

Every year tons of garden waste is disposed of by householders in plastic bags and taken away with the weekly rubbish pick up to land fill sites, incinerators and is even dumped at sea. This is bad news for the environment and may soon be bad for your pocket if local authorities move toward charging for waste disposal by weight here in the UK as they currently do in mainland Europe.

One way to beat this scenario and help the environment is to shred your garden waste and recycle it as mulch or compost for the garden. This sounds easy but when you look at the market for shredders these days there are a myriad of shapes, sizes and manufacturers so what should you be looking for?

Most of us with a “normal” sized garden will have no need for a large petrol driven shredder. This is a very good thing since these machines can be quite big and can also put a large dent in your bank balance. These aside we can concentrate on the more domestic models.

A few years back a friend bought one. It was very expensive, incredibly noisy and an absolute nightmare to use. It had no self feed mechanism and clogged up when the smallest of twigs were introduced to the hopper. Happily things move on, as the use of garden shredders has increased, new manufacturers have entered the market and production costs have plummeted meaning it is now possible to get a half decent machine on a normal working persons budget.

Unfortunately there are still a lot of cheap and nasty models in the market but with a little knowledge and review of a machines specifications we can hopefully weed out the worst of them and so avoid buying a lemon. So what is available in the market?

Types of Domestic Shredder

Impact or Spinning Wheel Type Regarded as the low end of the market but the better makes are constantly improving. All the cheap shredders will use a single cutting device of this sort. The better ones will use at least two blades. Simply put a spinning blade or disc strikes the branches pushed into the machine and shreds them. Advantages; Low cost typically anything from £50 to £150. Disadvantages; Blades tend to go blunt very quickly, incredibly noisy, the typical noise level of a conventional 3000 rpm impact shredder is around 105dB so be prepared for annoyed neighbours. Usually no self feed mechanism

Corkscrew or Spiral Cutters Could be regarded as the mid range of the market. Typically a long spiral rod (think corkscrew) pulls branches into the machine and shreds them. Advantages; Quiet operation at around 85dB, self feeding mechanism, robust construction. Disadvantages; More expensive to buy than impact shredders at around £190. Replacement cutting parts will be more expensive than impact shredders.

Drum or Gear Mechanism The top end of the domestic market. Typically a slowly rotating cutting drum (think gearwheel) pulls branches into the machine and crushes them. Advantages; Very quiet operation typically around 84dB. Self feeding mechanism. Reliable and robust cutting mechanism, reversible operation to clear blockages. Disadvantages; Most expensive of the domestic type shredders at around £250. Replacement cutting parts will be more expensive than impact shredders

Branch Size These days most domestic models will take branches up to approx 40 mm in diameter.

Power Simply put the more powerful the motor, the better chance you will have of shredding the branches put into the machine.

Noise – So exactly how noisy is a shredder? All shredders create noise and not all shredders are created equal. Some will emit noise levels approaching that of a live rock concert and others will sound like the gentle whirring of an electric fan so how do we know which it is likely to be? Fortunately most will be labelled with their noise output in decibels or dB for short. The decibel scale is logarithmic meaning the higher the number the noisier the machine. The following provides some indication of equivalent dB noise levels;

  1. Telephone dial tone 80dB
  2. City Traffic (inside car) 85dB
  3. Train whistle at 500 feet 90dB
  4. Subway train at 200 feet 95dB
  5. Level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss 90 - 95dB
    Bosch AXT 200 Rapid Shredder
  7. Power mower 107dB
  8. Power saw 110dB
  9. Jet aircraft at 100 feet 130dB

In summary, as with most things today you get what you pay for and shredders are no exception. Buying a quality make from the mid range or above should ensure decent performance and working life without breaking the bank or annoying the neighbours with to much noise.

Suggested shredders of each type:

Bosch AXT 2200 HP Silent Garden Shredder
Bosch AXT 2200 HP
Silent Garden Shredder

Impact Type - Bosch AXT 200 RAPID SHREDDER No Longer Available

Spiral Screw Type - Bosch AXT 2000 HP Electric Shredder No Longer Available

Drum or Gear Type - Bosch AXT 2200 HP Silent Garden Shredder No Longer Available

Jake KenJo writes on Home and Garden Topics.

Prices and availablity are correct at time of writing: April 2007

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