How Do Wood Chippers Work? – [Explained!]

How Do Wood Chippers Work

If you’ve got a large yard full of debris and no helping hands to execute the cleanup, a wood chipper will come to your rescue.

With this machine’s power, you can quickly get rid of all those debris and woods to turn them into sawdust or mulch.

And that too with minimal effort. But, then it brings us the question, how do wood chippers work? And, how to use the machine safely.

Don’t worry. Because today we’re going to discuss all that in the next coming sections.

What is a Wood Chipper?

The world of gardening often involves physically demanding work. To better cope with some of the tasks, modern technology has brought us effective machines and tools.

And wood chippers are one of them that many gardeners or landscapers aren’t familiar with. This power tool helps with the cumbersome yard works and makes deposing off the debris faster.

With the courtesy of an engine and sharp rotating blades, the machine lets you feed in wood chips and yard manicured leftovers (tree branches, fallen leaves, trimmed grass, etc.) to quickly convert them into mulch.

What are the Benefits of a Wood Chipper?

A wood chipper saves the hassle to clean up a big yard and the expense to hire professionals.

You can also use the byproduct (mulch) as compost to care for your plants and recycle them to decorate the lawn areas.

On top of that, you can utilize the smaller wood pieces for use in ovens, fireplaces, or boilers.

However, besides domestic uses, you will find commercial wood chippers (often referred to as tree shredders) often used in wood (lumber) recycling and agricultural industries.

These are heavy-duty machines and are able to cut bigger blocks in bulk and with ease.

How Do Wood Chippers Work?

This type of machine’s mechanical basis is to break the wood using a wedge-shaped blade (there are also chippers with a conical punch system).

This wedge is pushed against the trunk by a cylinder and piston system, which in turn is powered by an electric motor, a combustion engine ( gasoline), or a tractor PTO.

To obtain high-quality particles, the machine takes advantage of the cracks that the wooden blocks have naturally. It works to achieve a much cleaner and smoother result.

let’s have a step-by-step look at how does wood chippers work:

  • The process starts with the gasoline or electric-powered internal engine. When you turn the wood chipper on, the engine starts and converts heat or electrical energy into mechanical force.
  • The V-belt inside the device keeps the blades and the crankshaft of the engine connected.
  • The converted mechanical power is transferred from the engine to the blades by V-belt.
  • There is also a pulley that is accessible to the engine. The pulley allows the engine to control the rotation of the belt. The faster the V- belt rotates, the quicker the blades move and cut down the debris.
  • The manufacturer sets a specific RPM for every model. When the engine finally rotates at this RPM, the clutch makes the drive belt move with the rotation.
  • The belt and the impeller are connected. And on the other side of the impeller, there are blades attached also.
  • When the drive blade gets in motion, it rotates the impeller with it. The speed of the impeller is determined by the attachment gears and the belt’s speed.
  • The angular momentum gained by the impeller finally sets the blades in motion at a constant speed.
  • The debris or wood or other materials are now fed into the wood chipper. The inputs go inside the hopper and hit the blades.
  • The constant rotation of the blades cuts and shreds the woods into fine chips. The closer the manufacturers place the blades, the more beautiful the chips will be.
  • Inside the wood chipper, there are fins attached to the back of the impeller. When the chipped wood gathers in the chute, these fins use the airflow from the motion to shoot all the chips out.
  • It is a continuous process. That means the production of chips and the discharge of the chips from the chute happen simultaneously.
  • The chute that transforms organic waste into mulch uses a hammer system and is generally larger than the one that processes twigs and branches into chips.

Depending on where you angled your device, the chipped wood will start to gather. You can later pick the mulch up and use them for your garden or walkway.

Types of Wood Chippers

Depending on the process mechanism, and types of blades wood chippers usually fall into three categories:

  • Disc Chippers
  • Drum Wood Shredder
  • High Torque Roller

The disc chippers have perpendicular blades cut into the edge of a rotating steel disk. It uses hydraulic wheels that guide the objects towards the blades to chip. They are commonly used to slice small or medium-sized tree branches.

However, industrial models are out there too with huge disc sizes and incredible Horsepower.

The drum shredder uses a rotating drum or rotor seated at the center with two or four blades that exert intense pressure on the material, while a toothed feed roller pushes it to the right chute.

This mechanism is fast and used to chip larger wood pieces. This type of industrial-grade machine needs careful operations and a certain level of expertise.

Otherwise, drum jams and blockage will take place frequently. High-torque rollers are safer alternatives, offer anti-jamming features, run quieter, and hence a popular choice for residential functions.

The electric-powered motor usually operates at a lower speed. Instead of chopping, this type of roller grinds the materials.

How to Choose a Wood Chipper?

With all the types of chippers we mentioned above, you may be wondering how to choose the right wood chipper. Here are the most important points to consider before you go on to buy one for yourself. Let’s see:

Engine Type (Gas vs Electric)

We have gasoline, and electric-powered wood chippers available. The gasoline wood chipper is more powerful and hence ideal when there is a larger amount of debris to work with.

But for small yard owners, an electric chipper would be more effective. They run quiet, is environment friendly, and cheaper than the counterpart. However, you need a power outlet accessible nearby to the machine.


If you have got slim wood debris (less than 1.5 inches in diameter), a small electric wood chipper will be perfect. But if you often work with larger logs or thicker branches, then a gasoline wood chipper will give you time-saving results.

You should also check the manufacturer’s specifications to understand the maximum capacity of the machine you are buying.


A gas wood shredder with a minimum of 6.5 horsepower is recommended for bigger lawns and professional gardeners. However, an electric chipper of a 14 to 15 amp motor would be enough for small homeowners.

Maintenance for Wood Chippers

In order to secure safe operation, and lasting performance machine maintenance is imperative.

That said, caring for electric wood chippers doesn’t involve many except regular filter cleaning and blade sharpening.  

Therefore, the below maintenance checklist would mainly be relevant for gas-powered models.

Oil Changing

The frequency of engine oil changes largely depends on the volume of use exercise on your wood chipper. For repeated use, you should evaluate the oil changes at least twice a year.

But if you use it occasionally, one oil change in a year will work fine. However, if it is new, you should change the engine oil after the first 8 hours of operation.

Also, don’t hesitate to drain the oil when required for other bits of essential maintenance for the wood chipper.

Spark Plugs

Part of routine maintenance should be to check the engine spark plugs to detect any sign of corrosion.

If there is any, even for the smallest it is advised to replace it to avoid significant damages. Spark plugs are cheap so avoid shortcuts.

Air Filter

You should check the air filter after every use and keep it clean entirely. If you haven’t put it to good use and it is only barely dirty you can dust it off and return it to the equipment.

However, if there are many uses check your manufacturer manual to determine whether your particular model of filters can be cleaned.

In this case, you should dry out the filter completely before placing it back into the machine.

This way, you can save a lot of money over time without having to swap it entirely with a new one.


To promote smooth action, you should check the blades every 10 hours of operation and consider either sharpening or replacing them. You can use a wet grinder to clean and sharpen the blades.

However, if you don’t feel it take help from a machinist rather than causing it to impair. To keep the blades well-lubricated add light machine oil.


Every wood chipper is different. And different models of wood chipper has a different size and configuration of blades.

We hope you have learned how do wood chippers work and something unknown from this guide to using it work for your benefit.