Friday, May 21, 2010

Troy-Bilt Chipper Shredder

The problem: Silver maples are messy trees, dropping buds and seeds, invading lawns and gardens with hundreds (thousands?) of seedlings every spring, and dropping twigs and branches all year long.

The contents of this 30-gallon trash can above, and this pile of twigs and branches below, accumulated over the winter. The Lawn Man used to pile them in the garden before it was a garden, and we've continued that practice until last year when they were kept here, next to the garage.

Our vacuum shredder has been used to turn branches into mulch, but with its one-inch hopper, the job was long and tedious, and hardly seemed worth the time and effort. It was tempting to just bag this stuff and send it to the municipal composting facility. I was dreading the shredding, but didn't want to send free potential mulch into the waste stream either.

I was thrilled earlier this spring when Troy-Bilt contacted me, offering the opportunity to choose, free-of-charge, almost anything I wanted from their catalog. Their only request was that after testing my choice, I would review the product here, providing my honest opinion, good or bad, of how the product worked for me.

After reading other bloggers' reviews, and Troy-Bilt's website reviews of most of their products and after consulting with the Lawn Man, this red beauty was selected. I hoped it would be the solution to the current mess on the side of our garage, and to future stick piles generated by a never-ending supply of falling maple twigs and branches.


It arrived earlier this week. A large crate was unloaded from the back of a semi with a lift gate, and the driver graciously wheeled it into our garage with our hand truck, immediately resolving my concern about whether I'd be able to get it from the truck to our garage in what was expected to be a curbside delivery. This machine weighs in at 200 pounds. When I asked about its size to make sure it would easily fit in our already-packed garage, its weight was more than a little intimidating. Aside from getting it from the curbside to the garage on a weekday when the Lawn Man was at work, I was sure he could handle its size and weight, but I wanted to be able to use it too.

Once in the garage, I uncrated it and was happy to find it fully assembled. After reading all the instructions, (especially the safety instructions,) adding the oil included with the machine and some gas, even I (those of you who know me, know I'm not exactly the biggest, strongest person around,) was able to easily maneuver this big, brawny machine out to the wood pile. I was impressed that it even fit (barely) around a tight spot between the corner of the garage and a landscape retaining wall. I donned the included safety glasses, and my leather gloves. It started on the first pull, and I went to work, feeding 1/2" diameter and smaller twigs into the large hopper (pictured below,) and up-to-three-inch branches into the narrower hopper on the right (pictured above.)
Midway through the job, over the sound of the machine I heard what sounded like a small metal thing hit something. I wasn't sure if something had fallen on the ground, or in one of the hoppers. My first thought was that one of the nuts on the inside of the hopper had come loose and fallen in. To prevent potential damage to the machine or kickback of whatever had fallen, I shut off the machine, inspected the inside of the hoppers and the sidewalk around it looking for a nut, bolt, or small piece of metal. Eventually I did find a bolt on the sidewalk, but couldn't find where it had come from. I didn't see any missing from the machine. Satisfied that maybe it was an extra one, I attempted to re-start the machine, but the pull cord wouldn't budge. "Uh oh," I thought, "I broke it!" I went back inside to consult the manual, and determined I probably needed to unjam the reduction chamber, where the shredder and chipper blades are housed. I followed the instructions for disconnecting the spark plug wire and making sure the machine was on the 'off' setting.

Since I'd stopped the machine abruptly, there were still some small twigs engaged in the blades in the middle of being shredded, and I realized that was probably why the starter rope wouldn't budge. I was kind of nervous putting my hands near the blades even though I followed the safety instructions to the letter, and I did have some difficulty reaching into the tight space allowed. But finally I did clear the blades, returned the chute deflector housing into the operating position, reconnected the spark plug wire, and restarted the machine, quickly completing my task. Later, when I was showing off the machine to my husband the Lawn Man, he immediately noticed a bolt was missing from the pin that holds the chute deflector on the machine housing. Since it fell off during the first time the machine was operated, it may not have been secured tightly enough when the machine was assembled at the factory. I'm glad it didn't cause any problems other than the jam that occurred when I abruptly shut off the machine.


Once all the branches were shredded, I unfastened the collection bag, dragged it back to this small corner bed in our back yard, and spread finely, evenly-shredded mulch a couple of inches thick over an already-existing layer of leaf mulch, where it will decompose and feed the soil, keep weeds and maple seedlings to a minimum, and reduce evaporation, minimizing watering.

Aside from the interruption and frustration of a loose bolt and the ensuing jam, the first use of our new Troy-Bilt Chipper Shredder was a resounding success. What would previously have been at least a two-hour task was done in less than 30 minutes. I'm pleased and impressed with our new chipper shredder, and look forward to using it again on the next inevitable pile of maple twigs and branches, and other lawn and garden debris that might otherwise end up in yard waste bags. Thank you Troy-Bilt!

Update 3.19.11: Since writing this review I've used the machine two more times - once last fall, and again early this week. It started with no problems, ran great, didn't jam up at all, and made very nice, fine mulch. When I used it early this week, I shredded leaves, and all the branches that accumulated over the winter. The shredded leaves were used on one of our little vegetable beds. The Chipper Shredder does a wonderful job on the leaves, which make great mulch for both vegetable and ornamental beds. I filled the collection bag twice with all the branches, and was able to refresh the mulch on the bed pictured above in this post. The mulch turns out fine and even in size. LOVE our Troy-Bilt Chipper Shredder!

28 comments:

  1. Awesome! I always wanted a chipper shredder but never was able to find a review I trusted.

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  2. Nice looking machine. I use to have a Silver Maple a few years back that I lost to Hurricane Isabel. It was a messy tree indeed, but my Pecan is quite messy as well. I might need to invest in one of these gadgets. :)

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  3. What a good machine! I like the idea of turning twigs into mulch :-D It's a good way to speed up the 'greening' process. Have a great weekend!

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  4. I had silver maples and I know what you mean. They are not a real strong tree and are a mess if on a parkway. That is a neat machine.

    Eileen

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  5. I'm happy to have it Katie - makes a tedious, dreaded task so much easier.

    They sure are messy Racquel, and it's a handy gadget to have around!

    It's great Stephanie! I'm glad to be able to recycle all those twigs into something useful.

    They're a mess wherever they are Eileen. I do love the shade, but the mess silver maples make sometimes makes me want to find the builders of this subdivision and ask them what they could possibly have been thinking. They seem to have been the tree of choice in this neighborhood, along with the dreaded, ubiquitous yews in the foundation 'landscapes.' Yuk!

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  6. I like to think of silver maples as self-cleaning, lol. I've always wanted a chipper shredder. Yay for getting one for free and it working. Maybe the bolt wanted to boltly go where no bolt had gone before. (Sorry.)

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  7. Just yesterday, I saw a bed mulched with shredded twigs. I liked it. This machine looks like a good one.

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  8. Oh, I would love one of these! We seem to have an endless supply of fallen branches around here, not to mention everything I trim. I'm so impressed, though, Linda, with your mechanical ability. I would have given up at disconnecting the spark plug wire:)

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  9. I am almost OCD over mulch. Good review!

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  10. Now that is a time saver! P.S. I hate those silver maple seedlings-grrr! Can Troy bilt make a machine that does away them?:)

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  11. Linda,
    It's good to read your review of the chipper shredder.

    How funny that when offered the same deal I chose the exact same item. It is sitting in the garage waiting for me to read the instructions and get it cranked. I am so excited to have a machine to make my mulch... but haven't had the time to try it out yet. Hopefully, next week.

    Love that it is red. :-)
    Meems

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  12. Great review of chipper, Linda ... have thought about purchasing one especially since Mr. Ho-Hum loves tools and we are constantly dealing with debris after major pruning. Hate bundling and bagging rich stuff that I know would be much happier remaining here in my garden. (My cherished silver maple, though not the tree of choice, was planted by my children, eons ago)

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  13. Monica, it sure is handy! I'm looking at all these huge hedges, and imagining the possibilities!

    Tatyana, I'm liking it too. Looking in the heavily-wooded wayback, we see a lot of dead branches on a juniper, and near the patio the two cedars need dead lower branches pruned off - now that's some nice mulch!

    Rose, it will really come in handy for all the trimmings.

    The instructions were really great - I was still apprehensive, but more confident than I would have been without such good, clear instructions - much better than what I've seen with some other devices and machines. I'm not good at mechanical stuff - if duct tape or WD40 doesn't fix it, I usually defer to someone else who knows what they're doing.

    Glad you enjoyed the review Rosey, Most of the shrub and tree prunings have been bagged in the past. It will be nice to recycle them into mulch right here. Now I'm thinking of the veggie beds, since the leaf mold is rapidly decomposing and it will soon be time for another layer of mulch.

    Definitely a time-saver Tina. Grrr, I hate the seedlings too. I'd be first in line for a machine to get rid of them.

    Very cool Meems! I'll be looking forward to seeing your review after you have time to test drive yours.

    I love the red too - next best thing to a new red convertible in the garage!

    Glad you enjoyed it Joey. For anyone with lots of shrub and tree pruning, it seems like a very good investment. Being able to make our own mulch is great - I know exactly what's in it. Not having to bag is not only better environmentally, it saves us money on bags, and on the stickers we have to put on each bag. $2.50 per sticker isn't much, but boy does it add up if you're sending all the yard waste away in bags. We already have pretty nice soil, and using all our leaves, lawn clippings, and now, twigs, brush, and branches as mulch makes the soil even better.

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  14. p.s. Joey, I sure do understand the sentimental value of your silver maple - how lucky you are to still be living in the home where your children planted the maple so long ago.

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  15. You are so lucky to get the opportunity to use this heavy duty shredder. Mature trees are always dropping sizable branches. How great to be able to use them for mulch instead of wondering what to do with them.

    Marnie

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  16. Linda,

    This a great review and it looks like an awesome tool to have around to make this job a lot easier.

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  17. I just followed MR.Brown Thumbs twitter about this article to your page. AWESOME CHIPPER. We almost bought one that went on the back of our John Deere at a garage sale but it needed way to much work. This is a great review... now I am double thinking that garage sale pass up!

    Happy Gardening

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  18. Great review and I do like the red! I could keep a machine like this running all day! Just no place to store it. gail

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  19. I have used a chipper shredder once when I was helping in my bonsai workshop. It's great. Make life so much easier :D

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  20. I feel lucky having the opportunity to test and keep the shredder Marnie.

    Thank you MBT. This machine sure will come in handy!

    Thanks for visiting Bren! You reminded me - I didn't mention in the review that the shredder comes with a tow bar. I'm not sure I will need that, but I'll bet it would be very helpful for some people, especially those with some acreage.

    Thank you Gail! I know what you mean about storage - I almost passed on this for something much smaller like a battery-powered weed whacker, especially since last fall the Lawn Man and his friend installed shelves, and we did a lot of organizing in the garage. I didn't want to add more stuff and clutter it up again. But all I had to do is move two coolers, and the shredder fits perfectly without being in the way.

    Thank you for visiting Sandy. I can see how a shredder would be very handy in a bonsai workshop with all that pruning.

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  21. Hey...I think we all could make room for this convenience. We went together with a neighbor once and bought one...they are invaluable when you have lots of trees. Enjoy!
    Balisha

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  22. That's a great idea to make it more affordable Balisha! This is a good candidate for sharing with a neighbor since it's generally only used occasionally.

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  23. Hi Garden Girl! Wondering if your Troy-Bilt chipper shredder has continued to work out for you? Do you have an update? I'd appreciate the opportunity to compare your experience. Thanks!

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  24. Hi Kelly! I love it! Last fall I used it again for the branches that accumulated over the summer, and I just pulled it out early this week to shred some leaves, and all the maple twigs/branches that accumulated over the winter. I had no problems with it either time. It ran great, and I used the mulch on that same little bed shown in the photo. No jams, no problems last fall or this spring.

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  25. I appreciate the work the Troy-Bilt chipper does, but I'd to make it easier to move when not attached to a machine. I've seen the handles Gorilla utility wagons have for pulling when not towed by a machine. Has anyone found a source for a handle that could be attached to the tow bar of the Troy-Bilt chippers?

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  26. I haven't seen a source for a handle that can be attached to the tow bar K.

    Considering how large and heavy the machine is, and that I'm a small-framed, slender, not-very-muscular middle-aged woman, I'm surprised how easy it is for me to move it.

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  27. Garden Girl, the reasons I'm looking for a handle to attach to the tow bar are that I sometimes need to load the chipper into a pickup, and our property is anything but level. Using the handle on the chute for pulling the machine uphill strains the chute's thin metal, resulting in a small crack at the top. The tow bar offers a sturdy means of moving the machine, but its low height is awkward when trying to move the chipper without using a tractor or quad.

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  28. Ah, that makes sense. We only have about 1/3 acre lot, and I mostly do my shredding on the driveway which is paved and fairly level. Since the chipper/shredder is stored in the garage, it's a short, easy trip out to the driveway.

    I hope you're able to find something that will work.

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