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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I approached my wife years ago about buying a chipper for our property (due to all of the dead fall and invasive brush I'm dealing with), but it wasn't considered a priority.

Fast-forward to today, and after someone in our community ignited a 25 acre brush down the road, the wife is now worried about all of our brush and dead fall. :sneaky: I'm going to try to run with it.

I don't have big blocks of time that I can dedicate to renting a chipper and spending days/hours just chipping. A chipper rental around me is $200-250 per day. I work and have young kids, so I get an hour here, an hour there. I think owning one is my best approach, so I'm researching my options, both new and used. I do not own a tractor with PTO, so it will have to be a dedicated unit.

Here is an intriguing option for new:
$4000ish, made in Canada
A good video review:

As I look for used options, I came across a Vermeer 625 for $4000. Looks rough but is claimed to run fine. Here is what a Vermeer 625 looks like -

The Split-Fire is attractive in that it seems to gravity-feed well, handles hardwood, is compact, less complicated, seems to feed fast, and I know it wouldn't be abused (one thing I fear is buying a "project" that needs rehab before it is usable; I know chippers get pretty abused). It is something I would likely keep around. If I got something like the Vemeer, I would own it long enough to clean up my property, then sell it.

Anyway, those are what I'm looking at right now. I would be interested in any insight from anyone on the topic!

Thanks!
 

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The Vermeer is a commercial machine, probably has a lot of hours on it which is likely why it is being disposed of. Bearcat makes good equipment aimed at the rental yards and high end consumer. The cheap box store brands are a complete waste of money, they won't stand up for long.
 

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Tagging along to follow @zuren 's chipper selection journey.

The first question that comes to mind looking at the two chippers being compared, is can the Vermeer 625 be maneuvered where you intend to use it on your property? Especially without a tractor? And perhaps clearance is tight in the area that needs to be cleared?

If the Vermeer is setup stationary in one location, where the truck towed it to and dropped it, will it be a time suck to drag all of the materials that need to be chipped up to the chipper, and then gather all the chips and distribute them back again where mulch is desired?

If the equipment purchased is used, will the limited time of only having an hour to spare here, or an hour there, be spent repairing the used chipper (removing blades to have sharpened, rebuilding the carburetor that leaks or is out of adjustment, lubricating the drum shaft bearings only to find that one has worn to the degree of requiring replacement, where the machine idles ok, but under load, the horrible wobble and vibration interferes with chipping efficacy, etc)?

In other words, will you then have TWO jobs to do, first as a chipper mechanic, then, finally, to chip the debris?

Will the full sticker no dicker retail cost of a brand new little machine, that may have a limited resale value (for reasons which will later be discussed) be worth the depreciation hit when compared to the cost of even as much as 10 days rental of a larger machine, that you don't have to maintain?

If past history is any indicator of future expectations, brand new little chipping machines that are self powered and a step up from home improvement stores, but a step down from what professional arborists use, typically cost in the $2,500 to $5,000 price range, options and year (inflation) depending. They typically get used for a little bit, the owner gets frustrated a little bit at the time it takes to get through the chipping task, the machines then get stored for a long time, and then finally get gotten rid of for about $500 to $900 sold used. So there is a $2,000 to $4,100 depreciation hit to be absorbed on a "prosumer" chipper, which isn't material if the chipper is adequate, never sold, useful for life, and passed down the family "tree" ha ha.

But that isn't what typically happens.

What the video on the 4090 doesn't show is all the time that transpired between the obvious jump cuts in the video. And all that time is often the reason why smaller chippers get mothballed. The video showed all the successful branch grinding moments in succession, one after the other, making the machine appear to be frustration free. But there were a lot of cuts in that video, likely where branches were not being cut, but were stuck fluttering on top of the flywheel. That is just supposition, and should not be taken as fact, only considered as a possibility, based on experience not with that particular machine, but with other machines in that class.

Analogous to where the rubber meets the road, some consideration might be given to where the wood meets the blade. There are disc style and drum style blade mounts. I would be curious about the merits and pit falls of each style of blade mount.

Likewise, I would give some consideration to the blades themselves. Are they hardened tool steel? Are replacements widely available, or are they of such a proprietary design, that they can only be obtained from the rusty crusty cabin of an eBayer who bought out all of the old stock parts inventory of the chipping machine manufacturer that went out of business 20 years earlier. Of course blades can be entirely custom made... including the drill hole locations that correspond with how they are retained by the machine... but what would that fortune cost?

A popular, widely used chipping machine, where replacement blade availability is broad and deep, might have merits. But not if the machine design sucks, and is only popular by virtue of it's low price.

Yes, blades can be sharpened, but only so far before they fall short of specification, where the short fall creates too great of gap between the blade and the anvil (wall or bottom of the hopper, depending on rotational axis orientation of flywheel or drum) where smaller diameter branches get pinched between the blade and the hopper wall, rather than cut.

Probably the second most important consideration, after the blade/drum/disc flywheel ensemble, is the type of feed... gravity, chuck and duck, or hydraulic. The almost vertical insertion angle of the gravity feed inlet hopper of the new red 4090 model presented was intriguing, in that a lot of competing chippers in the 3" to 5" cut capacity (8 hp to 16 hp) have an angled hopper inlet. The vertical inlet appears, at least on the video, to leverage the weight of the branch itself to apply more in-feed force, taking better advantage of gravity than, say, a 45° branch inlet hopper.

The disadvantage to the vertical inlet might be having to heave the heft of the heavy butt end of the branch up to the top of the hopper. This can be mitigated by bucking the heavier branches down to smaller, shorter, more weight manageable pieces, but that adds to the pre-chipping preparation time.

Pre chipping preparation time and branch processing (cutting branch Y's into straighter I's) is probably the single most time consuming factor in using a smaller capacity chipper.
That, and the time it takes to feed the pre trimmed stack of "straightened" branches one or two at a time into the machine. This takes an extraordinary amount of time, which is why most people recommend piling it up and renting a larger machine to knock it out. And then put their small chippers up for sale to clear room in the barn, at the aforementioned depreciation loss.

However, renting is not without inconvenience, even if the total cost of a weekly rental is still less than the depreciation hit from buying a new machine. It is a hassle to schedule the machine, to be a slave to that schedule when more important things come up in life, like a kid finally figuring out how to ride a bike without training wheels... an unpredictable moment that you can't be a part of because, well, the machine is $250 a day and time's a ticking. So the desire to purchase one to have on hand whenever is reasonable.

I'm following to see what you pick.
 
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I've a had a couple of chippers over the years, Troy Bilt Super Tomahawk (AKA - Super Clogger) and a small Mighty Mac hammer mill unit (which I keep for leaves and small stuff). I rented a towable Altec unit from Home Depot a few years ago for some storm damage, and it was really too big for me to want to do that again. I recently bought a Mighty Mac WC375. I've put 3 hours on it so far and really like it - chipped the advertised 3.75" limbs, and bunches of smaller limbs, and evacuates the chips well so they don't clog back up into the machine, did not have to process the branches as much either. It will pretty much eat anything limb that fits into the hopper. Easier to move around than the Troy Bilt and doesn't take up much room in the shed. DR Premier is the same machine painted orange with a higher price. My local dealer gave me a better price than ordering online and included setup at no change.

Mighty Mac Wood Chipper WC375 - MacKissic
 

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I watched the factory videos for both the Split-Fire chipper and the Mighty MacWC375. I have 2 problems with the Split-Fire. First is even with the 10 HP Honda, it seems to lack horse power as I can hear the engine slow down considerably when a 3"-4" piece is tossed in. Second is it sprays the chips over a very large area making clean up a real chore. One plus is it appears it can be upgraded to tow over the road. The Mighty Mac seems to have more power even though the engine is rated for 7 HP, and with the high discharge chute, can be directed into a trailer. Even without the trailer, the chips seem to be kept in a manageable pile. And the Mighty Mac costs substantially less. I own 2 Super Tomahawk chipper/shredders and an ancient MacKissic shredder that is driven off the PTO of my 316 Deere. I like the Super Tomahawk, but they have not been made in many years, parts are getting tough to find. If I was in need of a chipper, I'd be seriously considering the Mighty Mac WC375.
 

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Many years ago, I rented a small BearCat (8HP upright style) chipper shredder. It worked pretty well on the test that I did, but I realized I really needed something bigger with about 1/2 mile of trails on the property. I didn't have a tractor at the time so I wanted something that I could tow with my X300. I bought the BearCat towable chipper that claims to do up to 4.5" material. It was easy to two with the X300 which was great. But, feeding a chipper by hand is hard work. It took me a few hours to trim the vegetation on the trails. It took me days to chip it all and it was a lot of work and not much fun after a few hours.

A year or two later, I got a tractor and then I found a really good deal on a used Vermeer BC625A. Sunbelt Rentals was cleaning out old machines and I got one with 400-500 hours on it. It worked great and I loved using it. Then, it started foaming the hydraulic fluid. It took me a year or two to figure out enough about hydraulics to fix it (I replaced the pump and hoses, and coupler). I would have taken it in, but the closest dealer was 60-100 miles away and that was a lot more driving than I wanted to do to avoid spending the time to fix it.

So, my advice. Skip the smaller chipper unless you really have a small amount of chipping to do. I did okay reselling my, but it really was in like new condition and the new owners got a good discount compared to buying new. To use a small commercial chipper, you need a tractor to move it, unless you feel like moving a lot of brush by hand.

As far as horsepower goes, 10HP is not enough to continuously chip anything over an inch or two. My 25HP engine would die if it didn't have auto feed on anything larger than about 3-4" in diameter. At 6" diameter wood, it will take a few inches stop the feed wait a few seconds and then take another few inches. If it is just brush it can do that quickly at high speed.

As far as repairs go, I have the pump, belts, and blades. There is also normal maintenance. Having said all that, if this one ever dies completely, I will be on the lookout for another one.

All the profession tree guys hate on Vermeer. They much prefer the Bandit: Bandit Industries, Inc (banditchippers.com)

The Bandit 65XP has a 6x12 opening. This is great for dealing with Y branches and some types of material. I will say once you use a hydraulic feed chipper, you will never want to go back to the old way. But, even with it, it is a fair amount of work just lifting the brush, logs into the tray to get chipped.

So, you need something that can two a chipper that weighs a (literal) ton and a chipper with a hydraulic feed. Then you need to budget for maintenance of it all. This will not be cheap.
 

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Man, I wish I had of found this post when it was fresh. I’m fourth generation in the tree business. Our first chipper was a 16” Asplundh with a 300 ci Ford in line 6. Then we had a Vermeer 1250 diesel disc chipper. The Vermeer 6” is a nice chipper, just small. But it’s ten fold more than anything like a DR. I know Frog wound up with the 625, I think that was the way to go. A few weeks back I got a Bandit model 65. Similar to the Vermeer but it’s feed is 6X12”, where the Vermeer is 6X6. Got it at auction for $2000. Mine is so old it has a Wisconsin 4 cylinder on it. It’s also so old it only has about a pint of the original paint left on it. I think as I work on it,I’m going to change it to JD colors. These machines are so basic working on them is no big deal. I’ve chipped up one Bradford Pear, including branches that just fit in the 6” feed. Mine has auto feed but it’s not working. All that means is if I stick a 6” log in it, I have to use the manual feed lever to regulate bogging the engine down. No big deal. I took a big Maple down for a friend years ago. I was retired and didn’t have a chipper. The friend was cleaning up the mess. Another friend brought over a 10 hp Sears chipper. He ground up everything 2” and smaller. I was impressed by what it did. But, he started it up when the first limb hit the ground and it ran ten hours straight till the last limb was gone. That meant I had to scream at the top of my lungs all day trying to communicate with the ground crew. With my little Bandit they could have spread the brush neatly around the yard, I’d have been done hours earlier, and had all the brush up to 6” chipped in less than an hour. I’ll take a small commercial unit over a big homeowners any day.
 

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I've used a homeowner chipper and it worked for me. I seldom generated a big pile of brush, usually just a cart or 2 of trimmings and maybe a couple of tree limbs that have fallen in the yard. I'm the kind of guy that the homeowner machine is perfect for. I totally agree that anyone with larger acreage needs a bigger machine. I also agree that no matter what size machine is used, it is a lot of work to chip up any sizeable amount of wood and brush. The ads showing John Q. Public smartly dressed in khaki slacks and a clean polo shirt smiling while he loads his chipper are a bald faced lie. A person needs to be prepeared to sweat and get dirty while chipping up anything more than 5 twigs.
 

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Well, the big Maple in the post above was chipped up by one guy with the old 10HP Sears. Once I got the rookie ground guys keyed in. The job went well. I had it rigged so the butt/cut end came down. Two guys grabbed it and pulled it to the chipper guy. As one got the rope untied, the other cut off all the 2 inch limbs for the chipper, then cut the pole in one long length. The two grabbed it and carried it around back to cut up for firewood. By then I had the next limb ready. I could have gotten the job done faster. But, when I did get done, the job was finished and cleaned up. I was impressed with what that one guy did with that small machine.
 

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I'm your atypical homeowner. A friend(?) gave me an 8.5 hp Yardman vac/chipper that will eat 3" branches. It will self feed if there are not too many branches off the main stem rubbing in the feed chute. I've also rented a 6" Vermeer on 3 or 4 occasions for several tremendous piles of brush and tree limbs we cut down in our yard.

Believe me, you want the biggest, most powerful machine you can afford. There is always something a bit bigger that you will want to digest. I '?' the friend in the second sentence because that machine demands so much on the part of the operator. The Vermeer, with power feed, simply sucks it in, the work is getting the debris to the hopper. For your vertical feed machine, someone will have to hold the longer stuff upright until it gets chewed down in size.
 
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