Chicago Tools 2.5 HP CHIPPER SHREDDER at Harbor Freight
Unpacking and Assembly
Upon opening the box, the chipper was well packed in Styrofoam, with the wheels cleverly hidden inside other pieces of the machine. None of the components were missing, and all of the tools necessary for assembly were included in the package.
The chipper was actually pretty heavy for it's size, and seemed to be well built. Assembly took about 10 minutes and was uneventful. The instructions, will not thorough, were complete and described the assembly procedures well enough.
Once assembled, the chipper seems relatively sturdy. It was a little clumsy to roll around because of it's size/weight ratio. The machine stands about three feet high, which is just about perfect for stuffing limbs down it's infeed. The infeed itself is actually a five inch slot with a rubber stop under it as opposed to round hole. This allows offshoots of the tree limbs to fit down into the chipper with a fair amount of ease.
At first, let me say that it is vital to wear protective gloves and eye protection when operating this chipper. The chipper practically inhales the branches you feed it, and in some cases can rip them out of your hands. At times, the branches are prone to spinning around a bit, and could easily smack you in the face.
The first thing I noticed upon power-up was that this chipper is actually pretty quiet. No hearing protection is needed during operation, as it is just not loud enough to warrant such protection.
Feeding branches into the infeed is relatively easy. The largest diameter I fed today was about an inch or so, and the chipper handled it with ease. There is no need to force branches into the infeed, as the design of the chipper actually sucks the material into the machine, making infeed a breeze.
I used a plastic packing tote under the outfeed to collect the chipped wood, and it seemed to work pretty well. It was just the right size to fit under the outfeed without throwing chipped wood all over the place. I recommend this method to anyone who buys this chipper.
There is a protection circuit in the chipper that throws a circuit breaker, stopping the motor if it gets clogged. At one point, I overloaded the infeed and the circuit breaker worked as advertised. After unplugging the chipper, opening the throat plate, and clearing the clog, I was able to reset the breaker and continue chipping. The entire process was actually pretty easy, and is a good design in my opinion.
The chipper does a fantastic job of turning tree limbs into shredded mulch. The mulch pieces are quite small, with the largest few pieces as big around as a nickel. Most of the mulch was much smaller though, about the size of a few grains of rice bunched together.
Cleaning the chipper after I was done was very easy. There is a single knob used to open the throat plate. Once open, you can easily get to the blade and the upper part of the infeed to wipe everything down. There are two blades attached to a spindle, each held on with two bolts. Removing and replacing the blades looks to be an easy process, although I didn't perform this action today.
The unit is large enough to get the job done, and small enough to store easily in the garage without taking up much room. The mulch produced by the chipper is very good size, and very consistent. Operation is easy, and even though I was concerned that the 2.5 HP would bog down often, the motor is indeed powerful enough to chop up 1" branches without a problem.
Overall I am very pleased with this product, especially since I haven't found anything remotely similar in this price range. Home Depot and Lowe's both sell chipper/shredders for around $500, all of which are large and bulky and run off gasoline powered engines. For casual homeowner use, these machines are just too large and expensive. The Chicago Tools 2.5 HP Chipper Shredder from Harbor Freight, on the other hand, is perfect for a homeowner like me.
I enthusiastically give this product two thumbs up, and would definitely recommend it to anyone in the market for a low priced chipper shredder.