The Differences Between a Wood Chipper and Wood Shredder

You are in the store for power tools, but you need something bigger than your essential gardening tools. You need to clean up some debris, but you are unsure which tool you need to buy. Specifically, you cannot decide between the wood chipper and the wood shredder. Nothing to worry or be embarrassed about. This is a common question amongst the general people. Most of us are oblivious to the differences between a wood chipper and a wood shredder. Even Wikipedia has only one page for both the wood chipper and the wood shredder! So, we have to take matters into our own hands to figure out whichever we want between these two, so that you can buy the best shredder and keep it working.

wood chipper or wood shredder
wood chipper or wood shredder?

Understanding the difference between a wood shredder and a wood chipper is the first step towards buying them. And we cannot decide between buying or renting one of these two without having a definite idea about what they are or what they do. So, before going in for the kill, let us first get to know about them, and when we are a little bit more ready, we can do what we need to do. Don’t forget to consider a leaf blower or set of loppers to get the wood and leaves into the shredder!

What is a Wood Chipper?

A wood chipper, also known as a tree chipper, is a machine that is used to reduce wood or tree materials such as trunks, tree branches, sticks, or stumps, into smaller wood chips. These tools are usually quite portable, traditionally mounted on frames or wheels suitable for towing behind a van or a truck. 

Wood chippers come in different styles and sizes, but all of them have the same basic function. A large hopper is included in their features, and this is where we have to feed the wood into a long chute that serves as a disposal part, and it has to eject the wood chips. Inside the machine, there is a big flywheel with one or more blades attached to it. And their primary power source is an engine, and that engine is powered by gas or electricity. When we feed the wood materials into the large Hopper, the wheel inside rotates at an incredible speed, and the blades cut the wood material into smaller wood chips. Finally, the machine ejects those chips through the long chute, which works as the disposal part. 

Wood chippers’ primary function is to chip wood, to put it simply. To say it more eloquently, they convert large chunks of wood into smaller, refined wood chips. The internal part of a wood chipper is stacked with really sophisticated technology. This sophisticated equipment is formed by various elements such as the Hopper, the collar, the chipper, the chute and, the collection bin. It also has an engine powered by fossil-fuels or electricity, just like any other high-powered tools. The machine and the blades are connected through v-belts and pulleys and are usually maintained by a gearbox. All these systems work together to rotate the wheel and pull the edges together with the pulley at speed set by the internal gears.  

What is a Wood Shredder? 

Wood shredders look like a small brother of the wood chipper. It seems like they are smaller versions of wood chippers with a few physical differences. Wood shredders also have a chute, and we feed the wood materials into this chute similar to the wood chipper. It also has an opening through which the materials are to be ejected. On the inside, the wood shredders have somewhat blunt blades. These slightly dull blades are called flails. They are used to reduce or break down small chunks of organic materials. Many shredders have the option to choose the size of the finished pieces. The flail system shreds and mashes materials, which, as a result, produces small pieces that are usable as mulch or be composted. 

Some apparent things to notice are that there are two hoppers in wood shredders, whereas the wood chipper has only one. Also, unlike the wood chipper, the wood shredder does not have a long ejection chute but rather a short one. Wood shredders have a similar way of operations as the weed whacker. The distinction between them is that the strings are placed vertically and are attached to a central drum. The weed whacker is generally used for soft materials like leaves and cannot handle any hard materials of any kind and thus different from the wood shredder. 

The wood shredder has a small engine, and its blades are blunt. As a result, wood shredders do not have the energy or the power to break large wood materials down. They are mostly used for home gardeners and mostly small open spaces, and for people who have branches and leaves to shred. The smallest type of wood shredders does not have a metal flail but nylon cutting strings instead.

The internal arrangement of a wood chipper and a wood shredder is quite similar. Just like a wood chipper, a wood shredder also has a bladed flywheel attached to it. Its purpose is to chip. The main distinction between the wood chipper and the wood shredder is that the wood shredder has sets of blunt or dulled blades or hammers, which are called flails. These are located on the opposite side of the flywheel. These are used to reduce or destroy soft organic materials like leaves, twigs, etc. When they have been shredded, the wood chips are then ejected through the machine’s side or bottom. 

The wood shredder has another unique feature built-in it. It gives the user the option to choose the size of the output. The set of steel blades or flails shred and mash the wood material, producing smaller pieces that can be used as mulch or be composted afterwards. The wood shredder can easily be transported by hand or can be pushed around on properties and can also be easily stored away when it is not in use. We can produce valuable mulch from the final shredded products and unwanted yard waste to use as fertilizer or compost in our gardens. 

Wood Chipper vs Wood Shredder 

The concept of chipping and shredding are two different things, but a lot of people tend to confuse them. The main distinction between the wood shredder and the wood chipper is how they reduce or break down natural material. A wood chipper is designed especially for handling large wood materials such as bigger pieces of wood or larger branches and then breaking them down into smaller chips. On the other hand, a wood shredder uses blunt edges or flails to pull apart or crush the material, leaving it in a state where it is ready to be composted. Although a lot of people use these terms interchangeably, there is a difference between them. The chippers normally take care of more massive lumps of wood or larger stumps. On the other hand, the shredders are designed to process other offshoots like leaves or softer debris like landfills.

Shredders can be a perfect solution to the everlasting problem of landfills. You won’t’ need to take the hassle of burning or stacking the waste materials if you plan to use a shredder. The machine will help you break down the unnecessary offshoots and branches by transforming them to mulch after you feed them through the chute into the shredder engine. The mulch is extremely rich in nutrients for your plants too.

Types of Chipper

Now that we are clear about the differences between wood chippers and wood shredders, we should also note that not all chippers are the same. The differences between chippers are not based on how they work but rather on how they are built. These variances are related to power and strength, not to mention the size for us to get the model best suited to our work. 

  • Drum Chipper: These chippers are mainly characterized by the parallel-sided drum, accompanied by the horizontal direction’s knives. The drum chipper is primarily designed for larger branches or even logs. They are usually gas-powered and can be mounted on trailers for mobility and stability. The drum chipper is quite durable and robust. It is generally used to chip large materials. We have to take care not to let it handle small materials as the drum chipper does not handle small materials well. These are widely used by land developers to clear forestry and by workers in the park.
  • Disk Chipper: Along with a flywheel and slitted steel disks, the disk chipper uses sharp chopping blades to chip out debris from wood. The blades usually spin in a vertical motion to achieve this result. The blade, which is placed on a roller belt, slides through the wood tips as they are pushed into the chipper. The knife in the throat of the chipper cuts in the opposite direction. The shape of the blades varies according to the model of the disk chipper. The disk chippers are very useful, and they can handle a variety of debris, such as trunk materials and larger branches. The size they can handle is directly related to the size of the machine. If the wood material is large, we are going to need a large disk chipper.
  • Screw Chipper: The screw chippers are the ones that are commonly used. Its blade of the interior consists of a conical, stretching, and screw-shaped blade. The long, spiral-shaped blade has sharpened edges for chopping wood. The rotation of the screw chipper blade is set to a parallel direction to the wood refuse’ openings, as the spiral motion of the blade is pulling in the wood material. Most of the screw chippers have more than one chute. They are used to feed woody materials, and more refined materials separately using hammers and flails to pulp up or shred smaller debris. The machines come in a wide array of designs and models that are made specifically for home use or in the industrial zones. By a rule of thumb, a bigger machine means better performance and greater ability to handle more waste materials

What to look for in a wood chipper

Buying any piece of equipment requires research to determine our exact needs. The wood chippers are no exception. There are a few things which we need to take note of when buying a wood chipper.

  •  Size of Branches They Can help Chip: Every wood chipper has its limits, and a maximum branch diameter defined that the wood chipper can successfully reduce to chips. So, if we want the wood chipper to work successfully and efficiently, we have to match the wood materials’ size to chip to the maximum limit of the wood chipper’s capability. For example, suppose we are planning on some heavy-duty work which involves larger trees and big branches. In that case, we are going to need a larger and more powerful chipper, which can let’s say, chip wood materials up to 6 inches in diameter. 
  •  Power Source: Just as wood chippers come in a variety of strengths and sizes, they can also be powered by different types of power sources such as electric motors, fossil fuel engines, and the PTO on a tractor. Chippers powered by gasoline engines and tractor PTOs are more extensive and require more effort to move around, but they have the ability and the power to handle large branches. While the electric-powered chippers are smaller, portable, and easier to maintain, they do not have the energy or the capacity to handle the larger wood materials.
  •    Reduction Ratio: The reduction ratio of the material determines the efficiency of the chipper. A chipper with a reduction ratio of 12:1 will be more efficient than a chipper with that of 8:1.
  •  Separate Shredding Chute: Some chippers come equipped with smaller secondary chutes, which are used for shredding small debris, such as leaves.
  • Bag Capacity: Some chippers have bags to catch the wood chips which come out from the machine. Though it is very convenient, we have to take the size of the bag into account. The smaller the size of the bag, the more frequently it has to be emptied. For example, a bag with a maximum capacity of 3 bushels of wood chips will have to be emptied much more regularly than a bag with a capacity of 10 bushels of wood chips.  

What is the best electric wood chipper for home use?

One of the most frequently asked questions is what wood chipper is the most suitable for home-usage. While many models give us options to choose from, it also becomes a little confusing to choose from various options. Here we are going to talk about the wood chippers that have caught our eyes.  

1.   Patriot Products CSV-2515 Electric Wood Chipper

Product Link: Click Here

Product Description:

This chipper is cited as the best in the market. It is fantastic for regular yard work, and despite being an electric chipper, it is built in every way like the gasoline shredders.


  • Can produce chips out of branches that are 2.5 inches in diameter
  • Massive Hopper unit on the top
  • Easy one-switch on and off function
  • Smooth and noise-free motor inside the machine with low maintenance required
  • Disposal chute designed on to the side for easy accessibility
  • Standard collection bag attached to the chute for convenience in recycling or disposal 

2.   Sun Joe CJ603E 15-Amp 1.7-Inch Cutting Diameter Electric Silent Wood Chipper/Shredder, green

Product Link: Click Here

Product Description:

This model is an ideal choice for gardeners with smaller yards or branches to shred. There are a lot of features in this particular model that is simply wonderful. With this chipper shredder, you get the power of electric in a portable size.


  •  Ideal for turning leaves, twigs, brush, and branches into nutrient-rich mulch
  • Rated Voltage 120 V ~ 60 Hzr
  •   15-amp motor effectively chips and shreds branches up to 1. 73-inches thick
  • Compact design with 7-inch wheels for easy portability


We should always choose a wood chipper or wood shredder according to property maintenance requirements. If we have too large a machine, then we might clean up the small debris. On the other hand, if we have too small a machine, taking care of the larger debris will not be possible. So, we should always assess our needs first and then approach accordingly.

Find this content useful? Support us by checking out the affiliated links below:

Check out other popular electric gardening tools!

Electric Gardening Tools

I've been raised in a family of international gardeners spanning multiple generations, from vegetable growers in Germany to fruit tree growers in Iran. I hope you find the information you read useful to using electric gardening tools in gardening.

Recent Content