What is the Difference Between a Chipper and a Shredder?

In This Article

At the Garden Shredder Review, we are often asked, “What is the difference between a Chipper and a Shredder”.  The answer might surprise you.

Garden Chippers and Shredders are the same thing.  In the US the term Chipper is more common though Shredder is also used.  In the UK the name Shredder is more common.

As we are based in the UK we are going to refer to the range of machines as Garden Shredders.  However, as will become clear, we vastly prefer the term – Garden Chippers.

Purpose of Garden Shredders

All chippers and shredders are designed to reduce the volume of woody waste.  Woody waste includes things like hedge trimmings and tree and rose prunings.  Anything with stiff, fibrous stems are good candidates for being reduced using your garden shredder.

Garden shredders are not designed for soft, green waste such as weeds or leaves.  We will come back to this point

A good garden chipper/shredder will reduce the volume of typical hedge trimmings by a factor of 15 to 20.  Cuttings from trees tend to be bigger and more dense to start with.  The reduction ration will be smaller at around 10 to 1.

Garden Chipper – More Accurate and Descriptive

The name chipper more accurately reflects just what the machine does.  Most garden shredders sold in the UK (whether electric or petrol) are rotary, impact machines. Impact shredders use high speed, revolving blades to repeatedly chop at the clippings and cuttings to be reduced which quite naturally produces wood chips as the output.

The blades cannot cut through larger branches in one pass.  Instead, the design of the machines allows the blades to repeatedly chop at the branches creating many, small wood chips.  It is exactly the same process as chips being produced by an axe cutting through a log.  Take a look at this post for a more in-depth explanation of how impact shredders work.

The video below just helps to convey this idea of repeated chopping producing wood chips.

Why we prefer the term Chipper 

As we mention above, all garden shredders are designed to reduce woody cuttings and prunings.  They are not designed for soft, green waste.  Told you we would come back to this point.

The word ‘chipper’ conveys the idea that they work on wood.

Axe Striking a tree.  Chip flying off.
That’s what you call a ‘Chip’. Happens around 50 ttimes a second in an impact shredder.

The top complaint users have about Garden Shredders is that they don’t cope with soft, green waste well.  It bears repeating – chippers/shredders are designed for woody waste.  That purpose is made clear from the use of the name ‘Chipper’

The name Chipper therefore reflects the job for which chippers and shredders are designed.  If you think ‘Chipper’, you are less likely to use the machine for weeds, grass, leaves or other, equally unsuitable materials.

Why we don’t like the term shredder.

If you haven’t already noticed, we don’t like the use of Garden Shredder.  The primary reason is that it does not convey the role of the machine.  It implies that materials passed through the machine will be ripped up or shredded into strips. 

As being torn into strips is not something we associated with wood, it leads to people thinking they are good for use on softer, green materials.

Using the chipper/shredder for more succulent waste most frequently leads to blockages and jamming.  Clearing jams can be tedious and time consuming.  Perhaps worse, Garden Shredders, particularly high-speed impact machines, are easily damaged by soil or small stones.  If you are putting weeds or fallen leaves through the machine you are very likely to be including soils or stones.

Is chipper a better name for quiet shredders too?

Roller/crusher shredders use a much slower rotational mechanism which is inherently quieter.  For this reason, they are often marketed as quiet (or even silent).  Take a look at this post for a more in-depth explanation for how quiet shredders work.

While quiet shredders don’t chop at branches and cuttings, they are still designed to crush and cut the introduced waste into smaller, more manageable, chips.

Quiet shredders are, even more than an impact machine, designed for woody waste. As they produce chips the name chipper would still apply.

Conclusion

This post has been a bit of a rant.  We see so many negative reviews of Garden Shredders that stem from them being abused.  We believe that the term ‘Chipper’ better represents how these machines should be used.

The simple conclusion – there is no difference between the chippers and shredders.  They are the same machines and do the same job.