In April, I was approached by Troy-Bilt to see if I’d be interested in reviewing one of their products. Since I’d had such a good experience with their tiller last year, I said “Absolutely!” I hate being put in a situation to deliver a negative review and I was certain that wouldn’t happen with a Troy-Bilt product (and it didn’t BTW).

I also think that due to home owners’ increasing awareness of organic gardening and environmentally sound lawn care, folks are likely to consider taking a more hands-on approach to their own landscaping. And one of the biggest challenges for the DIY landscaper is dealing with the sometimes HUGE quantity of tree limbs, leaves and brush that a single plot is capable of producing. Even in an urban environment where grassy areas may be small or nonexistent, tree limbs can still pose a challenge to keeping your area tidy.

This is why I chose to review Troy-Bilt’s chipper/shredder model CS4325. I chose the non-vacuum version because I felt a vacuum may pose more challenges in an urban setting where it may accidentally take up non-plant related materials such as broken bottles, used condoms and the ever present rat carcasses ;-P Not to mention having to maneuver it around tight corners  or narrow pathways often found in urban hamlets.

But if you have a lawn and are interested in the vacuum model, head over to Kylee’s review of one of the other Troy-Bilt models. Between the two of us, I think you’ll have a wider view of Troy-Bilt’s various chipper/shredder features.

Unpacking from the Crate.

Yes, a girl can do this. It isn’t that hard. Although I had my husband (a.k.a. Hipster Pete) do the work so I could photograph and videotape, this unit is really not that hard to maneuver or use.

unloading chipper/shredder from box

Click to get a closer view of the unloading effort. Use heavy duty box cutters and watch out for staples.

  1. Cut away the double walled box while leaving the unit on the shipping pallet. There is NO WAY you’re going to lift this box off the crate or lift the unit out of the box. You’re going to have to cut down one or two side walls and roll the unit out.
  2. Watch those staples, don’t let them scrape your arm or hide on the floor near your car tires.
  3. Once the cardboard is removed from one or two sides, just roll the unit off the pallet, easy peasy.
  4. Remove all components from the hopper (red tow bar, white catcher bag, goggles, tow bar pins, 2 manuals, 1 quart of oil).
  5. Now grab a lemonade and read the manuals to familiarize yourself with the components and safety requirements.

Overview of Chipper/Shredder.

While it is a large, heavy, shiny, butch thing, the wheels are big enough to make it easy to roll, and the starting cable—while a tough pull—is not so tough I couldn’t get it started first try.

Diagram of Troy-Bilt CS4325 Chipper/Shredder

Click on diagram to enlarge. The biggest reason for the chipper/shredder not starting is that folks leave either the white bag or the tow bar in the hopper. These gotta come out first, THEN the unit will start.

Hopper: This is the large upper area shown in the diagram. It is for ½-inch or smaller twigs and we found that you could put several through at once.

Chute: The smaller angled chute is to the side. There is a latch where you can pin it up during storage and lower it for actual use. This chute will take up to 3-inch diameter branches.

Engine: There is a separate manual for just the engine. This manual covers all the maintenance and technical stuff associated with the engine. The engine has its own 800 number for technical assistance.

Tow bar: The tow bar ships inside the main hopper along with all the other accessories and it’s painted red like the hopper. I initially saw the bar and tugged on it but it didn’t budge so I thought it was part of the hopper. Of course the unit wouldn’t start with the tow bar inside. You must remove it first.

Bag and attaching it: The bag is HUGE! Yes, you could fit maybe two bodies in it if they’re chipped. To attach, snuggle it over the entire area around the lower exit chute making sure the bag is secured over the knobs. Tighten the bag’s belt as much as possible. Arrange the bag out straight from the chipper/shredder so the chips can fill it without any obstructions or twisted fabric. I can’t stress enough that you need to secure this bag. IF it comes off during operation, you’ll have wood bits blown at least 3 car-lengths away not to mention all in your hair. Trust me on this.

Make sure the bag goes completely around the exit chute components and tighten it as much as humanly possible.

The Chipper/Shredder in Action.

We tested the chipper/shredder on 4 huge bundles of branches/twigs/brush that had been gathering for a year in a hopeless ‘compost pit’ that I dug. Our neighbor to the North also contributed many branches from his red bud and crabapple while our neighbor across the alley brought over several small trees that succumbed to a recent renovation project.

Just a portion of the branches, twigs and brush we'd collected.

We used about 1.25 gallons of regular unleaded and that enabled us to clear out all the stuff that had gathered in the corner of our yard: about 10 x 4 x 4 feet of crammed branches, twigs and woody brush some of which was damp from being on the lower part of the pile. Add in the neighbors’ large branches, then we threw in some huge green weedy things just to see what would happen.

All in all, 3 households put this beast through its paces and in about an hour, we had whittled everything down to 2 very large garden carts of very fine mulch.

In a nutshell, this thing is a beast. Amazing power and never failed.

Test results:

Challenge Result
Damp brush/twigs No noticeable difference in handling
Grassy stuff and leaves Ate it like a champ
Woody branches up to 3-inch diameter Gobbled every bit

Tips:

  • The unit is wide; measure before you try maneuvering it around tight corners or through gates.
  • Wear ear plugs, seriously.
  • Wear the goggles supplied or others that you have. There will be a lot of airborne particles and the chips do fly.
  • Wear sturdy gloves like Ethel Gloves.
  • Don’t reach into the hopper or chute while the unit is running. Follow the safety guidelines in the manual.
  • Don’t let kids put sticks in the unit. Sticks can whip around, smacking them, and a child looking into the chipper chute is not a good thing.
  • Run it at full throttle, don’t attempt to save gas by running it with the throttle halfway. This can result in jammed wood and wood chips that aren’t as small as they should be. Full throttle ensures those flails are fully extended (more on that in a minute).
  • Some branches will need to be broken down to fit into the hopper or chute if they are wide, forked branches. I kept my Felcos handy and DH used the table saw for any branches that forked off beyond the 3-inch maximum diameter. Keep in mind, the hole down at the bottom of the large branch chute is only 3 inches wide. Stuff must fit through there to get shredded.

Here's an example of a branch that won't fit. While the branch itself is 3 inches, the Y-formation at its end is not. This one must be further cut down in order to feed through the chute.

  • While you can most likely shred green weeds, I don’t recommend it because that’s a great way to spread weeds throughout your yard. I’d just let those things compost or something where the weed seeds or rhizomes will be killed.

Greens and browns do appear to be possible but I'd be careful of shredding weeds that contain seeds or live rhizomes. You wouldn't want to spread weeds throughout your yard.

Flails: Get Medieval on that Rubbish.

While traditional medieval flails often came in contact with humans, modern flails in chipper/shredders only do the same in movies like Fargo. And while they share a name, they are totally different in design.

While an effective tool for Buffy, medieval flails are NOT the same as the modern flails in a chipper/shredder.

Troy-Bilt chipper/shredders use flail “blades” to demolish your yard waste and the flail assembly is incredibly efficient. You should know that they’re also noisy. Especially when you turn off the unit. Flails consist of a lot of little blades that are folded neatly together until the engine is started, then the flails are fully extended while running. When you turn the engine off, the assembly slows down and the blades fold back together and make a lot of racket—this is normal. Honestly, they sound like Buffy is in there wreaking havoc but not to worry. NOTHING is falling apart; the blades are just collapsing into their stationary position. It will sound like metal chunks are flying about and you’ll probably look around the ground for loose bolts and change but this noise is perfectly normal.

Why Do It Yourself?

There is an increasing trend among communities to charge home owners for collecting yard waste. Not only do many folks now have to buy special yard waste bags, they also have to purchase yard waste stickers to put on the bags. Each week I see dozens of full yard waste bags with little official stickers lining our alley as folks attempt to keep their yards clean without composting or mulching. AND, there is evidently a market for stolen stickers as we have had our large trash stickers stolen if we put them out too early.

Why Waste Good Yard Waste?

Honestly, I don’t get folks who don’t compost or mulch. Seriously, it’s 2010 and we should have moved beyond trying to ‘dispose’ of grass clippings, leaves and tree branches. In fact, we had an alley clean up this past weekend, sponsored by our Village Hall. And get this, I offered to take all tree branches and leaves so folks wouldn’t have to bag and sticker everything and leave it curbside for 4 days—only ONE taker. Yes, it’s true; only one person among all the homes backing to our alley took me up on the offer. Others said they’d rather bag. (And don’t even get me started on the chemicals that the Village Hall of Oak Park made available to everyone who wanted to kill weeds in the alley! What was it Hemingway said about Oak Park? Oh yeah, “town of wide lawns and narrow minds.”)

Even so, I can very easily see a situation where MORE environmentally aware and organic neighborhoods band together and share a chipper/shredder to take advantage of their own compostable materials. Chipper/shredders are also great tools for hard-core gardeners and large-scale community gardens too.

The Environmental Factor.

Yes, this is a gas-device and (regular ole unleaded is fine). And yes there are electric chipper/shredders available but they don’t have the power to handle the big stuff and certainly don’t chip to a 1/10 ratio. Even if you tried a 2.5HP electric chipper, it’s not going to have the torque of a gas-powered engine.

I figure we’d use a chipper/shredder less often than a lawn mower or snow blower. And since I have nothing against snow, our old Honda mulching lawn mower poses a higher environmental impact than a chipper/shredder would.

Also consider that depending on where you live, electricity may come from nuclear power plants OR wind turbines. Most municipalities don’t have a choice for green energy. So you have to decide between your own local electricity source and petrol. It’s really personal from both a sourcing/green perspective and a use/efficiency perspective. If you don’t have woody shrubs or trees, save your money and use your lawn mower to mulch leaves and grass. But because I live in a heavily wooded suburb, I’ll be using the gas powered—just making sure I don’t buy gas from those morons at BP—and run it only when needed.

Side note: We still love our Honda mulching mower BTW. Honda was creating mulching mowers way back when everyone else was still deciding if mulching while you mow was good for your lawn.

Gas Has an Expiration Date.

Who knew? I certainly didn’t. Matt from Troy-Bilt educated me on this fact: gas actually does get old and it’s not very good for engines at that point. If you’re running a lawn mower weekly you won’t need to worry until the end of the season. But if you’re only running a chipper/shredder once or twice a year, listen up: buy a gas stabilizer and blend it with your gallon of gas BEFORE you put the gas in the tank. The tank can’t blend the two very well so blend beforehand.

My Overall Recommendation.

I have absolutely no complaints about the Troy-Bilt CS4325 Chipper/Shredder. It did everything that was expected of it. The manuals could be better designed for ease of use but the info you need is all there.

I’ve been thinking over the past week, trying to come up with any criticisms I have of the unit. I honestly don’t have any…wait, oh yeah, it doesn’t bake bread ;-P

My Own Stupid Moment.

I did feel incredibly stupid after leaving the tow bar in the hopper thinking it was part of the hopper because it was stuck and painted red. I even searched through the other materials looking for the tow bar and assumed I got a box that was missing one. It wasn’t until Troy-Bilt’s area manager came out and pulled the tow bar out of the hopper did I realize that thing was actually the tow bar. Yes, I felt incredibly dumb in front of the area manager. I’m sure he was wondering if I even knew the different between the choke and the throttle. But he was insanely nice about the whole thing.

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