Review time. Well, review + how-to. Written like I might copy and paste it as a product review.
I bought a wood chipper because I have lots of long, 0.5"-5" thick branches with leaves to dispose of - enough that taking them to yard waste recycling is not an attractive proposition. A lot of chipper/shredders seemed to have a separate feed for chipping
(pictured above), one that is small enough that they appear to require thinning the branches out to pass them through. I don't know how true this is, but it's why I went for the single, conical feed where I could theoretically feed a bushy tree branch. Importantly, having usable mulch wasn't a goal of mine, so I was willing to risk chunkier output that might come with a single chipping function.
So I bought the Power King 7hp for about $1000.
Assembly was a reasonably-straightforward hour or so. The machine is basically a Kohler engine strapped to a chipping chassis that's of different build quality
. On a positive note, no welds or fittings appeared unsound, but the thing is covered with the absolute minimum-effort paint process. Breathing on it wrong will scratch the orange paint right off. While it's not particularly concerning for my low-mobility purposes, the wheels are held on to the axle with just a cotter pin, so they slide left and right as you pull the thing.
As many others did, I immediately removed the 'OSHA curtain'
, as it looked like it would inhibit the feeding process. I later found that it does indeed have the purpose of blocking much of what the PK throws back out of the hopper - so eye protection is critical, curtain or no.
Using the PK is a matter of learning curve
. I jammed it a half-dozen times in my first few hours of use and have since gotten considerably better at it.
- Volume matters. If you dump a bag of leaves in the hopper, the PK won't throw them out fast enough and you'll have a jam. This is not a major usability concern (for me) unless you're unaware of it.
- Branch diameter. I put a piece of e-tape (see above) on the hopper measuring the advertised 3" to avoid feeding anything too big. Maybe, on a good day, if you feed the PK a 3" piece of balsa wood that's been in an autoclave for 30 years it'll handle it. Practically, I've found that you max out at 1.5" or so. If this didn't cover 70% of the branches I'd be chipping, I would have returned the thing straight away. But I'm still rather salty about its disparity from the advertised capabilities.
- You have to feed it slowly. That is, take a long branch that isn't bushier than, say, 2', and feed it slowly into the PK, thick-end first. You'll listen to the engine to know how fast to feed it and get the hang of it pretty quickly. The PK pulls branches in far faster than it can chip them, so you have to control the autofeed until you're getting down to the 0.5" diameter range where you let go and find out if the branch was too bushy.
- Always watch the hopper and exhaust. The hopper will sometimes have debris that bounces up and down and is never sucked through, this is because the exhaust is clogged. Leaves and wet branches sometimes pass through the PK and get caught on the exhaust spout, causing everything else to bounce back into the chipper chamber. Most times you can clear them without opening the exhaust, then look to see that hopper debris has passed through. In this vein, it's best not to angle the exhaust pipe.
Problem solving requires removing two nuts for the hopper, exhaust, and/or the shaft cover
. A quick release mechanism for these would significantly improve user experience, but after getting used to the limitations of the PK, it's not too bad. Manually turning the shaft to expel branches caught between the chipper drum and chamber works most times, but if it's really bad you'll just strip the shaft.
At one point I was using a drill and sawzall to unstick the chipper. Another design flaw - there are bolts sticking out where you have to manually turn the shaft, so your wench can only hit it from certain positions and for a very small rotation.