Notes from Windward: #64

Wood Chipper Report

generating a uniform feed stock from forest waste

     For years, we've been gathering up forest waste and burning it. Since we live in the forest, we have to be prepared for fire, and the best way to do that is to remove the accumulation of dead limbs and trees that litter the woods. When a fire comes through, that's the stuff that burns with enough heat to kill the live trees. Remove it and the fire doesn't have enough fuel to do more than clear the brush.

     Every spring and fall, we've invested time and effort clearing more of our forest steadily pushing the fire danger ever farther back from our buildings. Instead of just piling up brush and burning it, we can now turn a liability into an asset - i.e. wood chips.

     To do the job right we knew we'd need a powerful chipper, but rather than go with a self-powered unit, we elected to go with one that could be driven by the tractor's "PTO" (stands for Power-Take-Off) drive. The PTO is a shaft that comes out the back end of the tractor and is used to power equipment being pulled by the tractor, equipment such as a baler or power rake. One supplier for this type of chipper is KPX Tractor Systems out of Gilbert, AZ.

      By the time we got it home and assembled, we barely got to chip anything before snow settled in for the winter. Fast-forwarding five months, a spring windstorm brought down a dead pine, and in the process of cleaning that up we finally got a chance to try out the chipper generating three 55 gallon drums of chips.

a barrel of chips

      The feed belt needed tightening (the manual was less than comprehensive) and the V-belt died before we noticed the problem, but once that was replaced, the feed mechanism worked fine.

     The upshot is that we're very happy with this piece of gear and can now continue to clear forest whenever it's convenient, instead of having to wait for conditions that make it safe to burn. Also, since Windward can get real dusty during its dry season, the wood chips are handy for spreading on the ground to keep the dust down.

     Now that we've got a way to convert forest waste into a uniform fuel, the next step will be to create a sort of over-grown pellet stove that will burn the waste to power our steam generator.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 64