Tuesday, January 27, 2009
This past Thursday I got home from work and was browsing Craigslist. As usual, there were no interesting motorcycles or guitars for sale. I meandered into the farm and garden section, as its always interesting to see what animals are available to buy. There are often goats and chickens, horses of course, but rarely sheep. It disappoints me that there aren't more sheep, really. Anyway, I was scrolling down the page and there it was. My chipper. I have been looking for a decent chipper for ages to clear the ever growing pile of dead wood accumulating behind my compost station. That pile recently put on a big spurt, as a result of me chopping all the dead and dying limbs from our three gigantic Crepe Myrtles out front. In fact, I pruned (in some cases razed to the ground) several shrubs around the yard a few weeks ago. So I needed a chipper, but all I had seen before were chipper/shredder/leaf vacs that only took very skinny limbs, or these monstrous chippers that will devour entire trees and need to be towed behind a lorry. This little guy was perfect for my needs. A 5hp engine, 2" diameter capacity. And he looked to be in good condition.
The key with Craigslist is to act fast. When I bought my punchbag no fewer than three interested parties called while I was there collecting it. I wasted no time picking up the phone to find out if my quarry was still available. Yes, it was, and yes, I could come right round to take a look! The gentleman owner had just used it a few times clearing some brush at the back of his yard, and it had been sitting a while since then. This, of course, meant that it would start, but he assured me it ran well and it was too good an opportunity to pass up. The deal made, I loaded it into my truck and headed for home, trying not to speed despite my excitement.
On Saturday I took to task getting my boy running. Earlier attempts on previous evenings suggested that the gas was bad, the carb was gummed up and the throttle/choke didn't seem to be operating too well. I drained the carb and sprayed a ton of carb cleaner in. I replaced the air filter, but the spark plug looked in good condition. Still the engine wouldn't quite get up to speed. I poured out most of the old gas, and diluted down the rest with freshly pumped fuel. A bit better this time, but still just barely turning over. I was just about to concede that I just don't know enough about small engine maintenance when I decided to take a screwdriver to a sprung screw on top of the carb. The spring levered against the throttle link and the engine soared to life! If I'd thought of that earlier I could probably have saved myself an hour or so soaked in gasoline, but no matter: Now we were in business.
Chipping is fun. I love to chip, especially the really fat chunks of wood that almost kill the engine as they get eaten and subsequently spit out in neat chips. The cool thing about my chipper is you can feed the big limbs into one chute, and the smaller twigs, brush, leaves and anything else soft into another chute on the other side for shredding. I basically spent all day out in the yard feeding whatever I could find into the hungry jaws of the chipping dragon. I jammed it twice. The first time was with a short length of Crepe Myrtle branch. It wasn't very thick, but that stuff is hard, and it got wedged between the impelled and the housing. Taking the chute off isn't really a one man job, but where there's a will there's a way. Soon I was back making mulch, this time being more careful about chipping even the smaller branches. It wasn't long before I got over ambitious again and this time jammed the chipper. That was an easier fix, though, as the chipping chute is small and attached with fewer fasteners.
Saturday was a gorgeous day, and by the end of it I had about ten big buckets of mulch that I spread on my front beds. I was also completely covered in sawdust.