Sunday, 24 February 2008

Al-Ko H1100 electric garden shredder review

This is the first of four reviews I shall be posting on my experience with garden shredders over the next couple of weeks.

The aim of this review and the other garden shredders in this blog is to pass on my experience of the machines I have used. I have found it very difficult to get real advice on what machines are really like. I have found it a bit like trying to buy financial services – the only sources of advice seem be the dealers who sell them and there is little if any independent information around. Even with the internet there is not much review information around other than the odd newspaper or Consumers Association group tests. Usually these do not cover the machines I am interested in, nor do they offer anything other than a superficial comparison. My reviews aim to give more depth to the ones I have used.

Sometime around 15 years ago before garden shredders were an established product I saw a demonstration of a small Al-Ko electric shredder at a garden centre. I had not given much thought to how I prepared material for my compost bins until that moment – all I did was to chop it up into convenient lengths so that it fitted into the bins and wondered why the results were pretty average.

So I bought the shredder, an Al-Ko H1100 (see photo), to give it a go as the idea seemed sensible; it should save me time chopping up the woody bits and would ultimately make better compost. It had three spindly legs and the material was fed from the top, or for straight woody material into a side chute, into a rapidly rotating chipping knife with the material coming out the front; and it was orange.

What was it like to use?

The three spindly legs made it difficult to move around as the only way to do so was to lift it and it was an awkward shape to lift, although not particularly heavy. The infeed was small to avoid the chance of getting hands into the cutting blade so it was only possible to feed tiny handfuls of material into it.

It was very noisy – it emitted a high pitched electric motor shriek that was not at all neighbour friendly.

It was OK at chopping small diameter, straight, dry’ish woody material. Anything at all damp or soft very quickly clogged up the exit. There was no easy way to unclog it – I simply had to unscrew the top (with the thoughtfully supplied spanner) and clear out the offending material by hand. I probably had to do this about every 5 minutes if I was shredding anything remotely damp – it made shredding most things very time consuming and tedious. It certainly did not save me time…

The resulting shredded material, however, was well chopped, composted well and it did convert difficult to compost woody material into useful compost much quicker than before.

I had the shredder for about five years and as you may imagine did not use it for much other than the occasional ideal woody prunings. Luckily at this stage we were living with a small garden and when we moved to a much bigger garden (1/3rd of an acre) there was not much other than grass to worry about.

I did, however, learn quite a lot about what good shredded material could do in the compost and what to look for in a shredder. I was also convinced that a shredder was an excellent idea – they produce excellent compostable material, save many trips to the waste tip (and save the car interior from damage at the same time) and I discovered that producing tubs of evenly shredded material from a pile of thorny, woody material was a strangely satisfying thing to do.

After a couple of years in the new larger garden we started to produce piles of woody material that needed shredding and it was time to think about getting a much better shredder…

While I am sure that my experience with this machine designed and built around 15 years ago does not represent today’s machines at all it did remind me that you usually get what you pay for and that a better machine would cost more, whatever the state of technological development.


Brian said...

I saw a Al-Ko H1100 shredder sitting beside the curb by a few bags of trash and stopped to investigate. i had just talked to my wife about all the woody stuff that was building up in the yard and of my experience 25 years ago wherein the chipped green stuff that road crews routinely generate and give away to anyone interested was used to heat water for a hot tub by the simple and effective method of building a coil of black poly pipe into the pile of chips as it was poured out in a heap. the water was abundant and nice and hot if i remember well over 100 Fahrenheit if not 115 and it lasted week after week as the chips slowly digested by bacterial action. Anyway, so here's this free shredder. i brought it home to test it - it's dull, but reading your blog let's me know what I'm in for and as you say - you get what you pay for. Thanks! Brian

thebiburyman said...

I am very surprised about your comments on the Alko H1100.

I have had my machine for over 21 years - and believe me it has taken a real hammering in that time - and it is still going strong. However, the other day I thought I would upgrade to a 2400 watt machine [not Alko]and have been bitterly disappointed. The new, shortly to be returned shredder, does not have a separate branch opening so that all material goes straight to the spinning disc. This means that if you a shredding anything under an inch and a half diameter, before you know it, the outlet port is plugged even if you are using dry twigs. In addition the Alko with the forked blade above the disc, is great for shredding leaves - with the new model the leaves block the insert tube.

Above all the Alko with its 1100 watts is more powerful than the 'bigger' machine. Why I don't know but there it is.

geraldo said...

Cool! I also use shredders for years and it's really helpful in my work. Especially in the office that there are materials which are secured but are due to be replaced because of updates on the content, then I use the shredder.

OC Shredding

19ninety said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
19ninety said...

This isnt a bad bit of kit really. A friend has given us one as we have massively over grown buddleias which are quite woody and also some seasoned roses which have very hard stems.
The machine got a good 4 hours continual use yesterday, it only jammed a could of times but that was using the branch tube on the side to feed it branches that only just fitted, other than that its chewed up everything thats has gone in it.
I was wary of putting too much greens stuff in the top after reading your review, it never slowed up, but sense was to chuck a load of green stuff in between some for small branches so as to keep things moving through the machine.
All in all I'm pleased with it, it produces quite fine chippings which will compost nicely and be great for the vaggie patch next year.

buxtonian said...

I bought a second hand one (H1100s)and it worked for approx 5 mins then died on me!!!! Changed the fuse to no avail - anyone have any ideas?

Unknown said...

I got a branch stuck in the top of my grinder AKA lko 11 h11 hundred and I'm curious if anybody knows how to get that stick out thank you

Paul Harley said...

Find a long enough metal implement suitable for hitting only the bit of wood & tap with a hammer

Catherine Williams said...

I couldn't believe my eyes when i found your review page and saw that little Alko shredder. I bought mine in the 1980's and still have it, looking rather worse for wear now but it has been a real little work horse over the years. The only reason i am now looking to replace it is the difficulty in moving it as i'm not as young as i used to be and my old joints can't cope with heaving it about ,i have certainly had my moneys worth out of it.

Emily Creemers said...

I have a 1988 Al-Ko 1100. It has only just begun to misbehave. Yesterday it started, as usual, and within 20 seconds the motor stopped. Several more attempts resulted in the same cutting-out.I think it must have a cut-out but looking at its interior workings I cannot decide where it might be. It may, of course, be some other fault. Any ideas folks?
The innards look very simple - motor; large capacitor and the on/off switch. Very little to go wrong so what has gone wrong?

Bob Feuillade said...

Mine is the 1100s yellow version.
There is a safety switch that is operated by the screw that holds the top/hopper on the blades. The screw needs to be done up for the motor to run. Don't know if this might help.

I know this because I have another problem and mine is now in bit in the garage. The blade starts to turn when switched on but stops again. Just gives a clunk and the blade moves slightly but stops, it's like the switch starts the motor but then something stop the power going to the motor.
Wondered if this could be the capacitor? Anyone able to help?