Thursday, 28 February 2008

Scheppach Lonos 2 garden shredder review

This is the third of four reviews I shall be posting on my experience with garden shredders.

After a good deal of research and seeing one demonstrated at The RHS Malvern Spring show I bought the Scheppach Lonos 2 electric garden shredder shown in the photo opposite in mid 2004. I have used it regularly ever since for around 40-60 hours of shredding a year, usually for several hours at a time. This review is based on my real life experience with it over the four years.

My purchase criteria were:
  • Able to shred soft as well as hard material
  • Reasonably quiet
  • Less than £350 (cheaper still if possible)
  • Robust and likely to have a good service life
  • Easy to move around the garden
I was not particularly interested in a massive solid wood shredding capacity as I cut anything much over an inch in diameter to use as firewood, so I did not buy the Lonos 3, which is essentially the same as the Lonos 2 but has a slightly larger motor and hence larger shredding capacity.

Scheppach is not a company usually associated with garden machinery – I knew it as a German producer of woodworking machinery. In 2004 there were few suppliers of the machine although I notice that there are many more now (2008) and it has featured well in newspaper group tests.

The specifications of the Lonos 2 can be found on the Scheppach web site, but it essentially met all my requirements – in theory at least.

The machine uses a low speed (39rpm) rotating cog cutter cutting against a counter rotating nylon wheel (as shown in the diagram) to chop material into short lengths (around an inch or 25mm in length), and can take material up to 40mm in diameter. Because the distance between the input slot and cutters is less than an arm’s length the input is quite restricted to stop anyone putting their hands into the shredder. This makes feeding the shredder more restricted than I would have liked, but has proved to be OK in use. The photo below shows the view from the top of the shredder, through the input down to the cutter with its nylon counter wheel (arrowed in the photo) – it shows the shape, along with the dimensions, of the input slot. The 40mm square usefully making sure that you can’t put in a round branch that exceeds the shredder’s capacity.

While it chops the material it is really designed to crush rather than cut the woody stems opening up more of the material to the composting action of bugs and microbes. Because it is low speed the shredder is quiet (it is rated by Scheppach at 82db) – it produces a low frequency “chugging” noise and does not get much louder when actually shredding. It has proved to be neighbour and user friendly for use hours on end – I suspect that “Lonos” is a play on the words “low noise”.

The 24kg Lonos 2 is fitted with a couple of solid wheels and I have had no trouble manoeuvring it around the garden. A standard 40l tub fits neatly under the outlet so it is easy to collect the shreddings without making any extra mess to clear up around it.

Performance when new
When I first used the shredder it was immediately a massive improvement over the Bosch 18-35 silent shredder I had used before this one. I found that I could put any reasonably straight woody material into the hopper and it would draw it in and chop it. So long as I did not feed in too much wet material at a time and put some woody material in with it, it pretty much ate anything I threw into it. I was very happy with it. It produced a nice evenly chopped and crushed material that composted down well. Before I learnt how to use the machine properly it did clog up fairly often, but if was simple to just reverse the cog rotation direction and clear the clog. I never failed to clear it this way.

How has it performed over four years?
Of course the way something performs when new may not be reflect how it will work long term, as my experience with the Bosch showed. The Lonos 2 performed pretty well for about two years at the 40-60 hour per year rate that I was using it at. Inevitably a few chunks of stone ended up in the machine but they did not seem to do too much harm.

After about two years, however, the performance had clearly diminished. It was still able to chomp its way through the large woody stuff, but I started to notice that it clogged up much more often and that I had to feed the material more accurately into the cutters; otherwise it tended not to pick up the material and just sat there chuntering away but doing nothing. It also started not chopping completely through the stems of sappy material, leaving strings of bruised material (see photo below, which also shows the effect of the crushing action of the shredder on woody material). While this may not impact the compostability of the product it did mean that it tended to wrap itself around the cutting cutter and cause more blockages as well as making me work harder on feeding the cutter more accurately.

Additionally as the cutting edge of the cogs blunted the machine was less able to deal with the “knuckles” of woody material (see photo below) – when they reached the cutter they would sit there until firmly pushed with a pusher of some sort - I usually use a solid branch of wood which I want to shred anyway as a pusher so that if it does end up in the cutter there is no risk of damage. When new the cutter used to cut chunks out of the knuckle nibbling it away until it was small enough to work its way through. All this meant that I had to prepare the input material more carefully, removing side branches with secateurs and feeding them separately – which was, of course, both much more time consuming and tedious.

I talked to a couple of dealers and they told me that the cutter did not ever need sharpening as they were not designed to be particularly sharp; rather I should look at changing the nylon counter rotating wheel. This I did, although taking the machine apart was not particularly easy (despite my engineering experience) as various bolts holding it all together and shims had rusted. At the same time I also took the opportunity to clean up the cog’s cutting edges with a file.

I think that the performance did improve a bit, but it never returned to the as new condition.

After about three years the machine suddenly stopped working mid-session. I thought it might have been some sort of safety trip, but it proved to be more serious – the on/off switch had given out. The spare cost me £45 to buy, which I fitted myself.

After four years I still use it, but the rate of production has become too slow for the quantity of material we now produce – I measured the time taken to produce a tub of shreddings using pretty much ideal input; mostly Buddleia prunings that have matured for a couple of weeks. The 40l tub below took 20 minutes to produce.

The photo below shows what the shreddings look like in more detail.

When composted properly (as I will describe in more detail in a later posting) they help produce a sweet compost without any large bits in it direct from the bin like that shown on the fork below.

For most of the four years I have been very happy with the Scheppach Lonos 2 - it produced many m3 of shreddings that have composted down to produce good quality compost. Our garden has simply now outgrown the capacity of the machine. It is true that I have been disappointed by the reliability - I would not expect the switch to fail in this sort lifetime, but with a sample of one I don't think that I can draw any conclusions on the machine's reliability.

So for a garden of a bit smaller than a ¼ of an acre, with a reasonable amount of shrubs, but not loads of hedging, I think that this machine would be ideal. It should quietly chomp through most things that you will be able to throw into it.


Cathy Ashley said...

My Lonos 3 switch has gone too, so considfer it a sample of 2.

The problem was intermittent for 2 years and now finally it won't start at all. I am hoping Sheppach can supply me with a switch as when I approached them before they only had the full switch plate which is now 144 Euros.

Cathy Ashley said...

I finally bought a new switch plate (about £100), had similar problems taking the machine apart, put it back together - and now although it ran yesterday (after a bit of a delay) today it is just humming and is now blowing fuses. So... take it apart again I suppose.