Monday, 3 March 2008

Eliet Minor garden shredder review

This is the final of the four reviews in this series on my experience with garden shredders and is a review of the semi-professional petrol driven Eliet Minor shredder.

Over the last couple of years our garden has produced more material than I have had the time to shred. I have been routinely having to spend most of a week-end shredding to keep up and getting grumpier about it by the month, but I was unwilling to throw away the organic material and our garden needed all the compost we could make, and more besides. We set up a rough bin (1.5m3) to hold unshredded material, but after six months that too was full. We needed an alternative solution, short of covering the garden in bins.

The photo below shows what I needed to deal with – the bin is about 1m high, and experience told me that it would take several days to shred most of it with the Lonos (assuming the patience of Job to actually stand there and do it), leaving much of the contents of the rough bin to rot down in its own time.

Just after Christmas I was watching a commercial shredder dealing with all comers’ Christmas trees – it was taking about 10 seconds a time, whereas I had just spent half an hour dealing with ours. I thought that there must be a mid-ground between my Lonos and the commercial one.

Initially I looked at renting one, but found the range available very small and limited, and the organisation and reliance on long range weather forecasts needed to plan to hire for a weekend (at between £150-£200 a time) too much. Also the ones for rent seemed most suited to tree chipping rather than the dealing with the range of stuff that I needed to deal with in our garden – from soft and mushy prunings to woody branches. No one could tell me whether theirs could manage the soft stuff I needed to shred.

I investigated further to see what it would cost to buy what I wanted, or to find out whether it even existed. First I looked for reviews etc… and found next to nothing. All I found was a Daily Telegraph review from 1999 of a Globe Garden Master, which at least said the extra money was worth it, but none for other similar types of machine. I found nothing useful on the web.

Looking around dealers I did not come up with many options, but one was all I needed. The most prevalent options seemed to be from a Belgium company I had not heard of before; Eliet (some dealers pronounced it “Elliot” and some “Elite”) along with Viking. The smallest petrol driven Eliet, the Primo, has just received a good review in the Daily Telegraph (January 2008).

There were others available on-line, such as Woodsman, Ardisam, Lawnflite, Masport and Echo Bear Cat, but no dealers seemed to stock them and I could not find any reviews. Nor were any of them available for test or hire. Globe Organic Services offered their Garden Master range along with a 10 minute DVD. Their design, however, looked archaic and they were only available from Globe direct. They did, however, explicitly say that it would cope with anything I was likely to put through it, came with a lifetime warranty and would do on-site demonstrations. They were, however, very big and heavy, and out of my price range to buy, with none for hire.

I realised that anything like this was going to be petrol driven so my quietness criteria for previous shredders was going to have to be dropped. Since I planned to use this machine well away from neighbours and for limited periods of time (or why else get a higher capacity machine at all?) I reasoned that the noise level could be managed and treated the same as using a petrol driven lawnmower – with consideration.

My rental/purchase criteria became:
  • Able to shred soft as well as hard material
  • Large input throat
  • High throughput per hour – at least 5x the Lonos 2
  • >40mm diameter shredding capacity
  • Possible for me alone 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.

I failed to find anything suitable to rent, but as luck would have it I managed to borrow a nearly new Eliet Minor (follow this link for details) equipped with a 6.5hp Briggs & Stratton Intek petrol 4 stroke engine (see photo above) – this uses unleaded petrol and being a 4 stroke it does not need any oil added to the fuel. The cheapest advertised price I have seen for one is £1,179 inc VAT & delivery (Feb 2008) + £68 for the multi purpose screen.

The Minor is part of a shredder/chipper range that is mostly focussed on the professional market, with the Minor slotting above the Chrono (a small electric shredder), Primo and Maestro, with four larger machines above it. It shows its professional heritage as there is no plastic to be seen on it apart from the odd knob and cover on the engine, and it is generally solidly engineered.

This review is my experience of using the Minor over about two weeks to shred woody cuttings, soft and hard prunings and most tricky of all the contents of our rough compost bin – which I discovered had started to compost down, but had a long way to go, and was wet, very fibrous and mostly chopped to about 30cm lengths. My estimate was that it would take several days and lots of blue language to get through it all with the Lonos 2 – which was never going to happen.

Eliet use a unique shredding design – their “Hatchet Principle™”. This means that all the material goes into a single wide mouthed inlet and is fed through a fearsome set of rapidly rotating angled blades – in the Minor’s case 12 blades rotating at 2,000rpm – and out through a screen onto the ground (see diagram below). Eliet claim that their machines can handle pretty much any type of organic material within the machine’s capacity – needing an optional multi-purpose screen if you are going to shred much “mushy” material. So although the max diameter of the Minor is 45mm the inlet is 220 x 300mm so that it is easy to feed bunches of prunings into it all at once as well as crooked and knotty material – so the pre-shredding preparation is absolutely minimal. The throughput was quoted as 16 wheelbarrows per hour, or about 1.6m3 per hour.

What was it like to use?
The picture below shows the first lot of shredding I did. It was all the material in the picture at the top of the blog except that actually in the bin. It took 30 mins and I measured it out at 10x 40l tubs worth, which makes it about 7x quicker than the Lonos 2. In reality, though, it was quicker than that. It would have taken much longer with the Lonos as I would have had to prepare nearly all of this material much more carefully - taking much longer and making it much more tedious. The time test I ran with the Lonos (1 tub in 20 mins) was using ideal material for it – this batch was far from that.

I found that the actual throughput with this machine was governed by the rate at which I could get material to it rather than the rate at which it could shred it – hence the discrepancy between the rated throughput of 1.6m3 per hour against my measured rate of half that at 0.8m3 per hour. This was exactly the state that I was trying to achieve.

It made light work of whole lavender bushes, including roots, Buddleia prunings, Phormium leaves (which nearly all shredders hate), climbing rose branches, dry ornamental grass stems, holly – mostly woody material with some soft things like bulbs and dahlia tubers mixed in. I tried all sorts of things, including a rotting mango with its large seed and it essentially disappeared – I could find no trace of it in the pile of shreddings; normally with the Lonos the seed chunks are quite identifiable in the compost months later.

Next I tried putting through the much wetter material from the bin. This did rapidly block up the 20mm exit holes of the standard screen, forming a thick paste on the inside of the screen. While this was quick and easy to clear (just lift the outlet guard, pull out a pin and the screen drops for cleaning) it would have been quite tedious to keep having to do it and I did not have enough woody material to make it unnecessary by mixing the two types. Luckily the machine came with the optional screen designed for these circumstances… You can see it sitting on the top of the machine in the picture at the top of the posting.

Changing the screens over the first time, however, was not a quick process. I was initially convinced that it was the wrong one as it took some persuading to get into place. Once in place I explored the boundaries of use of the shredder and I did manage to block it up by feeding too much of some really wet and mucky, fibrous material into the shredder– not really the sort of thing I would normally try. I found that with a judicious mix of really wet (from the middle of the rough compost bin) and quite dry (from the edges of the bin) material I could just put it in the hopper and prod it down the chute with a pushing stick. The photo below shows the output – it is pretty course, but much better than I would get any other way. I also put through armfuls of Periwinkle with their (small) root balls, which it chewed up quite happily. All-in-all a pretty good performance, but I would not want to be swapping between screens too often, although I am sure it would become easier with familiarity.

The photos below compare the shreddings from the Minor, with the 20mm standard screen in place, and the Lonos 2 – as you can see the Minor ones are generally finer, but with more coarse woody material in it. The bigger chunks from the Minor are mostly cut along the stem, thus maximising the area exposed to biological breakdown mechanisms. I did, however, feel the need to pull out the larger bits for re-shredding as I went along. The Lonos produces evenly sized chunks, pretty much whatever the input. I’m not sure which is best for compost construction, but I think that the Minor shreddings should compost down more quickly than the courser Lonos material.

Both of these photos compare the output from the Scheppach Lonos 2 (left hand photos) and the Eliet Minor (right hand photos) shredders

The Minor’s output with the multi-purpose screen in place is much coarser and any woody material in it ends up much less reduced. I expect to remove plenty of woody bits from the resulting compost – but the material I put in was abnormally woody for a “mushy” mix, so this is only to be expected. I would never have tried shredding this material with the Lonos as life is simply too short!

All-in-all I was very happy with the results and the time savings.

Ergonomically the shredder was as easy to start with the pull cord as a mower and the feed height was comfortable (I’m 5” 8’ tall) at 830mm above the ground - the company literature says it is 750mm, but I measured it and with the input hopper cowl in place it rises to 830mm.

The Minor weighs 65kg, but it is well balanced and runs on a pair of pneumatic tyres. I found it easy to move around on the flat, on both hard and gravelled surfaces. I managed it OK up and down a short set of steps, but a slope would be much better. This was not easy, but doable (I am not particularly strong; just a reasonably fit and active 49 year old), although at the end of a long day in the garden it was hard work.

The Minor is rated at 110db (on a sticker on the side of the machine), but in terms of real world noise levels it sounds like a big’ish petrol driven lawnmower – noisy, but not uncomfortably so. It gets nosier when actually shredding, but not uncomfortably. I was quite happy using it with care for the neighbours’ sensibilities.

I am not sure what the fuel consumption was, but it was in the order of a 0.75 litres per hour over the few hours I used it.

What else did I learn?
  • Well you can’t just stuff in as much material as possible as the inlet throat capacity is much bigger than the machine’s capacity – you just have to listen to the engine note and slow down the feed if it drops; it takes no time to become second nature.
  • If you want to clear up easily afterwards I suggest you use a tarpaulin or two.
  • With dry material the shredder produces quite lot of dust and I would recommend using a dust mask.
  • The safety cut outs work – in fact when I first tried to start the engine it would not go. A bit of a search found that the top safety handle’s micro-switch was not quite engaging, stopping the engine from starting. Easily solved.
  • Shredding can be fun again…
Would I buy one? In a word – yes. I was very impressed with the Minor’s whole performance, although I would buy the multi-purpose screen as well. It was quick and would give me back my weekends from shredding, and I have no doubt the shreddings will produce great compost.

This is clearly a machine for someone who has quite a large garden to service and wants an efficient way to reduce large quantities of organic waste to compost. If, however, you want to munch through 3"/75mm branches then this is not the machine for you - anything below 45mm it will quite happily deal with.

While I am well aware that this is the performance of a nearly new machine and my experience with shredders says it will degrade but, unlike the other shredders I have bought, this machine is designed to be maintained. The blades are both re-sharpenable and reversible so it should be relatively easy to bring the machine’s performance back to as new. New blades are available and don’t seem to cost a fortune. Like all petrol driven machinery the engine will need servicing, but I have never found this a problem with lawnmowers. I did look at the engine and the spark plug looks like a bit of a challenge to reach, but I did not try it as it was not mine…

Two months later I have had a chance to review the results from this trial and decide on whether I should buy one or not. I have written them up here...


JT said...

Thanks for a very informative blog.

helibloke said...

Many thanks for a very informative article. I agree that there seems to be a dearth of reviews on shredders, particularly the larger / petrol engined models. Based on careful investigation, including your review, I've just purchased an Eliet Minor (although I have the Honda engined version). I've just used it for the first time and it has shredded its way through all but the thickest parts of a small tree and two large shrubs with no problem at all. I have quite a large, well-planted garden, and think that this will be getting plenty of use. I'm happy with my choice.

Cesar said...

Hello, Churchill. My name is César and I live in Madrid (Spain). First of all, thank you very much for your review about this machine. Recently I bought a second hand Eliet Minor and your comments were very useful to take the final decision.

I have a problem with my Minor and probably you could help me. The standard screen of my Eliet is missing. I would like to made one but I need the total leght of the screen. Could you be so kind to tell me the lenght of the stardard screen?.

Thank you very much and again thank you for your Blog.


Cesar said...

Hello again, Churchill.

Would be very useful aswell the diameter of the wholes of the standard screen.

Best regards

Harry said...

Best review I have seen for this product and I have been unsure of whether to get this version or the honda engined version that 'helibloke' has spoke about for some time now. I think after consideration of your points I will opt for the shredding system you have outlined from Eliet Minor as it needs to be able to handle my elderly parents large garden and offer a secure shredding service that wont let me down, as there is a lot of work to do!

Jose Miguel said...

I'm very interesting in this machine. Could you raise a video of the process of shreeding. Thanks.

Kalle Kingsepp said...

Very good and informative review.

Do you have experience with Eliet Maestro?


Jose Miguel said...

Hola Cesar. Por favor, mira el correo. Gracias.

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Scott said...

If you think the Minor is capable, try the Prof 2000, absolutely awesome, quicker, able to handle small trees straight in, and still produces great mulch.

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