How To Use a PTO Wood Chipper

Got some unwanted trees and brush you need gone fast? A PTO wood chipper is the ultimate solution.

Next Project





$0 - $20


When I put down stakes to lay out the foundation for the cabin in the woods where I now live with my wife and daughter, I knew I needed to cut a few trees to open up the area. The brush was super dense. Although we loved the idea of living in a forest, we wanted to walk around freely, too.

Trouble was, cutting down and dragging away the scraggly balsams and poplars and chopping them into firewood took forever, and the building season was waning fast.

That's when my dad bought a PTO (Power Take-Off) wood chipper for his old 1974 International 574 tractor and lent me the ensemble for my forestry work. I was amazed! The tractor-mounted chipper turned unwanted trees into chips in short order, and the speed and power was addictive. The PTO chipper quickly became my go-to implement any time I needed to get rid of smaller unwanted trees fast.

Got a similar job on the horizon? Keep reading for a detailed guide on how to use a PTO wood chipper.

But first, keep in mind PTO wood chippers can be dangerous. Don't use one unless you're confident you can do so safely. If you do go ahead, be sure never place your hand or arm inside the feed chute during use.

Tools Required

  • Chainsaw
  • Eye and hearing protection
  • PTO wood chipper
  • Tractor of sufficient size and power to run your chipper

Materials Required

  • Fuel for chainsaw and tractor

Project step-by-step (6)

Step 1

Ensure proper connection to the tractor

  • Properly hitch the lifting arms of your tractor to the mounting holes of your chipper.
  • Check the top link to make sure it’s properly installed.
  • Ensure the PTO shaft locks onto your tractor’s splined output shaft.

Ensure Proper Connection to the tractorRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 2

Move the tractor and chipper to a flat, stable worksite

  • Fire up your tractor, then use the lifting arm control lever to raise the chipper several inches off the ground.
  • Drive your tractor to where you plan to do the chipping.
  • Find a flat, stable piece of ground to park.
  • Put your tractor in neutral, then lower your chipper to the ground.

Move Tractor To Flat AreaRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 3

Adjust the chip chute angle

  • Decide on the best spot to direct the stream of wood chips.
  • Rotate your chip chute toward the spot you’ve chosen, keeping in mind you can adjust it later to avoid too many chips piling up in one spot.

Adjust Chip Chute angleRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 4

Fire up the chipper

  • Start up your tractor (if it’s not already running), keeping the throttle low at first.
  • Flip the PTO lever to engage the PTO.
  • Look down at the PTO shaft and chipper. The tractor’s input shaft should now be rotating and delivering power to the chipper.
  • Open the throttle of the tractor about halfway, increasing engine speed and power to the chipper.

Fire Up ChipperRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 5

Chip wood

  • Ensure all branches and trees you cut for chipping are at least four feet long to avoid placing your hands too close to the chipping mechanism.
  • Take care to only cut small diameter wood. I’ve chipped logs up to five inches in diameter with mine, but individual chippers vary in strength. Consult your owner’s manual if you’re unsure what size wood your machine can handle.
  • Pull your the safety handle into the run position so the chipping wheels start turning inside.
  • Push an unwanted branch or smaller tree firmly into the middle of the feed chute until you feel the chipping wheels engage with the wood and pull it in.
  • Let go of the wood as soon as the chipper begins pulling it inward.
  • Repeat the process until the work is done.

Start Chipping the WoodRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 6

Shut down the chipper and tractor

  • When you’re done working, close the tractor’s throttle to decrease engine speed to an idle.
  • Flip the PTO lever to shut off the PTO and disengage power from the chipper. Do a visual check to make sure the shaft is no longer spinning.
  • Raise your tractor’s lifting arms to lift the chipper off the ground, then drive the tractor and chipper to where you plan to park.
  • Lower the chipper to the ground, then shut off your tractor.

Shut Down Chipper and TractorRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman