Pros: Power and small size
Cons: Short handle, minor maintenance issues, hard starting
I was in the market for a chipper for residential use. After doing some research, primarily on this site, I decided to buy the Simplicity 8/14. They do make a 5HP version, which is less expensive, but I did not want to find out after the fact 5HP would not be enough. I'm glad I spent the extra money as the 8/14 does everything it claims (like eating up 3" branches).
Although it is small in size, this chipper/shredder has done everything I have asked of it. It eats up branches, provided they are straight enough to fit in the chipper. It does a terrific job shredding leaves and yard debris, although you can only feed the debris so fast. It has jammed only once and that was my fault as I put too big of a piece in the shredder, rather than the chipper portion. I have owned the chipper about six months and would recommend it. However, I have had some issues with it.
I think it is important to remember that when buying a chipper you are buying an inherently dangerous device and a device that runs in a high stress environment. Because of that, you can expect two things:
1) If you are not careful, bad things can happen - very bad.
2) Most machines running in a high vibration, high stress environment will eventually have problems.
The Simplicity 8/14 handles the first issue, safety, tremendously well. You would have to knowingly stick your hand pretty far into the machine to hurt yourself. But if you got lazy and tried to clear a jam or push debris in farther than you should while it's running, bad things could happen. I do recommend hearing protection and safety glasses. The machine will spit back some pieces of wood - not fast enough to draw blood, but fast enough I would not want to get hit in the eye.
I have had mechanical issues with the machine. These issues have been minor and I have been able to fix them myself. I really don't take issue with most of the problems because, given what the machine is asked to do, minor issues will come up. I bring this up because if you expect any chipper to perform trouble free for ten years you will likely be disappointed. If you can't fix minor issues yourself, you may experience a lot of downtime with this machine. That said, it is very simple to work on. But some of the issues, I believe, were avoidable. For instance, during the first weekend I used the chipper a bolt vibrated loose and went into the shredder. This happens in high vibration environments, but the folks at Simplicity should foresee this. All it would take is a drop of Loc-tite on each bolt (which I now have done). Additionally, the wire that controls the kill mechanism broke (due to the vibration I assume). This too could have been avoided with a better connection (and my frustration figuring out why it would not start would have been avoided!). Again, minor problems that were easily fixed, but annoying just the same. The other mechanical issue I had was the blades needing to be sharpened after only about 10 hours of use. Replacement blades are $50 each (there are two) while sharpening is just a few bucks. But I had to wait several days to have them sharpened. Obviously, the type of use will effect the longevity of the blades.
I still would buy this chipper again. It is very compact, so it stows easily. Of course this compact design is in part due to a short handle. Other reviews have noted this makes it uncomfortable to move and I fully agree, but it is not such a problem that it should dissuade a buyer either way. Other reviews have also taken issue with the plastic parts, but I totally disagree there. The plastic is very thick and durable. Unlike steel, it won't dent or rust and is lightweight. Unlike other reviewers, mine has been hard to start on occasion (and I keep it in the garage).
If you want a compact, VERY capable chipper/shredder, this is definitely a good choice. However, be prepared that you may have to work on it or pay someone else to do so.