My New
Vintage MacKissic Shredder

Dateline: 16 September 2016

After reading Will Bonsall's book, Will Bonsall's Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening, I was feeling like I needed a leaf shredder. Lots of leaves will be accumulating here very shortly and I'd love to shred them to use as mulch in my garden (just like Will). 

So I looked at some YouTube reviews of cheap leaf shredders. But none of them impressed me. I also looked at some homemade chippers made with old lawnmowers. But none of those impressed me either. Then I looked at various new chipper-shredders on the internet. But I can't justify spending $1,000+ just to shred leaves.

And then I thought about the MacKissic shredders. Back when I was a teenager, and I subscribed to Organic Gardening magazine, there were always ads in there for Kemp and MacKissic shredders. As a budding compost maker, I wanted a good shredder. But, of course, I couldn't afford that sort of thing in those days.

So I went looking for MacKissic shredders and I found the company is still in business. A brand new MacKissic shredder is kind of pricy, but they are probably worth the money, considering that they are still made right here in America. And they've been made here since 1955.

I went to EBAY, thinking I might find a used MacKissic nearby, but the closest one was in Pennsylvania. Then it occurred to me that I should check Craig's List. I've never bought anything from Craig's List, but my kids buy and sell from there often.

Lo and behold, there was an old MacKissic shredder. Here's the listing...

When I first saw that listing, it had been there for less than 1/2 hour. I called right up. We arranged for me to swing by that afternoon and check out the shredder. It was only about an hour from my house.

The name of the man who owned the shredder was Dan. He had a nice place out in the countryside. He had a 5-car garage which made me just a little bit envious. I need one of those!

Well, anyway, Dan had the shredder outside and he started it right up and ran some dry leaves and twigs through it. It was, as the Craig'sList listing said, "A Real Brute!!"

I bought that thing. 

After we loaded it in my truck and strapped it in place, Dan looked at his old shredder and said, "I kind of hate to see it go." 

"Sentimental value?" I asked.

"Yeah, I've done a lot of work with that."

The machine has obviously been taken care of. Dan bought it from someone else and had owned it for about 15 years. He didn't know how old it was. I said it looked like the ones I used to see in Organic Gardening magazine back in the 1970's. He said he remembered them in the magazine too.

Dan was selling the shredder because he wanted a towable chipper-shredder. He had bought himself a new TroyBilt. 

Dan confided to me that he wasn't happy with the TroyBilt, primarily because it was harder to start. The old MacKissic has a centrifugal clutch. So, when pull-starting the motor, you aren't pulling the whole shredder mechanism too. It's a nice feature.

Today I sent an e-mail to MacKissic. I gave them the serial number and asked if they could tell me when the unit was made. I got a reply right back.

"Your Model 9P was manufactured in September 1977. I have attached an owner's manual for your reference. There are many parts still available for this unit."

39 years after it was made, the company is still in business and still sells parts. That is remarkable. But the shredder is so well made that 39 years later, it doesn't need any parts.

So, where were you in September of 1977? I was 19 years old, living at home and working on a 70-cow dairy farm, saving the money to buy my first car. I found it was pretty easy to save money when all I did was get up early, walk two miles to the farm, work all day, walk home, eat supper, drop into bed exhausted, then get up and repeat the pattern, for six days a week, for nearly a year.

But I digress.

I was eager to try my new MacKissic out. I rolled it over to a mostly-rotted compost pile and fired it up. The first forkfull of compost shredded out beautifully. But it was mostly dry material from the top of the pile.

Subsequent forkfulls immediately clogged the shredder screen with gunky compost that looked just like cow manure. I took the screen off and proceeded to cram more wet compost into the hopper.

I soon discovered that the MacKissic 9P is not made for shredding wet compost. Not at all. After hosing out the grinder, I put a tarp over the  machine and parked it next to my tarp-covered log splitter, which is next to my tarp-covered snow blower.

I'll wait for my yard to fill up with dry leaves before I fire up my MacKissic again. And while I'm waiting, maybe I'll read the owner's manual.


  1. Elizabeth L. Johnson said,
    I've wanted one for years. When I grew corn, it would've been handy for the dry stalks after they were done. Also good for thick, dead tomato vines, and sunflower stems(really more like trunks). Doing oak leaves would be tremendous; and maybe pole bean vines. Might as well get it all back into the ground in short order!

    1. Hi Eizabeth,

      Last year I cut my sunflower stalks into 16" lengths and stacked them behind my wood stove to dry down. Once dry, they burned like kindling.

  2. Elizabeth L. Johnson said,
    Some thoughts: So you have been a solid agrarian most of your life; since you were reading Organic Gardening as a TEEN, AND working at a dairy farm! Oh, that young people would be interested in this way of life instead of the nonsense they get into nowadays! I'm reading your Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian book. I understand that an agrarian can be someone interested in technology, but still have a hand in providing his own food from his own garden, or perhaps interested in public office and still grow his own food--hence, agrarian. Wouldn't it be neat to have young people in local, state, and federal government; public servants, and yet, agrarian? Yep.

    1. Yes, my agrarian inclinations go way back. Once my family moved out of suburbia, into the country, I was able to pursue a lot of down-to-earth interests. And I'm still pursuing them. I think a person can pursue pretty much any honest occupation in the modern world and still live an agrarian lifestyle. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Hi Herrick, I bought a Kemp 28 years ago and have fed a lot of up to 4" tree branches thru it. Had to replace the chipper cutter when a large bolt got in there somehow. Other than that it has been a workhorse for me. It also doesn't like wet stuff and when I do have to use it for that I keep a hose right handy to squirt it out while it is still running. Was helping a lady clean out her mothers garage and low and behold there sat another Kemp just like mine but two years newer. I got it for helping with the cleanup!! Now I can do , "two fisted" composting. Love those old hammer mill shredders.

    1. Great story. This shredder isn't much of a chipper. It will take smaller sticks or punky bigger wood, but doesn't have the side feed for chipping.

  4. Hello Herrick, Glad you found out the year of mfg....For future reference, on all older Briggs & Stratton engines (which yours is)look on the engine shroud, sometimes on the top and sometimes on the carburetor side...There will be three sets of numbers, Model:xxxxx, Type:xxxx & Serial:xxxxxxxx.....The first two numbers listed after serial are the engine date of manufacturer, hence yours should read "77", if the engine is original of course....As always, thanks for sharing....James Panos

    1. That's good to know. I'll check it out. Many thanks for the tip!

  5. Now....I seem to remember my Uncle having something similar and it had exchangeable blades for wet or dry material. From memory the wet blade was more like a mincer.....but it was a very ling time ago and my memory might not be serving me well. Yes, I keep making noises around home about getting a mulcher (usually in the same context of Christmas)...maybe someone will take the hint - you never know.

  6. I have the exact same machine. The Briggs engine became problematic a few years back, after only 30+ years of service. Had a hard time finding carburetor parts. So I just replaced it with a horizontal shaft engine purchased from Harbor Freight for $89. I plan to keep the machine for the rest of my life. I'll just be 60 in a few months.