A strip-cut paper shredder is the most basic type of shredder, and is designed to cut paper into strips from a few millimeters wide, to a half-inch or more. Small, inexpensive machines that can be purchased at office supply stores can handle one or two sheets at a time, and work well if they are never jammed. Large shredders built on the same design can cut up chunks of steel. The strip-cut shredder is the least expensive, lowest maintenance, shredder that is available.
A cross-cut, or particle paper shredder, cuts the paper both in line with the way that it was inserted and across that dimension, creating particles rather than strips. This is done by the presence of gaps on each blade that the paper is pushed into as it goes through the shredder. The sharp edges of the gaps cut across the paper. The advantages of this type of machine are increased security, and the compactness of the shredded material. Cross-cut shredders require slightly more maintenance, and have a lower sheet-per-pass capacity.
A Disintegrator has a set of many rotating knives that continually cut the paper until it is small enough to fall though a filtering screen in the bottom of the cutting chamber. Particle size can be adjusted by installing a filtering screen with smaller (or larger) holes. As the size of the holes in the screen decreases, so does the capacity of the machine. The material is then extracted using a vacuum system, often called a Fan Cyclone. These machines can also destroy plastics and other materials including printed circuit boards and are often used for magnetic tapes and CD-ROMs. These machines are also known as Granulators.
A Hammermill is somewhat similar to a Disintegrator, except that instead of cutting the paper or other material, it is forcefully blown apart by rotating and stationary arms. The paper is reduced to its original fiber. These machines have the advantage of no knives to sharpen or replace, and are therefore much cheaper to operate, but are less efficient and are not commonly used. They also produce copious amounts of dust. Hammermills are also known as Pulverizers.
Throat size refers to the width of the slot on a paper shredder, into which sheets of paper are fed. As standard sheets of paper are 8 ‡ x 11", a minimum throat size of 9" is required to shred unfolded sheets. Larger throats are available to accommodate continuous-feed computer paper, or other non-standard material.
Throat Capacity (Sheets per pass)
The recommended number of sheets of paper that may safely be inserted into the shredder throat. This number is established by the machine manufacturer, and should not be exceeded. Doing so may cause the machine to jam, which can lead to stripped gears and motor damage. Additional information is available under Buying Tips.