I like brainstorming new ideas! And it didn’t take long to think this one up either!
OK, imagine this in your mind’s eye:
A row of stainless steel straws/tubes of progressively larger diameter, and the tip of the straw has been slightly sharpened. The tubes don’t need to be much longer than 6-12 inches for this idea to work, and I would think a shorter tube would have less chance to clog up, while also allowing for the inconsistent shape of the stalks.
The tubes can be set into the middle of a collection table for a clean job. The bottom of the tube would stick out the bottom of the table, with a bin or bag under there to collect the debris OR you could attach a shop vac or something similar to the tube(s). You could also have two spinning rubber wheels to grab and pull the stalk through (like a baseball pitching machine), and that would probably work faster and more efficiently.
Select a tube that fits the stalk snugly, but not too tight. When you feed a stalk through the tube, as it gets pulled through, the sharp top edge slices off the plant material, leaving a bare stalk to shoot out the bottom. The plant material then simply falls to the side into the collection tray. One side of the tray could have a funneled edge to collect everything into the tray, or you can just lift the material out by hand.
This also reduces manhandling the plant, keeping buds and trichomes undisturbed. It would also reduce the amount of residue left stuck to the tubes, since they would come into less contact with sticky parts of the plant.
Another idea is to apply the same principle to something that looks like a bench vise, with different size holes in the jaws of the vise, depending on the diameter of the stalk. The rest of it follows the principles described above, but instead of a number of different tubes, you have the adjustability of the vise opening, possibly giving it greater versatility and ease of use.
Yes, there is still some manual labor involved, since you have to feed each stalk in one at a time. But you’re not having to trim each one by hand, the machine does the work. All you have to do is feed in the stalks and collect the net product. The unwanted sticks are already in a bag or tray, or with the shop vac setup, you could just open it up and dump the debris into a bin.
I would probably suggest using as much stainless steel as you can in the setup, for longevity and ease of cleaning. It also lend the machine to being more sanitary than plastic, I would think. And just about everything needed to put the contraption together could probably be found in a hardware store, so repair and/or replacement parts would be easier to find.
As a retired auto mechanic, it’s easy to see this setup in my mind’s eye, but if you can’t imagine it yourself, I could try to elaborate further. But there’s not much else to add, it’s a pretty basic thing to set up, I’d say.
How does this sound to you?