A wide range of available attachments give excavators the versatility to accomplish virtually any task associated with a trenching application, including digging, lifting, placing and more. Following is a look at some of the different tools available to turn your excavators into multipurpose trenching machines. Additional attachments for trenching and other applications can be found starting on page 22.
More than just a bucket
An essential trench digging accessory, buckets are available in a number of different types to help you get the job done most efficiently and productively. General-purpose, heavy-duty and severe-service buckets are manufactured in various materials/abrasion resistance and widths/capacities to accommodate the soil conditions and trench sizing needs. Bucket teeth and other ground-engaging tools come in a variety of styles and spacings to further enhance the selection process.
Many manufacturers offer specialized buckets for trenching operations. For example, trapezoidal buckets can carve slopes as they dig, making them a suitable choice for irrigation ditches, canals and waterways, as well as trenches. Wide and shallow ditch cleaning buckets can remove sediment quickly, and often have drainage holes to allow water to drain through.
Sorting buckets allow you to separate different sizes of material as you dig. Larger debris is contained in the separator, while smaller debris sifts through to the bucket. Material in the bucket is dumped first, then material in the separator can be dumped by hydraulically retracting the separator.
"This type of bucket gives you the ability to sort for a particular size of material, such as what might be needed to fill a trench," says Bo Pratt, sales manager, Rockland Mfg. "Or if you're selling rock, you can easily separate the rock into piles based on the size required."
Rockland recently introduced a rather unique bucket system to the U.S. market. The EZ Dig attachment is a series of bolt-on, anti-abrasive buckets (for typical soil conditions), blades (for sticky materials such as clay) or ripper teeth (for severe soil conditions) positioned sequentially behind one another. It can be used to dig trenches as narrow as 4 in. or as wide as 20 in. Because blade width can be easily changed by simply unpinning one size and pinning on another, you don't need to invest in a lot of different sizes of buckets to accommodate varying trench widths.
The EZ Dig can be mounted on compact excavators up to 21,000 lbs. Depending on the machine size and the breakout force required, you can mount anywhere from one to three buckets or blades.
"Because of its design, the EZ Dig allows contractors to dig quickly, even in sticky clay, and the buckets empty easily. The EZ Dig eliminates having to repeatedly shake the bucket or forcefully remove the packed-in clay before discharging the load," notes Pratt. "The EZ Dig can also dig up to 35% faster because it takes more dirt per bite. It [can be] especially beneficial if you are required to dig a very narrow trench. The closer you can dig to the spec width of the trench, the better. You won't have as much to backfill and you will not waste time moving material you didn't need to move in the first place."
Easier pipe placement
Bucket thumbs can simplify material handling in trenching operations. "Thumbs are a great attachment if you have to lower something into or grab something out of a trench," says Ron Peters, product manager, CEAttachments. "Using the bucket and the thumb, you can pick up rocks or whatever you need to get out of the way."
Manufacturers offer a variety of choices, including rigid and hydraulic thumbs that can improve pipe handling, and eliminate the need for extra workers on the ground for hooking/unhooking chains and straps.
Another alternative is to use specialized attachments for pipe-handling operations. For example, Kenco Corp. offers three types of attachments specifically designed to handle virtually any type or size of pipe.