How to choose and use a grinding head

The success of a horizontal drum mill, or grinder head, depends not only on how you choose it, but also how you use it. Operators will be disappointed in performance if they purchase a mulching head that is not properly matched to their skid steer loader or crawler loader. Production will also suffer if the grinding head is used inefficiently. Here are some tips on selecting and operating the equipment to ensure you have a good experience.

Choosing a grinding head

The first step to being successful with a grinder head is to make sure it is compatible with the power pack. Three of the most important factors when choosing a mulching head are hydraulic power, the weight of the power train and the width of the mulching head.

Hydraulic power

When it comes to finding the right mulching head for a skid steer loader or compact track loader, hydraulic power is far more important than engine power. To determine hydraulic horsepower, simply multiply the gallons per minute (gpm) and pressure rating (psi) of the power unit’s hydraulic system, then divide that number by 1,714. For example, a crawler loader with ratings hydraulics of 36 gpm at 3450 psi would have a hydraulic power of 72.5 (36 x 3450/1714).

Mulching heads are available for a wide range of skid steer loaders and compact track loaders, even for low throughput models. Keep in mind, however, that performance is directly related to hydraulic power. A low throughput skid steer loader will not be able to keep up with a high throughput skid steer loader. Likewise, a skid steer loader with less hydraulic power required for a mulching head may not match the performance of a more powerful skid steer loader at the high end of these requirements.

Power unit weight

Before purchasing a mulching head, it is important to make sure that the skid steer loader or crawler loader has the necessary weight capacity to transport it. Also think about working conditions. Flotation can be a problem with some power units when a heavy grinding head is used on loose soil. The unit’s weight and balance make stability another consideration when operating over rough terrain, hills and steep valleys.

forward mulching
reverse mulching
shaving equipment with grinder

Cutting width

One factor that is often overlooked when purchasing a mulching head is the cutting width. While it is true that a wider head can cover an area faster than a narrower head, it may not conform to the contour of the ground as well on some job sites. For example, in narrow ditches, a 5 foot wide head will likely be able to cut lower to the ground than a 6 foot wide head.

The cutting width is also related to the hydraulic power. If a person is concerned that their skid steer loader or compact track loader is at the lower end of the hydraulic requirements for a mulching head, it may be a good idea to choose a narrower model rather than a wider one. . This is because it simply takes less power to spin a narrower rotor than a wider one.

Other important considerations when choosing a grinder head are cutting teeth and rotor options. Many grinding heads can be used with carbide teeth or sharp knives. Carbide teeth are a durable, low-maintenance option for inexperienced operators, and are generally recommended for rocky conditions. Lately, however, more and more operators have turned to sharp knives. While knives are not as durable and require regular sharpening, they are much more aggressive, making them able to cut finer and work faster than carbide teeth.

The decision on the cutting teeth leads to a discussion about the rotor. As sharp knives have become more popular, limiter rotors have also become more popular. Since knives have a natural tendency to bite into material more aggressively than is ideal, a limiter rotor helps control material in the feed for more efficient performance. The two main types of limiter rotors available today are ring gauges and depth gauges. Ring style rotors are generally known to have the most restrictions. The depth gauges are not as restrictive, making it easier for operators to pick up material from the ground, especially when using less aggressive carbide tines.

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Use a grinding head

When using this equipment for the first time, one of the most important tips is to understand the hydraulic capacities of the powertrain and then stay within that range. As a general rule, it is recommended that you operate 500 psi below the maximum hydraulic relief pressure. For example, if the skid steer loader or crawler loader has a maximum hydraulic relief pressure of 3500 psi, the operator should try not to exceed approximately 3000 psi.

Most grinder heads have a pressure gauge on the top of the unit for easy reference. The pressure increases as the load increases and the rotor slows down or even stalls when the maximum discharge pressure is reached. When this happens, performance is diminished and heat is generated which could potentially damage the hydraulic system. To reduce pressure, operators can reduce driving speed and / or feed material more slowly.

There are several ways to use a grinding head. First, the head can be tilted back to expose the knives for felling standing trees. Then operators can shave large material from a felled tree by lowering the rear of the unit to contact the trunk, preventing logs from being thrown backwards.

Another application is front mulching. During this operation, the rear of the cutter can be lowered close to the ground to help trap material in the cutting chamber for further processing, if desired. Some mulching heads have adjustable skids for height control, which can even be adjusted for mulching below ground level.

Operators can also reverse the mulching or roll back. Here the head is tilted forward as the skid steer loader or crawler loader moves backwards. This is very effective for material sizing, as this action pulls the material on the ground against the cutter bar and into the chamber. Some units have an adjustable cutter bar to help control particle size and production rate. Some units also have a second cutter bar behind the front bumper, allowing material to be cut twice for further processing. This feature is often referred to as a two-stage cutting chamber.

When using a grinding head, many operators take a two-step approach. First, they move forward on a first pass to reduce material to ground level. The goal here is to quickly spill the material without processing it all the way into the cutting chamber of the head. Then they move back to reduce the size of the material for faster decomposition and / or create a prettier end product. Of course, only the first step needs to be taken if operators don’t care about reducing the size of the material. Sometimes they are content to leave larger pieces to rot on the ground for longer periods of time. Ultimately, the use of a grinding head will largely depend on the type of job and the requirements of the customer.

Like most other things, experience really is the best teacher. Fortunately, there is a lot of demand in right-of-way vegetation management to help newcomers gain a lot of experience with mulch heads. But these tips, combined with the support of your equipment dealer, will allow you to get a good head start.

Bill Schafer is Product Development Supervisor at Loftness.

Tags: Land clearing, Loftness, November December 2021 print edition, right of way

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