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AUGUST 2013 issue of
Rental Management

Stump grinders: Don't get stumped

How to help customers pick the right machine for stump removal


Trees come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s no wonder that stump grinders have a similar range. From handlebar grinders and attachments to dedicated machines and towables, stump grinders vary for every job.

Stump location and grinding conditions are two elements that can help you recommend what type of stump grinder a rental customer should use.

“The location of the stump helps determine which type of grinder to use,” says Casey Gross, Tree Care Products sales manager, Morbark, Winn, Mich. “You can use a handlebar to get into tight areas or areas you can’t access with a towable stump grinder. The type of job also makes a difference. If you have a bunch of little saplings to cut, you wouldn’t necessarily need a large towable machine to do that. The benefit of a self-propelled unit is that usually that type of unit will fit through a 36-in. gate, whereas a towable stump grinder is much bigger.”

For rental, this means asking questions not only about the size, type and number of tree stumps the customer plans to address, but also the location and nearby obstructions, such as other trees, buildings, fences, gates or underground utilities.

Handlebar stump grinders are “more convenient to use and easier to move and get into tight spaces versus towable grinders. They make perfect units for rental stores because the average person usually only has a few stumps to remove at any one time,” says Kurt Kainz, marketing manager, ECHO Bear Cat, West Fargo, N.D.

“The ECHO Bear Cat SG340, for example, is designed for getting into areas that PTO attachable grinders cannot. Its narrow, 23-in. wheel base allows it to work in confined areas or up against foundations, walls and other potential obstacles,” Kainz says.

Jay Sunderman, manager, Strategic Business Unit, EV Sales Tree Care, Vermeer, Pella, Iowa, agrees. “Handlebar stump cutters typically fill two specific market needs. One is in the rental industry as these smaller units can be more easily transported and operated by homeowners. The second is to afford the tree contractor or stump removal contractor a small unit that can operate in tight spaces and hard-to-reach areas, like backyards or landscaped areas close to houses,” Sunderman says.

“The towable stump grinder needs a little more room to maneuver as the size of the work area must also accommodate the tow vehicle. You will certainly remove the stump more quickly with a towable unit, but if the space doesn’t allow, a handlebar style stump cutter may be the most practical tool for the job. Regardless of the size, self-propelled units offer mobility and better access to areas that would be more difficult to reach with a towable model,” he says.

Another option is to use a stump grinding attachment for a job that may include stump removal, but also site cleanup and other tasks.

“Stump grinder attachments allow for more versatility. The same base machine can be used for multiple needs,” says Anna Foster, rental product marketing manager, Sitework Systems, The Toro Co., Bloomington, Minn.

“For example, the stump grinding attachment can be replaced with a grapple fork attachment to pick up branches. An attachment is ideal for small grinding jobs on a job site that also requires a machine for other work, like grading or trenching. This saves on trailer space since you only need one machine instead of two or more. In a rental environment, an attachment allows a machine, like a compact utility loader, to be available for other jobs when stump grinding is not in demand.”

However, if the stump in question is large and has a wider diameter, a bigger towable or dedicated stump grinding machine might be the better option.

“Dedicated stump cutters have hydraulics and cutting systems that maximize the cutting performance at the stump,” says Vermeer’s Sunderman. “They may also offer wider cutting arcs than attachments and spoil containment is generally more of a consideration with dedicated stump cutters.”

Toro’s Foster agrees. “Dedicated units typically have higher horsepower, which translates to better cutting speed and power. The power is more tailored, sized and directed to the cutting head where the work is done,” Foster says.

“With an attachment, you are at the mercy of the machine’s attachment hydraulics. Sweep geometry and chip management are optimized for cutting stumps on dedicated units, rather than non-dedicated units, which rely on loader arm geometry that is designed to accommodate multiple types of attachments and applications. Dedicated units also tend to offer more efficiency with more teeth on the cutting wheel,” she says.


Make sure customers know about safety

When renting a stump grinder, manufacturers say to make sure customers are educated on all operator safety instructions in the manufacturer’s manual. Many companies also provide training DVDs or videos to rental stores, which they can use for training as well.

Kurt Kainz, marketing manager, ECHO Bear Cat, West Fargo, N.D., says rental companies need to give customers complete instructions. “They should cover everything from putting gas in the machine for initial operation to all the safety factors to consider during operation. Proper safety gear should be used at all times as well,” Kianz says.

Proper attire includes protective work boots, protective eye wear and gloves, says Anna Foster, rental product marketing manager, Sitework Systems, The Toro Co., Bloomington, Minn.

“When stump grinding, it’s important to always clean the ground of debris around the stump. Remove all rocks and other objects that could be thrown by the cutter wheel. Debris such as wood chips and rocks will be thrown by the grinder — be wary of where the grinder is throwing chips and orient the machine away from buildings and other areas that could be damaged by thrown objects,” Foster says.

In addition, being near an operating cutter wheel is extremely dangerous, Foster says. “Keep bystanders away from the work zone while grinding. Select a stump grinder that allows the operator a clear line of site between the operator zone and the stump to avoid the need for a bystander to help direct the grinding,” she says.

The stump grinder cutting wheel should have an operator presence safety feature that will shut the wheel off if the operator leaves the operator zone, Foster adds. “Some stump grinders have a braking system that stops the cutting wheel quickly after shutdown, but be aware of cutting wheels that can have a long rundown time when shut off and stay away from the cutting head until it is completely stopped,” she says.

Another thing to pay attention to includes making sure the machine is stable when grinding stumps on hillsides, Foster says. Also, because stump grinders work below grade, be sure to have the work area marked for buried utilities prior to grinding the stump.

To find out where utilities are before grinding stumps, call 811 to have utilities located on the site. For more information on utility location, visit call811.com.




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