Some manufacturers equip trenchers with blades featuring carbide-tipped teeth to power through hard soils, tree roots and driveway asphalt. Courtesy of Little Beaver

Some manufacturers equip trenchers with blades featuring carbide-tipped teeth to power through hard soils, tree roots and driveway asphalt. Courtesy of Little Beaver

By Mike Hale | Little Beaver Inc. sales manager

When sports facility managers plan out trenching projects, it’s best to select equipment that’s the right size for maximum productivity. Large, chain-driven trenchers might seem like the best solution; however, their size makes them ungainly when digging a shallow, narrow trench for irrigation lines. They leave a gash in the soil that requires regular checking to prevent cupping and ensure that the grass grows back. What managers need is something more on par with a scalpel than a sword.

Mini trenchers — also called slit trenchers — quickly dig narrow, shallow trenches. The powerful yet compact machines can dig clean, narrow trenches from 0.5- to 4-inches wide, and they feature adjustable cutting depths to 13 inches. Their small blade size minimizes the impact on landscapes and also generates less backfill. Some models direct the soil to just one side, making backfill 50 percent faster than those that kick it out to both sides. Additionally, the amount of cupping that can occur after backfilling trenches is minimal. So once grass grows back in, it blends seamlessly.

Mini trenchers also minimize turf damage. Unlike track-driven models that create ruts in turf, mini trenchers feature pneumatic tires that reduce the risk of damaging a course’s natural aesthetics, and in turn minimize time and money spent on returning the soil to its former state.

Some mini trenchers feature powerful engines — ranging from 5.5 to 8 hp — which allows them to achieve high cutting speeds. Because of the engine, a mini-trencher’s blade achieves as many as 800 rpm. This speed helps them cut 30 feet of -a 1- to 4-inch wide trench in a minute – 20 percent faster than chain-driven units – to complete trenching projects quickly.

Carbide-tipped blades also contribute to a mini trencher’s high productivity. Some manufacturers build mini trenchers that feature a carbide blade that can cut through hard clay and tree roots. Combined with a shroud over the cutter or rotor wheel, the blades won’t kick up rocks toward the operator or a nearby worker.

Maintenance workers can also complete work quickly if the mini trencher features ergonomic controls. Some manufacturers offer trenchers that move forward rather than being pulled backwards, such as with a chain trencher. This, combined with the units’ compact size, allows operators to easily maneuver into tight spaces near structures and trees that larger trenchers simply can’t access.

Push-forward mini trenchers increase operator safety too. They give operators a clear view of what lies ahead. In contrast, an operator of a backward-pulling chain trencher is at a greater risk of tripping because he or she cannot see obstacles behind them.

When the work is done, key aspects of mini trenchers make maintenance fast and easy. Models featuring a triple V-belt system maintain positive traction if the trencher encounters an obstruction. This reduces wear on belts so operators have to replace them less often than belts on single-belt trenchers. A slip clutch built into the hub of the cutter wheels on some models kills the motor if the trencher hits an obstacle, preventing wear to the drive train and damage to cutting teeth. And some manufacturers build mini trenchers with blades bolted on rather than welded on so operators can replace cutting teeth within minutes using a wrench, which is a lot easier and less expensive compared to chain trenchers.

Mini trenchers provide increased productivity to trenching projects, such as for irrigation line installation. The units make these types of projects go smoother, faster and safer, which ultimately saves sports facility managers time and money. And that’s the definition of working smarter, not harder.

In 1974 Mike Hale started off his career in the fencing industry. And in 1996 he began working at Little Beaver Inc., a leading manufacture of portable earth drills and accessories, and continues to offer expertise on fencing and hole digging equipment as the sales manager. If you have questions or comments, contact Mike at mikeh@littlebeaver.com or call 800-227-7515.