There it sits ? a big, ugly stump right where you?re going to install a new landscape design. It has to go. But before you reach for the phone to get a professional stump removal service to come out to the site, consider what you?re paying for. You have to schedule a day for some guy to come out and grind the stump. Your project is delayed, you?re paying a sizeable fee to the subcontractor, and you?re still left with cleanup. Why not do it yourself and add stump cutting to the slate of services you can offer your clients?

One way to do your own stump grinding is to add an attachment to a piece of equipment you already own. However, if you decide to build up this profit center, you would probably buy dedicated equipment for the job.

In this case, skid steer loaders provide the horsepower for attachments like these. ?Most landscape contractors have at least one skid steer loader in their equipment sheds. It?s almost as basic as a pickup truck,? says Louis Scheidt, Caterpillar?s marketing supervisor for Building Construction Product Work Tools in Peoria, Illinois.

?Attachments like stump grinders make the skid steer loader very versatile, and perfect for the smaller company,? adds Brad Paine, associate marketing manager of Toro Dingo in Bloomington, Minnesota. In addition, adding an attachment extends the usefulness of your skid steer loader.
A lot of tree removal is done near buildings where older trees crowd too close to a home, or where disease strikes. Some contractors, like Hank Harder, vice president of Harder Tree and Landscape Service in Hempstead, New York, do a lot of municipal work, removing trees close to buildings or between the curb and the sidewalk on city streets. ?We need to be able to put the stump grinder in small spaces,? he says.

Stump Cutting Attachments
Skid steer loaders with stump grinding attachments are very maneuverable. ?You can get them in and out of very tight places,? says Scheidt. ?They are easy to move into small areas like backyards or through gates,? adds Gloria Palm of Bobcat in West Fargo, North Dakota. Skid steer loaders, especially the compact utility models, leave a small footprint on the landscape.

Stump grinding attachments are available for both standard skid steer loaders and for mini-skid steer loaders. These attachments vary in the size of the grinding wheel, the number of carbide cutters, and the amount of arc in the cutting wheel, which determines how much of the stump the attachment can grind without being repositioned. There also is variability in the height of the stump they can cut, and how deep below grade they can grind. Most only take a few minutes to attach.

Though they have small cutting wheels (some as small as 17") with only 12 carbide cutting teeth, stump grinding attachments for mini-skid steer loaders are able to make short work of backyard stumps.

Kanga?s stump cutting attachment also has a 90-degree arc, which means that the machine can grind a lot of stump surface before being repositioned.

The Toro Dingo stump grinder has a wheel that you can position at a 30-degree angle so that you can grind more root without taking out more turf. Mini-skid steer loaders allow the operator to stand on or behind the machine, giving a clear view of what the stump cutter is doing.
Some stump cutting attachments have a 70- to 80-degree arc which allows them to grind without repositioning. They have larger cutting wheels, ranging from 22" to 27", with 32 carbide teeth, and are controlled from the operator?s compartment.

Efficiency and speed depend on the hydraulic systems, the attachments used on the skid steer loader, and the amount of horsepower in the skid steer loader?s engine. ?Performance is dependent on the skid steer loader?s hydraulic flow,? Palm says. You get more power from a skid steer loader that has high hydraulic flow. The stump grinder attachment for the Kanga mini-skid steer loader, for example, has a built-in 20hp engine that also uses the hydraulics of the skid steer. Its high speed grinds stumps into fine sawdust rather than chips.

Caterpillar has two stump grinding attachments; one uses standard flow hydraulics, and the other uses high flow hydraulics. The Bobcat stump cutting attachment can be used with either standard or high-flow Bobcat loaders. The Bobcat stump grinder also has its cutting wheel set perpendicular to the operator, allowing him an unobstructed view of how the grinder is interfacing with the stump.

Another advantage to using a stump cutting attachment with a skid steer loader is the ability to attach many different tools to the skid steer: buckets, rakes, etc. You can grind a stump, dispose of the chips or sawdust, rake the ground, and start digging. ?Cleanup is very quick, and it?s there when you need it,? says Palm.

Alan Porter, president of Kanga in Queensland, Australia, says that you won?t find his company?s stump grinding attachments at rental stores. ?Stump grinders can be very dangerous pieces of equipment,? he says. ?We won?t sell to rental companies.? Kanga considers stump grinding a specialized skill that only a trained labor force can do. Therefore, they only sell to professional tree care specialists and landscapers.

Dedicated stump cutters
?If you intend to grind stumps larger than 30-inches in diameter, or grinding many tree stumps in a day, it may be more time-efficient for you to buy a dedicated stump cutter,? Paine advises. ?A large stump will take more time, depending on the horsepower of the machine,? Mark Rieckhoff, product specialist for Vermeer in Pella, Iowa notes. But the size of a stump or the power of an engine isn?t the only consideration when contemplating buying a dedicated stump cutter for your business.

Surprisingly, dedicated stump cutters aren?t always the size of highway construction equipment and don?t have to be transported to the site in a semi, says J. R. Bowling, sales manager for Rayco in Wooster, Ohio. His company does make the large forestry models, but it also makes a line of small machines that range from a tiny 9hp grinder to the 25hp Super, Jr.
The machines in the Mini Work-Force series (9hp to 20hp) are about the size of a rototiller. The 9hp stump grinder can even be picked up and brought through doorways. The others can be pushed anywhere, and two are self-propelled.

With small machines like these, you can do easy stump removal in very inaccessible areas. Despite its size, the Mini Work-Force with its 12-tooth 14-inch wheel can tackle stumps up to 24 inches and cut very deep, as far 22 inches. Since these machines weigh between 400 to 500 pounds, they will not impact heavily on the landscape.

Husqvarna also has a line of small 11hp to 13hp stump grinders. Like Rayco?s Mini Work-Force, they have 14-inch wheels, but have only eight teeth, which can be removed individually and sharpened or replaced. These machines are all self-propelled.

Vermeer manufactures smaller dedicated stump grinders for the landscape contractor, as well as major ground-clearing machines. These 25hp and 35hp self-propelled stump cutters have the power to rip through the biggest trees, but can be maneuvered into smaller spaces. One of them is even small enough to pass through a 35-inch gate. This machine can also be enhanced with the AutoSweep system, an electronic governing system that monitors engine RPMs and controls the rate the cutter wheel sweeps across the stump surface. ?This decreases fatigue and stress on the machine and prevents stalling,? says Rieckhoff.

Whether you?re looking for something to take out a stump or two so you can carry on with your project, or you?re considering an add-on to your business, stump cutters can increase your earning potential. If you add stump cutting to your line of client services, people will be reaching for the phone and calling you for subcontracting deals.

May 2002