View Full Version : Trenchers

05-11-2012, 06:31 PM
Anyone know of a good fairly priced small trencher - digging depth 12 inches maybe 3 inch wide cut.

Classic Lighting
05-12-2012, 07:49 PM
I use a bed edger by Brown Mfg. They sell several blades. I bought a 12"x2". Great for prelandscape install. Turf and Garden carries them
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starry night
05-12-2012, 11:31 PM
New to lighting installs, I just bought a 1/2 inch by 7" rotor for my Brown Bed Edger. I had occasion to talk to one of the company owners and he told me about a new machine they have which digs and feeds the wire into the trench.

But by Richie's description, it doesn't sound like that is what he's looking for.

David Gretzmier
05-13-2012, 02:46 AM
ah, trenchers.

I have often wished for an invisible fence type device for landscape lighting wire, one that would be useful on multiple long runs in turf. but then the price, usually in that 3k to 5k range. and then I see how fast my guys do the shovel and stomp and fit 3-4 wires in, I am not so sure it is faster to do multiple passes with a machine.

I have looked at that sod cutter like machine that digs the v edge like you see on the edges of some flowerbeds. pull up small strip of sod, lay wires, replace sod.

having recently done a job with 300 plus feet of trenching 24" deep for 100 amp service panel, I can tell you traditional trenching is no fun times 10.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
05-14-2012, 11:36 PM
The best trencher I have ever used is a 3" wide wolverine trenching shovel.

Oh, did you mean that you wanted something to slit trench into sod? The best tool for this is a standard flat spade.

Bottom line you can do it faster, cheaper, with less fuss and more accuracy "by hand". Hit one significant rock with a machine trencher and you are heading to the repair shop. (no I am not talking about vibratory plows... those are great but in a whole different league of equipment)

starry night
05-14-2012, 11:47 PM
I'm laughing. James, let's go head-to-head on a line to the back of a 200-foot lot. You use your spade. I'll use my bed edger with its 9 hp Honda engine and a very heavy-duty rotor. I'll be drinking a lemonade waiting for you at the finish line.

David Gretzmier
05-15-2012, 12:34 AM
I think you may finish the trench first, but take the total time- lay the wire, and clean up your work, and then give a score of how each looks when the clean up is done, and having done ways both multiple times, I gotta tell you, there is a reason why we use a spade for landscape wire. that being said...

If we did more turf work, no question I would dump the spade for a small vibratory or invisible dog fence type cable bury-quick,no clean up and way, way easier on feet. as mentioned, I have wanted one if not for speed, but for reducing my long term arthritis outlook.

There is no doubt in my mind I have taken tears of life off my feet, and I will not be jumping on a spade past 50 years old. and it is coming faster than I like.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
05-15-2012, 01:42 AM
Hey Phil, I take you up on that challenge, only I want you to come up here to one of our properties! I guarantee you I will be done first, and your machine will be toast. Aww heck I will even go down to you, where you may very well be done faster, but sure as heck my way will be invisible to the owner. I will place client satisfaction over speed any day of the week. :)

David: They are called employees... great things for your ongoing health and well being!

starry night
05-15-2012, 05:44 AM
James, you spoiled my trump card, that is, the contest was going to be here in northern Ohio where the Great Glacier flattened the land. I can't imagine trying to bury wire in some of your terrain. Seriously, I'm hoping the new 1/2 inch rotor I am awaiting will make minimal mess in turf.

Nonetheless, the spade is certainly the tool of choice in landscape beds.
Last week, on one of my first jobs, I learned to allow more time for burying wire.
I should know better from my landscaping experience: the "amateur" pros who dump mulch on mulch on mulch. Around here, the amateurs' choice is chipped construction wood (pallets, etc.) which is dyed black. The trouble is, this mulch doesn't degrade fast enough. So, previous years' mulch gets crusty before they add another two inches each year.. I found myself trying to spade through as much as 6 inches of crust in some spots before reaching soil to go down another 6 inches.
I spent about three times the labor I had planned. Work and learn.

05-15-2012, 07:24 AM
The best trencher I have ever used is a 3" wide wolverine trenching shovel.

Oh, did you mean that you wanted something to slit trench into sod? The best tool for this is a standard flat spade.

Bottom line you can do it faster, cheaper, with less fuss and more accuracy "by hand". Hit one significant rock with a machine trencher and you are heading to the repair shop. (no I am not talking about vibratory plows... those are great but in a whole different league of equipment)

We have 4-5 of the smaller trench shovels and then 3 of these heavy duty boys :cool2: - http://www.wolverinehandtools.com/popup.htm?./tall/fl800.jpg

I have owned trenchers in the past and your better off subbing out large trenching jobs but just wanted to know if anyone used smaller trenchers for like 50-100 ft runs 6 in deep.

05-15-2012, 07:16 PM
Phil, I have the 1/2" x 7" blade on one of our brown bed edgers. Used it for running wire out to an engraved boulder. Worked great for the most part had to redirect once to go around a rock. Used the excavated dirt and some sand to top the trench off.
I will use it again when the situation calls but have done everything else with a flat spade.

starry night
05-15-2012, 11:16 PM
Keith, Glad to hear from someone who has actually used the Brown plus that narrow rotor. That's exactly the way I expect to use it: A long run to a remote location.

David Gretzmier
05-16-2012, 10:17 AM
another thought here ( and James, I do have 2 guys who do most of the grunt work- but they hate turf as well ). Having broken at least a dozen spades over the last few years ( stomp, wiggle back and forth, stomp, wiggle, and then after 300-500 times, blade finally bends then breaks...replace. stomp, wiggle...)

I took a tool we have here called the mutt, which is basically a roof shingle remover, root cutter or floor tile removal-sort of a 4" chisel on a stick. around 25 bucks. I then welded a 18" long, 1/4" thick 2" wide steel angle iron across the top of the blade for foot jumps. much easier on feet, and with it's 1/4" thick steel chisel, does not bend when you wiggle, and I have not had to replace in over a year. easy to sharpen with angle grinder, and since it is only 4" wide, all your weight gets concentrated and makes for easier penetration and better depth than we got from spades.

The bottom line is if the spade were always the best tool, then all the invisible dog fence guys would use it. and really, all of them I have seen use the small vibrating wire cabling tool that makes clean quick work out of turf. you almost can't see where they have been. I wish I had one, but in runs of less than 50 feet, probably quicker to grab a spade then unload a piece of equiplent.

05-16-2012, 10:20 PM
For just running wire, look at one of these.


INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
05-17-2012, 12:26 AM
David. Try this: http://www2.fiskars.com/Products/Yard-and-Garden/Digging-Tools/D-Handle-Garden-Spade-Steel I have had mine for 4 years now and no issues at all.

David Gretzmier
05-17-2012, 02:25 AM
I am a fiskar man. we buy those at Lowes down here. I and the guys love them, but alas, broke 3 of those. it is always at the blade where we wiggle it back and forth to create the trench. we actually break them near the middle of the blade, sharpen the 1/2 broke blade, and then use until we break them under the step next. we are in the ozark mountains, and do have rocky reddish clay soil. the mutt however, keeps on trucking.

05-17-2012, 06:49 AM
How does the Brown work or trenching? I picked up a used one for bed edging and it came with the trenching blade for wire or irrigation...I have not used it for wire yet.
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starry night
05-20-2012, 12:43 PM
Here's the new half-inch rotor on my Brown bed edger. Did a nice job in the bare ground. As you can see you can only get within a foot of objects (like the fence). Notice that it throws out dirt about a foot to one side. I hit one sizable rock which the operator can hear and notice the engine bulking. I merely stopped and dug out the rock and proceeded. I trenched 160 feet in five minutes.

starry night
05-20-2012, 12:46 PM
The upload didn't get this one the first time:

05-23-2012, 12:30 AM
For hand work we like the http://www.radiusgarden.com/garden-tools/product/pro-edger
And http://www.radiusgarden.com/garden-tools/product/pro-flat-spade

starry night
05-23-2012, 01:01 PM
Sorry everyone, I just figured out how to reduce the size of the photo I was trying to upload to go with my previous post about the Brown edger with the half-inch wide rotor.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
05-24-2012, 08:10 AM
Phil, in that application and soils I can see how the edger works for you. I would like to see photos of what it does across mature / established lawn. Also, how does it handle turns? What is it's effective turning radius? What happens when you come across a buried rock or root?

I have yet to see any machine that can put wire in the ground as quickly, accurately AND neatly (in all soil & ground conditions) as we can do it by hand using flat spades & trenching shovels.

05-24-2012, 01:35 PM
If I may.......I agree that for most of us, in all conditions, nothing will be as popular as our hand tools. Most times its quicker to grab a spade and go rather than having to unload a machine, check oil and gas and then see where buried lines and pipe might be lurking. If however you already own a machine like the Brown bed edger it can come in handy sometimes for long runs in the right soil conditions. Granted on an established lawn the choice would have to be made between machine and spade depending on distance and perhaps more importantly....viewing location.
Almost forgot to answer this....On established lawns it would certainly "leave a mark" where the grass was cut out but would fill in with time. For turns the Brown has two rear wheels that pivot once the release is lifted on the pulling handle. I don't have the exact turning radius but that changes anyway due to which way you are turning and more importantly soil conditions. In short...plan for your turns in advance......gradual is easier on machine and man. When you have pulled these machines up and down hills and covered lots of differing terrain you will know when you hit a rock, gravel or roots. Each have a different feel and mostly sound! You may have to redirect occasionally but I am always amazed at what they can and do go thru.
To sum it all up....I would not go and buy the Brown bed edger to just trench for landscape lighting. However if you already own one, or a friend does, buying the extra rotor for occasional use might be a good investment.

starry night
05-24-2012, 02:03 PM
Keith, James, et al: In my case, I already owned the Brown ($2500) and just bought the narrow-trenching rotor. So far, I've been working alone so I will use the machine anywhere feasible including through established turf on a job coming up. And I agree about the feel and sound of hitting something. Typically, you are pulling the machine slowly enough that you know when you make first contact. This strong machine will crack through rocks up to about six inches or can knock off the edges of even larger rocks. Same way with roots. It will go through all but the largest.

BTW, Keith, I am not sure, but weren't you away from this forum for awhile until just recently? Glad to have you back.

05-25-2012, 01:15 AM
BTW, Keith, I am not sure, but weren't you away from this forum for awhile until just recently? Glad to have you back.

I pop in often but am more of an observer. :) Thanks!

Alan B
05-25-2012, 12:43 PM
Everyone is right and lots of good input. The thing to note is that each geographic region has very different soil charateristics and each homesite different needs. If you have farm like soil or long runs a trencher could be great. The there are other times where nothing beats hand trenching.

The soft sandy soil in Tampa is very different than the ledge rock along a lake in Colorado. However even sandy Tampa, you still come across lots of tree roots and other obstacles. Each location will have its own needs.

The more interesting thing is that this applies well beyond trenching and applies to fixtures, lighting styles, pricing, competition, fixture material and just about everything else in our industry. Being a national co, I see lots of perspectives and differences in needs depending on the locations. Examples... some think a 10" hammer stake is great (maybe they live in soft sandy soil area), others only use our brass trident stake (maybe there area rocks, roots). Many say the full glare protection of our Top Dog spotlight is the way to go, others who have lots of conifer trees may prefer a more open face on the spotlight where the pineneedles can fall off the face. Take in all advice and tailor it to your area.

Have a great Memorial Day 3 Day weekend everyone! :usflag: