If you’re buying a skid steer grapple, make sure to consider these ideas before and after purchase.
A skid steer grapple attachment is excellent when you need to carry awkward materials with precision and efficiency. Oddly shaped items (like rocks, logs, or piles of concrete), can be moved more easily and efficiently with a grapple. And while bucket attachments are also used to carry objects, they don’t perform as well as a grapple.
Grapples are unique skid steer attachments with various uses. They are used for landscaping, farming, construction, logging, road construction, and recycling applications. A skid steer grapple can work with almost any type of material.
The lower part of a grapple attachment can easily scoop up loose debris like dirt or sand, making it perfect for cleanup operations. Plus, the large tines along the upper jaw easily grip large objects like railroad ties and large rocks.
PICKING THE RIGHT GRAPPLE
Choosing a skid steer grapple attachment suitable for your needs requires plenty of thought. There are hundreds of attachment manufacturers and thousands of different grapple models to choose from. To help with this buying process, use the following three steps to narrow your options.
IMPORTANT TIP: Make sure a grapple's price includes cylinders, fittings, hoses, and couplers. Some manufacturers don’t include these in the price and you will end up spending more money than you originally thought.
1. DETERMINe your SPECIFIC NEEDS
There are many different grapples designed for different applications. The attachment suited for your application should always be considered before purchase. Here are some questions to consider:
- What is your application?
- What do you plan on doing with it?
- Will your grapple be used for removing brush, trees, logs, manure, asphalt, concrete, scrap, recycling, or other materials?
People working in scrapyards will need a different grapple than people working in forests. Remember that any grapple's functions, efficiency, and capacity are greatly impacted by their design.
Important Tip: For more detailed information on grapple attachments, download The Ultimate Guide to Skid Steer Grapple Attachments.
2. GRAPPLE CONSTRUCTION
Grapples are exposed to a lot of stress, so they must be built strong in order to last a long time. Most skid steer attachment manufacturers will say they have the “best quality,” making it difficult to determine who actually makes high quality products.
IMPORTANT TIP: Choose an attachment based on the quality of materials it's made from and how it's constructed. Every attachment manufacturer or dealer should know exactly what goes into every attachment they sell.
Here are some specific things to look for to help determine quality.
Tine Yield Strength – Yield strength measures the stress steel can withstand before it remains permanently deformed. Look for a minimum yield strength of 50,000 PSI. Anything less and the grapple tines may bend or break under high stress areas. The higher the yield strength the better.
Yield strength has more of an impact on quality than tine diameter. A larger diameter is something that sounds good, but it's not the whole story.
For example, a 2” thick 1018 Cold Finished round stock (55,000 PSI) will not be as strong as a 2” thick 1045 Cold Finished round stock (80,000 PSI).
Reinforcements and Steel Type – On solid bottom grapples, look for extra reinforcement inside the bucket. On skeleton style grapples, look for gussets at tine tips.
If the tines are designed without gussets, look for thicker steel and an inverted “T” shape tine on skeleton styles like this. For round shaft style tines, refer to the PSI rating and the diameter.
Laser Cut Steel – Laser technology offers superior cutting abilities compared to plasma. More specifically, laser cutting achieves tighter tolerances, which leads to better quality.
Overall, laser-cut parts are more consistent and precise, ensuring snug joints and smoother moving parts.
Cylinder Pins, Cylinder Rods, and Wear Parts – Even though these parts make up a small part of the machine, they are extremely important. Look for parts that can easily be replaced and are easy to grease. These are wear parts, and over time they will need to be serviced and replaced, so save yourself a future headache and make sure they are easy to get to.
Chrome Plated vs. NitroSteel® Cylinder Rods – Many attachment manufacturers use chrome-plated cylinder rods. While these are not a bad choice, there are better and longer-lasting rods available for skid steer grapple attachments.
IMPORTANT TIP: NitroSteel® rods feature a dent and flake proof protective layer that's chemically bonded with the steel. The finish is extremely hard and is an environmentally friendly and superior performing alternative to chrome plating.
3. "SKELETON" Bottom VS. SOLID BOTTOM Grapple
OPEN BOTTOM Vs Solid Bottom
An open “skeleton” bottom allows smaller, unwanted material to fall through between the tines. Brush grapples and rock grapples will have an open bottom that sifts dirt and unwanted debris out.
With a solid bottom grapple, there are no spaces for debris to fall through. That’s what makes these types of attachments a great choice for recycling and scrap yard applications. They capture material for complete removal.
Also, many skeleton grapples will have a cross member (or front comb) at the tine tips. A cross member is a piece of metal that spans across the bottom tines of a skeleton bucket to increase overall strength.
Grapples without cross members at the tine tips will allow material to be penetrated more easily than grapples with cross members at the tine tips. As mentioned above, the tines on a grapple with no cross member should be made of a thicker, higher grade of steel since there is less structural support.
4. SELECT A SUITABLE SIZE
Choosing a grapple that's too small requires more trips, which results in higher operating costs. But keep in mind that bigger is not always better. The grapple should be big enough for what you need to do but not too big that the machine can’t effectively use the attachment (see #5 below).
IMPORTANT TIP: Work will be completed quicker when the required load is adequately carried by the size of grapple you select. Choose something large enough to optimize the number of trips needed.
5. APPROPRIATE FOR THE MACHINE
In order to find a suitable attachment, you have to know the loader capacity. Some grapples will be too big or too small for certain skid steers. Fitting the grapple to the machine keeps the attachment from being underutilized and the loader from being overloaded.
For example, the Virnig Root Rake Grapple is too big for a Bobcat® S185 to handle.
The loader capacity for an S185 is 1,850 pounds and the recommended loader capacity for the RRG is greater than 2,400 lbs. But, a Root Rake Grapple on a CAT® 262C (operating capacity of 2,700 pounds) would be a great combination.
If you don’t know your skid steer’s loader capacity, click here to find out. If you cannot find it there, a basic Google search for the specs usually works. Feel free to contact us as well.
6. DEPENDABLE DEALER AND MANUFACTURER SUPPORT
Choosing the right dealer can be as crucial as selecting the right attachment. Something on the grapple will eventually wear out or need replacing. Even if you can fix attachments yourself, the parts that need to be replaced still need to be manufactured.
It's important to work with a dealer and manufacturer who are experienced and can quickly provide the parts and answers to your questions.
GRAPPLES MAKE WORK EASIER
From raking and clearing brush to landscaping and site cleanup, many tasks can be simplified with a skid steer grapple attachment. Finding a proper skid steer grapple should not be stressful.