The Inner Workings of a Stump Grinder

We all know that it takes a long time for a tree or even a big shrub stump to decay. If left to rot it may pose an obstacle to land use and may also present a potential home to pests or disease. Any homeowner will therefore want to accelerate this process without resorting to burning or run the risk of a possibly unsafe chemical method for removal. The best way you can consider to have the remainder of your tree removed, is to have it ground up. But how does a stump grinder work?

While the principles of every machine are essentially the same, the equipment can vary in size from small to quite large machines, and from the fairly simple to the extremely complex utilising hydraulics, multiple motors etc. The fundamentals are of a stump grinder are as follows: a fly, or cutting, wheel spins in the vertical plane and attached to this wheel are teeth (not dissimilar to those on a chainsaw) that are made with the specific purpose of grinding up a tree stump into mulch. You can leave this useful by-product on the garden to breakdown, provided the stump wasn’t infected with pests or disease. In which case you may be able to burn the leftover wood pulp, or you may need to bag it up and dispose of it off-site.

The business end of a Stump Grinder.

The business end of a Stump Grinder.

The spinning flywheel is occasionally a simple disc, but the toothed version is more common, usually attached to a machine arm. The business end of the Stump Grinder spins very quickly and is carefully lowered onto the stump, then moved across horizontally until the whole stump has been ground to that depth. The machine is then set to a lower height and passed across the stump again. The process is repeated until either the stump is removed or the piece of equipment reaches the limits of its declination. Some of them can reach a depth of up to 60cm with modern materials and engineering continuing to push the limits of how deep a stump can be ground. Stump grinders can be self-propelled (wheeled or tracked), trailer mounted, or stand alone, with some even small enough to be carried by a couple of men, so there is a grinder available to cope with the constraints of most situations, suitable for any site. Some have their own motor while others run off the power provided by another machine like a tractor or ATV.

The grinder employed to do the work will determine the height that the tree stump must be cut down to, as safety for the operator must be ensured. Even with the best PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) available – safety boots, thick gloves, helmet, eye and ear protection, which must be worn anyway, the machine tolerance limits should not be exceeded. It is important to prepare the work site before you attempt to remove the stump by eradicating any potential hazards and dangers for the operator, any assistants, and/or observers who may be near. Stump elimination can easily be the most challenging aspect of tree removal.

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Making of a stump grinder cutting wheel

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