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Different Trencher Types and Their Purpose


Trenchers come in various sizes and could use different implements for digging, depending on the depth and width of the trench required and how hard the surface to be to be cut is. Trenchers need to be handled with great care since they are extremely dangerous equipment.


wheel trencher

A rockwheel

A rockwheel or a wheel trencher consists of a toothed metal wheel. It is easier to maintain and operate compared to the chain-type trencher. It can work in both soft and hard surfaces, either heterogeneous (moraines, alluvial, broken or split rock) or homogeneous (sands, silts or compact rocks). This is true particularly because the cutting wheel works by clearing soil, the same way a bucket wheel does, other than like a rasp or chain trencher. Therefore, it will be a little less sensitive to presence of blocks in soils. They can also be used to cut pavement in the maintenance of roads and to get access to utilities under roads.


The wheel is capable to reach uneven cutting depth with similar tool due to its design. It can also maintain a steady soil working angle with a rather small wheel size that reduces the weight and pressure to the ground as well as height for the unit for transportation.

The elements of cutting, that are six to eight, depending on diameter, are put near the wheel, and bear teeth whose density depend on the type of surface that they will encounter. The tools can be very easily changed manually, as well as adjusted to provide various cutting width on the same wheel. Teeth are arranged in a semi spherical configuration to improve the ability of the machine to remove materials from trench. The high strengthened steel is used to make the teeth. The teeth may need frequent replacement when the machine is being used heavily. The excavated materials are moved away from the trench to avoid possible “recycling” courtesy of a system of ejectors and spacers. Wheel trenches can be mounted on rubber tires or tracks.


chain trencher

A track trencher with digging chain

A chin trench cuts by digging belt or chain which is driven round and round a boom or metal frame. It looks like a giant chainsaw. This trencher is capable of working in ground that is too hard to cut with bucket type excavator. It can also cut both deep and narrow trenches. The boom’s angle can be adjusted so as to control depth of the cut. The boom should be positioned at a fixed angle as the machine slowly creeps, in order to cut a trench. Chain trencher is used to dig wide trenches such as electricity, drainage, telecommunication, sanitation, gas, water, among others, more so in rural areas. The excavated materials may be removed by a conveyor belt reversible either on the left or right.

There are several methods for digging trenches in rock-predominantly drilling and blasting hydraulic breakers and also chain trenchers. Choosing a method of trench excavation should take into account machine properties as well as range of rocks. It is recommended that the merits of using chain trenching machine in suitable rocks overshadow the disadvantages and may also have benefits of costs and less dangerous effects of the environment compared with the other alternative methods.
macro trencher

This is a “small rock wheel” specifically designed to be used in urban areas. The macro trencher is fitted with a cutting wheel which cuts a macrotrench with small dimensions which are achievable with conventional trench digging machinery.


A Marais micro trencher.

The micro trencher width varies from approximately 30mm to about 130mm (1.2 to 5.10) with depth of 500mm (20 in) or even less. The machines are at times radio controlled.

The road’s structure is maintained with a micro trencher and there is no any other associated damage to roads. Due to the reduced size of the trench, the amount of waste material excavated is also minimized. Micro trenchers are mostly used to reduce pedestrian or traffic disturbance while in the process of lying network. They can also be used in installing FTTx connections. The micro trencher is capable of working in narrow city streets or on sidewalks, and can also dig harder grounds compared to a chain trencher, as well as digging through solid stone. A micro trencher can also be used in cutting pavement for the maintenance of the road and get access to utilities under roads.


Portable Trencher

A portable trencher machine in operation

Lawn care experts and landscapers could use a portable trencher to install irrigation lines and landscape edgings. The machine is relatively light in weight (around 200 pounds) and is very easy to maneuver than other trencher types. The cutting tool could be a blade or a chain that resembles that of rotary lawn mower blade tilting so as to rotate in a vertical plane.


Walk-behind trenchers

Walk – behind trenchers are very useful in creating medium, narrow depth trenches in paces with sensible elbow rooms. Normally they dig up 3 feet deep. However, some can dig up to 4 feet. Normally, they are set for six-inch wide trench, but 4” and 8” may as well be found.


The operator does not necessary walk behind the machine as the name suggests. Instead, the machine operator stands at the front of machine, where controls are located. Digging chain is located at the rear. The operator does not move back as the machine operates. The backward movement is so slow that a passer-by would think that operator is “walking behind” the machine. Since they are normally used by DIY users, sometimes accidents do occur. Make sure you check out for buried utility lines just before using one.

Other special purpose trenchers are:

Bad edge trencher- it is used for crating clean shallow trenching specifically for landscaping borders such as concrete, plastic and brick edging.


Wire trencher: it is used to install landscape lighting and electric dog fences.


There are so many types of trenchers depending on the nature of the job, type of surface and purpose of the work. The trenchers are considered to be extremely dangerous, so operators are advised to exercise utmost care while operating the machines. The machines can are also available for rentals.

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