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  1. #1
    tjp
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    Mini Ex, 2,000 lb class or 4,000 lb class?

    Or should I say 29 inch wide vs 38 inch wide....

    In the market for a mini ex, next month or so. I like it, or at least the idea of a mini ex, over the walk-behinds for versatility and the ability to move logs and such. Lots of trees here in Northwest CA. Not so many rocks.

    I love the size and easy trailerability (could tow it with my Tacoma) of the 2000 lb excavators like the TB 108, but how much more work could I get done with a 4,000 lb class machine like the 16?

  2. #2
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    Let me preface this by saying this is straight up opinion, unsupported by any kind of fact, direct experience with mini-ex's while trail building, or research into your specific question. That said, I do have experience with equipment and working in tight locations. So....

    If I was buying a mini-ex, I would look at what width corridor I was comfortable cutting. Whatever I got would *have* to fit inside that corridor at all times. Now, remember, trail width != corridor width, necessarily, you can push the tread width back down within the corridor. So, I would find the biggest, most powerful machine that I could fit inside the corridor. The reason for that is the bigger the machine, the less likely you are to run into an obstacle the machine is physically incapable of handling. The value of being able to lift/move more weight further away from the machine should not be under estimated.

    That said, I'm thinking if you increase the cost of the machine, and then have to buy a new truck or whatever to tow it with, you may quickly find you're spending way too much money, so you may have to allow $$ to dictate what's right for you.

  3. #3
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    I have a 1 ton class Kubota K008-3. One thing I've found is that even though the tracks do retract down to 28", you pretty much have to have them extended to the 36" setting while digging or the thing gets crazy tippy. The narrow setting is nice for slipping between trees and choke points and it's nice to be able to work through narrow gaps as it gives the trail more of a tight singletrack through the woods feel. So basically you end up with a 36" tread width with narrower chokes and filters. I would think with a larger machine you would lose a lot of that narrow feel to the trail.

    The thing has good digging power for bench cutting but can balk at removal of large stumps. Its easier on the machine to sever as many roots as possible with the excavator and then use a winch to pull the stump.

    I really like the ability to tow it with a half ton truck and single axle trailer. And it's really quiet and will work all day on 5 gallons of diesel no problem.

    Good luck. They're a lot of fun and a huge labor saver. They still require a certain amount of hand finish work afterwards, though.

  4. #4
    Off the back...
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    ^^^^^^^ That's what I was going to say. We build as narrow as possible with the smallest ex possible. Takes longer, but I like the results.

  5. #5
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    Smaller is better, less collateral damage.
    There's a big difference between ripping and skidding. Those who skid don't know how to ride.

  6. #6
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    I am a trail builder in Eastern Pa and own an equipment rental company. I own several Kubota K008s, KX41, U15 up to K080 (8ton). My machine of choice is a track Dingo with a 6way blade and tooth bucket because the terrain is mostly broken soft shale covered in 4" loam, the vegetation is mostly invasive Autumn Olive with some stands of hardwood. The 42" wide blade is a quick bench cutter and creates great flow rollers and berms with a little experience. The bucket carries a decent amount of soil if cut and fill is necessary and it moves decent size rocks and logs. The machine has a wide variety of attachments making it versatile.

    The machine type is a matter of preference and local conditions. Regarding excavators the 1ton machine is a toy, great for interior building plumbing fit outs, the bucket is tiny, the productivity is low. The 2ton machine is the one I see in most pro trail builder pictures. You may be able to add a thumb (I wouldn't put one on a 4ton rental unit), the buckets are larger and you could fashion a wide grading tool without twisting the dipper. I might also recommend a zero tail swing unit like the Kubota U15 as it will reduce rubbing trees in tight quarters.

    With that said I would highly recommend renting both types or several different makes and models for you to make the most informed purchase. And I recommend you try a Dingo type machine and if you can find a 6way blade, Bonus.

    *Sorry guys, had to edit I had the weight misstated hope I didn't confuse anybody.
    Last edited by ABud; 03-06-2013 at 05:37 PM.

  7. #7
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    PS a friend of mine and Mtn Biker runs ALL Star Rents with a bunch of locations from Novato CA to Reno NV. Don't know your proximity?

  8. #8
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    I just built a few miles of trail with a 60" wide machine. The trail tread ended up being 20"-30" wide. Blade with of the machine doesnt determine the final trail tread with, the operator does. It's mostly in the operator not the machine. Go bigger (2ton) and just be a better operator!
    Epic trails get built in the Northwest by epic people!

    Sustainable quality trails please.

  9. #9
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    Yeah ABud,

    I should have mentioned that I use the K008 on mostly silt and clay soils with around 8" of organics and veg mat over that (south central Alaska). Glacial till and cobbles underneath. The trees are mostly pretty small. Works good for that, beats a goon spoon. I use a 16" bucket with good results. Horses for courses and all that. Next purchase will be a Dingo or similar (leaning toward a Ditchwitch SK650) w/ 6 way blade for finish work. How do you side cast the spoils using just the Dingo? Or maybe its not such a big deal with the shale soils?

  10. #10
    tjp
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    Thanks everyone. We're in Arcata, NW California. Terrain is pretty varied, from steep stuff in the redwoods where I think we absolutely need an ex, to some more inland terrain where the 650 seems more useful. Almost everything that doesn't follow an old skid road will be full bench.

  11. #11
    FatBike Fiend
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbty View Post
    I just built a few miles of trail with a 60" wide machine. The trail tread ended up being 20"-30" wide. Blade with of the machine doesnt determine the final trail tread with, the operator does. It's mostly in the operator not the machine. Go bigger (2ton) and just be a better operator!
    I totally understand how to narrow the tread behind the excavator by pulling part of the backslope down onto the tread, and pushing part of your tread bench away, but I don't get how the corridor (spacing between tree trunks) ends up being less than 60" wide if you use a 60" machine. I guess, to me, tread width is only part of the singletrack experience. The other part is a tight clearing width to go along with it and that's the part that tends to go away when you use a larger excavator in the trees. The narrow clearing width is especially important if you are trying to exclude incompatible uses (ATVs for example) so that's a big reason I went with the mini. I do wish for more power sometimes, though.

  12. #12
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    I'm not saying to get a 60" wide machine. I really dont like using one that big at all, but it can be done. I'd go for the two ton. I like being in the two ton the best out of the three sizes, 1, 2, or 3 ton.

    As far as renarrowing the trail. I'm lucky to have lots of ground cover and rocks to narrow be hide me! Plus i do alot of fine tune backslope, rebuilding up next to trees or other thing like that.

    More power but narrow
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  13. #13
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    The concensus across most pro builders is the Kubota U17 or Deere 17D (for zero-swing) or Takeuchi for traditionnal tail swing lovers.

    I've worked with few 1ton units, but they usually feel underpowered, unbalanced and not that much faster than a few men crew to give virtually the same result. Nice, tight singletrack, but depending on the terrain, it's mostly just a big toy. A 2ton machine will get you in production mode.

    We are based in Quebec and own a few mini-X (1.7 to 5.5 tons) and rent a lot depending of the type of work we do. For easier trails, we sometimes use the Ditch Witch SK650 with the 4way blade, usually to finish the thread behind a mini-X that does the bulk of the job, clearing organic, removing stumps, placing rocks, etc. Our machine of choice for singletrack is a Deere 17D with a thumb and a 24" bucket. That being said, it will be replaced by a Kubota eventually.

    Whatever the machine, get proper training for trailbuilding. Few PTBA members offer that kind of training. PM for details.
    A trailbuilder from the north

  14. #14
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    Love my TB016 for everything.It's more stable than the U15 and uses half the fuel.I like the concept of ZTS,but when the tracks are narrowed on a ZTS you lose the zero and the machine gets tippy.I try to keep tread width below 32".The tree chokes might be a meter wide but the rock chokes can get down to 12".While I won't let handle bar makers determine choke width, it should be noted handle bars are closing in on 30".I don't like bladed machines for benching or finishing.They throw too many quality rocks down slope and don't really leave a clean mineral bench.Also I like ledges in the tread and dingoes,Ditchwitches and Swecos don't deal with ledgy trail well at all.For finish work I use a 36" wide I-beam to screed back slope and tread.The screed technique also allows me to pull enough dirt to build large rollers and berms pretty quickly.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smells Like Fish View Post
    Love my TB016 for everything.It's more stable than the U15 and uses half the fuel.I like the concept of ZTS,but when the tracks are narrowed on a ZTS you lose the zero and the machine gets tippy.I try to keep tread width below 32".The tree chokes might be a meter wide but the rock chokes can get down to 12".While I won't let handle bar makers determine choke width, it should be noted handle bars are closing in on 30".I don't like bladed machines for benching or finishing.They throw too many quality rocks down slope and don't really leave a clean mineral bench.Also I like ledges in the tread and dingoes,Ditchwitches and Swecos don't deal with ledgy trail well at all.For finish work I use a 36" wide I-beam to screed back slope and tread.The screed technique also allows me to pull enough dirt to build large rollers and berms pretty quickly.
    Could you post some photos of your I-beam screed technique for us to understand? I'm not sure I fully understand the technique, but it sounds like a clean way to do it.
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  16. #16
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    Our group owns a TB108 which I have extensive trailbuilding time in. I've also used a TB016 which I have minimal time in. The 108 has a few advantages, mainly that it's cheaper, easier to tow, will run for hours on a few gallons of fuel and is great in tight quarters. We built a pretty impressive 9 mile trail on Mills Peak here in California that looks hand built. The TB016 on the other hand is quieter (a surprise to me), more comfortable, has better controls, and is much more stable. The extra power of the larger machine helps but neither of these machines are good at pulling stumps or picking up large rocks. We used a gas rock drill and a Boulder Buster to blow up large rocks that were in the way.

    The larger machine can still build pretty narrow trail, and for most uses I think this machine would be preferred. As for adjustable tracks, this came in handy occasionally to fit through tight places, but you will not be operating the smaller machine in narrowed mode. Either way, be careful, these machines will bite you if you're not careful...

  17. #17
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    The nice thing about a 17d is that the blade goes up higher so it has a steeper approach angle!
    Epic trails get built in the Northwest by epic people!

    Sustainable quality trails please.

  18. #18
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    Working on photos.Computer issues.That and the weather's so nice I gotta keep digging.

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    So we are waitnig for photos.
    BTW I want do buy and ex for my own. Were did you bought yours? Found some interesting offers on Mascus - used mini excavators . Maybe you can give some advice, and yes i would like to buy an used one.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by tjp View Post
    Thanks everyone. We're in Arcata, NW California. Terrain is pretty varied, from steep stuff in the redwoods where I think we absolutely need an ex, to some more inland terrain where the 650 seems more useful. Almost everything that doesn't follow an old skid road will be full bench.
    I used a Takeuchi TB016 to build about 13 or 14 climbing turns and some trail at the Paradise Royale Trails with side slope up to 100% and managed to finish with a 24" to 30" tread. On the map, it's called Prince of Pain. I built a handful of turns on the Mad Queen's Tango, too.

    I wasn't (and still aren't) sure how it would hold up to the massive rains that area receives, but it packed in well initially.

    I say go with the larger machine (always keeping an eye on tail swing) for more power.

    D

  21. #21
    tjp
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    Thanks everyone...think I'm going with a Kubota K008. Reasons: Dealer is 5 min. from the house, don't need to buy a new truck to haul it, it's lots less expensive, I don't need a ton of power since digging is pretty easy where I will be working (way easier than at Paradise, which is holding up quite well, BTW. Great job!) , and we'll be working betwixt and between tight spaces in the Redwoods. Looking forward to getting started this spring/summer!
    Last edited by tjp; 03-29-2013 at 10:01 AM.

  22. #22
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    Hello, I realize this is an old thread, but thought I would see if I could start up the discussion again... Am also looking to purchase an excavator and still can't decide between the two sizes (Tb108/k008 or TB016/Kx018) to build technical singletrack trails.

    tjp, how did you end up liking your K008? Did you make the right purchase or are you missing the extra power and comfort of the larger machine?

    For those that use the larger size excavator, do you operate it exclusively in the narrow track setting (39")? And if so, is this more or less stable than the smaller machine operated in the outer (35") setting?

    Thanks!

  23. #23
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    In the past 9 months I've gained significant experience on a U17 building trail. Most of the time I've run it in the narrowest setting (39") because it makes most sense. Several times though, I've run it in it's full width setting (48") because I either wanted the extra space (connector trails with lots of 2 way traffic) or because I needed to maintain a side grade on a large cut on an embankment, then recut a small part of the high side for a trail - this is a drainage situation understand. It seemed to me the wide setting was only a little more stable than the narrow setting on this machine

  24. #24
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    Since the original post, we got a Kubota U17. I got it revalved this winter to boost speed a bit. Now, it's a monster! We *LOVE* the machine. We run it in 48" mode most of the time since it's much more stable to work the thread and keep the tracks on the outside (the thread becoming what's between the tracks only, raised thread most of the time). The narrow mode is useful for steep benchcut as you move much less material.

    Get a thumb and few buckets.
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  25. #25
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    Hmm, two votes for the larger sized excavator. Yeah, hadn't gotten to the whole zero vs. conventional dilemma yet. Do you find the zero tail swing helpful though? I can see it being nice when swinging behind to pull down the back slope and knock off the bench if you're rotating the boom/bucket on the downhill side but couldn't you just as easily swing to the uphill side and avoid the possible bump of the conventional tail? Don't think my local dealer carries the zero's for some reason so hasn't been on my list..

    I do like the fact that the larger machine seems more versatile and in theory can get more done faster with more hp and longer reach. But I wonder, if my goal is tight, technical singletrack, exclusively, will I really be going faster if I have to create a larger corridor and build a larger bench to later knock more back down? I have been leaning toward the smaller machine because of this thought as well as the fact that I will be working in a heavily forested area. I also like the idea of being able to do trail maintenance and add more technical features later by going back with the min ex in the narrow 29" width setting.

    And just when I think I have convinced myself to go for the smaller rig, I remind myself that I will be working primarily solo on this project and that any possible advantage of productivity or increased capability that the larger ex may offer could be monumental. Also I worry that after many many long hours I might really miss the comfort of the larger machines fully adjustable seat, arm rests and just the general control layout that I am very used to from owning/operating a TB135.

    Any experience with tight, twisty technical trails with the larger U17? If you were building this style exclusively, would you choose a smaller mini ex?

    Thumb is on the mandatory list for sure. But didn't think I would have a need for more than one bucket. What size(s) do you like/use and for what specifically?

    Thanks

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