Review- Stump grinders

Westonbirt Arboretum provided the testing ground for FSI Powertech's machinery, Sally Drury reports.

Blec compact stumpgrinder - image: HW
Blec compact stumpgrinder - image: HW

Tested This Issue

FSI ST 20B Petrol

FSI D30-470

FSI D67-720 4WD

The Review Panel

Andy Bryce, arborist, Westonbirt Arboretum

Richard Townsend, tree team operations supervisor, Westonbirt Arboretum

For more than a decade, Danish firm FSI Powertech has been 100 per cent focused on developing, building, testing and selling stump grinders and cutters. During that time, the company's machinery - from pedestrian and remote-controlled models to units for attaching to tractors or excavators - has acquired a reputation for performance, durability and operator friendliness. Not surprisingly then, we wanted to test it.

Last summer, Spectrum Plant was appointed sole UK importer and launched the FSI range at the Arb Show, held near Cirencester in June 2013. As soon as the machines were available, we asked for a trailer-load to be delivered to the National Arboretum at Westonbirt, where Forestry Commission staff put the units to work.

The arboretum, in a picturesque Gloucestershire landscape, is managed by the Forestry Commission and supported by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum. Begun by wealthy Victorian landowner Robert Holford in the 1850s, it is now internationally important and contains 14,902 labelled trees from Britain, China, North America, Japan, Chile and other temperate climates. It attracts more than 350,000 visitors each year. On the day of the test, the weather was warm and sunny.

FSI ST 20B Petrol

If you hate the jiggling required by some small pedestrian stump grinders, then you have to try this one. It is well built but, crucially, it has a turntable that makes sweeping the stump a breeze. No operator force is required - and it's got agility.

Using the two independent brakes, the machine is wheeled down the ramp from the trailer and parked next to a small stump. It is easy to move - in fact, by releasing the brakes alternately it is possible to "walk" the unit up steep inclines and even climb steps to gain access to awkwardly positioned stumps.

This grinder has a Honda engine, so no trouble there - they are one of the most reliable petrol engines available. But it is the turntable that sets this model apart. It means that the wheels do not move at all. Instead, the top of the machine slews effortlessly on roller bearings. Every ounce of force goes into the stump and in next to no time the small stump has gone and we move on to a more serious challenge - a larger, rock-hard yew stump.

"I've used fixed-wheel machines before and this one is a lot less labour-intensive, definitely an improvement," notes Bryce with a smile. "I also like the throttle on the handle. You just pick it up from the work position."

The anti-vibration mounts on the handle work well to protect the user's hands from the worst of the shaking. Handlebars are height adjustable so, as you are working the wheel into the ground, a comfortable work position is maintained for the operator. What's more, this machine has a centrifugal clutch so the cutting wheel stops but the engine carries on running when the handle is released. That's handy. You don't have to restart the engine every time you reposition the machine or want to take a closer look at your work.

Built-in slinging points should make it easy to transport this unit between sites. Maintenance also looks simple, with grease points easily accessible. There are two standard V-belts with tensioners while the long arm of the machine means much of the debris is kept away from the engine for longer filter life. The green teeth have three flats on them so they can be slackened off, turned a third and then tightened up to present a fresh cutting edge.

"I like the fact that the teeth can be turned and this one also has a good-sized fuel tank so you are not stopping to fill it every 20 minutes," notes Bryce. In fact, it should be possible to get three hours of use out of one tank of petrol

Townsend finds the ST 20B lightweight, well balanced and easy to use. "It is simple. Anyone could operate it," he suggests. With that in mind, we reckon this stump grinder should prove a winner in hire shops as well as with landscapers and garden contractors.

Specifications

Engine Honda GX390 13hp (9.5kW) - petrol
Fuel tank 6.1 litresCutting disc 370mm diameter
Teeth Eight (20.5mm diameter)
Sweep 80cm
Dimensions LxWxH: 1.8x0.7x1.1m
Weight 125kg
List price £4,300 + VAT (including twin wheels, LEDs and lifting points)
Tel Spectrum Plant - 0845 345 4866

FSI D30-470

Powered by a water-cooled 30hp Kubota diesel engine, this solidly built machine boasts a sweep of 1.35m - that's more than 4ft - and can grind to a depth of 38cm. We are expecting great things of it. What we learn is the value of selecting the right teeth for the material being cut.

First, we try to finish off the challenging yew. The machine feels somewhat underpowered. "To be honest, I expected it to be quite a big jump up. But it doesn't feel as if it is," says Townsend. The wheel carries the same teeth and pocket set-up as the smaller ST 20B.

We move on to a tree of heaven (Alianthus altissima) that is sticking 18in or more out of the ground. This time, the stump is decimated - and quickly. That's more like it.

Being water-cooled, and Kubota, the engine makes the machine more suitable for urban areas, while a set of work lights could be used to finish a job off on a winter's afternoon. Good positioning of the exhaust keeps fumes away from the operator.

The twin wheels drop off with a single bolt to reduce the width to 80cm for accessing gateways. The control panel has four levers - steering on the first, then forward and reverse, up and down on the third and finally sweep control. There is also a speed restrictor and a diff lock to get the machine out of tricky, slippery situations. Tractor-type wheels are also available for more demanding terrains.

Although the control panel swings out to enhance the view to the wheel, Townsend, who is tall, has difficulty seeing the point of contact. He has to quickly learn to "feel" the bite. "It's a neat machine, quite compact, but I still have to peer round the guards to see the wheel working," he says. But he quickly masters the controls and adds that he would like to see a tracked version.

The D30-470 has a generous-sized fuel tank - holding sufficient fuel for up to 10 hours - and lifting/lash-down points for transport. Grease points are obvious and accessible. There are two V-belts and an electric clutch. A storage compartment should prove handy for spare teeth and spanners.

Specifications

Engine Kubota 30hp (21.7kW) - water-cooled, three cylinder, diesel

Fuel tank 35 litres

Cutting disc 470mm diameter
Teeth 18 (20.5mm diameter)
Sweep 1.35m
Dimensions LxWxH: 2.7x0.8x1.6m
Weight 725kg
List price £15,750 + VAT (Kohler petrol version offered for £12,950)
Tel Spectrum Plant - 0845 345 4866

FSI D67-720 4WD

With four-wheel drive, diff lock and radio control, this go-anywhere machine is designed to get to work in those intensely awkward situations and allows the operator to stand in a safe and convenient position.

It also has a massive 2m sweep, which will reduce the amount of repositioning needed, yet it can still be squeezed through a garden gate. Like the other FSI machines, the D67-720 is strongly built and well engineered. It also has some rather clever features.

The model we test is powered by a 67hp diesel engine. It's a Lombardini, although that may change in the future. As with the D30-470, the twin wheels are simple to remove for accessing narrow entrances.

Two storage boxes are provided so the remote, a spare battery, plus teeth and tools can be kept safe. Again, there are well-positioned lifting/lash-down points, work lights for late operations, two banks of teeth on the wheel and good-sized hydraulic and fuel tanks - expect up to 15 hours out of this one.

But it is the lifting rear axle that attracts our attention. "That is novel," says Townsend. "It means you can get really deep by lifting the back and putting the nose down."

Townsend is no fan of remote control boxes - he says he finds them unnatural - but both he and Bryce are quick to master the various levers and paddles. Well programmed, the remote gives fine, proportional control while allowing the operator to gain full view of the grinding zone from a safe distance. The battery should last for a day but the spare can be charged on the machine as you work, in the truck or via a charger back in the office. A facility allows the unit to be moved in the event of battery failure.

"It is very useful to be able to see the operation," notes Bryce. "This machine has a really good sweep and the lifting rear axle could be useful for getting a better position when working on banks as well as giving extra depth when needed."

The radiator is positioned well away from the flying muck. At the business end there are two remote greasing points and the wheel is guarded by chains rather than a rubber apron. We cannot fault the performance. This one will make mincemeat out of monster stumps.

Specifications

Engine Lombardini 67hp (50kW) - water-cooled, four cylinder, diesel
Fuel tank 40 litres
Cutting disc 720mm diameter
Teeth 28 (28mm diameter)
Sweep 2m
Dimensions LxWxH: 3.18x0.89x1.38m
Weight 1,350kg
List price £37,995 + VAT (including remote control)
Tel Spectrum Plant - 0845 345 4866

Stump grinder supplier listings and contact details

The following is a list of suppliers of pedestrian as well as tractorand excavator-mounted stump grinders. Omission of any company or product does not imply criticism:

BLEC GLOBAL

01778 346222

Driven by a power take-off (PTO), the SG100 is suitable for 20-45hp tractors with one double-acting spool valve. Low-cost replacement teeth are fitted to the 35cm-diameter wheel. A three-point linkage quick hook-up frame allows easy fitting. List price: £5,950 + VAT.

BOBCAT

020 8723 0161

Bobcat offers three stump grinders with working depths from 27.9cm to 38.1cm for fitting to skidsteer loaders.

CHIPPERS INTERNATIONAL

01789 414871

For 30hp tractors, the Gandini PTO-driven stump grinder has 18 teeth on a 50cm-diameter wheel. The working depth is 60cm.

DANEQUIP UK

01420 476248

Four pedestrian models provide engine options of 13hp or 15hp Honda, or 27hp or 30hp Kohler. All the machines have eight teeth on 36cm-diameter wheels. Working depth is 21cm for the Honda models or 41cm for the Kohler-powered units.

GEKO ENGINEERING

01257 260442

Geko manufactures the Stump Beaver for use on micro and mini excavators.

GLOBAL RECYCLING SOLUTIONS

01636 594360

Global supplies the Bandit brand in the UK. Pedestrian and remote-controlled hydraulic models start with the HB19 13hp manual unit and include 27hp pedestrian and sidewinder machines as well as 45hp and 61hp remotely operated models. Bandit 2800XP is a tractor-mounted version requiring 60hp from the tractor. Tracked stump grinders and units for skidsteers are also available.

HARDMET LANDFORCE

01386 834813

Four-wheeled and self-propelled stump grinders are powered by 27hp engines, while the larger FZ560T is a PTO-driven model requiring 50hp and having 18 teeth on a 60cm-diameter wheel. The basic PTO model costs £7,400 + VAT. A remote-controlled version is available for £9,000. The working depth is 60cm.

HUSQVARNA

0844 243 5263

The SG13 is powered by an 11.7hp Honda engine and has just three teeth on a 35.6cm wheel. Cutting teeth available for various soil conditions feature three independent edges to triple the use of each tooth by rotating it using a 9/16in wrench. Grinding is to a 30cm depth.

JBM MACHINES (RICHARD COURT FORESTRY ENGINEERING)

01403 820818

With a 13hp Honda engine, the 2913 is the smallest JBM stump grinder and has 18 teeth on a 30cm-diameter wheel. Powered by a 60hp Kubota diesel engine, the 5960 has a 51cm wheel. A tractor-mounted version with 66cm wheel is designed for tractors of 70hp upwards and works to a depth of 60cm. List price of the latter is £15,860 + VAT.

LAMBERHURST ENGINEERING

01892 890364

Seppi Star stump grinders are designed for use with 80hp tractors.

ORANGE PLANT

0191 236 7795

The wide range of Carlton stump grinders supplied by Orange Plant includes pedestrian models from 13hp upwards. Machines operated by remote control are offered with 99hp and 140hp engines. There are also models for use with tractors providing upwards of 45hp.

PREDATOR POWER

0845 402 1756

The range of stump grinders designed and manufactured by Predator continues to grow and now includes pedestrian models of 12hp, 25hp, 27hp, 28hp and 50hp. Remote models are powered by 28hp, 50hp and 75hp engines.

SPECTRUM PLANT

0845 345 4866

In addition to the machines tested (see p35-36), Spectrum also offers FSI Powertech's stump grinders for use with tractors, excavators and side arms.

TORO

01270 723444

The latest range of stump grinders available from Toro includes the STX26 dedicated tracked machine with transport speeds of more than 6kmph. The hydraulically driven heads of Toro grinders mean there are no belts to break, slip or require tensioning. The head also features a built-in braking system, while the exclusive Quadrablade tooth design cuts like a router without "pulling the operator into the stump".

TRACMASTER

01444 247689

The Camon C500 is a compact stump grinder powered by a 13hp Honda engine and having a 30cm-diameter wheel fitted with eight carbide teeth. At only 64cm wide, this machine easily passes through garden gates. The maximum working depth is 33cm. List price: £3,295 + VAT.

UNIVERSAL BINGHAM

01977 623600

Universal offers a range of machines for attaching to suitable tool carriers and backhoes.

VERMEER UK

01933 274400

Vermeer offers Jo Beau tracked stump grinders with 13hp or 31hp engines. Vermeer-branded models include 13hp and 31hp petrol units. Model SC372 has a 37.8hp Yanmar diesel engine and boasts auto-seep and yellow-jacket teeth for serious grinding. The SC60TX has a 60hp diesel engine yet is only 88cm wide. The SC652 has a 65hp Cummings engine and four-wheel drive while the range-topping SC852 is an 85hp machine with a maximum working depth of 63.5cm. New is the SC30TX tracked stump grinder with 27hp engine.

WESTCON EQUIPMENT

01258 859100

Westcon supplies Rayco-branded stump grinders with units powered by 13hp, 25hp or 35hp petrol engines, or 44hp, 67hp, 99hp or 140hp diesel engines. Various features are offered on the machines, such as a chassis for towing the RG140DXH.


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