Monday, August 13, 2012

Tools - Brush Grubber

Yesterday in my daily update I mentioned using the brush grubber, so thought I should do a post explaining a little about the tool. There are a few different models, but the one I use is the Original Brush Grubber made by BAC Industries. The tool is intended to be used to pull small trees and bushes, up to 3" in diameter, out of the ground. I have found, however, that it is also useful in other situations, such as yesterday when I pulled a partially broken limb out of a tree with it.

The basic concept of the brush grubber is fairly simple. The jaws of the tool are spring loaded, so that pressure is always being applied to keep them closed. At the end of the jaws are pads that each contain 8 teeth that dig into whatever you place the tool on. Once attached, you simple hook a chain to the grubber, and the other end to whatever your preferred machine is, then pull. I typically use the RTV for pulling, but many people use tractors, which would provide more pulling power and better traction.

I can't even guess how many trees I have pulled up with this tool. Most of the trees I've used it on have been 6' to 8' tall and between 1" and 2" inches in diameter. The great thing about pulling these trees up is that the roots come up as well, leaving behind no stumps to worry about and no roots that might grow another sapling. If pulling up a lot of trees or bushes, its best to have someone helping, so one person can be in charge of attaching the brush grubber, while the other is in charge of driving the pulling machine. A two person arrangement is much more efficient and is less tiring as well. The work can easily be done by one person, however, just don't expect it to go as quickly. I've found that when working alone it is very helpful to have the Tugger Chain also made by BAC Industries. The benefit of the chain is that it has a ring that can be placed over a 2" ball, which works much better than looping a chain around the ball and hoping it doesn't come unattached if you have to back up. Also, the hook of this chain is large enough to hook to the brush grubber, and the safety spring keeps it connected, whereas the chain I used before was too small to hook so had to be looped around the D-Ring and would often come loose.

In addition to pulling up trees and brush I've used the brush grubber for several other tasks, as mentioned previously. One of those additional tasks where it really shines is pulling wild grape vines out of trees. I'm really not even sure how else one would go about getting a grape vine out of a tall tree, without climbing into the tree and cutting it out. With the brush grubber its a simple task, assuming, of course, the RTV has enough power to pull the vine out.

I've been using the brush grubber for nearly a year. It seems to be very well built, and is standing up to my use with no signs of wear. Granted, I don't exactly abuse my tools, but the brush grubber has been put through its paces. I have damaged the tugger chain, although that was really caused by misuse, rather than a problem with the chain itself. I had attached the brush grubber to a larger tree than normal; around 20' tall and over 3" in diameter. The RTV was losing traction when trying to pull it out, so I backed up to create slack in the chain, so that when the chain tightened it would jerk the tree. I did that a few time, and finally did pull the tree up, but it also bent the ring on the chain into a bit of an oval instead of its normal circular shape. It still works fine, but it made me realize that attempting to pull up such large trees was a mistake; not because the brush grubber and chain weren't strong enough, but because the RTV kept losing traction. Had I been using a tractor I probably could have pulled it out with no problems.

One note of caution, the closing action of the brush grubber is very strong, and could do some serious damage to a finger if one were caught between the pads. I always wear leather gloves when using the tool, and I've had a glove caught a few times, although, luckily never had a finger get caught. I've found that the easiest way to open the jaws of the tool is hold it vertically, with the D-Ring resting on a firm surface, such as the ground or even your leg. The jaws can then be opened fairly easily. Trying to open them when holding the tool horizontally, however, is much more of a challenge. Usually when I've caught my glove it has been when trying to remove the brush grubber from something I've pulled up, and I'm unable to turn it into a vertical position.

This is the type of tool that isn't going to be needed by everyone. I would guess that most people living on a small lot will likely get little use from a tool like this, unless there are several bushes or small trees planted for landscaping that need to be removed. For someone in my situation, however, it is very useful. I've used it primarily in the areas I'm still working on clearing, such as over by the garden and across the road. I also used it when clearing up around the bottom edge of the yard, where an old wire fence had previously been. When I initially bought the brush grubber, I wondered if it would really be worth the price I paid for it, but now there is no doubt. I can't begin to guess how much time it has saved me. If something were to ever happen to my brush grubber, I think its a safe bet that I'd be buying another one.

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