Skid Steer Brush Cutters
Skid steer brush cutter come in many different sizes with various features and benefits. A brush cutter used to knock down high and thick pasture may not be ideal for ripping through thick bush.
In this article we have a look at some consideration when choosing which brush cutter would be best for your skid steer and job at hand.
First, what size brush cutter is best?
There is a couple factors to consider when you are deciding on the size of brush cutter you’ll need. You’ll have to start by knowing your wheel base and auxiliary gallons per minute of your skid steer.
Ideally, a brush cutter should be at least as wide as your wheel base. For example, when cutting grass, if your brush cutter doesn’t cover your wheel base, you’ll be trampling the grass on the outsides of the skid steer. This will make it harder to cut on your next pass.
Ensure you pick a brush cutter that is designed to be used with the gallons per minute of hydraulic flow that your skid steer can produce.
There are models of brush cutters suitable for both high flow and low flow skid steers. Some modern skid steers have the option of cycling between high flow and low flow which allows the owners to decide if they want a high flow or low flow brush cutter.
This decision comes primarily down to preference. The cost difference between a high flow and low flow brush cutter is usually fairly negligible. Often, the performance difference is fairly small as well. High flow brush cutters will spin up to speed faster, but in our opinion, don’t have much other advantage.
Open Front or Closed Front Brush Cutters?
The optimal design of the brush cutter comes down what your are planning on cutting with it. An open front brush cutter will allow thick brush and larger branches into the brush cutter easier.. This makes open front brush cutters more ideal for attacking thick bush than a closed front brush cutter.
A closed front brush cutter will leave a much cleaner and finer finish and is therefore preferred on grass, thistle, weeds and pasture.
The closed front of the brush cutter keeps the cut grass inside the brush cutter for longer, giving it more time to chew it up before it is left behind.
Brush Cutter Blades and Blade Carriers
Having a look at the blade carrier of a skid steer brush cutter can tell you a lot (of course only look with the brush cutter is shut off and disconnected from the skid steer).
On many brush cutters you will find a square blade carrier with 4 drop down cutting blades. On others you may find a circular blade carrier with drop down blades.
A circular blade carrier will have more surface area than a square one. So, the first reason for square blade carriers is to save weight. This allows for higher rotational speeds of the blade carrier, making the brush cutter more efficient.
The square blade carrier is a great set up with a closed front brush cutter that is being used for over grown grass and small branches. The square blade carrier looses its advantage when you move to more severe use, such as when cutting through bush with branches several inches thick.
Although a circular blade carrier weighs more, when you add cut outs to bring the weight down as well as a serrated edge to act like a saw, you have a very effective tool for attacking thick and heavy bush. This blade carrier set up should be paired with an open front to allow for the most penetration when clearing bush.
Bolt on drop blades are a standard with most brush cutters. Being easy to take on and off the carrier allows for easy sharpening, as well as has the possibility of making the blades reversible.
Brush Cutter Pressure Gauges
Knowing exactly how hard to push your skid steer brush cutter is much easier with the aid of a pressure gauge.
Pressure gauges effectively measure the “back pressure” on the hydraulics while your are operating your brush cutter. The gauge sits on top of the brush cutter facing the skid steer operator.
When you first spin up your brush cutter and you are not yet cutting, the pressure reading will be very low. There is no back pressure on the hydraulics yet.
Once you start pushing into the brush or grass, you’ll notice an increase in pressure on the gauge. The grass and branches you are cutting provides resistance against the blades and blade carrier, increasing back pressure in the hydraulic system.
Brush cutter manufacturers will have a recommended pressure range for operating the brush cutter. Keeping an eye on the pressure gauge while you are cutting will help you determine if you can pick up speed and cut faster into the bush or if you have to slow it down.
Types Of Brush Cutter Hydraulic Motors
Direct drive hydraulic motors are common on skid steer brush cutters, however, larger severe duty brush cutters will have piston type motors.
Direct drive motors are typically cheaper to produce, less efficient and have less torque. This cost savings might be worth it if you are only doing light cutting, and don’t plan on putting much demand on the brush cutter.
A piston motor is more expensive largely due to the tighter clearances involved in manufacturing as well as extra components and moving parts.
A piston motor is as high as 97% efficient allowing you to harness nearly all the power from your hydraulic system.
The higher displacement of piston motors also allows for higher torque. This means more cutting power. The blades and carrier will have less tendency to slow down while you are cutting.
Safety Operating Considerations
It may seem obvious that you need be sure coworkers, family, bystanders, pets, and everyone else is a safe distance away while you are cutting brush, but what sometimes gets missed is the need to protect yourself in the skid steer properly.
We have talked too many customers that have broken their skid steer glass door while operating a brush cutter. I can say from experience that after your adrenaline comes back down your day will be ruined.
Check manufactures recommendations, but upgrading your skid steers glass door to a thick polycarbonate BEFORE you break it can save you injury, time and money.