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Towable digger, excavator and backhoe website. Features Fleming Micron, Powerfab, Mantis, Benford, Roughneck, Gopher, Smalley, Tow-hoe, Standard Muscleman, Termite, Mitchell Cotts, Mini Gigant, Baromix, Euromach, Bronco, JPB, Digger 50, homemade and other small diggers. Links to current manufacturers such as Groupe-FCM and suppliers of plans for the Ground Hawg Homebuilt Backhoe and CDP Excavator. Includes other plant and mechanical information, Digger Bucket Page, Plant Photo Gallery, Dumper Restoration Project and useful links for Digger Spares and Repairs. Extra information and pictures to add to the site always appreciated. Also includes a section dedicated to preserving information about Johnson Machinery Limited.

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Digger buckets

I get a lot of emails from people who are looking for extra digger buckets for their towable (and other types) of excavator.

Digger buckets come in all shapes and sizes and manufacturers don't use a standard way of fitting them onto the arm. Therefore good second hand digger buckets can be hard to come by, particularly for towable diggers that are now typically over twenty-five years old.

As I see it the options for getting more buckets are:

  • Search for some second hand digger buckets (requires patience, cash and maybe some long journeys)
  • Use your existing digger bucket as a pattern and fabricate some more (requires ability to weld)
  • Modify a digger bucket for a different machine to fit yours (requires ability to weld)
  • Build a digger bucket from scratch to your own design (requires patience and ability to weld!)
  • Buy some brand new buckets from somewhere like Digbits (requires cash)

My Fleming Micron's digger buckets

When I bought my Fleming Micron digger it only had the standard 15" bucket shown below which is great for general digging but not much good for narrow pipe trenches or levelling. In 2005 I got an 8" digger bucket for narrow trenches (modified from another bucket) and in 2009 built a 24" grading bucket so that my digger now has a full set.

Digger bucket basics and terminology

The common bucket sizes for towable diggers (extracted from the various user manuals on this site) are 8, 12, 16, and 20 inch. Most manufacturers also offered some sort of grading or backfill blade typically about 3 feet wide. I actually think 3 feet is too wide bearing in mind that with a towable digger the legs greatly reduce the operating area when the arm is near the machine.

digger bucket

A Collars through which the bucket pins go. The pins are secured in different ways by different manufacturers.  My Fleming uses bolts or split pins through the collars. The general idea is the bucket pins swivel in the nylon bushes in the digger arm not in the bushes on the bucket. The other two types of fixing are called square and lug.
B Hangers or brackets.
C Side cutters. Most buckets have wear plates on the sides to cut the side of the trench.
D Cutting edge. This is a thicker piece of steel which takes the brunt of the digging forces. On serious commercial digger buckets this is made from special tough steels such as Hardox or Boron 250 . The amateur or end of life digger user need not worry about that.
E Teeth bolted to the cutting edge. On my 15" bucket these are just mild steel although my 8" bucket has proper teeth. Serious professional users will always need proper digger teeth. The tooth bolts need to be very tough and tight although a lot of modern buckets have disposable teeth which twist onto a welded spigot.
F All the digger buckets I have looked at have a strong piece of box steel or tube across the front of the opening which transfers the turning force of the ram from the brackets to the sides and on to the cutting edge.

Fabricating new buckets using an existing one as a pattern

I haven't actually done this but if you have one proper digger bucket for your machine then it stands to reason that you have a pattern for some more. All the thicknesses for the steel, the angles for the brackets and everything you need to fabricate a new bucket are readily available. Obviously you would have to vary the width of the back plate to suit your requirements. If you want to build a grading bucket then that will be a different shape and you can't copy a digging bucket for that.

Some important safety and construction considerations

  • You need to have reasonable welding and cutting skills to build a digger bucket and follow safe procedures when using welders, grinders and other power tools
  • Don't build or fit a bucket that is too big for your machine as that will make it unstable and dangerous
  • Buckets are heavy so never use the digger without all the pins and clips in place. If the bucket falls off it can easily kill someone
  • You have to get the bucket pin geometry right for the bucket to open, close and dig correctly
  • If you build a wide bucket using a narrow one as a pattern you may need to increase the size of the steel to make it stronger
  • Don't build a bucket that is narrower than your diggers bucket linkage - it wont work.
  • Narrow buckets are tapered to allow the muck to fall out particularly sticky clay. For example the 8" bucket I have tapers to 7.5" at the rear and has a hole in the back to prevent suction
  • If you plan to dig a lot of narrow trenches in clay, consider building a clay spade instead of a conventional bucket

Modifying an existing digger bucket to fit a different machine

This was what I did to get the 8" bucket for my digger. My mate Rodney gave me a worn out bucket from some unknown modern mini digger and a couple of teeth left over from a bigger machine. The bucket was in a bad way with no teeth, the cutting edge and sides badly worn and the pin holes completely clapped out.

digger bucket

I cut the original brackets off this digger bucket and made and welded on some new ones so that it fits my Fleming Micron digger.

excavator bucket

To repair this bucket I welded in a new cutting edge, fitted the rather big teeth and built up some wear on the back with weld.

This job only took a couple of evenings and was much faster than building my grading bucket shown below. The most difficult part was designing the brackets so the bucket would work properly and then welding them on so that the pins were parallel to the cutting edge and aligned correctly. I have used this bucket quite a bit installing drains and water pipes and it digs very well.

My homemade grading bucket

A grading bucket is good for levelling, backfilling or clearing loose material from a stockpile. It can also be used for cleaning ditches. Some manufacturers distinguish between a grading bucket and a ditching bucket. Buckets like this can be angular or curved. I chose the angular shape as it is easier to build in a home workshop.

I got the idea for the simple design from my neighbour who built a similar bucket years ago for his Ford digger. I estimated that a bucket about 2 feet wide would be good for my digger and within the safe limits of its operation. In other words not too big for it. Keeping the width to 2 feet also means that the bucket can still be used for loading a wheelbarrow.

The steel for the bucket

1. Here's the steel. 1 piece of 3 x 0.5 inch flatbar, 3 pieces 6 x 0.25 inch flatbar and 1 piece of 2 x 1 inch box. The end plates were made from second hand quarter plate (see later)

Tack welding the cutting edge

2. Step one, tack weld the 3 x 0.5 inch flatbar to the bucket bottom. The 3 x 0.5 piece is the cutting edge of the bucket.

Welding the cutting edge

3. After tacking I clamped a large piece of steel across the cutting edge to stop it warping when I welded it continuously on both sides.

Cutting edge fully welded

4. Here I have fully welded the cutting edge to the bucket bottom.

Wooden formers

5. I made some quick wooden formers to get the angle of my bucket right. I then added the back and top.

Digger bucket taking shape

6. The bucket is basically tacked together and ready to make the end and centre plates.

Making a template

7. I made templates for the end and centre plates then transferred the shape to the second hand quarter plate. Mistakes in cardboard are better than in steel.

Cutting the quarter plate

8. I cut the plates out using a 115 mm angle grinder and some of those ultra thin cutting discs which really are brilliant.

Plates cut and ready to weld

9. Here's the 3 plates ready for welding on. I ground the paint off the edges that were to be welded. The centre plate is needed in a bucket of this width to add strength.

Plates tack welded on

10. I tack welded all the plates onto the bucket and then over the next few evenings fully welded every joint inside and out. About 15 feet of weld altogether using about 40 rods.

Bucket fully welded

11. The bucket is fully welded together at this point and now I have to think about how to make the brackets to fit it onto the dipper arm and bucket linkage.

Digger arm and bucket linkage

12. The dipper and bucket linkage on my Fleming digger

Designing the brackets to fit the bucket to my digger

This job potentially isn't a straightforward one. There are lots of things that have to be right for the bucket to work properly. The pins have to be parallel to the cutting edge and the brackets parallel to the centre line of the bucket. As well as this, the bucket needs to open and close as it should. Any problems with this will show up when the arm is in the 3 extreme positions as illustrated below.

Bucket at load over height

1. At full load over height the bucket needs to be closed enough to stop the earth from falling out.

Bucket fully opened

2. At full reach the teeth or cutting edge need to meet the ground at a good angle to dig whilst the end of the dipper should be clear of the ground.

Bucket fully crowded

3. With the dipper in close to the machine the bucket will be very closed but should not actually hit the arm which can happen if the bucket is fitted incorrectly.

Digger bucket

 If a bucket has long teeth you need to make allowance for them when thinking about how the bucket will operate on the digger.

When I made the new brackets for my 8 inch bucket in 2005 I used a wooden template to transfer the position of the pin holes relative to the open face of the bucket. This worked ok. However, using the knowledge gained from that job enabled me to find an easier way when building my grading bucket.

Bracket template

1. I marked out the shape of the end of my grading bucket on a piece of cardboard and cut it out.

pin geometry template

2. I then placed my existing Fleming bucket on the cardboard so that the front and top corner of the open side lined up. I then dropped the pins through to mark their positions.

Template on the digger

3. It was then easy to cut out a template which can be tested on the digger in the three crucial positions as shown above.

Final template

4. The Mark 1 template brought the dipper too close to the ground at full reach. I moved the pins back and the rear one up and by Mark 3 I was happy with it.

Bucket brackets

5. Using the cardboard template it was a simple job to mark out and cut the real brackets from quarter plate and drill the pin holes on my pillar drill.

Brackets and wooden block

6. Brackets clamped to my specially made wooden block with the pins in position ready for welding to the bucket. For explanation see below.

The wooden block

One of the problems I had when altering my 8 inch bucket was getting the brackets parallel with the pin holes exactly opposite one another and also parallel to the cutting edge. It took a while tack welding and messing about to get it right. Thinking about it I realised the simple solution was to get a block of wood and cut it so it is the right width for the bucket brackets. My brother kindly cut a bit of wood for me on his band saw so it is nice and parallel. I then drilled it on the pillar drill so the pins can be put through it. This simple aid made fitting the brackets much easier.

Tack welding the brackets

7. Tack welding the brackets onto the bucket ensuring they are parallel to the centre line and the pins are parallel to the cutting edge.

Testing on the digger

8. After tacking the brackets on I did have a quick test on the digger just to be sure that everything was fitting as I had planned.

Welding the brackets on fully

9. Back in the workshop I then fully welded the brackets on and added a piece of angle iron between them for extra strength.

The pin bushes

10. I had these pin bushes made up for the bucket. Only cost £10 from a precision engineer mate of mine.

Reinforcing the brackets

11. Here I have welded on the bushes and am just adding a piece of flat bar to the longest side of the bracket for added strength.

Welding is finished

12. All the hard graft is finished. I've had a clean up with the grinder and got rid of the worst of the welding spatter and the bucket is ready for painting.

New bucket on the digger

13.  Here's the newly painted bucket on the digger.

New digger bucket on the backhoe

14. About half an hour after taking this picture I was using the bucket so the paint isn't looking quite so posh now! I have also put a bevel on the cutting edge to make it cut better.

Job summary

  • Total build time about 12 hours
  • Cost of materials £30 + VAT, plus maybe £15 worth of grinder discs and welding rods
  • Tools used: arc welder, chipping hammer, 115mm grinder, ultra thin cutting discs, grinding disc, G clamps, square, tape measure, pillar drill and 1" blacksmiths bit, half round file, saw and hammer (for wooden formers) and my special block of wood for the bucket brackets. Painted with so called "one coat gloss" - should be renamed "four coat gunge"!
  • Advantage of the design - no bending of plate involved
  • Disadvantage - lots of welding
  • My cheap arc welder would only weld about 4 feet before overheating so I spread the welding over a few evenings.
digbits

Chris's Bucket Conversion

Chris H has successfully modified a modern mini digger bucket to fit his Micron 720 skid steer. This is a lot less welding than building from scratch and as long as the bucket is reasonably cheap to buy this is a good option.

Digger bucket conversion

Chris has made some new brackets for this bucket to fit his Micron 720

Warping welds experiment

One of the problems of welding is that when the welds cool down they can cause pulling and distortion. This problem spoiled a number of my very early projects until I learned how to minimise its effect. That is why I have taken to using lots of clamps and aids such as my block of wood described above and welding a bit at a time on large welds. The two pictures below are just for interest but illustrate the problem and will hopefully help any new bucket builders out there.

Warping welds

Here I have tacked 2 pieces of scrap together at right angles. The pencil mark on the grey wood is in line with the top of the plate.

Warping welds

Now I have run a full weld along the right hand side of the joint. See how it has pulled the plate about quarter of an inch out of line.

Digger bucket repair

A few months back I gave my neighbour a grading bucket which I had but that was too big to be any use to me. It happened to be a good size for his Bobcat mini-digger but the pin holes were worn out and needed repairing.

Worn out pin holes

1. Worn pin holes

Cutting off part of the old brackets

2. Gordon cut off the worn out pin holes with the angle grinder

Tacking on the new pre-drilled bits of steel

3. Tacking on the the pre-drilled bits of steel making sure the pin is parallel to the bucket

Welding

4. Here Gordon is welding the new bits of steel into place. He also reinforced the joint by welding a piece of rod down the front of the brackets.

Checking the grading bucket on the Bobcat

5. The bucket fits the Bobcat very well

Grading bucket

6. The new bucket is slightly larger than the one that came with the machine but still within its capabilities. Gordon now uses this bucket a lot of the time.

Line boring

There are companies that specialise in line boring for repairing worn out pin holes and bushes on excavator arms and buckets. Typically this is done on very large buckets where the cost of replacement makes such a repair worthwhile. The process involves building up the worn pin hole with weld and then machining it back to the correct size. Sometimes this can be done on-site saving the bother of moving the machine or bucket to a workshop. For some interesting examples of this type of repair see: http://www.jjbullen.co.uk/in-line-boring

Specialised excavator buckets

A page about digger buckets wouldn't be complete without mentioning some specialised buckets. If you have a lot of a particular type of work to do then a special bucket is worthwhile. V Ditcher, tilt ditcher, rakes, riddles and large ripper teeth are all available for full size excavators. These are unlikely to be of use for a towable digger!

V ditcher bucket

V Ditcher bucket as used on major road building projects. I photographed it when they were building the Dobwalls Bypass. The middle has been repaired at some point.

Tilt ditcher

This tilt ditching bucket has rams so that it can be angled for putting slopes on banks. Seen at Lyme Regis during coastal defence work.

More digger bucket information on other websites

Any more pictures of homemade buckets or bucket repairs for this page will be welcomed