Questions about Grapple Build

Mdkelley

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L3902, LP RCR1860, LP RTA1258, LP front 3rd function
May 26, 2022
22
13
3
Beaverton, mi
Looking to build a grapple with the bottom tines, not the rake style.

I have a 3/8" SSQA plate I bought last year for a different tractor and never used. I am debating whether to use that plate as the base for a build, or to use some leftover heavy 4" channel I picked up last year to repair an equipment trailer. The plate is about 18"X46", solid plate (not style with middle cut out).

The plan is for a narrow grapple (2ft - 4ft total tine width) with 3 or 4 bottom tines and a single "lid". Use will be moving brush and gathering/processing firewood.

Mostly just wondering if the plate will be a better starting point than the channel iron or not. I have a small tractor (L 3902) so there isn't really much lift capacity on the loader so I understand overall weight needs to be considered. I think the plate was listed at 85lbs from the seller. Any suggestions on how to build are welcome. I have a decent supply of random steel to work with, but the pile is not worth enough to where I could sell it and buy a grapple, so my only option for now is to build one out of what I have.
 

mikester

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M59 TLB
Oct 21, 2017
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I fabbed up 12 inch wide plates from 1/4 steel. A single plate would be easier to mount but adds weight. More isn't always better. I'd go with an A514 or similar grade 1/4" thickness over 3/8" mild steel. For the ground engaging tines I'd go AR400 1/4" as well. It will be lighter and your tractor won't bend it.

You want light weight and strong. I wouldn't use mild steel hot rolled anything because you are robbing Peter to pay Paul. No sense in paying to move a heavy implement instead of moving less stuff you really want to be moving.

FYI I have a POS clam shell root rake that was made with heavy mild steel plate. It was cheap at the time but I'm paying for it now with constant breakdowns and repairs. I plan on fabricating a new one using A514 and AR400 similar to the Landpride RG3074 which is currently unobtanium
1657273229954.jpeg
 

Yooper

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3901 LA525
May 31, 2015
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Weight is the enemy. The lighter you can build it the happier you will be with the performance. mikester is right on with using A514 (aka T1 steel). Half the thickness and more strength. Also more $$$
 

Mdkelley

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L3902, LP RCR1860, LP RTA1258, LP front 3rd function
May 26, 2022
22
13
3
Beaverton, mi
No idea what grade steel is in my scrap pile. Definitely no AR400. I think some may be marked and some is color coded, just need to find out from Alro what their color codes mean. OR, maybe call and ask if they have some 1/4" AR400 plate drops from the local Alro outlet.
 

Henro

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B2910, BX2200, KX41-2V mini Ex.
May 24, 2019
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North of Pittsburgh PA
No doubt thinner stronger steel may produce the same result. And save some weight. BUT how much?

If you saved 50 pounds or 75 pounds, but had to buy the stronger, lighter stuff, rather than use what you had on hand, would it be worth it?

Do not know, as there is no grapple in my future. Just can’t help but try to separate the ideal from the reality.
 
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Mdkelley

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L3902, LP RCR1860, LP RTA1258, LP front 3rd function
May 26, 2022
22
13
3
Beaverton, mi
after checking on prices of 1/4" plate cutoffs/drops of AR400, T1 and other abrasion resistant high-strength steel, I agree Henro! Not that it is super expensive compared to a new grapple cost, just would add $400 or more to the cost for this.

So, part of the reason I am going to go narrow (thinking maybe 24" or 32" wide would be ideal) with only 2-3-4 bottom tines and one thumb/claw/lid was to save some weight. Rough guesstimate on a design I drew up would be around 250lbs-300lbs for the entire setup. This unit will be just for moving brush piles and lifting logs to cut into firewood. Not planning any ground engagement activities other than maybe stirring up compost piles of grass/sticks/leaves. The costs should just be a couple hoses (3/8 x36" around $10 online), a cylinder (2"x8" maxim welded cylinder was $122 shipped), quick connects and some time. My guess would be $250 or so out of pocket if I can use just the pile of steel I have and welder/plasma cutter consumables I have on hand (paid for already). If I had a set of pallet forks I would just build a thumb for those since I think that would work really well for my current needs.
 
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mikester

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M59 TLB
Oct 21, 2017
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Canada
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after checking on prices of 1/4" plate cutoffs/drops of AR400, T1 and other abrasion resistant high-strength steel, I agree Henro! Not that it is super expensive compared to a new grapple cost, just would add $400 or more to the cost for this.

So, part of the reason I am going to go narrow (thinking maybe 24" or 32" wide would be ideal) with only 2-3-4 bottom tines and one thumb/claw/lid was to save some weight. Rough guesstimate on a design I drew up would be around 250lbs-300lbs for the entire setup. This unit will be just for moving brush piles and lifting logs to cut into firewood. Not planning any ground engagement activities other than maybe stirring up compost piles of grass/sticks/leaves. The costs should just be a couple hoses (3/8 x36" around $10 online), a cylinder (2"x8" maxim welded cylinder was $122 shipped), quick connects and some time. My guess would be $250 or so out of pocket if I can use just the pile of steel I have and welder/plasma cutter consumables I have on hand (paid for already). If I had a set of pallet forks I would just build a thumb for those since I think that would work really well for my current needs.
I priced out the RG3074 and it's $6K with a 12 month wait list. I can still buy a lot of steel and have it laser cut for $6K.
 

Yooper

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3901 LA525
May 31, 2015
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No doubt thinner stronger steel may produce the same result. And save some weight. BUT how much?

If you saved 50 pounds or 75 pounds, but had to buy the stronger, lighter stuff, rather than use what you had on hand, would it be worth it?

Do not know, as there is no grapple in my future. Just can’t help but try to separate the ideal from the reality.
If engineering called out 1/2” mild steel to handle a load T1 steel will get it done at 1/4”. Basically reducing the weight by half. The price was two times that of mild steel so cost was a wash. But this was a couple of decades ago. I have no clue to how the numbers are now.

There are other considerations to think about also. If you are welding it you will have to use higher yield filler and preheat to prevent thermal shock. This adds to cost and time to build
 

TheOldHokie

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L3901/LA525, B7200DT/B1630, G2160/RCK60, G2460/RCK60
Apr 6, 2021
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Myersville, MD
No doubt thinner stronger steel may produce the same result. And save some weight. BUT how much?

If you saved 50 pounds or 75 pounds, but had to buy the stronger, lighter stuff, rather than use what you had on hand, would it be worth it?

Do not know, as there is no grapple in my future. Just can’t help but try to separate the ideal from the reality.
Analytical you are
1657462468274.png


I regularly have parts laser cut and just out of curiosity I priced some parts in A36 and AR500. Parts laser cut from 1/4" AR500 were 75% of the cost of the same parts cut from 3/8" A36. Yield strength of AR500 is 5X that of A36 and you also see a weight reduction of 33%.

So its significantly cheaper, stronger, and lighter.

Dan
 
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mikester

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M59 TLB
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If engineering called out 1/2” mild steel to handle a load T1 steel will get it done at 1/4”. Basically reducing the weight by half. The price was two times that of mild steel so cost was a wash. But this was a couple of decades ago. I have no clue to how the numbers are now.

There are other considerations to think about also. If you are welding it you will have to use higher yield filler and preheat to prevent thermal shock. This adds to cost and time to build
If you are welding A514/AR400 at room temperatures you don't need to preheat on thin sections under 1.0" thickness. Appropriate filler rod is recommended of course, not really any more expensive than any other rod.
 
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GreensvilleJay

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BX23-S
Apr 2, 2019
4,919
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Greensville,Ontario,Canada
hmm... This unit will be just for moving brush piles and lifting logs to cut into firewood.

So basically ANY kind of steel will work for you. There's no 'need' for 'fancy' $$$$ steel.

I made my toothbar 3 years ago from 'dumpster dives'( have permission) . Major use was to flip compost,pony poop and 'rearrange' dirt piles. It needs to be reground 2-3 times a year(every 200 hrs +-).
Now IF I was cutting into roots ,all the time, I'd grab a 'better' grade of steel.
 
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Vigo

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B6100, B8200
Jan 9, 2022
138
60
28
San Antonio Texas
I would just build to the width of the SSQA plate since that's within the range you stated anyway. If you do 3 bottom tines I'd do 2 upper so those could fit between the lowers and let the lid close further. Or 4 on bottom, 3 on top.

If you're not planning to do ANY raking with the bottom I'd consider just making it solid as it would make things a lot simpler. You can still drop dirt out of what you're grappling, just have to tilt the bucket down further to do so. I used a large solid bottom 2-lid grapple on a skid steer for a few days and found it very versatile and had no complaints about it. You can still carry dirt and everything else with it (although it will be only ~45" wide and short sides, not a huge capacity).

Or, since you said youd actually be fine with a fork type grapple, why not just build it as forks? I have some 'light duty' forks made from 3 or 4" channel (i forget) that i've picked up 1000lbs with so I think you could use the channel you have as forks if you don't lift heavy, especially if you do 3 or 4 on bottom instead of 2 (do you move pallets?). It would be probably the simplest and possibly the most versatile option.
 
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Mdkelley

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L3902, LP RCR1860, LP RTA1258, LP front 3rd function
May 26, 2022
22
13
3
Beaverton, mi
Vigo - not sure why but I hadn't thought of that last suggestion. My neighbor gave me some clamp on bucket forks (titan maybe? can't remember what the sticker says) since he bought a ssqa set for his L39 a while back. I think I am going to go look those over and see how I can cut the clamp part off and mount those onto my plate. Then build a single clamp thumb like a cotech model I saw online. Main thing I will have to pay attention to is how I can clamp the logs and run my saw through them without getting too close to the backplate... maybe I can just throw some kind of spacer between the log and backplate when I am sawing wood to give me some room.
 
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Vigo

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B6100, B8200
Jan 9, 2022
138
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San Antonio Texas
Generally i've just seen people sawing off to the side of the actual attachment, not anywhere in the middle of it. But, with forks and a single grapple lid it may be the case that the width of the fork spacing becomes the minimum width of something being 'grabbable' although it would depends on the design of the grapple lid. Putting a 'spacer' between the piece to be cut sounds easy enough.

I do think using those clamp on forks and making something potentially more versatile and WAY simpler to build in the first place, is probably the way to go for you, at least for this round of fabrication. No reason you can't cut it up and redo it, or build something different when the next batch of handy ingredients fall into your hands.
 

GreensvilleJay

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BX23-S
Apr 2, 2019
4,919
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I used to slide an upside down skid on my forklift forks to be the 'platform' that logs would sit on. Tilted the mast back, then saw off left side,right side, again and again, then 2 cuts in the 'skid section'. probably not the 'official' method but it was free and easy to do and never hit steel against steel...

It may work for you ??
 
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Mdkelley

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Equipment
L3902, LP RCR1860, LP RTA1258, LP front 3rd function
May 26, 2022
22
13
3
Beaverton, mi
anyone used forks like this? Wondering if having them in a fixed location is ever an issue.
forks.JPG

It would be really easy to weld pockets on my ssqa plate to utilize my clamp on forks, just not sure if I would run into many situations where I would need to move the forks narrower or wider.

That design would be useful because I could put a 2" receiver in the center of the plate somewhere so I could build an L or T shaped spacer to use for cutting logs, and also drop the forks and put a trailer hitch in there to move trailers around. Could also integrate a couple chain hooks somewhere for lifting. Could be like a multi-tool plate I guess.
 
Last edited:

Vigo

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B6100, B8200
Jan 9, 2022
138
60
28
San Antonio Texas
Have you considered putting a hefty 'hinge' at the bottom of the forks and have them point up and clip/strap up for 'stowage' when not in use? That way you don't have to keep them somewhere else, their weight held close to the plate shouldnt cost you much lift when not using them, and you could pick through the hinge design whether they are 'rigid' or float in the upward direction, so if you point them at the ground trying to get under something, they wouldn't necessarily dig in.

Ok now im just complicating things, i guess. o_O
 
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Stomper

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Equipment
2017 L2501. Landpride Mower. Farm King Snow Blower. DIY Root Bucket grapple.
Jun 30, 2017
236
2
18
Northern Canada
anyone used forks like this? Wondering if having them in a fixed location is ever an issue. View attachment 83829
It would be really easy to weld pockets on my ssqa plate to utilize my clamp on forks, just not sure if I would run into many situations where I would need to move the forks narrower or wider.

That design would be useful because I could put a 2" receiver in the center of the plate somewhere so I could build an L or T shaped spacer to use for cutting logs, and also drop the forks and put a trailer hitch in there to move trailers around. Could also integrate a couple chain hooks somewhere for lifting. Could be like a multi-tool plate I guess.
Pallet forks are one of the most usefull and versitile attachments you can have for a tractor and are my most used attachment out of all my attachments. Unless you are only using them for a specific task where the width doesn't need adjusting, I would not make them non adjustable.