Picking up lots of big-ish rocks

   / Picking up lots of big-ish rocks #1  

ning

Elite Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2017
Messages
2,806
Location
Northern California
Tractor
Branson 3520h
I have many many medium to large rocks, ranging from "I can pick this up possibly without getting a hernia" to "I can't possibly budge this", as in 100-500# (I did say "rocks" not "boulders", though some of these may be boulders depending on the definition), that I need to move, and then later place nicely.
Basically, I'm excavating a small pond near our garden, and after I'm done excavating and setting up the pond just right (shaping, then placing a liner) I'd like to arrange these rocks which I've already dug up nicely around the rim of the pond.

Current tools: tractor with backhoe. has mechanical thumb.

I've used the mechanical thumb some, but honestly so far I've found it difficult to use. More often than not, the rocks I'm trying to grab just slip out of the jaws, and it seems like every rock needs the opening set to a different point, and if I choose a different grab angle on the rock, once again I need to change the opening.

Two things I'm considering:
1) cheaper - log/rock tongs. I'm guessing that these most likely will require a helper to use both in picking up the rocks and for precise placement. Log tongs appear to be as cheap as $130 (tsc), but I'm not sure if the 4-pointed version is going to be that useful on irregular rocks or if the points will grab ok on rocks (vs trees where they obviously bite into the bark).
2) more complex - convert my thumb to hydraulic
There's a couple nice threads here about the actual conversion (

I think in the long run I'd really like having the hydraulic thumb, but it may be more work than I'm able to do before I want to get the rocks moved.

So for my actual questions:
- any have any hints for using the mechanical thumb more effectively?
- anyone have experience using tongs for picking up big rocks?
- to be really specific, has anyone with a branson BH76 backhoe w/ thumb converted it to hydraulic?
 
   / Picking up lots of big-ish rocks #2  
I haven't tried it myself yet, but I've watched some youtube videos of landscape companies explaining how they use wide lifting straps to move large rocks around. Part of it is putting the straps on the rock so it can be lifted, but also making sure to not trap the straps under the rock when they set it in place.

edit: Now that I think about it more, I once reset a family member's tombstone using a lifting strap and a car engine hoist. The strap worked fine for lifting the tombstone without marring it.
 
   / Picking up lots of big-ish rocks #4  
I had a mechanical thumb on my BH92 hoe and converted it to hydraulic. I found it only slightly more useful for moving rock and regretted spending the money.

This of course depends on what type of job you're doing and I'm sure others will disagree. In my case, I was piling +-200# rocks to make a wall. Picking up the rock is one thing but then you have to transport and get it into place. After wasting a couple of days climbing on and off the tractor & backhoe, I decided to do what the pro's do and rented a mini ex. The reach and lift ability are far superior to a CUT backhoe and the whole operation can be done from the same seat. I did the whole wall in less than a day with the mini ex. It would have taken a week with the hoe.

Unless you have other jobs that require a hyd. thumb, I'd spend the money on a rental instead.
 
   / Picking up lots of big-ish rocks
  • Thread Starter
#5  
I had a mechanical thumb on my BH92 hoe and converted it to hydraulic. I found it only slightly more useful for moving rock and regretted spending the money.

This of course depends on what type of job you're doing and I'm sure others will disagree. In my case, I was piling +-200# rocks to make a wall. Picking up the rock is one thing but then you have to transport and get it into place. After wasting a couple of days climbing on and off the tractor & backhoe, I decided to do what the pro's do and rented a mini ex. The reach and lift ability are far superior to a CUT backhoe and the whole operation can be done from the same seat. I did the whole wall in less than a day with the mini ex. It would have taken a week with the hoe.

Unless you have other jobs that require a hyd. thumb, I'd spend the money on a rental instead.
How stable are those? The area where I'm doing the rock work is, unsurprisingly, rocky and not particularly flat.
 
   / Picking up lots of big-ish rocks #6  
   / Picking up lots of big-ish rocks #7  
I've moved a lot of rocks in a cleared area in the woods with my grapple. They ranged in size from 6" to small boulders that tested the lifting capacity of the fel.
 
   / Picking up lots of big-ish rocks
  • Thread Starter
#8  
I've moved a lot of rocks in a cleared area in the woods with my grapple. They ranged in size from 6" to small boulders that tested the lifting capacity of the fel.
A grapple would be lovely, but definitely is pricey and likely not the best thing for precise placement of rocks around a pond (basically a rock wall).
I suspect I'll get a grapple at my next land which will have a bit more acreage; I still have a couple acres left to clear here but my forks do a decent enough job of hauling brush and wood that I manage for now.
 
   / Picking up lots of big-ish rocks #9  
Believe me - even with a grapple. Moving "lots" of rocks is a slow - PITA. I moved a few in the 2500# range with my grapple - line the edge of my driveway around the septic drainfield. I find it quicker using my HD rear blade. Lift the blade over and behind the rock. Lower the blade and drag the rock to wherever.

I had to go off property to find most of the large rocks I wanted. Most of mine are the size of a softball or smaller.
 
   / Picking up lots of big-ish rocks
  • Thread Starter
#10  
Believe me - even with a grapple. Moving "lots" of rocks is a slow - PITA. I moved a few in the 2500# range with my grapple - line the edge of my driveway around the septic drainfield. I find it quicker using my HD rear blade. Lift the blade over and behind the rock. Lower the blade and drag the rock to wherever.

I had to go off property to find most of the large rocks I wanted. Most of mine are the size of a softball or smaller.
Yeah these rocks are all in the "reasonable" size range, as I said 100-500#. Easily in the limits of the tractor, just inconveniently slightly outside my range (until I get my powersuit at least).

I don't doubt this job will take a while, but all the rocks are currently right around the future pond - I started placing them in most of circle when I was clearing a garden space, and then realized "hey I could dig that out and make a really cool pond right by the garden" and so I basically need to move the rocks back out of the way a bit (easy - I can just pull on them with the backhoe), finish my dig, line the pond, and then put the rocks back. It's that last part that will be more careful as I'd like to semi-artfully stack them into a decent wall; dropping them out of my bucket won't quite do it, especially with the bigger rocks. Smaller, sure, but I'll likely be trying to place these within an inch or so.

I hadn't considered forks; forks are tough enough to carry rocks anywhere in the first place that while I've used them to pry up rocks out of the ground before (not a great idea tbh but so far so good A+ to the people who built my tractor & forks!), moving rocks with forks on anything but a smooth flat ground is not a fun task and good luck with precisely placing them.
 
 
 
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