Tractor & Construction Plant Wiki

A trencher is piece of construction equipment used to dig trenches, typically for laying pipelines or cables, or for drainage. Trenchers may range in size from walk-behind models, and attachments for a Skid loader or tractor that cut a shallow, or narrow trench , to very large tracked machines for cutting huge rock trenches for Pipelines several meters deep and up to 1m wide.

Preserved Trencher at SED Show 2008


Trenchers come in different sizes and may use a different digging implement, depending on the required width and depth of the trench and the hardness of the surface to be cut.

Chain trencher

A chain trencher cuts with a digging chain that is driven around a rounded metal frame, or boom. It resembles a giant chainsaw. This type of trencher can cut ground that is too hard to cut with a bucket-type excavator.

The angle of the boom can be adjusted to control the depth of the cut. To cut a trench, the boom is held at a fixed angle while the machine creeps backward.


Modern Rockwheel Trencher at SED show 2008

A rockwheel is a toothed metal wheel; effectively a giant circular saw with replaceable cutters (picks). Rockwheels can cut harder ground than a chain trencher, including cutting through solid stone. They are also used to cut pavements for road maintenance and to gain access to utilities under roads.

The teeth on a rockwheel are removable and made of high strength steel, (HSLA steel, tool steel or high speed steel) or tungsten. When the machine is under heavy use, the teeth may need to be replaced frequently, even daily.

Portable trencher

Landscapers and lawn care specialist may use a portable trencher to install landscape edging and irrigation lines. They may also be used to install utility connections just beneath the surface such as coaxial cables. These machines are lightweight (around 200 pounds) and are easily manouverable compared to other types of trenchers. The cutting implement may be a chain, or a blade similar to a rotary lawn mower blade oriented so that it rotates in a vertical plane.

Special Applications

A Howard trencher in action

A trencher may be combined with a drainage pipe or geotextile feeder unit and backfill hopper, so drain or textile may be placed and the trench filled in one go, also called a Drainlayer or Pipe layer. These can be self propelled or attached to a tractor skid unit

Early History

Howard built a trencher based on the Fordson tractor unit, with track like wheels, called rotapeds. (more details required)in from the 1940s onward.

Manufacturers of Trenchers and Attachments

Drainage trenchers

A specialist sub type to install land drainage pipes, either continuous perforated pipes or short clay pipes.


  • wikipedia
  • Ford Tractor conversions by Stuart Gibbard
  • Classic plant magazine
  • Excavator magazine.

External links

Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses some content from Wikipedia. The original article was at trencher (machine). The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Tractor & Construction Plant Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons by Attribution License and/or GNU Free Documentation License. Please check page history for when the original article was copied to Wikia