September 14, 2020

72 Inch Grapple Rake

Track Loader Grapple

Why does The Fat Rancher need a 72” grapple rake?  Well, once the lowly Juniper has been felled, it’s time to process the trunks.

The Fat Rancher keeps all “logs,” those parts of the cedar which are straightish and longish.  So a quick buck (removing the top of the log) with the chainsaw followed by limbing (cutting outgrowths off the trunk) leaves two piles of tree: Burn pile fodder and log stock.

In the past, The Fat Rancher utilized his Mule UTV with a drag chain and a chain grubber.  The chain grubber is a manly contraption made of two steel rings with three chains affixed.  These chains are fashioned with spikes so that, when the smaller ring is run through the larger ring, the chain tightens around a log gripping it with the teeth.  This makes a quick hookup to drag the logs to the storage site.  Old fashioned, cheap and lots of work (installing and removing the grubber).

Skid Pro Grapple Attachment
Photo courtesy Skid Pro Attachments

Upping the Game

Recently The Fat Rancher bought himself a hydraulic grapple to make the post cut process go faster.

Anyone who has ever purchased farm implements knows that there are dozens of companies big and small that make skid steer attachments.  The challenge is to find one that is well designed, built with good materials and not obscenely expensive.  I settled upon a product from Skid Pro Attachments out of Alexandria, MN. 

Skid Pro Attachments does not post a catalog or pricing on their website.  Instead, they have several videos showing how they design and assemble their products and then ask you for an email to send a price list.  The Fat Rancher did just that late afternoon.

Almost immediately I received the price list in return email and could peruse the options and prices.  That evening, Randy at SPA sent me an email offering guidance.  Equipped with my machine model and what I wanted to do, he recommended a 72″ Grapple Rake.

Photo courtesy of Skid Pro Attachments

Let me stop here to point out that the initial consultation was invaluable.  I thought I knew what I wanted.  Randy pointed me in a different direction which turned out superior.  In addition to the model he recommended being more appropriate for my task, he also recommended a much stouter product. 

This was recommendation was prescient as I quickly discovered that using an implement with enough strength to stand up to the equipment it is attached to is key to productivity.  I had tried using the brush fork set that I bought for my tractor and promptly tore it up on the 95 HP track loader.  I don’t have this problem with the new implement as it is beefy enough to take my mistakes in stride.

Randy recommended a Grapple Rake, a clam style grapple.  With dual 3″ actuators, this grapple opens up 42 inches.  In fact, it opens up wide enough to use the grapple top as a back rake.

Made throughout with 80,000 psi tensile-rated steel, the lower teeth are short and fully gusseted to minimize damage due to unintended “shoveling.”  Yes, that’s right, sometimes The Fat Rancher gets so excited that he pegs the rake into the pasture. Now when that happens there is a big hole but no damage to the rake. The bottom tines are 1.50” and the top tines are 0.75” thick.

Back cylinders are fully protected and hoses are routed through tubular steel for protection.  Naturally, all pivot points are fitted with zerts for lubrication and employ hardened over-sized pins.

Grapple Back Cylinders

Shorter bottom tines are perfect for digging, grubbing, ripping and sifting of heavy loads.  The robust back-plate & heavily gusseted lower grapple frame give unreal strength and hopefully longevity

The Purchase

The purchase was painless.  Randy ensured that I had the purchase information I needed to make a decision and consistently followed up without being pesky.  Once I made a purchase decision he saw that the transaction, and dispatch occurred in a timely fashion.  Randy also followed up after delivery occurred.  When was the last time a vendor did that for you?  It’s apparent that Skid Pro Attachments wants their customers for the long haul.

The Set Up

If Randy was the consummate professional, the professionalism of Skid Pro Attachment became even more evident once the product arrived. 

The attachment arrived strapped to a brand new wide pallet.  Nothing unique there.  However, the covering was surprising.  The entire tool was covered in a professionally printed Tyvek style “tent” with the company logo emblazoned.  Two steel dowels mounted on the pallet in a cross fashion kept the tent erect, discouraging anyone from placing products on top of the tool.  Why is this important? Who wants to buy a pricey new tool and have it arrive with parts flopping about and scratches on any protrusions.  The Fat Rancher like putting the first scratches on his toys himself!

Fastened to the top of the tool was a poly bag with a professionally produced instruction manual and parts list.  All the Zerts had been greased prior to leaving the factory and a cursory inspection showed that the grapple was ready for work right off the pallet.

Moving the track loader up to the grapple, I marveled at the long hydraulic hoses which permitted me to attach the fittings while walking between the tool and the track loader.  My thought at the time “that length is nice, but may be problematic.”  Again: Prescient…  After attaching the tool, it appeared that there was no issue with the hydraulic lines interfering with the arm operation and I was off.

Grapple Rake Operation

Operation of the grapple was smooth and the short, highly gusseted, lower tines were a blessing.  Soon I was spooning tree limbs onto the burn pile like a pro.

Track Loader Grapple

However, on a subsequent fetch, a tree limb perpendicular to the grapple rake caught the hydraulic lines and planted them squarely under the track.  You can guess what happened next.  A “twang” later and the life blood of my precious track loader was squirting out the front like some sort of severed artery!  Chastened, I decided that I was done for the day.

The moral of this story?  Quality equipment can be eclipsed by operator error.  I should have waited to operate the unit until I had installed a hydraulic hose keeper to keep the hoses out of the work zone.  Randy has since informed me that they have a spring keeper which can help on installations where the hoses have excess length.

In the end, I replaced both hoses (shorter this time!) and I was back in business grappling and dumping. 

Pro-Tip: If you have an open cab you had better have some goggles and a dust mask.  Grappling brush can be dusty business and you don’t want to be careening around in the track loader with dust in your eye.

Bottom line?  Quality construction and professional execution on the part of Skid Pro Attachments means that I’ll call these guys first when I get ready for my next implement.  Randy can be reached at Randy at Tell him The Fat Rancher sent you.

(No compensation or consideration was provided to author for this review)