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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Our park is going to buy a mini excavator for trail building. We are likely going to buy a Kubota however there is some debate over which model to get so I was hoping to get some advice from people who have actually used them. Our goal for our trail is to have a narrow trail with a tread surface of approximately 24" to 36" with 8% grades. We do not want to make the trail too wide as the trail is multiuse and we are trying to keep bike speeds down. One person is recommending the Kubota KX71-3S but it is a rather large machine that is 4'11" wide(basically the size of a queen bed). I am recommending the KX018-4 with adjustable tracks from 4'3" to 3'3", it is also a smaller less expensive machine.
Kubota Construction Equipment - KXSeries - Conventional Tail Swing Compact Excavators
Weather you used a Kubota or some other brand what size machine do you recommend and why?

Thanks in advance!
 

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Instead of the KX018, I'd recommend the U17, which has zero tail swing. It's a HUGE advantage when working in the woods. That means the back end will rotate within the width of the tracks.

If you're looking to build narrow 24in trails, the KX71 is most likely too wide for your intended use. You can keep the thread pretty narrow, but the machine has to get trough, so you'll need are least 5ft of corridor.

Kubota compared to other brands keep a better resale value, is consistently smooth over time, easy to maintain, on the small machine, the boom cylinder is on top instead of being exposed under the boom (small detail, but it helps a lot). Overall, the attention to detail is better.
 

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builder
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I'm not a big fan of the ZTS style machines, although the lack of tail swing is an advantage in tight trees and narrow trails on steep side slope. In order to shorten the tail swing, the engineers had to move the mechanical package vertically, this results in raising the center of gravity of the machine. This is not an issue on flat, solid surfaces (typical urban construction site) but out in the woods it can make for a much more tippy machine. Kubota makes awesome machines; very rugged, similar in quality to Caterpillar equipment I have run. The KX 18 is a go to machine for many trailbuilders and has proved itself over and over. I have used the K 008 successfully for narrow trails and tight spaces, but it's light weight hurts its in tough digging situations. If you need narrower trails than the excavator you can always go back and collapse the back slope and finish by hand. We have roughed out trails with the machine and then go back and finish by hand to 18". Let the machine do the heavy labor. 2012 11 11_2665.jpg 2013 10 06_3518.jpg P6070007.JPG
 

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WillWorkForTrail
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I'll chime in a second for the U17. I've been using one for about a year now to build trail. Even though we have some good hills (and steep in places) I haven't found the higher center of gravity to be as much of a disadvantage as the zero tail swing is an advantage, but then I'm pretty much exclusively in dense mixed hardwood/cedar forest.
 

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That Waters Guy
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I've not used anything in the woods, but I just rented a KX18 for a week digging in the yard (pump track + landscaping.) It's the smallest size I'd want to use for much of anything. It handled both removing some 6" fresh stumps and largish 1-man rocks but anything bigger is out of its league.

I don't think the width is an issue for ending up your trail width, since it's relatively easy to fill the bench back to the desired size on the last pass through.
 

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With some patience, you can work out virtually any stump with a 17. We've pulled freshly cut 14" maple in less than 15min (wind blowdown).

When the rocks are too big to lift, you can usually slide them in place.
 

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Dirt Pirate, how do you have the hydraulics on that thumb hooked up to your 008? Ordering mine from Amulet, but still considering how I want to control it.
 

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That Waters Guy
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Actually, if you do it right, you can move quite large rocks with something the size of the U17. No way this is a 1 man rock. It's probably not even a 4 man rock.

The sling being used on the bucket is some creatively used load straps.
I think we're comparing apples and oranges here. Or at least Cara Cara oranges and Navel oranges, since both excavators are orange. :D

So while somewhere in here we disagree about the size of a man, the excavator you are using has a lot more lifting capacity than the one I was using, depending on the lift:
https://www.kubota.com/product/u17/u17.aspx vs
https://www.kubota.com/product/kx018/kx018.aspx

That specific lift in your photo isn't spec'd as allowable on the KX018, even for small rocks!

Further, we were placing rocks below the grade of the excavator and on ground and from ground that was not level.

All that said, wouldn't you still be safer with the blade on the forward side, and rock turned 90 degrees to be closer to the cab?
 

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WillWorkForTrail
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Well, I transported that rock close to 1/4 mile from where it was, to where we were putting in a rock garden. And there is no "level" ground on this property. Except for the flood-flat around the creek in the middle.

As far as turning the rock, the way the sling works, the rock's orientation to the excavator is what it is. Notice, there's a definable heavy and light end to this rock though, and the heavy end is closer to the machine. The blade was very much "in the way" of the rock as it hung there, so it had to be done this way. Rest easy though, when the machine would start to tip, it would stop the second the rock touched the ground, so there's no way it was going over as long as the rock was low and close. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
We have had sells reps bring us out several demo models, it has been great to demo the machines to see how each one actually works. We have demoed a Cat 301.4 it did ok but its reach was somewhat short but it's price was a bargain as compared to the Kubota. We also demoed a Kubota with a thumb which was awesome but it was a lot more money. We also had a ditch witch mini skid stir with a 6 way blade demoed. The ditch witch was demoed first and I was instantly sold on it however after seeing a skilled operator run the excavator I think it is the best. The park manager wants the nicer Kubota and I don't blame him. But if we went with the cheaper Cat it is within the budget to get both the Cat and the Ditch Witch. Any opinions on the nicer excavator vs the two machines.
 

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WillWorkForTrail
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An excavator is one of the most flexible ways to build trail. It works quite well. That said, if the ground you're building on is not too steep to feel comfortable with the SK unit, that and the 6 way blade are about the fastest way to put trail on the ground, short of a Sweco. If it's steeper than that, the excavator takes the lead, because it can make it's own level place to travel. Also, the EX makes building great turns a breeze, once you've sorted out how to do that.

Long story short, if you gave me the option of a great EX or a good EX AND an SK, I'd take the two machine option. The SK also has a larger bucket to make moving larger amounts of dirt easier.
 

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Hands down, 2 machines. Will be much faster building when you have 2 good trained operators. DW will be the better trail maintenance machine for long term care. EX machines are too slow to crawl into the woods to be good for adding dips where needed.

We have had sells reps bring us out several demo models, it has been great to demo the machines to see how each one actually works. We have demoed a Cat 301.4 it did ok but its reach was somewhat short but it's price was a bargain as compared to the Kubota. We also demoed a Kubota with a thumb which was awesome but it was a lot more money. We also had a ditch witch mini skid stir with a 6 way blade demoed. The ditch witch was demoed first and I was instantly sold on it however after seeing a skilled operator run the excavator I think it is the best. The park manager wants the nicer Kubota and I don't blame him. But if we went with the cheaper Cat it is within the budget to get both the Cat and the Ditch Witch. Any opinions on the nicer excavator vs the two machines.
 
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