In this article, we’ll discuss some of the ‘special needs’ a sub-compact tractor like Johnny has when considering a grapple, and evaluate a few different grapple options.
Grapple Challenges for Sub-Compact Tractors
First, most grapples are large and heavy. This is the biggest issue with grapples and sub-compact tractors. With lift capacities of under 1000 lbs (to full height), we simply cannot afford to devote 400 lbs of that to the grapple attachment itself. So, any grapple attachment which will be useful for a subcompact tractor needs to be lightweight, built out of super-strong steel.
Another challenge we must deal with is hydraulics for the grapple. Deere does not offer any 3rd function kit for the sub-compact tractors, so if you have a Deere, you’ll need to find one from a 3rd party. Kubota owners have better options here. Kubota offers a 3rd function connector option for the BX line specifically for grapples, 4 in 1 buckets, etc. This is a very nice feature. We’ll not delve into the hydraulics discussion any further in this article. Perhaps this is a topic for a future article?
Your tractor will need some sort of quick attach bucket to use a grapple effectively. Kubota uses the standard SSQA (skid steer quick attach), Deere uses JDQA (John Deere Quick Attach), but most other brands do not include any type of quick attach bucket mounting system. Be sure to check your tractor for the loader bucket attachment mechanism, and follow-up with your dealer with questions. Even though your bucket may not be “quick attach”, there may be an upgrade available from the dealer.
For the rest of this article we will focus on grapples specifically designed for subcompact tractors. Each brand listed has an option for either SSQA or JDQA. Additionally, each of these grapples is made in the USA! I’m not sure if the steel is US steel or not, so don’t push me too far, but at least they are constructed here in the states.
Everything Attachments Wicked Root Rake Grapple
Everything Attachments has been aggressively improving their grapple designs over the past several years, responding to customer feedback with lighter yet stronger grapples.
Early in 2017, they introduced their latest 55″ wicked root rake grapple with either JDQA or SSQA mounts. The lid is full-width, and the tines stick downward for digging out roots. There is not much of a ‘platform or bed’ for carrying brush.
This grapple weights 209 lbs according to the EA website. Additionally, there are some ‘runners’ or depth stops which keep the tines from digging in too far for sub-compacts. Removing these depth stops gets the weight below 200 lbs. Impressive. This light weight is possible because of the 1/4″ super-high strength AR400 steel.
Price is $1595 with an extra $50 for JDQA. EA Provides free shipping within 1000 miles of their factory.
We would love to try an EA Wicked Root Grapple on Johnny. We’ve had some discussions with EA. Maybe we’ll be able to work something out in the future!
Titan offers a 48″ Root Grapple. This grapple weighs more than double the weight of the rest of the grapples in this roundup. For that reason, I did not include it in the original version of this article. However, after it was mentioned in the comment section below, I decided it would be helpful to provide information on this grapple.
The positive aspect of this grapple is its price. $1049 retail including shipping. It is easy to get 5% discount simply by signing up for email list. So, this grapple is by far the least expensive that we evaluate here. Unfortunately, that is where the positive news ends.
The other grapples in the roundup are around 200 lbs. This one adds an additional 250 lbs (450lbs total). At first, this doesn’t sound like a big deal. However, let’s do some calculations to see how much impact this really has to the tractor’s useful lift capacity.
The 1-series Deere (and other sub-compact tractors) will lift approximately 800 lbs to full height with the standard bucket. Maybe a bit less, maybe a bit more.
The 53″ bucket weighs 112 lbs. Let’s round that down to 100 for calculation purposes. So, ~900 lbs total including bucket (or grapple).
So, with a 200 lb grapple, one would have a 700 lb lift capacity. With a 450 lb grapple, one would have 450 lb of available lift capacity. Overall a 35% reduction in lift capacity as compared to the rest of the grapples presented here.
This reduction in usable lift capacity is not acceptable to me, so this grapple will not be making an appearance on Johnny. This grapple might be useful on larger tractor, however, it is not a good fit for a sub-compact.
CT Attachments is a small manufacturer located in Wisconsin. They specialize in grapples, snow plows and pushers, etc. They have a 50″ grapple made specifically for the JDQA system. This grapple weighs 195 lbs and has a lid which is approximately 2/3 of the width of the grapple. The lower tines point forward further than the EA grapple which should be good for material pickup. The shape of these lower tines indicates that this grapple is not for digging out roots, but rather for picking up large piles of material already on the top of the ground.
There are holes in the lower tines which could contain ‘close outs’ for smaller filtering for rocks, etc. CT can provide these ‘close outs’, or you can use 1/2″ all-thread, or 1/2″ steel rods.
The website states that this grapple is constructed with grade 80 steel. I find this terminology hard to compare with the more formal ATSM name (AR400) specified by Everything Attachments and Artillian. The best document I could find to describe this is here. It appears that ‘grade 80’ in this document refers to A656 steel. The chart shows a tensile strength of 90,000 psi, vs. AR400’s 177,000 psi. Quite a difference. Additionally, several other sources, show AR400 with a tensile strength of 200,000 psi or more. At only 1/4 thickness, I suspect this grapple will be strong enough to handle most sub-compact tractor tasks. However, I would be concerned if using it aggressively on larger tractors where much more force can be applied.
In addition to the 50″ Deere specific grapple, CT offers a 55″ version in both JDQA and SSQA versions. This grapple uses 5/16″ grade 80 (see above) steel for additional strength. This grapple weighs in at 300 lbs.
The 50″ grapple is priced at $1400 + shipping, and the 55″ is priced at $1500 + shipping.
Artillian offers a completely different type of grapple construction. Their grapple takes a modular approach, allowing the user many different configurations. Each of their grapple components mounts to the popular Artillian fork frame.
The picture on the right shows the main grapple component, referred to as the “Clamp Section”. In this photo, it is mounted to an SSQA compatible fork frame. Customers can choose one, two or three clamp sections for their grapple, depending upon their needs and budget. Each clamp section contains its own hydraulic cylinder and weighs 90 lbs. Artillian provides a hydraulic manifold to support multiple cylinders if the user chooses to have multiple clamp sections.
The rake section (left) consists of the lower ‘rake’ tines only. No clamping mechanism. This section weighs 40 lbs, and is much more cost effective than the clamp section.
Up to three ‘sections’ of any combination can be placed upon the fork frame providing at least 6 different useful configurations.
In addition to the flexibility when using these various configurations, there is another advantage which could prove quite useful for me. When not needed, these components can be stored individually, taking up much less overall storage space than the other options we’ve discussed.
On the negative side, the componetized approach adds a bit of weight to the most natural configuration (2 rakes plus one clamp) with this solution coming in at 243 lbs, with the optimal configuration (2 clamps, one rake) weighing in at 293lb.
The plates are 3/8 thick AR400 steel on this grapple, making it by far the strongest and toughest built grapple in this roundup. This explains the increased weight over the other solutions.
The Artillian is approved and tested for ‘below grade’ or digging operations as well. With the module approach, you can remove all but one clamp or rake, and dig a narrow/small hole, trench, etc. This would provide a nice stump removal solution for those of you who do not have a backhoe.
If starting from scratch, this grapple is by far the most expensive of those discussed in this article. However, when you purchase the grapple components, you ‘almost’ have a set of pallet forks already included. All you need to add are the forks themselves (~$220 when purchased with the fork frame).
|Configuration||Frame||Clamp(s)||Rake(s)||Total Weight||Total Price|
|-||163 lbs||$1448 + shipping|
|Single Clamp |
|243 lbs||$1996 + shipping|
|293 lbs||$2571 + shipping|
You can view our Artillian test grapple in action here:
There it is, the top 3 grapple choices that I know of at this point. Plus one choice that I would not recommend.
While the 3 recommended grapples are specifically made for sub-compact and small compact tractors, they are each built quite differently. The EA grapple has a full-width single clamp, the CTA grapple has a 1/2 width single clamp, and the Artillian has 1,2, or 3 independent clamps. The Artillian and CTA grapples have a ‘bed’ which can be used to carry items even without clamping, and also provide the ability to dig a bit deeper, while the EA grapple is specifically designed to dig out roots with its sharp teeth pointed straight downward.
So, in addition to the weight, price, etc, prospective buyers need to predict the types of projects they will encounter with their new grapple. Will it be digging roots? Will the loads be uniform (suiting a single clamp), or un-even where a second clamp would be helpful?
The Artillian solution is the strongest built grapple of the group with the 3/8″ AR400 steel. The modular options alllow an ultra light weight (single clamp) solution which I would have attempted to use on the huge rock we took out earlier this summer. The ability to disassemble for winter storage is attractive as well.
The EA 55″ grapple is quite impressive. Light-weight, super-strong, and would do a great job of digging up roots.
The CT Attachments grapple with its long bottom tines (rakes) would be a good fit for lots of the projects we have as well.
While the lightweight of the EA and CTA grapples is excellent for most sub-compact tractor projects, I would caution folks with larger tractors (Deere 2-series or higher, Kubota B series or higher) choosing to use a 1/4″ grapple. It is easy to get into a situation which could bend or twist a light-weight grapple. If you prefer the EA or CTA design to the Artillian, both EA and CTA offer heavier grapples which would work better on these larger tractors.