GA Nursery Adds 90-Inches of Muscle With Big John Spade

Wed May 12, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Nasser Heavy Equipment recently installed tree spades on two different machines that Bold Spring Nursery in Monroe, GA, was purchasing from the Lawrenceville, GA-based dealership.

The first machine, a Hyundai 740LC-3 was, for all practical purposes, a routine installation. To install a 60-in. (152.4 cm) spade, minor adjustments were made including changing hydraulic pressure. Nasser also added counterweights and foam-filled tires.

It was the installation of the 90-in. (228.6 cm) tree spade on a crawler that proved to be a much more daunting task for Nasser.

“We had a unique application,” said John Barbour, president and owner of Bold Spring Nursery.

The company had shopped around with several different equipment suppliers before it purchased the large spade –– a Big John, which digs a 90-in. root ball that weighs approximately 6 tons (5.4 t). (The combined weight of the spade and a dug tree is approximately 11 tons (9.9 t)

“The Big John 90-inch tree spades are almost always mounted on trucks, and when they’re on a loader, it’s usually a rubber-tired loader,” said Barbour. “We wanted to put it on a crawler because we wanted a low profile. We have very tight spaces on our tree farm.”

Barbour also noted he wanted a crawler for digging and for use in grading applications when the tree spade is not needed.

“We had a hard time getting good information about exactly what would be the best crawler to put the spade on,” he noted. “We actually got some bad recommendations after talking to some in the grading business who were actually steering us away from some of the machines that were recommended to us.”

Eventually, Bold Spring Nursery came to Nasser, and, Barbour said, “he just had his experience and knowledge of the machines. He had the knowledge of hydraulics, machine sizes, weights and lifting capacities of different machines.”

Nasser steered the company to a Cat 963B crawler, and he was very confident of his recommendations, said Barbour.

“He put all the pieces together with regard to what we needed for hydraulics, the electrical, hook ups and all the fabrication of the mounting brackets. So we bought two machines that required a lot of work to put them together.”

In order to make the 90-in. tree spade work on the Cat 963B, Nasser added 4,300 lbs. (1,950 kg) of counterweight on the machine and increased hydraulic pressure, which comes from the third valve, by an additional 200 psi, while dropping hydraulic flow by more than half.

The 24-in. (61 cm) pads were shaved on the corners for ease of maneuverability and the track frame was stretched by 12-in. (30.4 cm) for increased balance. For additional stability, the front idlers were “slid out” on second fit.

The standard eight-control panel that came with the spade was customized to suite the nursery’s needs. Nasser designed a swing-out platform for the in-cab mounted control panel.

All the hose and electrical work as well as brackets and a flow meter for the spade were customized for a quick disconnect so Bold Spring Nursery could drop the spade and reattach the bucket for loading.

“This machine can go anywhere and take on any slope with this set up,” said Nasser. “I was told that everyone said it could not be done and that the spade had to be mounted on a wheel loader, such as a 988 Cat.”

It took Nasser three weeks to complete the job.

“The main concern throughout the process of installing the spade on the crawler was the combination of hydraulic power and overall machine balance,” explained Nasser. “I’ve done this type of work on smaller machines with smaller spades and, although it had its challenges, we were extremely confident that engineering the larger machine/larger spade combination was a project that we could handle.”

Barbour said that when it came to the details of where his company wanted the controls, Nasser “was very good about communicating, getting our input and providing good suggestions.

“There was a lot involved in putting this together. There’s no book on how to do this, and we needed to get our operators’ input and think through some of the issues. Nasser was very good about keeping the lines of communication open so that the details involved turned out right.”

Bold Spring Nursery is currently using the crawler and spade to dig up trees that have trunks up to 10-in. (25.4 cm) in diameter.

“These machines are used only a couple times a week,” noted Barbour. “We have been extremely pleased with how the machines have been working for us. In addition to overall productivity of the crawler with the spade, we found that the rear counterweight has done a terrific job of acting as an outrigger for stabilization as well as maximizing down pressure for digging trees.

“[Nasser] provided the whole one-stop package that I was looking for,” he said. “In fact, when we had the spade delivered, we just had it delivered to Nasser instead of our place. When we finally got the machine from him, it was ready for digging trees. As a matter of fact, we dug the first root ball at Nasser’s location to make sure every thing worked.”

Barbour noted the manufacturer of the spade, Big John, never sold a spade to work on a crawler. “The configuration on the 963 machine is one of a kind,” he said. “I believe the manufacturer has even been out to see this custom machine.

“Of the various spade and loader suppliers we talked to, Nasser had the knowledge to put the whole thing together for us and give us what we needed,” Barbour said. “He seemed to know more about how to put it together than anyone.”

Bold Spring Nursery is located at 3920 Bold Springs Road in Monroe.