Machinery & Products

Should it be this hard?

By John Droppert

SIMPLE THINGS please simple minds — or so the saying goes. That probably explains (at least partly) my decision to purchase a Chinese wheel loader.

Simplicity was a major selling point. After all, who needs a 35 point suspension with 243 moving parts, when you’re only putting in a couple of hours a week?

All they’re going to do is break anyway. Sliding under the machine to grease each driveshaft linkage and being able to see every mechanism and connection all the way up to the cab, with some idea of what each does — that’s satisfying.

At least until a piece of caked-on mud becomes dislodged and lands square in your face.

And did I mention price? Price is also satisfying. In my case, the low, low price of a machine simply welded and bolted together in a factory that punches out tens of thousands of them a year.

The point of all of this is that the aforementioned low, low price has given me the scope to kit out the machine with a few useful extras that fulfil some fairly simple wishes.

For example, in recent years I’ve come to the conclusion that a grapple bucket would be a useful tool to have around the place.

You don’t see too many of those in Australia — probably because they’re a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ type implement.

But despite owning various loaders at different times, here I was with a wheelbarrow picking up sticks, prunings or broken hay bales; too bulky to easily fit in a standard loader bucket, too loose to use a silage grab. Fool’s business.

So since I have a cheap loader with a quick hitch (magic!), I’ve been in the hunt for a grapple bucket.

They are surprisingly hard to find in this country, despite the fact that almost every single loader I’ve ever seen in the US (via twitter of course) has one.

After months of regularly searching every platform I could find, I finally located one within my price range.

Obscurely listed as a ‘manure grapple’, it turns out to have been manufactured in Korea — in 2010.

Clearly, this nicely built piece of kit had been waiting eight years for me to come along and put it to work.

First, of course, I had to fit it up to the Everun loader.

With some blank hooks handily provided by Everun Australia and a talented local welder (i.e. not me), this was accomplished nicely.

The grapple fits, it looks good, and it does exactly what I want it to do.

There’s only one catch. The hydraulic couplings on the grapple are iso-standard ones, like every other machine here.

It turns out that those on the loader may look similar, but they are not. So there is oil. Oil everywhere. Not convenient. Not simple.

It further transpires that the threads to which these non-standard couplings are attached is an obscure metric M20 x 1.5 mm thread.

Not BSPP, BSPT or any of the various other acronyms that I now know as an internet-learned hydraulics specialist.

The significance of this became apparent as I listened to the judgemental pause on each phone call to a dealer or hydraulic shop following my description.

Even knowing well enough to avoid the term ‘Chinese loader’ in my opening gambit didn’t spare me.

I may yet come out in front though. For an amount of US dollars I’d rather not convert to AUD, I have ordered a set of adaptors from the you beaut worldwide web.

When they arrive, they might represent the most expensive 6 inches of piping on the entire machine, but I’ll finally have my grapple bucket; sans the puddle and EPA liability. Awesome.

• John Droppert has no mechanical qualifications whatsoever, but has been passionate about tractors since before he could talk and has operated many different makes and models in a variety of roles for both profit and fun.