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Also known as www.oilyhands.co.uk and www.flamingskoda.com

Towable digger, excavator and backhoe website. Features Fleming Micron, Powerfab, Mantis, Benford, Roughneck, Gopher, Smalley, Tow-hoe, Standard Muscleman, Termite, Mitchell Cotts, Mini Gigant, Baromix, Euromach, Bronco, JPB, Digger 50, homemade and other small diggers. Links to current manufacturers such as Groupe-FCM and suppliers of plans for the Ground Hawg Homebuilt Backhoe and CDP Excavator. Includes other plant and mechanical information, Digger Bucket Page, Plant Photo Gallery, Dumper Restoration Project and useful links for Digger Spares and Repairs. Extra information and pictures to add to the site always appreciated. Also includes a section dedicated to preserving information about Johnson Machinery Limited.

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Homemade diggers and backhoes. Digger plans and current manufacturers.

As I have stated elsewhere on this site, hand digging with a pick and a shovel is definitely work that is best avoided! Faced with this, a few brave souls have actually built diggers from scratch. So rather than wearing themselves out wielding a pick and shovel they have worn themselves out cutting and welding together a fairly complex machine instead! If you have a lot of digging to do then maybe it is worth building a digger. But if you charge your time out at even a modest rate it is arguably an uneconomic option. I suppose if you have plenty of time on your hands then building a digger could be fun.

To make life a bit easier there are a number of plans available (and some kits). These are all for diggers which are essentially similar to the manufactured towable diggers from the 1980's which are featured on this site. My opinion is that the 1980's machines were pretty well thought out and some of the plans are a bit lacking in comparison.

As well as welding the digger together which would require quite a lot of skill to do properly, there is also the hydraulics to contend with. Pumps, rams, valves, hoses and engines are readily available. But, these items don't generally come cheap and I can't help thinking that by the time you add up the cost of all the components it would be easier, quicker and cheaper to buy a second hand digger.

The Beast homemade digger

The Beast homemade digger. Gary says "it just goes to show the mad things people will do to get out of using a spade"! I like the comfy seat and the use of baler cord. 

Homemade backhoe from Canada

This unique backhoe was built by Hoss in Canada. He uses it for landscaping. Good to have a cab to keep the rain (or snow) off and protect you if the digger did tip over. 

If you have got the time and inclination to build a digger then the sky is the limit in terms of design. You could build a very simple machine like a Toe-Hoe or go for a 360 degree version like the Cabrita. If I did build a towable digger, I think I would be looking at a 10 horsepower diesel engine and pump to match. I would definitely want to have 180 degree slew and hydraulic legs. I would also want the machine to be compact and not have hydraulic pipes hanging off everywhere like a load of discarded spaghetti. I would also want it to be easy to get on and off. That is one criticism of my Fleming digger.

Homebuilt digger

Anyone know anything about this unusual machine?  Is it homemade? Any information welcomed by its new owner. 

Homebuilt excavator

It is fitted with a vertical shaft engine which is a Bernard Moteurs Type 627 No E452913. I think it is homemade.

What I like about Hoss's backhoe is the nice selection of different hydraulic rams and the hand adjustable legs. He has also used nuts and bolts on the arm instead of welding. The Beast is great although I'm not sure what stops it from moving about when working as it doesn't have any stabilising legs. Perhaps it has to be hitched to the 4x4 all the time? The blue digger is more of a mystery. It is quite well built with a decent arm and bucket and neat hydraulic piping. The hydraulic tank looks like it came from another machine.

John's homemade digger - added 15/06/09

Homemade digger homebuilt backhoe

John's homemade digger. It's quite an impressive feat to have got it all working

What John says about his experience of building his backhoe, "Hello Jim, I started to buy parts last September as they came on sale at my favourite store (Princess Auto). I laid the keel a 6.5ft 3 inch by 7 inch, 3/8th thick box beam of steel mid October. Construction on the steel frame and buckets finished up in mid March. The unit sat around for 6 weeks or so while I waited for funds and for the hydraulic hose to come on sale. I broke ground with it on the May long weekend. Rolled it over the second day I used it, and was very glad I had built a cab for it. Not a problem with the machine you understand, only the operator who had never used hydraulics before, and on a hill no less. You could say it took me 6 months to build in total, but some days only a half hour, other days maybe 2 or 3, some days none, and the odd day more. It was really more of a learning type project as I was not really sure of what I was doing, I am not a welder, and know nothing about hydraulics, but I looked at pictures on the internet, and got the general idea. I was also recovering from a broken back so I could not lift heavy pieces (used a hoist). I am sure someone can do it much faster than I did. The engine is a 13.5 hp Honda clone, a 10 gallon per minute pump, 10 gallon reservoir, half inch hydraulic hoses. The sheet metal is 16 gage. I built 2 buckets, a 10 inch, and 16 inch. I think I will build a 20 inch as well. I also built a huge 70 pound dead blow post pounder attachment that fits in place of the bucket, but I have not tested it yet. I saved all receipts and the total cost of the parts was 3500.00 Canadian. I did spend a little more than that as I bought the odd cylinder, and such that turned out to be the wrong length. I had not drawn the project out ahead of time so some purchases and mistakes are to be expected, but it is not a bad thing as I am thinking about my next winter project, and am ahead on parts. Also for those who think precise work is required, it is not so. I did not use a square, level or tape measure, just eyeballed everything. I do not recommend this, it's just that I am not always the most organized person, and  time spent looking for such things takes away from its building, and as I told myself its for digging in the dirt not sitting on the coffee table. This practice did bite me on the construction of the 10 inch bucket as it is a little crooked, but again, its only for moving dirt, and it works well. I am going to make some changes to it now that I have used it. I will change the bucket cylinder to 3 inch like the others, and I am going to cut the main boom in half and insert a 2 to maybe 3 foot piece of steel. This will greatly extend the reach to 14 or 15 feet. Other than that I am happy with it".

Thanks very much to John for this interesting account of building a digger.

Skorpion Digger - added 07/07/09

"Hi, Its Skorpion Diggers in Scotland.  We are just finishing 2 prototype diggers.  We used a second hand Fairport Hydraulic Breaker unit and you can pipe in 2 Tee pieces which gives you the use of the Breaker. The Electric unit is a 240 volt fully immersed marine unit. We are now looking to build our own Power units and will let you know when production starts. We are building to order at the moment with a 3/ 4 week delivery". The Skorpion digger slews by leg power.

The Greens Machine - added 12/11/09

Web backhoeThis small backhoe was built by Lonnie who can also supply plans for it. Lonnie says, 'I actually did my own plans, I have been selling the plans for about 2 years. This backhoe has a foot slew, some people really love the machine and some people think the backhoe wont do very much. The Youtube video will hopefully show what it will do . Thank you for putting the link on your site. Lonnie'.

Here's a video of another homemade digger that seems to work quite well

Andrew's Homemade Digger - added 07/01/10

Andrew's homemade digger. This has to be one of the smallest backhoes ever built?

Homemade digger

Andrew has clearly put a lot of effort into this little digger.

Mini backhoe

Andrew's digger uses an electrically powered hydraulic power pack

What Andrew says about building his digger

A while ago I wanted to design and build my own Mini Excavator. I had many requirements before I started going through the design process. Firstly was the size, it needed to be small enough to fit through a single doorway and light enough to be lifted into the back of a large estate car or MPV People carrier. I wanted to keep away from petrol power due to the crazy rising costs of fuel and I wanted the machine to be able to run in enclosed spaces or even indoors. I also wanted it to be much more quiet than most machines that use a engine. The machine needed to also be able to run for long periods to be able complete the job. When doing the research before setting about designing and building the machine I found out that 99% of all excavators are either petrol or diesel powered. With the engine powered machines you can't run them indoors or in enclosed areas without proper exhaust extraction. The only electric machines that are available run from a 3-phase power supply making them costly and difficult to find a suitable power source. Having a battery-powered machine was soon ruled out due to the size and weight of the batteries needed to provide enough power. Here is the result. 240-volt mains powered super micro mini excavator. This machine only is 600mm wide and only 1000mm long excluding the arm so its small enough to fit through even the smallest doorway. It also only weighs approx. 100kg so 2 people can easily lift the machine into the boot of a large estate car, mpv people carrier or even a small van.

Starting off with the arm. The arm is constructed from steel box section and 6mm steel plate the pins are hardened steel and are fully greased throughout. The arm has been designed to very small and to have the same movement angles of much larger machines. I designed a simple but effective bucket quick connect and disconnect system. Two simple nuts and the bucket can be quickly and easily changed. No hard and difficult task hammering out pins to change a bucket. The chassis and frame of the machine has been constructed from steel box section and 3mm steel plate. Keeping the machine small but big enough for a person to sit on and light enough to be lifted into the back of a large estate car or MPV People carrier even a small van. The seat fitted is a high back waterproof seat so its comfortable to sit on this machine for long periods. The hydraulic system starts off with the pump. The pump is a Flowfit power pack with a 1.2kw 240volt motor fitted. The pump feeds into a Bucher 4 way double acting control valve, which controls the 4 small hydraulic cylinders. The pump is small enough to run from a normal domestic 240 volt 13 amp power supply and powerful enough to give the correct working hydraulic pressure up to 3000psi. Having this hydraulic pressure enables this machine to have similar power too much larger machines with high tear out and ripping force. The front wheels on the machine are fixed straight with pneumatic tires and bearings, the rear wheels have also pneumatic tires and bearings but with the extra convenience from being casters with a brake stopping the machine rolling away down hill. Having these wheels also makes it very easy to manoeuvre about over all types of terrain. There are 2 front support legs with grips, which you lower before you start excavation. You simply lift the front of the machine up using the arm, lower the legs and lock into position using the small pins. Having these support legs is essential to keep the machine solid and to stop it pulling itself into the excavation area. There are 3 buckets and one attachment that I have built with the machine. One standard 6 inch wide bucket for digging narrow trenches. One 8-inch wide heavy duty bucket with teeth for larger more difficult excavations. One 15 inch wide bucket for levelling and high volume loading. The attachment is a single claw spike which is suitable for ripping out tree roots and other stubborn obstacles. This machine is probably the smallest in the world and still able to dig down to a depth of up to 3 feet deep in sticky wet clay. It has plenty of loading height so you can easily load up a wheelbarrow or larger dumper. The machine has not yet been painted.

A word of caution from David about building a digger in the UK (added 18/01/11)

"Whilst it is perfectly legal to build your own machine it is NOT legal to sell it either new or second hand without achieving HSE approved CE compliancy. All machines sold must have Compliancy documents lodged and CE logo's displayed on the machine. This is worth mentioning on your site as HSE take this matter fairly seriously and heaven forbid that any machine be involved in an accident it would leave the seller/builder in a precarious position. In fact machines not bearing a CE logo can prohibited from going on site."

Homemade digger built by James (added 08/03/11)

Homemade digger

Here is James's digger well under way in his garage. 

Homebuilt backhoe

It is powered by a 5.5hp Honda, with a Chinese HI-LO hydraulic pump. The hydraulic tank is an old fire extinguisher.

Homebuilt digger

Most of the parts were sourced from friends, or James's work although some stuff was bought from ebay. The total cost was around £200, but a lot of time went into it.

Digger

Originally a hydraulic motor and chain slew were fitted, but this was too sensitive and the chain also became very slack quite quickly. Now it has a ram instead which works better. 

Digger

The "action" picture shown was one pass on fresh turf, showing this machine is quite capable! It has a digging depth of around 5 ft and weighs less than half a ton as an estimate. 

Bob's Homemade Counterbalance digger (added 5.6.14)

Homebuilt digger

Here is Bob's digger lifting a big log. 

What Bob says about his digger:

Hi Jim,  Thanks for the chance to share this with fellow digger people.

I am sending two pictures of my machine to give you a look at the latest design. It’s an ongoing project.

It had to meet two requirements for work on my 5 acres as they are on the side of a mountain. The first was not only to dig into the hill side to build trails down the mountain; it had to be narrow enough to allow the trails to be about four feet wide. The second was to keep the weight down so that pulling it back up to the top could be done with a lawn type tractor.

The first picture shows it holding a 20 ft log which was 850 lbs. Thanks to the counterbalance design; it can do this even without the weight of an operator, which provides a large part of the counter weight.

The second picture shows the machine rotated 90 degrees to the undercarriage. From this you can see the amount of overhang. It can dig in this position just as well as when inline.

Although it is rather tall and narrow it has been proven to be very stable. Do mostly to the counterbalance. For big log lifting there are two extendable outriggers made from trailer lift jacks rated at 3,000 lbs each that come out from each side to increase the footprint.

The 12 inch bucket is interchangeable with a log grapple, by means of a quick change feature on the end of the boom. Both work with the thumb. The depth of dig is just over 6 feet, but digging is mostly levelling for trails, and loading dump trailers from a pit. The logging aspect is to lift logs either for loading on a trailer or just to hold them at a nice high for cutting firewood. It also does all the heavy lifting around here.  

The unit pivots on a 3 ton wheel hub from a farm wagon. The 3 gal/min pump is power by a 6.5 hp engine @2250 psi. The 6 control valves all have built in load holders. The oil supply is 5 gals. The counterweight is all machine and operator (no scrap iron or cement).

Homemade excavator

Bob's digger is reminiscent of the Powerfab 007

Links to suppliers of plans and other homebuilt digger resources

Current manufacturers of towable excavators

Please Note: European users should check that imported machines can legally be towed on the road as the rules in Europe are different to those in the United States and Canada.

1980's and 1990's towable digger information

Please contact the webmaster if you have any more pictures or links for homemade diggers or homebuilt backhoes.