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What Is a Sheepsfoot Compactor?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A sheepsfoot compactor is a piece of equipment that consists of a roller, or drum, that has raised pegs or pads on the surface. These compactors are available in many different designs, including tow-behind and clamp-on units, in addition to self-powered rollers. Tow-behind units are typically designed for use with tractors, and clamp-on units can be used with backhoes. In road construction, a self-powered sheepsfoot compactor is sometimes used to prepare the bare dirt for gravel, concrete, or other substances, and they are also used in landfills to compact the refuse. The pads or pegs on these compactors are designed to result in a more tightly packed substrate material, whether it is dirt, gravel, or garbage.

Soil compaction is an activity that involves passing heavy equipment over soil in order to press the individual pieces of dirt closer together, and remove air. This is done for a variety of reasons, including building and road construction. Many different types of equipment can be used to compact soil, though the sheepsfoot, or padfoot, compactor is one common design. The same type of compactors are also used in landfills and in other applications, where substances other than soil need to be compacted.

There are many different sheepsfoot compactor designs, though they all share a common characteristic in that they have a number of pads or pegs along the surface of the drum or roller. These pegs can follow any number of patterns along the surface of a drum or roller, though they are typically uniform in length. This allows the pegs to contact the soil, refuse, or other substance uniformly. The use of a sheepsfoot compactor typically does not result in a surface that is perfectly smooth, though they can compact evenly. In some cases, the pegs will have removable tips or even be hollow, which can reduce wear by allowing for a type of compaction known as dirt-on-dirt.

Sheepsfoot compactors are either designed as attachments for other equipment, or as self-propelled machines. The two main types of sheepsfoot compactor attachments are towed units and clamp-on units. Towed compactors are usually designed for use with tractors, and clamp-on units can be attached to the bucket of a backhoe or bulldozer. The clamp-on style is typically used for smaller jobs such as tamping down gravel over a newly installed pipe. Self-propelled sheepsfoot compactors typically have large roller drums that include pegs or pads, and can be driven by a human operator, though walk-behind units also exist.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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