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What Is an Excavator Grapple?

K.C. Bruning
K.C. Bruning

An excavator grapple is an attachment used on construction vehicles such as backhoes and excavators. Its primary function is to grab and lift material. When in action, the most common style of grapple usually looks and functions like a jaw opening and closing. It is typically attached to a block called a hanger which hangs from a part known as a rotator.

The grapple sits on the end the extendable arm of the construction equipment. An operator, who sits in the cab of the vehicle, manipulates the excavator grapple. It is generally used to move items such as logs, pipes, dirt, and stones.


When it is not attached to a machine, a typical excavator grapple looks more like the claw of a bird. There are usually approximately three to four claw-like tines on each side of the grapple. The attachment is affixed to the excavator via two or more bars that sit on top of it. There is a hinge that holds both sides of the grapple together and enables it to open and close.

An excavator grapple is powered by oil that comes from a hose that extends the length of the construction vehicle’s extendable arm all the way to the operator’s cab. There it attaches to a lever which powers the attachment by managing the flow of oil. Usually another hose is needed to operate the rotator, which enables the grapple to turn and otherwise maneuver. These tubes are commonly referred to as oil circuits.

There are several styles of excavator grapple available, depending on the requirements of a project. Some consist of one larger half, shaped like a deep dustpan and a smaller half which looks more like a claw that is used to push items into the larger portion and then hold them in. Other grapples are made of four claws arranged in a cross formation that grab an item from above and carry it suspended in the air, rather than holding it inside a deeper claw.

Excavator grapples come in different sizes and strengths which are geared to different project needs and budgets. The heaviest and sturdiest grapples are typically used for projects such as land clearing and demolition. Lighter grapples are primarily used for lifting and moving materials. There are also less elaborate grapples which can still handle heavy loads, but not as much material because they are only made of the claw-like tines.

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