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How to Properly Grind a Stump

stump and cutter head

When it comes to stump removal, stump grinders are tools that save you time, money, and loads of backache. But did you know that there is a proper way to remove a stump? While still a simple process, it involves some careful navigation to ensure a smooth removal that fully utilizes the robust nature of your stump grinding machine. In order to achieve the best possible results and minimize wear on the operator and machine, follow along for some tips and tricks that will make stump removal of any size a breeze.

  1. The DO’s and DON’Ts of Stump Removal

  2. Maintaining a Load on the Engine

  3. Cutting Technique

1. DO: 

  • Ensure the work area is clear of obstructions and debris. You should be able to freely navigate the work area.
  • Wear proper PPE such as eye protection, gloves, boots, and ear protection.
  • Familiarize yourself with the machine controls before starting.
  • Engage the chip shield equipped on the tracked Barreto stump grinders, to prevent flying debris.
  • Look for foreign material in the stump like nails, fencing, or other non-arboreous materials the tree may have grown around.
  • Ensure the machine is greased according to manufacturing instructions and before operating; especially the cutter wheel bearings which require daily greasing.
  • Operate at full throttle.
  • Monitor cutting head and listen to engine speed. Both should maintain high speed.
  • Take smooth, complete, lateral bites out of the stump.


  • Don’t rush the job.
  • Cut too deep into the stump on your initial or subsequent passes - you will know if you are cutting too deep if the engine bogs down or cutter wheel slows or stalls.
  • Operate on a steep incline or near a drop off or embankments.
  • Come into contact with the cutter wheel - doing so will cause injury or even death.

2. Maintaining a Load on the Engine

One of our key recommendations for optimal stump grinder performance: Maintain a load on the engine. What does this mean? Maintaining a load on the engine means that the operator has struck the proper balance of leveraging the horsepower of the engine and the pressure of the hydraulics to the intensity of the cutting job.

Barreto 30SGBy putting a load on the engine, you can hear the machine working and utilizing the available power. The goal utilization is found when the engine and hydraulics are working at pace with the job - if the grinder is working too hard because of a deep cut in the stump or the operator working the cutting head too quickly for the size of the bite, the engine will bog down, and the hydraulic pressure relief valve will automatically stall the cutter wheel.

If you’ve ever run a lawnmower through tall, wet grass, you have experienced what it means to bog down and stall a machine; the job becomes too much for the machine, and so the system is equipped to stall and protect the machine from overwork.

Hydraulics are meant to work - one of the many reasons we pioneered robust hydraulic equipment. Resistance is what builds the hydraulic pressure, creating a kind of fluid cushion on the system. The more pressure you apply to the cutter wheel when cutting the stump, the more you are utilizing the available power of the machine. By properly gauging the load on the engine, the operator can use the machine to the utmost of its capabilities.


3. Cutting Technique

Cutting technique

Start slow. Raise the cutter head and move the machine into position by the stump. Slowly swing the cutter head across the edge of 

the stump. Adjust the cutting depth and swing speed to prevent the engine from bogging down and to prevent the cutter wheel from stalling.

After the swing is complete, move the cutter wheel down 1/2" to 1", and repeat the cutter wheel swing. Depending on the diameter of the stump, you may need to move the machine forward to continue cutting. Continue making a series of cuts down the edge of the stump until the edge is cut to below ground level or the teeth are cutting at a depth below half the wheel radius.

It’s not a prescriptive science, but it is an intuitive process to remove a stump. Take inventory of the landscape and situation around you, listen to your machine, and adjust accordingly. Take time to practice the movements of the cutter head before you begin cutting. Then, listen to the sounds of happy hydraulics working together with durable engineering to demolish the stump before your eyes.