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Menzi Muck spider excavator digging over river bank
Menzi Muck spider excavator digging over river bank

Unusual Construction Machines: Spider Excavators, Dumphoes and More

4 Minute Read
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Tim Forestell
April 18, 2021

Unusual and Weird Construction Machines

Everyone knows an excavator, wheel loader and skid steer. You can recognize a boom or scissor lift from a mile away. But there are many different types of construction equipment which are not as easily recognized or popular. Some of the more unique pieces of construction machines include the dumphoe, spider lift and excavator, the walking harvester and amphibious excavator. These unique machines show how innovation and invention is alive and well in the world of machinery.

Spider Lifts

Spider lifts is a nimble, stable and incredibly cool looking aerial lift that can reach heights up to 160 feet. 

From the base up, these machines look like your traditional telescopic boom lift. It’s the base of these machines that make them so unique. Spider lifts can either have a tracked or wheeled body so they can be moved on any type of terrain. The chassis can spin in a full 360-degree circle giving it a wide range of motion from a single position. The body has lock-in-place “legs” that sprawl out to provide way more stability than you would normally see in a boom lift. It’s this look of long legs that make it resemble a spider. 

The legs give it an all-terrain use that just isn’t matched the same way with any other type of lift. They are extremely compact which makes them popular for interior use.

Spider lift holding up man trimming trees
Image borrowed from XYZ Lift


One of the most bizarre and awesome looking amalgamations of equipment, the dumphoe is just that it sounds like – a cab and hoe on the font with a small dump bucket on the back. It was created by a company called Keltec Engineering as a more experimental project than anything. It ran on four wheels instead of a traditional excavator track. 

The machine was never built or manufactured widely and definitely wasn’t widely used on construction sites. That doesn’t stop it from being really cool, though.

The machine was a collection of Caterpillar parts including a 92-horsepower CAT 3054T engine. It had a load rating of 6,000 kg with four-wheel drive steering and a max speed of 20 miles per hour. If only these had become more popular it could have given the backhoe a run for its money as the most popular two-in-one machine.

Dumphoe excavator digging on side of hilll
The Dumphoe. Image borrowed from Equipment World

Vermeer T655 Trencher

The Vermeer T655 trencher literally looks like a giant chainsaw on a cab. If you had to choose, this is certainly the type of chainsaw you’d want in a zombie apocalypse. 

Its long rotating belt with teeth is used to dig trenches through all types of ground conditions. It churns up dirt and spits out the top. The Vermeer Trechener is used to dig trenches for wires, pipes, to install drainage or anything else that may require a trench of a smaller or narrower size. The Vermeer T655 is a popular model of trencher but there are a variety of sizes available, depending on the project. 

Trenchers are commonly used as opposed to using a mini ex or digger with trencher attachment because they are more efficient and precise. For large pipes or sewer work, excavators would still be preferable.

Vermeer T655 trencher on snowy ground
Image borrowed from Purple Wave auctions

Walking Harvester

Created for the lumber industry, the walking harvester is a machine right out of a science fiction novel. This machine was designed by John Deere in the ’90s to work in all types of weather and terrain for log harvesting. It featured 6 articulating legs so it could walk on any ground and in all directions. The ability of the operator to control the legs so precisely makes it so that the machine had very little impact on the ground on which it moved. This made it ideal for the soft ground found in forests. 

The prototype was created to pick up and strip a fell tree in seconds. 

Unfortunately this prototype did not become popular and, just like the dumphoe, was never widely manufactured. However, the technology put into this machine went on to be used for many other logging machines that came after it.

The John Deere walking harvester holding felled log

Amphibious Dredging Excavator

Like its amphibian brothers that it was named after, this excavator has the power to operate on both land and in water. The traditional tracks on this machine run on sealed pontoons to give it the ability to float in wetland, swamp or shallow water. 

The pontoons are made of high tension steel with 5 independent water-tight compartments on each side. They are created to be saltwater-resistant which allows it to work in the ocean or seawater, too. 

This machine has a number of accessories just like a traditional excavator. Buckets, demolition sorting grab, a piling vibrator or dredging pump can all be added to this machine. One special attachment, however, is a side pontoon that can help increase the floatation capabilities of the excavator. 

This machine is perfect for wet projects that need to remove clay, clear trenches, clean swampland or work in water that is still too shallow for traditional barge-mounted machines.  These machines are also called pontoon or floating excavators but amphibious sounds way cooler. 

Amphibious excavators digging in pond

Spider Excavator or Menzi Muck Walking Excavators

The Menzi Muck Walking Excavator was created specifically to bring digging machines to the most inaccessible places. With different hydraulic controls and individually adaptable wheels, this machine can drive on almost any terrain. The elongated individual wheels make the excavator look like a spider, hence the alternative nickname. 

This machine was invented in the 1960s specifically for excavating work on mountain slopes in Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The machine is not popular simply because most excavating projects don’t involve mountains or such rough terrain. It’s good to know that there are machines out there for when the one-of-a-kind projects need them. 

Many people talk about the spider excavator the same way they do the walking harvester. Both were made for really specific uses and are one-of-a-kind machines. While not widely popular, the innovation and unique uses of these machines put them into a class of their own.

Menzi Muck excavator digging on side of a mountain

Unusual Construction Machines

While excavators and dozers are popular machines for a reason, it’s nice to recognize the more unique and specialized construction machines in the world. The construction industry is all about innovating, breaking barriers and building up the world. These machines are the perfect example of how construction innovation gives humans the power to do all of these things no matter the project type, terrain or location needs.

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Tim Forestell
Tim Forestell is one of DOZR’s co-founders and CCO. Tim got started in the industry as VP Operations for Forestell Landscaping before founding DOZR with Kevin and Erin. Aside from the amazing team at DOZR, his favourite thing about DOZR are the customers. Working with DOZR renters every day gives him a peek at the evolution of different projects and hearing stories about projects being developed from start to finish.
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