The Different Types Of Excavator Buckets And Their Uses

As hydraulic excavators evolved, replacing the cable shovels of yesterday, the diversity and sophistication of available ground-engaging attachments have followed suit. Following is a general discussion of some types of buckets often found on hydraulic excavators in the construction and mining industries today.

The Digging Bucket

Essentially most excavator buckets are intended for digging in a medium which is reflected in specific features of their design. Buckets, whether meant for digging loam, rock or frost, generally adhere to the rule that form follows function. Digging buckets for soft soils have short blunt teeth, while for rock or frost they are pointed and longer to provide better concentration of force and leverage for prying. Bucket width also varies – in hard ground a narrow bucket concentrates ground- penetrating forces along a shorter cutting edge. Another variable is the distance between the stick bucket pin boss and tooth tips. This distance, the tip radius, is generally shorter in buckets intended for hard ground excavation. The shorter distance provides better mechanical leverage for curling and filling the bucket. A well designed digging bucket will employ, depending upon intended use, these and other features to create a durable and efficient tool.

Rock Bucket

The rock bucket is a variation of the digging bucket with design modifications for a special application. Extreme service in prying and ripping rock requires a robust, heavily built structure often equipped with longer sharper teeth mounted on a straight or V- shaped cutting edge. The bucket must have sufficient strength to concentrate power for ripping and prying rock loose while maintaining its structural integrity. Typically these buckets are narrower with a shorter tip radius as compared to a general purpose digging bucket used in softer materials.

V Bucket

The V bucket is a digging bucket whose unique design affords energy savings and productivity gains in some applications.  Instead of the square or rectangular geometry of the face of the conventional dig bucket, the V bucket has a generalized V shaped digging face. The V shape is comprised of three ground engaging surfaces — the bottom and two sides. The bottom cutting edge works on increasing the depth, while the side cutting edges shape the side slopes of the excavation. The cheeks of the bucket taper away from the cutting edges to create a bonnet- like shape to the scoop which reduces side drag as the structure moves through the excavation.
The angled sides of the V bucket allow the operator to efficiently slope the ditch profile as the excavation progresses. The V bucket is commonly used in pipe laying excavation.

Hardpan or Frost Buckets

Hardpan or frost buckets are another specialty digging bucket that employs some of the design concepts of the rock bucket, but with an added feature – the addition of ripper teeth mounted on the back of the bucket. Like the rock bucket, the frost bucket is heavily built with aggressive, sharp teeth mounted on a straight or V shaped cutting edge. The ripper teeth added to the back of the bucket are intended to loosen the compacted soil as the bucket is curled through the dig/load cycle. The material loosened by the ripper teeth can then be pried out and scooped up in a subsequent pass of the bucket.

 Cleanup Bucket

The typical cleanup bucket is essentially the scoop portion of the digging bucket without teeth. Because the cleanup bucket is used in soft or well loosened materials it normally has a larger capacity and is straight edged at the point of ground engagement. The ground engaging edge may be equipped with a bolt on hardened plate steel blade to reduce wear and maintenance. The cleanup bucket is used in a variety of tasks including sloping, leveling, ditching, backfilling and occasionally excavation where the softness of the material allows.

Skeleton Bucket

The skeleton bucket is in reality a specialized digging bucket modified to act like a grizzly mounted on an excavator. The width between the bars will allow only a certain sized aggregate to fall through leaving the larger size in the bucket. The skeleton bucket allows for a versatile and portable method of separating coarser and finer materials.



The foregoing paragraphs provide a brief outline of some common excavator buckets types and uses. Choosing the right bucket is important and can be influenced by many factors including:
•    The machine’s intended role; digging, backfilling, ditching, clearing;
•    The composition and density of the soil type to be excavated, loams, clays, rock;
•    The design of the machine, weight, configuration, power, etc.; and,
•    Bucket width, teeth, guarding, tip radius.

Time spent selecting the right bucket for a job will pay dividends in production, energy savings and machine wear.

References: Caterpillar Performance Handbook. Vol. 39 (2009) Caterpillar Inc. Peoria, Illinois, U.S.A.

  • Dpowell

    The V bucket looks so strange.  Do you supply new heavy equipment parts?

    • Headwater Equipment

      You can find us online at or contact us by email at or by phone at +1 403.327.3681 for more information on our selection of heavy equipment parts and attachments.

  • Allan Carter

    I learn more different types of buckets in your blog. Do you have a big buckets?

  • Excavator Buckets Direct

    This article can give you a lot of info about excavator attachment and the uses each of one. Thanks for sharing and keep it up. Cheers!