Tractor Bucket Hitch/Forks

If you are fortunate enough to have a tractor, a front end loader, or a skid steer I’m sure you will find that you never have enough attachments, and that attachments take way too long to swap out.

Any opportunity to have attachments that attach to existing attachments quickly in order to change their function is excellent. As such bucket trailer hitches are a popular item. However they cost ~$200cdn each, and you need 2 if you want them to also work as fork holders (so that you can use your tractor like a forklift), you would also need trailer forks to have a complete set (~$700 for a complete set of 2x hitches, 2x forks)

Step 1: Theory

Tractor buckets look like this horrible paint picture in black- by having a notch grip the blade of the bucket , the backstop can just slide behind the reinforcement bar, and have a threaded screw hold it down in place (as seen in red in the second picture) you can get a very secure and sturdy connection quickly and easily that is generally going to be able to sustain more weight than most tractors can put into their buckets through the hydraulics.

Step 2: Getting Ready

Tools (non-consumable) required:

  1. Welder (I used SMAW, but there is no reason you can’t use mig, tig, or O/A) + PPE (Gloves, helmet, chipping hammer, wire brush)
  2. Some way to cut metal (I used a metal cutting bandsaw)
  3. Measuring tape
  4. Drill press (You might be able to get away with a hand drill, but I don’t think your hands will like you much)
  5. Drill bits - 3/8, 1/2, 5/8
  6. Grinder (Bench or hand will work fine)
  7. Vice

Materials requires

  1. 2x 16cm trailer tube (Class 3 diameter, 2” ID)
  2. 2x 150cm HSS tube (2” external diameter)
  3. 30cm 3/8 Threaded rod (Non galvanized!)
  4. 2x 3/8 Nut (Non galvanized!)
  5. 100cm 1”x1/2” steel bar
  6. 2x Hitch pins

Consumables required:

  1. Welding material
  2. Old screws/bars/whatever for T-handles

Step 3: Cut Bar to Size

I will be honest when I did this it was largely an 'eyeballing it' activity, however you need:

2x pieces the width of your hitch reciever pipe [2.5"]

1x pieces the width of your bar stock [1"] (I made up 2 because I was certain I would end up screwing up the drill press through hole or weld at least once)

So to recap:

  • a. Front of hitch - 2.5"
  • b. Back of hitch - 2.5"
  • c. Angle bar - 16cm
  • d. Nut holder - 1"

Step 4: Weld Head on Hitch Tube and Notch

This is a bit of a procedure:

  1. Grind a notch into the end of the head piece (the 'front of hitch' piece you cut previously)
  2. Take some filler metal stock and lay it across just behind the grind
  3. Weld the filler stock in place
  4. Grind the filler stock relatively level
  5. Weld in place at the front of the hitch tube

Step 5: Mark Distance for Bucket Back and Weld Into Place

Walk out to your tractor bucket with something to mark the metal with, slap the hitch into place hooking the blade of your bucket, place the metal in a position that will hold it relatively steady, mark, bring back inside, and weld into place.

Step 6: Weld Arm Onto Hitch Tube

Take the long arm piece you had cut in step 1 and weld into place.

Step 7: Drill Hole Into Nut Holder

Place the nut holder piece you had cut previously into your drill press and drill a hole slightly larger than 3/8 through it (so that the 3/8 threaded rod will fit through)

Step 8: Weld Nut to the Inside of the Nut Holder

Thread the threaded rod through the nut and then place it through the nut holder, then weld the nut lightly into place.

It is generally a good idea to have the rod threaded through the nut before welding, as the welding heat will often warp the nut, by having the rod threaded through first you can fix the threads by working the threaded rod back and forth.

Step 9: Weld Nut Holder to Arm and Weld T Onto Threaded Rod

I just grabbed some random junk (a retaining bolt from my VW beetle engine mount) and weld it to the top of your threaded rod, then weld the entire assembly onto the angle bar.

Step 10: Drill Holes Through the Trailer Tube and HSS Forks

Put your now complete unit into your drill press vice and drill through both sides with a 5/8 drill bit. These holes should be exactly in the middle of the width of the bar, and towards the back lengthwise

Then insert your HSS fork and drill through the existing holes (and through the HSS tube) again; this will assure that the holes in the HSS forks mate with the hitch receiver.

Step 11: Optional Improvements

Having the back stop on the trailer hitch tube be variable would allow it to work on multiple buckets (Not all buckets have the same distance between blade and reinforcement bar, and the blade tends to get eroded over time with heavy use). This could be accomplished by welding a bar across the back of the hitch tube and putting another nut on there, then getting some HSS tube which is large enough to fit around the trailer tube. You will then be able to adjust the back stop by turning the new screw in or out.

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