What is an Excavator Bucket?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An excavator bucket is an attachment for heavy equipment which is designed to be used in site excavation. Buckets can be attached to excavators, tractors, cranes, and similar types of equipment. They come in a range of sizes and shapes. A similar tool known as a scoop looks much like an excavator bucket, but carries a lesser volume of material.

The bucket of an excavator, which is attached to the end of its boom, or 'arm', is used to dislodge and move earth.
The bucket of an excavator, which is attached to the end of its boom, or 'arm', is used to dislodge and move earth.

Typically a material such as steel is used to make an excavator bucket, because the attachment needs to be durable and very strong. Classically, one side is toothed, with the teeth acting to break up material as the bucket is dragged through it, loosening the material so that it will be easy for the bucket to scoop up. The teeth also absorb impact, sparing the bucket itself from damage and reducing long term wear and tear.

Excavator buckets are used in a wide variety of settings where people want to perform an excavation. At mines, they can be used to clear the ground to set explosive charges, and they can also be used to scoop up material of monetary interest, such as ore-bearing rocks. An excavator bucket can also be used in construction and demolition to break and remove soil and other materials, or for large trenching applications. While not designed for the purpose of transporting material, excavator buckets are sometimes used to move materials around on a construction or demolition site.

The size of an excavator bucket dictates what kind of equipment it can be used with, and what sorts of jobs it is appropriate for. A typical bucket is very strong and sturdy so that it can withstand heavy loads of materials like wet soil and rock. The attachment point is usually designed to allow the bucket to flex and swivel slightly while it is in use, so that the operator can more precisely control it.

As with any tool, an excavator bucket needs to be maintained properly to work effectively. It is important to regularly inspect buckets for signs of mechanical fatigue such as cracks, and to identify weak points along the point of attachment. These attachments are typically warehoused when not in use, although they may also be stored on site. It is important to avoid exposing an excavator bucket to corrosive or salty conditions which could fatigue or stress the metal, resulting in a catastrophic equipment failure which could expose people to the risk of injury.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I got a job working for a new garden center in town. I would be maintaining the plants and helping customers with any questions they might have.

Before the place opened, they needed to have an impressive garden out front. I advised them on which plants to grow for the large outdoor display, but an excavator bucket did most of the work!

The operator made the bucket scoop up large volumes of soil across the area we had measured off for our garden. Then, we mixed compost and fertilizer with the scooped soil in the large pile where the bucket had dropped it.

The operator then scooped up the fertilized soil and placed it back into the garden area. This job would have taken the employees days to do, and none of us were in good enough shape to have handled it well. We were glad for the excavator bucket.


I was traveling through Kentucky one year when I came across an area of fallen rocks. There was a cliff beside the highway and a fence to hold in the boulders that might try to roll down into the street, and a pile of rocks of various sizes had collected at the bottom of the cliff behind the fence.

I saw a man running a piece of machinery with an excavator bucket attached. He was making it scoop up the heavy rock. It’s a good thing the bucket was made of steel, because that rock would have damaged any other material scraping over it.


@StarJo - I realize that using an excavator bucket is a much more efficient method for clearing ground to widen a highway than using muscle force, but I think that tools such as this take much-needed jobs away from the unemployed. Much like machinery in factories replaced hundreds of workers long ago, items like the excavator bucket are possibly harming people who would love a job.

Sure, a couple of men alone could not do what an excavator bucket could. However, if a company hired fifteen men who were willing to work cheap because they can’t find employment elsewhere and gave them shovels, they could potentially do the same job in about the same amount of time.


A large new factory has been constructed about twenty miles from my house. A ton of construction is being done on the highways that lead to it, because they plan to hire thousands of workers.

I have been seeing excavator buckets all along the roadsides as the workers scoop out areas of earth. They are having to widen a two-lane highway to a four-lane across several miles, and this construction will likely take years.

The buckets scoop up gravel and red dirt so much faster than men with shovels could. I know that the workers are grateful that they don’t have to tire out their muscles by slaving with shovels to do a job that a bucket can do so much faster.


My dad made is living in a small town by running an excavating business. Many people think that just because you are running heavy equipment that you don't have to do any of the hard work because the machine is doing it all for you.

I just remember that my dad worked really hard, and would come home very tired. He had a shop where he kept all of his equipment, and two of my brothers eventually took over the business.

My dad liked to have good, reliable equipment and I always remember him talking about his Kubota excavator bucket and how long his Kubota machinery always lasted him.


I never give much thought to big equipment as my husband has always worked construction. He also does some jobs on the side, so there is always a lot of equipment around.

One of our friends sons was so excited when he saw big equipment like that, and was especially fascinated with the mini excavator bucket.

I never really understood the fascination, but he was always excited if he got to sit up in any kind of equipment and move some of the controls.

I think there is some kind of connection between boys and being able to run any kind of equipment like that. I understand that fascination about as much as they understand a good shopping trip!


@irontoenail - No, I don't think it is legal in most places, but if your friend is really that fascinated, why doesn't he just train to get his license? Even if he doesn't plan to make a living from driving that kind of vehicle, it's still awesome to have it and you never know when it might come in handy.

And, he would have to drive them in order to train for the license, so I imagine he would really enjoy the process as well. It would make a difference from those guys who run out and get their pilot's license when they are having a midlife crisis!


I had a friend who was absolutely fascinated by these kinds of machines, particularly the really big diggers. I guess he probably had a toy digger as a child. I know I did. They were particularly fun to play with in the sand pit!

Anyway, my friend always wanted to have a chance to drive one of these machines and his wife managed to arrange it for his birthday one year. It was at a place where they were excavating a house foundation or something. He was even allowed to use the excavator bucket to dig a little bit, although only under tight supervision.

I think she actually bribed the guy who ran the digger though, as it probably isn't legal to let someone drive it without a license, even for a few minutes.


One of my favorite moments in the movie "Tomorrow When the War Began" involves an excavator bucket.

It's a movie that speculates about what would happen if Australia was invaded and has some kids who engage in guerrilla warfare.

At one point they need to get out of town without being shot and they have an injured friend. So they find a digger, put the friend in the excavator bucket and then raise it so that he is protected by the heavy metal sides.

I thought it was quite ingenious and also kind of tied in with the mining industry in Australia.

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