Andy Smith
Mine action specialist

The one-handed excavator


An unconventional design, this tool has been refined to reduce weight and ensure easy use.

The Excavator is designed for use when exposing a detector reading. When possible, either the AVS Pick-prod or MIT-probe would have been used first. Starting well back from the centre of the detector reading (at least 20cm) the user digs a downward slope towards the reading with the Excavator. If a mine is present (and horizontal), the side of the mine will be exposed.

The picture on the right shows an excavator exposing a VS50 that is on its side – with the pressure plate facing the tool. This was a “set-up” for a blast test. The tool is used with a forward thrust, followed by a sideways sweep to remove the loosened spoil. The sideways sweep puts strain on the user’s wrist. To avoid this, the tool is extended so that a sideways sweep is supported by the fore-arm. This  makes the sustained excavation process more comfortable.

The orientation of the tool’s cutting face and non-shatter polyethylene, “punch-grip” handle is designed so that it is easiest to use with the hand close to the ground. A washable ballistic aramid blast-guard attaches in front of the user’s hand. The tool’s cutting blade is bent so that the sideways scooping motion removes more spoil, and to give the blade greater strength. The cutting blade is made using E304 Stainless Steel and is sharpened on the leading and lower edge. The leading edge incorporates a sloped 'spike' to improve its performance on very hard ground.

The Excavator folds in half for easy transportation and weighs 0.9kg (2lb). It’s construction uses four nylock nuts and bolts that are behind the hand-guard and well away from any blast point.

The blade is welded with more than 40cm (16”) of weld to the flat-bar extensions that are mild-steel. The metal parts are then hard-chromed to prevent rust. Hard-chrome binds with the metal surface well but does not have a mirror-finish.
The tool stayed in one piece when placed alongside mines in tests. The blade split and peeled but did not break up.