Welcome to www.oilyhands.co.uk

Also known as www.diggers-dumpers-plant.co.uk and www.flamingskoda.com

Towable digger, excavator and backhoe website. Features Fleming Micron, Powerfab, Mantis, Benford, Roughneck, Gopher, Smalley, Tow-hoe, Standard Muscleman, Termite, Mitchell Cotts, Mini Gigant, Baromix, Euromach, Bronco, JPB, Digger 50, homemade and other small diggers. Links to current manufacturers such as Groupe-FCM and suppliers of plans for the Ground Hawg Homebuilt Backhoe and CDP Excavator. Includes other plant and mechanical information, Digger Bucket Page, Plant Photo Gallery, Dumper Restoration Project and useful links for Digger Spares and Repairs. Extra information and pictures to add to the site always appreciated. Also includes a section dedicated to preserving information about Johnson Machinery Limited.

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Fleming Micron digger restoration (how this website started)

I have spent over 15 years repairing our cottage. Plastering, wiring, plumbing, damp proofing, dry stone walling, you name it we've tackled it. In my lifetime I've also spent a lot of time digging trenches, clearing ditches and loading rubble into trailers by hand. I'm sick of shovels and picks and in 2004 decided enough was enough.  Inspired by reading about a JCB restoration, I bought myself an unusual hydraulic digger in need of a little attention. In the search for a suitable machine, mini diggers with tracks were ruled out on the grounds of cost and JCB, Ford and other wheel diggers whilst cheap enough are just too big to be useful round our place.

Instead, I bought a Fleming Micron towable digger of about 1984 vintage. It was cheap enough but in need of some serious repair.

Fleming Micron, mini digger, excavator, backhoe

Here's my Fleming Micron when we got it home in all its rusty glory.  It's sitting in the yard with a big pile of firewood and other junk I generally leave lying around.

Fleming Micron, Honda engine and good hydraulic ram

Close up of the Honda engine and the one good hydraulic ram on the machine. Saved by virtue of being closed when the machine was parked up.

My digger was built by Fleming International Machinery Ltd who were in business from 1981 to 1989 (source Companies House). It is powered by a 5 h.p Honda GX140 petrol engine and the standard bucket width is 15". Other Fleming products included the "Shifter" powered wheelbarrow (thanks to Wayne for this bit of information). Jason Hydraulics of Witney were one of the makers of hydraulic rams for Fleming machines. Others were made by Steerforth in Guilford and Wraydent in Bromyard. At one time there were Micron distributors in Norway, Sweden, Holland, France, Germany, Spain and Thailand (thanks to Mike for this information).

This machine has 5 hydraulic rams all of exactly the same size, 4 of them were in a bad way with leaking seals and rusted chrome. The oil leaks were really something! The only ram which was in good condition was the one which lifts the rear of the digger clear of the ground to hold it steady while digging. The digger is unusual in that it walks around using the arm and the two free wheeling wheels. This is a slow process compared to a mini digger with tracks but for most jobs is perfectly adequate, particularly trenching.  Compared with other diggers of this type (for example early Powerfab), the Fleming has the advantage that all the digging controls are worked by just two levers. These are set up in the same format as a lot of wheel diggers such as a Ford 550. There is a third smaller lever which raises or lowers the rear stabiliser. 

Powerfab towable digger, excavator, hired in 1985One of the reasons I chose the towable digger was that in 1985 I had seen one in action which my brother hired. This was a Powerfab and of 4 lever variety. My brother is seen in the picture digging a trench for a drainage pipe. I was always impressed with the simple but effective design.  I also only have standard vehicles so a big heavy trailer and mini digger are not an option.

Once in the workshop the machine was stripped down and the rams removed. I was careful to mark the hydraulic pipes so that they would go back in the right order. The bucket linkage proved difficult to remove and had to be cut off so the pins could be heated with the gas and driven out.  This job would have taken me ages as I was using the same careful approach gained from my experience of car repairs. My neighbour Gordon who has always worked with plant came and helped and used a much more aggressive approach than me. I later welded the linkage back together. Plant is pretty tough stuff and I won't be afraid to get the sledgehammer out in future.

The rams were taken to Swift Hydraulics who kindly made new rods for them and put in new seals. These repairs can be quite costly and anyone considering the repair or restoration of a hydraulic machine of any kind should cost out the repair of rams at an early stage. While the rams were away being sorted, I got on with the other jobs. These were mainly re-bushing and pinning the bucket linkage, repairing the bucket (it was lopsided where some previous "engineer" had bodged a repair and the teeth were loose) and repainting the digger.

Removing the rust with the angle grinder powered wire brush

Removing the rust from the digger arm with the angle grinder powered wire brush.

Rebuilding the Fleming mini digger after spraying

It's starting to take shape now. There's lots of yellow paint everywhere and the refurbished rams are all back in position.

The digger was reassembled after painting and all the new pins and bushes installed and greased. Various grease nipples had to be renewed. I then re-piped the machine and refitted the bucket. There were a few finishing off jobs, such as repairing the seat. The foam and plastic covering were fine but the metal frame was rusted through. I beat some repair pieces out of 20 gauge steel and mig-welded them in. The hydraulic oil was checked and topped up (the filter was brand new anyway) and the digger was ready to leave the workshop.

Fleming Micron digger arm

Close up of where the boom meets the dipper. I re-bushed this piece and welded on some flatbar to reinforce the plates so they won't bend in future.

Fleming Micron digger, after completion of re-build.

Here's the completed digger, certainly a big improvement on before. As you can see I've had a bit of a play with it and dug a hole in the lawn!

The ongoing project.......

Although my digger's Honda engine was sound it was a little smoky and I had chance of a brand new one at a very good price. This was too good an opportunity to miss. It's another Honda and is now fitted and it is 5.5 horsepower. I'll have to be careful not to frighten myself with the extra half horsepower! You can read about the engine change by clicking here.

I have got 2 extra buckets for the digger, one from a modern mini digger and one I built from scratch. To read about these and lots of other useful bucket related information click here

One day I will build a trailer for the digger as described in the manual. Thanks to Elliott for supplying these pictures which will enable me to recreate the correct trailer. Thanks also to Michael from Ireland who kindly measured his trailer and drew a plan of it for me. Note how Elliott's Micron has been up-rated with a 10 horsepower engine and a dirty great oil cooler!

Fleming Micron digger trailer

Building one of these trailers should be a piece of cake. See how the digger climbs on, rests on the brackets and is secured using the pins though the legs.

Fleming Micorn digger trailer

Note how Elliott's Micron has been up-rated with a 10 horsepower engine and a dirty great oil cooler!

My digger also has a trolley which fits on the end of the arm and enables the digger to be pulled through a standard doorway. This needs restoring and some new tyres.

Technical Information and Sales Literature

Fleming Micron micro diggerSince I published this page, I've been contacted by a number of other Fleming owners wanting technical information. 

Fleming Micron manualFleming owners can view a PDF version of the manual here. Copyright of the manual belongs to Fleming International Machinery Ltd.

The recommended spark plugs for the Honda GX140 Engine are:  NGK BP6ES or BPR6ES or Nippon Denso W20EP-U or W20EPR-U  Any decent parts place should be able to cross reference those codes.  The gap should be set to 0.6 - 0.7 mm.  Honda also run a website where you can download manuals - click here

The hydraulic pump was a gear type giving around 15LPM at full engine speed. They were usually Italian Lamborghini pumps.

Fleming actually got a nice looking 1980's woman to promote their machine. Not like the flat cap brigade in the Powerfab brochure! And of course, the obligatory Ford Fiesta in the background. Note how the machine in the picture has 4 lever control and the ends of the legs are different to mine. This is because it was a proto-type used for the promotional brochure for the Royal show that year.

  • Click here to see full size PDF of the black and white Fleming marketing literature
  • Click here for the colour brochure for the Fleming Micron GX and Turbo 20 Models
  • Click here for a different brochure about Fleming Micron GX and the Micron Turbo 20.

In Europe, mini tracked excavators are now the norm and machines such as mine are consigned to history. It is interesting that in the USA and Canada and a few other places, such machines are still in production. I think their manufacturers could learn something from the Fleming's design. For example compare the neat hydraulic piping on the Fleming with that on the "ground hawg" (see Homemade Backhoes page for details). Pipes hanging off everywhere are just going to get snagged when the machine is working, particularly around trees. The metal cover on the Fleming which keeps the rain off the hydraulic pump and spool valves is another advantage and I think the design of the legs and the proper hydraulically operated rear stabiliser is better. The more compact the design of the digger the more use it will be. Admittedly the Fleming does require a separate skeletal road trailer to be towed on the road. My view is that, if you cost in your time, building a machine from scratch is a hard way of getting a digger. The welding alone would take forever and would require quite a lot of skill to do properly. However, I can also see the satisfaction in building something yourself if you've got the time.

If you want to build a digger or see some modern towable excavators click here

A Manor Micron Excavator lives on!

Another digger owner contacted me via the website and I can now provide a little more information about the history of the Fleming Micron.  Fleming stopped trading in 1989 presumably when they were taken over by Manor Excavators Ltd which continued to build this type of digger until 1993.  The later model (see below), has some modifications, such as the handle in front of the controls and modified ends on the legs for improved grip. Manor Excavators Ltd worked out of Fleming's factory at Cosgrove Road, Old Stratford Milton Keynes. Manor Excavators also took over the Gopher company around 1983 which was based at Retford.

Manor Micron digger

Manor Micron digger belonging to Chris. Here we see the digger being towed behind a garden tractor.  The road wheels are not standard.

Manor Excavators Ltd

The Micron was built by Manor Excavators Ltd at Milton Keynes. They also took over the Gopher business.

The Fleming trailer was designed to be towed with the bucket immediately behind the tow vehicle. Apparently this non-standard set up is a bit hair raising if you don't get enough weight on the tow ball by carefully positioning the arm. 

The Manor Micron digger is destined for digging the footings of some new stables.  As its new owner put it, "cost me less than two weeks hire of a mini digger". I couldn't agree more.  Plus when the job is finished you still have a very useful machine which doesn't take up much room when not in use. Many thanks to Chris for the use of the pictures and the information supplied.

A Fleming Micron turns up in Ireland (29/8/07)

Here's a Fleming Micron being put to good use by Michael in Ireland.  He says, "Sorry I took a little longer to send these pics because I decided to do a bit of work to the Micron before using it. I picked up a brand new 6.5hp engine on ebay for just euro 120. The old one was ok but it was loud (disintegrated exhaust), smoky (burning oil) and the governor spring was gone so it was difficult to keep the engine at a nice speed. I put the new one on and it works great. I had to put some spacers between the engine plate and the bracket that attaches the pump because the engine drive shaft seems to be very slightly longer than the old one and it was wedging the mating gears a little. I worked it for about 4/5 hours this weekend and I'm impressed with the power it has given its size...certainly beats a shovel. I was using it to load soil and stone filling into a tractor transport box (I've included a picture of my Leyland 272 tractor also). As you can see, it needs some tidying but it works good. During the winter I will get the rams resealed and figure out why the valve for the stabiliser ram doesn't work. The boom is actually quite tight except for the bush where it attaches to the digger at the kingpin/slew bracket, so I'll get that re-bushed and clean/repaint the whole thing. 

Fleming Micron in Ireland

Fleming Micron digger belonging to Michael from Ireland.

Fleming Micron with new engine

The new 6.5 horsepower engine.

I put a pressure valve on a couple of the hoses to see what I got, it measures a fairly low 1200 psi before the release valve kicked in. However, that was before I put the spacers between the pump and the engine and I also fiddled with the release valves to try to eek out some more pressure. Performance definitely improved but I didn't measure it again yet to see how much extra pressure I have. Putting in the spacers made the biggest difference. I don't really know why except that the pressure of the two mating gears against each other must have been impeding the performance of the pump ... they now have freedom to move and the rubber insert can take up any deviations in alignment as it's designed to do."

17/11/08 - Michael's update

Hi Jim, I've finally managed to get the micron refurbishment finished. For such a small machine, there was quite a bit of work involved in it, particularly cleaning and painting all those nooks and crannies. It seems a shame to use it now, but I have some work for it so it'll have to get dirty! It has had a new engine, rams resealed, new pins and bushes as required, new hydraulic oil filter, new hoses as required, all new bolts and lynch pins, new grease nipples as required, fixed the stabiliser ram problem, a full greasing and service, and of course a complete repaint (1 coat primer, 3 coats JCB enamel yellow). It's working very well now. I'd like to try to get some patterns for the decals and have them made up, I must take a close look at some of the literature on your website to see if I can make some drawings from them. I also need to clean and paint the buckets and the trailer, and maybe get a cushion for the horrible seat. I was thinking of trying to find a swivel mechanism to mount the seat on to make it easier to mount/demount, but I haven't got around to it yet. Anyway, hope you like the pictures.

Fleming Micron digger

Michael's Fleming Micron is looking really great now.

Fleming Micron excavator

Rear view of Michael's newly restored digger.

The Micron 720 Skidsteer (07/09/08)

The Micron 720 skidsteer was a development of the original Fleming Micron and used hydrostatic drive to a new set of front wheels for easy moving about on site. A similar idea to the Powerfab 125WTD or Roughneck TXD (prototype). The machine has a more powerful engine than the original Fleming digger and also has an oil cooler and hydraulic front legs.

I'm not sure how many of these machines were built as I think by this stage the towable digger concept had reached its logical conclusion and the way forward was to the tracked mini diggers we have today.

Many thanks to Roger for the use of the pictures which enable the Micron story to be completed.

Micron 720 Skidsteer digger

This is Roger's Micron Skidsteer. This was the most advanced Micron built and note that the Fleming name has been dropped from the machine.

Micron skidsteer excavator

The Micron skidsteer has adjustable hydraulic legs so the machine can be levelled up while digging. Note the hydraulic drive motors for the wheels.

Micron skidsteer excavator

The Micron has a larger Honda GX340 11 hp engine, oil cooler and the arm has been reinforced at the join between the boom and the dipper.

Micron hydraulics

Digging controls. There is a new bank of hydraulic levers added for the legs and next to the digging controls two levers for controlling the driven wheels.

Fleming Micron on the move (15/03/09)

Climbing down a retaining wall using some strong planks.

Fleming Micron

Carefully moving the digger along a narrow path with the wheels in the inner position and only inches to spare.

Fleming Micron excavator

Making easy work of removing a large buddleia bush which just looked a mess and took up valuable lawn space..

Fleming Micron

My 9 year old son having a CLOSELY SUPERVISED go with the digger and making sure all the roots of the bush are gone. Much more fun than a Nintendo WII any day.

Click Here to see my Fleming Micron in action on a Ditch Clearing job

Mart's Fleming Micron

Fleming Micron digger

Mart's Fleming has manually adjustable front legs for levelling the digger up.

Fleming Micron excavator

This towing arrangement is a departure from the usual trailer and we think it is just intended for site use. Thanks for the pictures Mart.

Franck from France emailed this picture of his Micron 720.  It has a 13hp Honda engine with an hydraulic oil cooler, hydraulic legs and a additional hydraulic output.  Franck says, "Since I got it, I have done a bit of work on it because the digger was stored under trees. I have changed the hydraulic oil and the hydraulic filter. It was a FRAM (ref : P5158) but I cross referenced a CLAAS part number (131420.1) and changed the engine muffler, air filter, spark plug, oil and put a new set of gaskets on the carburettor". Thanks to Franck for the information and picture.

Fleming dyke bucket

This is the Fleming dyke clearing bucket which was sold in Holland. The rams are the same as on the Micron

Fleming also made a tractor mounted backhoe.

Fleming tractor backhoe

Built at Milton Keynes.

Kurt from Belgium sent this picture of his electrically powered Fleming Micron GX which has been used for digging in basements.

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