One of the hardest things to predict when rock grinding with a cutterhead is how many picks you will need to finish the job.

When using sophisticated equipment like a cutterhead, dedicated maintenance is mandatory for best results. One of the most important ways to maintain proper use of a cutterhead is to make sure picks — also referred to as teeth — which have sustained significant wear are being replaced.

This naturally leads to the question of many picks will be required to successfully finish the task.

As stated earlier, this is one of the more difficult calculations to perform because of all the variables that could negatively impact pick life.

Look at the type of material you will be cutting or grinding

The most important factor that we can look at is the type of rock that your cutterhead will be working with.

Anyone you ask a question about pick life to will tell you the same thing. It is going to depend on the type of rock you’re cutting.

The most obvious observation is that the harder and more abrasive the surface that you are working with is, the quicker your cutterhead’s picks will wear down and the more often they will need to be replaced.


There are other geotechnical factors that will influence the way the rock interacts with the teeth of a cutterhead.

Included in the strength of the rock, you must also account for elasticity and cohesion. For texture, abrasiveness is a good metric, but mineral and quartz content are also important influences.

The presence of certain amounts of minerals in the rock can increase the impact of wear on picks. This is why even with a good idea of how long a pick should last, it is important to keep a trained eye on the maintenance and upkeep of your equipment.

By replacing picks when they have endured too much wear you can prevent unforeseen setbacks and eliminate unnecessary downtime.

How to find the best pick for your cutterhead


There are a large variety of picks available for every size of cutterhead.

General prices on a pick range from $9/pick up to $35/pick. Levels of quality, lifetime expectancy. and wear depends on many factors, such as rock hardness and abrasiveness, so there are a product line of picks made to reflect that variance.

Pick selection is usually based initially on attachment size (what size pick fits into the specific size attachment) and any known geotechnical factors. For example, a soft and low abrasive material can handle high production picks.

If you know the type of rock you’re dealing with on your next project, contact Alpine for an estimate and we’ll help you determine how many picks should sufficiently handle the job.