Ditch Witch

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Charles Machine Works
Industry Construction Equipment
Founded Perry, Oklahoma, U.S. (1902 (1902))
Founder Edwin Malzahn (July 3, 1921 - December 11, 2015)
Headquarters Perry, Oklahoma Elverta, U.S.
Products Trenchers, Directional Drilling Machines
Website DitchWitch.com
Charlie and Ed Malzahn with an early Ditch Witch.
Ed Malzahn riding an early Ditch Witch trencher.
The Ditch Witch RT120 Ride-On Trencher
Ditch Witch JT60 Horizontal Directional Drill
The Ditch Witch FX60 Vacuum Excavator

Ditch Witch®, a company of Charles Machine Works, is an American brand of underground construction equipment, which has been in operation since 1949. The company is based in Perry, Oklahoma.

Innovation of Ditch Witch machines started in the 1940s when a compact trenching machine was created to replace the pick and shovel for installation of some residential services.

The Ditch Witch organization specializes in the design and manufacture of underground construction equipment. The company is a source for trenchers, vibratory plows, horizontal directional drilling systems, drill pipe, downhole tools, vacuum excavation systems, fluid management systems and mini skid steers.


In 1902, Carl Frederick Malzahn, a German immigrant seeking to escape the harsh winters of Minnesota, moved his family to Perry, Oklahoma, and opened a blacksmith shop with his sons, Charlie and Gus. The business prospered, and several years later, with the advent of an oil boom, it became Charlie’s Machine Shop, specializing in repairs for the nearby oil fields.

Ed Malzahn (July 3, 1921 - December 11, 2015), Charlie's son, learned from his elders the process of adapting a business to meet changing demand. In the late 1940s, he began to apply his mechanical engineering degree to a device that he believed would be in great demand once it was produced. At the time, the process of installing residential utility services—electric, gas and plumbing lines—involved slow, tedious pick-and-shovel labor.

Malzahn's idea was to create a compact trencher that would dramatically reduce the time and effort of this process. Working together, Ed and his father spent months in the family machine shop creating the prototype of what would be known as the DWP, which stood for Ditch Witch Power.

The first production trencher rolled off the assembly line in 1949. It was the first mechanized, compact service-line trencher developed for laying underground water lines between the street main and the house. The DWP paved the way for the creation of the compact trencher industry, which today produces all types of equipment for efficiently installing any type of underground utilities including water, sewer and gas lines; and telecommunications, CATV and fiber-optic cables.

Ditch Witch remains a leader in the industry it essentially created. Still based in Perry, Oklahoma, the company designs and manufactures a wide variety of high-quality underground construction equipment: trenchers, vibratory plows, horizontal directional drilling systems, drill pipe, downhole tools, vacuum excavation systems, fluid management systems, and mini skid steers, all bearing the Ditch Witch name.

The company’s expansive campus contains a 30-acre (120,000 m2) manufacturing plant as well as training, testing, research, and product development facilities. It employs more than 1,300 people.

The Ditch Witch compact trencher has twice been named “one of the 100 best American-made products in the world”[1] by Fortune magazine. In 2002, American Society of Mechanical Engineers.[2]


  1. ^ [1], Fortune 100 best American-made products in the world - 1998
  2. ^ [2], President Susan H. Kemp awarded the Ditch Witch organization a bronze plaque designating the DWP as a historical mechanical engineering landmark.

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