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Sun May 18, 2014, 03:22 PM

Digging Post Holes without Destroying Yourself.

Right now, I'm in the process of installing a chain link fence around my back yard. Lots of posts, so lots of post holes. I considered renting a power post hole auger, but decided to hand dig, instead, after watching a few videos that made it clear that the power method is no panacea.

So, I bought a traditional clamshell-type post hole digger. About $35. After working with it and getting stalled by a rock in the second hole, I did some more research. I spent another $35 for a digging bar. Weighing 17 lb, it has a chisel-shaped blade on one end, forged from the 1.5" diameter round steel bar, 6' long.

So, in my clay soil, which has a few small rocks in it, here's what I found to be the easiest method.

1. Start the hole with the clamshell digger. Just establish its diameter and dig down a couple of inches.
2. Use the digging bar to loosen the soil below the current level. It's heavy enough that you can really just drop it, or slam it down a little if a rock or something is in the way. Do this on all four quadrants of the circular hole, using the bar as a lever to loosen the dirt in the hole. Use the digging bar to go down about 6" deeper than the current level.
3. Use the clamshell post hole digger to remove the loosened dirt.
4. Repeat as necessary to the correct depth for the hole

This method is much less hard work and less jarring than using the clamshell digger alone. Allow about 10-15 minutes for each hole. The digger bar will break limestone rock, and can be used as a lever to loosen other types of rocks for removal with the clamshell digger.
Clam-shell post hole digger

Digging bar


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Arrow 15 replies Author Time Post
Reply Digging Post Holes without Destroying Yourself. (Original post)
MineralMan May 2014 OP
Leme May 2014 #1
X_Digger May 2014 #6
HooptieWagon May 2014 #2
Leme May 2014 #4
linbarkertx May 2014 #3
jeff47 May 2014 #5
Crazypolitics25 May 2014 #7
shireen May 2014 #8
csziggy Jun 2014 #10
shireen May 2014 #9
IDemo Jun 2014 #11
MineralMan Jun 2014 #12
Auggie Jun 2014 #13
MineralMan Jun 2014 #14
rodroc Jun 2014 #15

Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun May 18, 2014, 03:36 PM

1. if applicable ( in a city etc)

 

Call hot line or utilities to avoid lines.
-
the power auger , if they get stuck, will whip around and break your ribs.

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Response to Leme (Reply #1)

Sun May 18, 2014, 11:04 PM

6. +1 safety first. n/t

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun May 18, 2014, 03:57 PM

2. Water pressure can loosen compacted soil...

 

either a nozzle on a garden hose, or a high-pressure sprayer.

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Response to HooptieWagon (Reply #2)

Sun May 18, 2014, 06:06 PM

4. post said it was clay soil

 

might end up with a half made hole filled with water for a week or two

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun May 18, 2014, 04:20 PM

3. Digging post holes

When I was a kid, my Dad leased land all over the county to raise his cattle on. Every one of those pastures needed to be refenced.
Guess who was tasked with that little operation? I must have run a 100 miles of barbed wire and thousands of posts while I was in Junior High and High School. When I was 15 I swore I would never buy a posthole digger. I'm 66 now and the only reason I have one is my brother wouldn't take it when Dad died.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun May 18, 2014, 07:32 PM

5. 'couple other digger tips

1) If you're putting in metal posts, consider using a Post Driver. No need to dig.

2) You may find a Boston Digger a better tool for removing the dirt after using the digging bar.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Mon May 26, 2014, 12:08 AM

7. Post hole borer

One tool you could use if you don't mind forking out some money at a hire shop is one of those 2-stroke post hole borers.I've used one before doing a retaining wall and it made the job some much quicker and some versions can used by one person.

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Response to Crazypolitics25 (Reply #7)

Wed May 28, 2014, 12:36 AM

8. was it difficult to handle?

As someone said earlier, if you hit hard spots you could lose control and it could hit you pretty hard. I had a similar experience on a much smaller scale with a drill with auger bit I needed to punch a small hole into my clay soil to stick a ruler for measuring snow. Wow. The force of hitting something hard can be quite violent, even for a drill. For a borer, it would be really scary.

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Response to Crazypolitics25 (Reply #7)

Mon Jun 16, 2014, 07:53 PM

10. We have one as an attachment for our tractor

It works good in decent soil. In dry red clay, or red clay just damp enough to stick together good, it's useless.

One dry year we needed to run a new fence line so we took the tractor out with the borer on it. Generally I drove the tractor while my husband guided me and monitored the auger. The first hole, I dropped the auger, revved up the tractor and tried to bore out the hole. All it did was make a polished divot in the bone dry clay.

So my husband decided it needed some extra weight to bite in and he climbed on top of the auger. Now, he weighed about 250 so we both expected it to make a difference. The divot got shinier. I set the brakes on the tractor and climbed up on the auger, too - I won't discuss my weight but it added to the pressure. Nothing, but a really shiny divot in the clay.

We gave up and dragged a soaker hose along the line for the new fence and left it going for two weeks. That and a couple of showers moistened the ground enough we could get the holes dug, but it was still a battle.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Wed May 28, 2014, 12:46 AM

9. Thanks for the useful tips

From watching videos of how to use it, it appears that you have to thrust it into the ground with some force and aim it just right. I have clay soil with rocks in it, and I don't have a lot of muscle strength so I'm a bit intimidated by those clam shell post hole diggers.

I bought a slightly different type of post hole digger that is a bit easier to use. I dug a shallow hole, about 1 foot, for a plant support pole, and liked it. It's got a twisted auger-like shape that cuts through the ground. I've not tried it yet for digging deeper holes.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00002N8OK/ref=pe_385040_30332190_TE_M3T1_ST1_dp_1


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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Tue Jun 17, 2014, 11:41 PM

11. Digging bars are worth their weight in gold

Our property was filled with construction debris which we did not discover until attempting to plant trees and shrubs. I have dislodged large chunks of asphalt, concrete, rebar, animal bones and enough rocks large and small to build a second house (if I were inclined to). My digging bar has the chisel end and a pointed end. I've dug up the root balls of numerous small trees, shrubs and grape vines.

That said, the backyard fence is in bad need of replacement and we are very likely going to let the pros take care of the job.

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Response to IDemo (Reply #11)

Wed Jun 18, 2014, 10:17 AM

12. Absolutely. They really speed up the process,

and get rid of all sorts of problems that would stop the project.

They can also be used as a very strong lever for other jobs. A great tool for just $35. Now that I have one, I'll find many uses for it, over time, I'm sure.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sat Jun 21, 2014, 11:16 AM

13. Or rent one of these:

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Response to Auggie (Reply #13)

Sat Jun 21, 2014, 11:28 AM

14. Actually, those don't work so well in clay soils with

rocks mixed in. Not so well at all.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Jun 22, 2014, 03:06 AM

15. Good luck!!

This is really a hard job and I wish you the best of luck. I have worked digging holes by hand with such tools before and man it is tiring. Coming upon a rock is extremely difficult sometimes, but a bar is the only way to get it out. I usually start digging the hole, only a couple of inches and add water. I then go to the next hole and do the same. After some while I come back to the first hole and the soil is very easy to take out. Sometimes the mud in my soil just comes out like water and other times it does stick to my hole digger, but it is not hard to get off either You do get all dirty and muddy, but you will certainly not have to use as much strength .. Again good luck on your hole digging.


Regards
Rod
North Carolina Septic Systems

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