Digging post holes is a common do-it-yourself project. If you are building a fence or a deck, erecting a flagpole, putting up a pole light or even setting upi a dinner bell on a post, you need to dig one or more post holes. You have many choices on how to do it. Unfortunately, the inexpensive methods involve hard work. If you have only a few holes to dig, the handled post-hole diggers re a good choice. If you need several holes and the ground is hard, consider renting a wheeled power auger; it is safer and easier to use than a handheld power auger. For larger jobs, a tractor-mounted post-hole auger is the best choice. Some contractors also have hydraulic post-hole diggers mounted on skid steer loaders and backhoes.
CLAMSHELL HAND DIGGERS
The most common hand diggers are the clamshell type. You drive the two blades into the ground, spread the handles to close the blades, withdraw the tool and bring the handles together to dump the soil. This type of tool can dig a fairly small diameter hole (4-6 inches) to a depth of 1-2 feet. If you try to go deeper, the small diameter prevents you from spreading the handles, so you can’t pick up any more soil. It can be used next to walls an along fences more easily than any of other types. It also is the least expensive.
AUGER HAND POST-HOLE DIGGERS
A better alternative, in many cases, is a hand-operated post auger. This tool consists of a short tube with an auger section on the bottom and a T-handle on the top. It will typically dig a 6- to 8- inch diameter hole. Turn the T-handle to screw the auger into the ground and when the short tube is full of soil , pull the tool out and dump the soil. Theoretically, there is no limit to the depth of the hole you can dig with this tool, as you can add additional handle sections (simply lengths of steel pipe) as needed for deeper holes. If the sub-soil is too hard for the auger to work properly, but the hole is too deep to use a clamshell digger effectively, you can use a clamshell digger to chip the hard sub-soil loose, and then use the auger to pick it up and clean out the hole. With either hand-held post-hole digger, it is helpful to mark the depth on the handle so you can tell your depth without measuring the hole.
HAND-HELS POWER AUGERS
If you need several holes, you might consider renting, or even buying, a hand-held power auger. Some are designed for one person operation, but many require two people. These tools may not involve quite as much work as hand-operated tools, but they do still require a lot of strength and effort, especially in hard clay. Safety is a concern when using handheld power augers. It takes a lot of torque to spin an auger through hard soil. If the auger hits an object, such as a root, rock or pipe, and jams that same torque can spin you around or even break you are. Avoid loose clothing that might get entangled in the auger.
WHEELED POWER AUGERS
A some-what easier-to-handle design adds a frame with two wheels to one side of the auger and an extended handle to the other side. These machines are available for rental. They have about the same capacity as the hand-held power augers but can be operated by one person and require some-what less effort. They are still not easy to use in hard ground.
TRACTO POST-HOLE AUGERS
The solution that requires the least effort is the tractor-mounted post-hole auger. These machines mount to a tractor’s three-point hitch and are powered by the tractor. Eve small, compact utility tractors can handle a post-hole auger. These machines are safer, as long as the operator doesn’t get off while the auger is operating. No one should be within 25 feet of the auger while it is at work. Tractor post-hole augers can be purchased for a few hundred dollars or rented.