Need Help w/ Post Hole Digging Clay Soil

I'm digging post holes in my yard for a fence and have come upon hard clay soil with tons of tree roots below. I cant get my shovel more that 2 inches deep. I have to finish my fence because i have half done all this work to get 1/2 up already. The one side was very moist and muddy but the trouble section is hard/clay like cememnt.
What are the tools and options I have to inexpensively get these holes dug? Is there any reasonably priced machine that I should use? I'd rather do manually if anyone has any tricks....
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Billy wrote:

Neighbour with posthole digger on their tractor? I suspect any hand held power tool would be useless as anything powerful enough to turn through hard clay would rotate you in the opposite direction and anything you could hold still would get through. Aside from that it's a heavy crow bar and muscle.
David
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maybe 2-3 mates helping you bore the holes with a hand held digger? Get them round for an hour or so, dig the holes & then give them some beer. Enough muscle may be able to keep the digger stable whilst cutting through the soil, maybe.
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"Billy" wrote:

Why are you using a shovel for post holes, you're a glutton for punishment, at least try a manual post hole digger; like $30 at your local hardware... a good quality one with forged blades can often make quick work of clay and roots... btw, if there are roots through the clay then it's not very tough clay.
Clay and roots isn't nearly so bad as rocks.
You don't say the size of the post holes (or even how many)... for anything up to say a 6" diam. hole you could rent a two man auger... anything larger you'll likely need a vehical mounted auger. For more than like ten holes I wouldn't have even considered the typical manual post hole digger, I would have rented a power auger from the git-go... I've never had much luck with a manual post hole digger for putting in a planned line of holes, always seem to be battling rocks.
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I have a wrecking bar that I use when I run into roots or rocks when digging post holes.
It is 6 feet long 1.25 inches in diameter and weighs about 25 pounds. One end is pointed and the other end has a chisle shape.
It would be nearly impossible to dig some holes without it.
Don
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I have the heavy clay soil here in California too.
Dump a gallon of water in the hole, more if you can. Wait a few hours for it to soften the soil. Gypsum will help soften clay soil, they also have water additives that help it go into the soil better if you want to get crazy. When the soil is soft you can go in and work on the roots, are they too big for a hand saw?
One thing about the clay; it is famous for making those adobe bricks. So try not to work with it when it is too runny. It's hard to work with and will harden like a rock!
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Your local tool rental place most likely has a power 'auger' used to drill holes into soil. Sizes range from 4" blades to 24" blades. One man, two man and vehicle mount operation. Sounds like you would use the small one man operation.
Tool rental places like home depot, lowes, abc rental.
Manually, you can also rig up a power drill with an auger bit (such as used in electrical work. Try a 3/4 or 1" variable speed drill with a right angle handle for leverage.....
There are chisel bars about 1" diameter ranging in length. 2', 4', 6' Used with a heavy sledge that would do the trick.... labor intensive and a good chance you bust your knuckles with the sledge.....which after you do several times, you'll feel motivated to rent a power auger.
Final note.... beware of underground utilities. I've seen pipes laid 24" below the surface... and the local phone companies and fiber companies i.e. verizon, att, etc barely bury their cables at all. So if you have any utility boxes at all in your vicinity, it might be a good idea to have the lines marked...and remember, the markings are plus or minus a foot or so...
Do it easy, Do it quickly, Do it right, but most important...get it done !!
Peter

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