How to make digging holes easier ?

Over the next few months I will need to dig lots of holes, each about 90cm deep by 50cm wide by 3 metres long. The soil is quite stony, and gets extremely sticky in the wet.
I only want to dig one hole per weekend, and access is very limited, so I don't think hiring a mini-digger is justified.
I have the upper body strength of a computer programmer, but each weekend of digging brings noticeable, if temporary, improvements in that area, so that's a reason I would prefer to dig myself rather than get a machine or a person to dig for me.
So far I've got these tools: - Large spade and medium spade. - Heavy narrow trenching spade. - Post hole diggers (both the heavy chopping blade thing, and the two-handled scoopy thing). - Shovel - Protective gloves and boots
Are there any tips on how to make digging these holes easier? Any other tools I could buy? Is it just a case of pacing myself? Does digging get much easier when you're doing it every day?
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<MrWeld> wrote in message

Delegation skills?
mark
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mark wrote:

The sort of job that you pass on to the village idiot for a few quid.
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Adam



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says...

Or apprentice :)
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FX: <waves>
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Burn Hollywood burn, burn down to the ground

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Ah yes, the old Half a hole, now dig the other half for me thing. Brian
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"mark" < snipped-for-privacy@reepham2003.force.co.uk> wrote in message
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On 14/07/2013 13:13, MrWeld wrote:

Shallow graves for tall aliens?

Oh, getting a mini-digger is always justified :-)
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Buying one from eBay is justified if you have a lot of groundwork to do. I've had really good value from my £750 eBay buy of a PowerFab TD1. OTOH not many people have projects that require footings, drainage and installation of services and (hopefully) a swimming pool. So the expenditure does have to be weighed carefully against contractor fees/time.
My recent burial of a large storage container for rainwater took me four days of continuous digging to prepare and inter the tank and dig the trenches for the rain water drainage. All done now but required "quite a bit" of manual labour as well as the use of a digger, because diggers can't get into all locations and levelling trenches takes fine work with a spade.
Forget to mention in my earlier post, these can also be useful:
http://www.tesco.com/direct/de-wit-short-handled-digging-hoe/625-4055.pr d
http://www.tesco.com/direct/de-wit-double-hoe-straight/509-3783.prd
Although I wouldn't pay those prices for one and I prefer mine to have a long handle. The first is good in heavy clay or boulder clay, the second is good in stony or sandy soil.
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On 14/07/2013 14:07, Steve Firth wrote:

Isn't £750 an absolute steal for one of those? I suspect that you could have sold it on for £3k and spent the profit on hiring a bigger machine. :)
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I thought so, but it seemed to be about average at the time I bought it. Three on sale all around the same price. I bought mine from a nice man in South Wales who was a Hardly Doesn'tRun enthusiast, he used his motorhome to tow it all the way to my house and refused payment for the fuel.
It had issues I must say, and this year will need a selection of new hydraulic hose, but nothing too major and has worked well for the past three years.
Biggest problem with them is that they don't have any drive to the wheels and don't have a 350º pivot. You learn to cope and use the arm to hoik the thing around the land.
Towing it 1500 miles south was "interesting". Great fun in France when the strap holding the arm down broke and the arm flipped into the air and a buttock-clenching session when a crap French autoroute resulted in the tail wagging the dog.

Heh, possibly.
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On 14/07/2013 13:40, Clive George wrote:

No argument there... and those small 850kg machines with the "tuck under" tracks can get through any normal door sized gap.
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MrWeld <MrWeld> wrote:

Get a proper digging shovel with a long handle. The types of spades in common use in the UK are useless for digging. I speak here as someone who spent the last two weeks digging a 3m cubed hole and 48 metres of trench in a mixture of extremely stony ground and thick clay.
I mean shovels like this:
http://www.toolbox.co.uk/bulldog-bul2309-west-country-4091-90750 http://www.toolbox.co.uk/spear-jackson-irish-shovel-4091-132602
or for narrow trenches: http://www.toolbox.co.uk/draper-21301-long-handled-16207-120511

A mattock if you have tree roots to cope with, or a pick axe if the ground is stony.
http://www.toolbox.co.uk/silverline-gt45-grubbing-2849-61777
You might find one of these useful in starting the hole. It's like a long heavy chisel that you can use to break up the soil before tackling with a shovel.
http://www.toolbox.co.uk/roughneck-posthole-digger-17-13712-102657
For really stony ground or clay you can consider using a cheap SDS drill with rotostop fitted with a wide chisel bit to break up the ground or sculpt out lumps of clay. If doing this in clay ensure the clay is dry to what potters call "leather hard" before using the SDS, and ensure you have an RCD somewhere on the electrical supply.
Alternatively if the going is really tough consider hire of a breaker hammer with a spade bit.
Only you can really tell what sort of ground you are digging in, so start with the usual tools of spade, pick axe, mattock only turn to other things if the conditions demand them. Remember that the long handled tools enable you to break out the soil without breaking yourself but you may find that you don't have the strength to push the spade blade down a spit to commence digging.

Yes, after a fortnight you will have much more upper body and leg strength. Be *very* careful to pace yourself over the early days. Flying at it like a lunatic can cause injury that will persist for decades.
And it should be obvious, but needs saying, buying a load of toys isn't going to make it that much easier. My preference is for a long handled spade and a pick axe or a mattock with a pick axe spike. Just two tools and you can dig almost any hole or trench in any conditions.
Avoid British digging spades, for they are shite.
--
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On Sunday, July 14, 2013 1:49:45 PM UTC+1, Steve Firth wrote:

Stunning advice.
Those are shovels. You don't dig with a shovel. Shovels are for shovelling. That'd only work if the ground had been broken up by something.
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Gosh, you don't say, shovels eh? That would be why I referred to them at least four times as "shovels" would it? And you didn't notice that I had done so, are you going for some sort of medal for "missing the bleeding obvious"?

Bullshit. As I said in my post, the British don't have a bloody clue how to dig large holes or trenches. They are fixated on using the wrong tools for the job and use garden spades which are designed for turning over a vegetable patch or flower bed which has been repeatedly dug over for years.

"Stunning advice"

No, and you're clearly an idiot who has never used a *digging* shovel such as the ones referred to above. The pointed blade makes them easier to kick into stony ground and clay. The long handle gives greater leverage to break out clods and also allows a more upright working position that puts much less strain on the lower back. Across the USA and Europe you won't find many, or I suspect any, people digging with a British spade because the spade is not fit for purpose.
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Tentative criticism... I find the straight handled Irish shovel can twist in your hands and dump half the load back in the trench. I have similar problems with the four pronged straight handled dung fork found in stables. Dry skin perhaps.
--
Tim Lamb

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On Sunday, July 21, 2013 6:13:39 PM UTC+1, Steve Firth wrote:

Deeply strange, this. What's going on here?
I've dug a fair few holes in my lifetime, but I don't claim to be a hole-digging expert. So, when Mr OP asks for advice about digging holes, I keep quiet.
Until Firth posts his pearls of wisdom.
You can look up the recommended digging technique on the internet.
It goes something like this. Foot on the shoulder of the spade, press in to a spade's depth, lever out a spit of soil, chuck spit into barrow/trench/wherever.
Repeat. Work side to side and progress backwards.
If you've ever done that, the differences between a digging spade and a shovel are obvious.
A shovel (for grain, gravel. soil, etc.) has turned up sides and a wider blade. The blade is thinner, usually a pressing rather than a forging. It will not stand up to use as a spade, the blade is too thin to serve as a lever. The handle is usually too thin, for the same reason.
A spade has a sharper, narrower, flatter blade and a cutting edge, usually square, sometimes slightly pointed.
You'd try to break up the soil by the minimum amount. Sometimes you have to beak it up with a pick or mattock, in stoney or dry soil that can't be cut, and then shovel out the spoil.
Is that wrong? Anyone who has ever dug a hole would know that stuff.
So then Firth arrives and recommends the use of wholly unsuitable shovels.
The description of the West Country Shovel he recommends says; "The blades are hardened and tempered, so they can be used for light digging as well as for moving loose materials such as shingle, sand and gravel."
It's a shovel, for moving loose material. It's not a spade, for digging, though you might dig soft soil with it.
He doesn't know how to dig! Has he ever dug a hole? Is he real, or a mere internet expert? If he is the DIY dynamo he claims, how does he get the time to rack up 100, 150 posts on this forum alone? How about other forums? Is it another Rod Speed?
Anyone know what's going on here?
Firth, you can sod right off; you're clueless. I'm asking about you, I'm not addressing you. Go and dig a hole and stand in it.
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On 21/07/13 20:08, Onetap wrote:

An opinion on everything and experience of nothing. KIllfile?
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No. They both have useful practical knowledge.
Perhaps it is the heat?

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Tim Lamb

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On 14/07/2013 13:49, Steve Firth wrote:

I spent my time at school & college working weekends on a family members building firm .... while long handled shovel are good for soft ground or moving sand .... the best for digging was a D-handle spade. With a Square mouth shovel for squaring off.
I have since built 3 house and still have same opinion, the D-handle allows far better leverage than a straight or T-handle.
These style of shovel built the canals, the railways etc. ... several million Irish Navvies can't be wrong :-)
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On 14/07/2013 13:13, MrWeld wrote:

Set of parallel mounted angle grinders?
--
Adrian C


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