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).
- 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?
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
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
Forget to mention in my earlier post, these can also be useful:
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.
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
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
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.
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:
or for narrow trenches:
A mattock if you have tree roots to cope with, or a pick axe if the
ground is stony.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
An opinion on everything and experience of nothing. KIllfile?
(in-ep-toc’-ra-cy) – a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.
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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