Planning to erect a fence? Odds are, you’re going to have to do some digging to anchor the posts. A shovel could do the job, but it’s not the best design for that small, deep, rounded hole you need. That’s where a post hole digger comes to the rescue!
This tool is perfect for making a deep, round hole that’s the right size for a fence post or a similar item that isn’t too big across but needs to be planted firmly in the ground. We recently used one to help set up a basketball net and a new roadside mailbox, for instance. But it is also great if you’re putting in poles for anything at all!
What To Look For In A Post Hole Digger
When it comes to manual garden tools, a post hole digger is kind of mechanically complex. Yet it’s still easy to use!
Augers are another alternative, but we’ll talk about them another time. Powered augers can make the task easier, but can be a big investment unless you’re dealing with huge projects or your job requires regularly digging post holes.
The blades of the tool are hinged where they’re joined to the handle. When you drive the blades into the ground, you keep the handles together, which opens the blades wide. Once it’s in the ground, you separate the handles, pulling the blades together. They then form a “cup”, allowing you to extract the soil from the hole.
But that means there are some pretty heavy demands on the digger itself. Here’s what to look for so you can get the most out of your investment!
The blades of your post hole diggers get plunged into the ground repeatedly – and blindly. You never know what they may hit on the way in. Hidden rocks and roots are always a possibility! Even just piercing and extracting soil can be rough.
So you want to be sure the blades are durable and strong enough to stand up to the task, even if they do end up with some small dings from time to time.
Of course, you also need sturdy handles. Without them, you can’t do much with the blades. They should be made of a tough material that won’t bend or break, even if the blades get hung up on something below the surface.
Figuratively and literally, the successful use of your post hole digger pivots on the joint. It should offer minimal resistance to opening and closing the tool. It should also be rust-resistant so that the tool remains effective over time.
This isn’t a requirement, but it’s a nice addition!
You know how deep your hole is supposed to be, but it can be difficult to judge how close you are when you’re staring straight down into the hole. So some manufacturers have marked their tools with depth indicators on the handle! You’ll be able to see easily if you’ve gone far enough (or too far!). It’s a plus if you get a post hole digger with this feature.
Our Recommended Post Hole Diggers
Have a look at our recommendations for manual post hole diggers!
The Seymour Structron Hercules is a pretty tough hole digger. The fiberglass handles are surprisingly tough, as are the blades. Overall, this may be the best set of hole diggers around.
The tool is about 65 inches longer overall; the handles make up about 52 inches of that. That’s a great size, even if you’re taller than average. Every garden tool seems “too short”, but this comes close to getting things right for the average American.
It is more expensive – nearly double the price of some of our other recommendations. But if you want to be sure to get a tool that will hold up for regular use, this is the way to go.
This digger from Ames features alloy steel blades and hardwood handles. The ends of the handles are covered with rubber grips to make the tool more comfortable to hold. And there’s a “ruler” up the handle as far as the beginning of the grips!
Overall, the tool measures nearly 59 inches, which is a pretty good length for a post hole digger. The blades are 9 inches long.
You can dig to a depth of over three feet with these, without much problem.
There are a decent number of online reviews that say it’s not too durable. These are a small minority, but it’s worth noting that there seem to be issues in the factory at times.
Fiskars offers a post hole digger that’s a little unique. It’s 60 inches long overall, which is slightly longer than others. The handles are made of 16-gauge steel and the blades are 14-gauge steel. But what stands out is the offset handles.
With that style, it’s a little easier to dig, since you don’t have to spread the handles as far. The joints are welded so there are no nuts and bolts to work loose. When you first get it, it can feel a bit stiff to use but will loosen up after a little bit of use.
The biggest weakness we see is that it’s not great at pulling the dirt out of the hole. The two blades don’t close tight enough to contain the soil between them, so too much of it falls back into the work area.
The Razor-back entry in our recommendations is another good product at a decent price. The blades are carbon steel. The handles are made of durable fiberglass and have padded grips.
Overall, the unit is about 59 inches long, 48 of which are in the handle. It has a traditional design, with the pivot at the blade.
Overall, it comes highly recommended. Like many others, we’re aware of occasional defects that lead to broken handles. However, the product is covered by a lifetime warranty.
A post hole digger is a tool you probably won’t need to use often, but you’ll find multiple good uses for it. It makes certain tasks much simpler, and you’ll appreciate the time and backache you save.