PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson
September 13, 2016

I’ll admit it—I’m a big fan of versatile tools. To me, the only thing better than a great, well-designed tool is a great tool that can be used in more than one way. If one tool can do the job of two or three, it makes it easier to have the right tool for every task when you’re out working on a complicated project on the far corners of your farm.

One tool that is very simple, yet very versatile, is the digging bar. This general name covers a variety of long, steel digging tools with useful features on each end that can help you accomplish many different tasks. A typical digging bar might have a tapered point, wedge or chisel on one end for breaking up soil, cutting roots and digging holes, while the other end might be broad and flat for tamping the soil back into place. Digging bars are usually 5 to 6 feet long and quite heavy as a result, but with that weight comes strength and power.

Other common names for digging bars are “pinch point bar,” “tamper bar” and “San Angelo bar,” with the various names describing tools with slightly different designs on either end. I have a couple of digging bars and have found them to be well-suited to a variety of jobs.

Fence Post Repair

First and foremost, they’re a must-have tool when replacing fence posts. Pounding the tapered end of a digging bar into the soil around the post will quickly loosen the ground and make removing the post easier, and once your new post has been installed, the tamping end of the bar will help you pack the soil securely around the post and lock it into place.

Rock Removal

Digging bars are also a great tool for removing rocks from the ground. If you’re putting in a new garden and have found a medium-sized rock just under the soil, use your digging bar to loosen the soil, and then slip the bar underneath the rock and use it as a lever to pry the rock out of the ground.

Breaking Up Ice & Concrete

It’s also common to use a digging bar with a sharp end to break up concrete, a very helpful ability if you’re taking down an old farm building and need to remove the foundation or floor. Along similar lines, I’ve found that digging bars are perfect for breaking up ice during the winter—if you’re having issues with ice building up near frequently used doors and pathways, a digging bar can break up the slippery spot with ease. (Just be sure to wear safety goggles when using a digging bar in these ways, as you never know when a piece of concrete or ice might chip off and fly toward you.)


I’ll also mention that on windy days the great weight of digging bars makes them ideal “paperweights” for holding down tarps or other materials that might be inclined to blow away while you’re working.
As you can see, digging bars can be used for a lot more than just digging.

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