PHOTO: Daniel Johnson
March 28, 2017

A few months back, I took some time to delve into the qualities and benefits that make augers so valuable to hobby farmers, but just in case I gave the impression that an auger is the only suitable tool for digging narrow, deep holes, allow me to backtrack. As a fan of old-fashioned hand tools, I wouldn’t want to overlook the many virtues of a manual post-hole digger!

This simple tool, composed of two handles joined near the base with a pair of shovel blades on each end, is designed to dig deep holes by hand. While it’s not as fast as an auger, it does offer several advantages over its fancier counterpart.

1. They Don’t Need Gas

A handheld auger, like any machine with a small engine, requires routine maintenance and a steady supply of fuel. Whereas an auger can run out of gas at an inconvenient time—like when you’re at the far edge of a pasture and a quarter mile from your tool shed—an old-fashioned post-hole digger runs on manpower. If you provide the power, the post-hole digger will do the rest.

2. They’re Easy To Use

Some augers can be heavy and difficult to control, requiring more than one person to use. This is far from the case with a simple post-hole digger, which can be used by a single person and requires no special effort to prepare. You simply pick it up and start digging.

3. They’re Easy To Transport

Machines like augers require a certain amount of care to avoid damage, but a post-hole digger is essentially two shovels connected together—you’re not going to easily damage it, so don’t hesitate about throwing it in a wagon or the back of a pickup truck.

4. They’re Perfect For Simple Tasks

Picture these scenarios: An old fence post has rotted and broken off at the base, requiring a new post to be installed. Or you’re building a fancy trellis for your garden and want to put a couple of large posts in the ground. You could fire up an auger to dig the needed holes, but for simple tasks like these, post-hole diggers can be more convenient and help you complete the job without much effort on your part. And if your auger isn’t a handheld model and is instead mounted on your tractor, then a post-hole digger might be the only option for digging holes in small, delicate spaces like a garden.

Even though augers are still the better tool for large-scale projects requiring dozens of holes to be dug, a manual post-hole digger can be a great tool to have on hand for smaller projects.

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