One thing I hate doing is digging post-holes. There is always a rock or something in exactly the wrong spot and by the time you’ve dug a foot or two down you know that: 1) you’re 1/3 of the way there 2) you’re at the effective limit of your tools.

Professionals have the right tools; that’s why they are in the business. It’s always been fascinating to me because the tools are extremely expensive but they make the work fast and easy. That creates a sort of natural barrier to entry between the professional and the hobbyist – the hobbyist can get the same results as the professional but at the cost of several times the effort.

I could have dug these myself; it’d just take several days and I’d be incapacitated for a week afterward.

Baby Sarlacc wanted; hole is available

I don’t even want to think how much torque that dirt-screw applies – packed earth is tough stuff and you can see clay down at the bottom. It just ripped its way down into the ground.

Ken and his son spent a while laying out where the foundation is going to be, using steel pegs, string, a couple tape measures, and a laser level. Everything in the layout is based on the first peg – you measure from that and drop another peg; then the third peg is measured using a tape measure from the first one and another tape measure from the second. The length is the size of the building (tape measure one) and the angle is the length time sin(width); that’s all in a calculator nowadays – no need for a book with a sine table.

When my grandfather worked as a carpenter during WWII he learned a bunch of layout tricks involving taking strings, nailing them to things, and stretching them out, folding them in thirds, etc. When I was a kid, it was neat to watch him do that but now I wonder if he was just messing with me.

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“book with a sine table” – I originally wrote “book with a sin table” and changed it because my mind started wandering into what that might look like. If someone did a bible with an illustrated sin table, it’d be a big hit.


  1. kestrel says

    NICE. We got an auger for the tractor and it’s the best; of course you can still run into large rocks but you find them so much *faster*.

  2. says

    This is the foundation layout as of this morning. The plan is to pour the concrete posts and leave the boards as supports to attach the bottom of the siding, instead of doing a full slab.

    Eventually they will install a hole and I’ll assemble some rebar for the hammer pad. We are still noodling about whether or not to just pour that form full of concrete.

    This is going to be the end of the building where all the action happens. In the center will be the table for the forge, with the hammer on the left, press on the right, anvil to the side and back a bit, welding table against the wall, etc. Basically the same layout as I currently have in the shop, only bigger. I’ll move my metal supply (cables and bars) over, too.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    Uh, didn’t you say earlier you chose this location because of an existing pad? Where dat at?

  4. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#3:
    Uh, didn’t you say earlier you chose this location because of an existing pad? Where dat at?

    It’s the dirt. It’s level and built up with drainage.
    I guess I am overloading the use of the word “pad” aren’t I?

  5. kestrel says

    Hey it’s really coming along! I would vote for filling that with concrete, if I were allowed to have a vote. I did this in the alleyway of my barn and in the tack room, and I’m really glad I did. If they do that, ask them to put a “broom texture” on it. It adds just a little bit of extra grip so the concrete is not as slippery. We did it for the sake of horses walking on it, but it helps humans that walk on it too.

  6. Jazzlet says

    Big augers are cool. I worked on a restoration of a Victorian railway station converting it in to a Ranger office and information centre for the linear park that had been created of the defunct rail line and the functioning canal*. the office need a phone line putting in and wasn’t close enough to the existing poles, so along came a lorry, driiled a hole, picked up one of the telephone poles and plonked it in the hole and held it there while it was set in place (ok, it was a man wiith a lorry). It was especially impressive as we had all been digging hoes in the same stuff as some idiot decided what had been the frieght end of the platform should have trees planted through it, and it was really hard work, the worst site we worked on, all the hole had to be jack-hammerred for the first foot. I’ve been back since and amazingly the trees have mostly survived.

    *canals and railways very often run side by side in the UK as the railways were built in direct competition with the canals

    Might you get anything digging a home under whatever floor you have? If that’s a possibility I’d definitely go for all concrete.

  7. says

    Hey there’s nothing more exciting than two guys riding a two stroke powered portable post hole digger! The mini digger with the auger attachment from the hire place was a lot faster though.

  8. TGAP Dad says

    We had a similar situation digging post holes in a clay-rich soil during the Summer dry heat time. The tractor-PTO auger was just craping the soil until we modified it by welding teeth to the leading edge.

  9. says

    TGAP Dad@#9:
    The tractor-PTO auger was just craping the soil until we modified it by welding teeth to the leading edge.

    I did not know this until too late, but most 3-point hitches are not supposed to have down-force as well as lift. My old Belarus tractor did. So I put a post-hole digger on the hitch, fired it up, pushed down, and the whole thing pretzelled and started spinning around and hammering into things. Fortunately no pieces flew off and everyone was OK.

    Teeth on an auger really make a difference.

  10. voyager says

    Sorry, but I’m still stuck on imagining a bible with an illustrated ‘sin’ table.

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