A Review of Post Hole Diggers and Earth Augers
Wait. Don’t Go. You Might Just Learn Something
In this guide we’ll review the best earth augers and the best post hole diggers. We’ll start with post hole diggers and work our way into earth augers. We’ll discuss the qualities, pros, and cons of each product and we hope to steer you in the right direction. Enjoy!
Why Do I Need a Post Hole Digger?
You know what a post hole digger does. It digs a hole in the ground. Everyone knows that.
Even city folk.
The bigger question is why? If you live in the country, you probably know why. Fence posts, gate posts, mailbox posts, porch posts, barn posts, stable posts, etc. Some folks have been known to use a post hole digger to dig a “ten-dollar hole for a five-dollar tree.”
In rural America, PHD stands for post hole digger. Learning to use one is not so much an education, but an experience that offers real-world moments from which to understand the value – and satisfaction – of hard work.
The world grows ever complex.
More urban. Less peaceful.-Fennel Hudson, A Meaningful Life
Probably in six out of 10 rural households, you will find a post hole digger. And in the four out of 10 households where you wouldn’t find a post hole digger, it’s because it’s out on loan to the neighbors.
Essentially, a post hole digger consists of two long-handled, narrow-point shovels that face each other, connected by a hinge that allows the two halves to close together on dirt, pick it up and release it when the user has lifted it out of the ground. The tool is not used quite like a shovel, in that the user doesn’t use his feet to push the blades into the ground, but “throws” them down with force.
Using a manual post hole digger is hard work. There are no two ways around it. But hard work is the life blood of the rural life, so it shouldn’t be a problem.
Below is a review of some of the best post hole diggers available on the market. The list also includes a sampling of the best powered earth augers that work faster, but still offer no free pass from the rigors of hard work.
Best Post Hole Diggers
Best Manual Post Hole Diggers
There are two crucial factors to purchasing a post hole digger: strength and sharpness. The need for each should be obvious. The post hole digger needs to endure violent “throw-downs” and collisions with hard clay and the occasional rock. The blades have to remain clinched when pounds of soil are lifted straight up through the hole. Any bending or separating of the blades during this process greatly reduces their effectiveness.
Likewise, the handles have to carry the load being lifted up, and the pressure exerted on them by the user. For years, handles on manual post hole diggers were hardwood, but the strongest units now have fiberglass handles.
The steel used in the blades needs to be tough, and the cutting edges sharp. Dull-edged post hole diggers are exercises in futility, and easily-dulled blades are a waste of money.
Manual post hole diggers are not expensive. If you value your time and want to save your back, don’t scrimp, trying to save a few bucks. It’s not worth it.
These are designed for frequent use and professionals, but don’t think they’re more than what you need. You may have projects in the future that aren’t even in your dreams yet. And if it turns out you don’t use them all that often, then you’ve made a lifetime purchase.
The fiberglass handles have a reinforcing fiberglass core that combats bending, especially at the head, where it connects to the blades. This is the critical stress point with any post hole digger.
This unit has cushioned handles, which pay dividends over the course of a day-long, or weekend-long project.
It also has a 6 and 1/4-inch spread on the blades. This is important in that the greater the spread, the better its ability to release compacted dirt, like clay. If you’ve ever had to pound or kick on the post hole digger to get it to drop the dirt, then you know how to appreciate this feature.
This post hole digger comes highly rated. It has 48-inch fiberglass handles and cushioned grips. The blades are clear-coated steel, and are able to retain their sharpness through tough conditions.
Clean up is easy, with a quick rinse from a hose.
You would have to be incredibly unlucky to break or render this post hole digger useless, but if that happened, it’s covered by a 10-year replacement warranty.
President Teddy Roosevelt, one of America’s most renown outdoor enthusiasts, was fond of using the term “Bully!” when he was pleased with something. It’s doubtful he ever owned a Bully brand tool, but he would be pleased with what this post hole digger can do for the money.
This comes in two blade sizes – 5.5-inch and 7.0-inch, but unless the weight difference between the two or the diameter of the hole is important to you, the price differential is not worth going with the smaller size.
This is listed as commercial grade, but it is not over the heads of average homeowners. It has extra-strength fiberglass handles and strong, sharp 14-gauge steel blades.
It’s made in the USA.
Six feet deep. That’s how far you can dig with this bad boy. Granted, most of your projects won’t require that massive of a hole, but the real value here is the leverage you get with the longer handles.
The handles are strong fiberglass and the blades are tough steel, meaning this will be in your tools shed long enough to pass on to the kids, or loan to a neighbor and forget where it went.
The Nupla brand is respected as a quality maker of construction implements, concrete finishing tools and other devices, and this long tall unit is worth a look.
OK. You know about Fiskars scissors. But it doesn’t end there. Fiskars makes a whole line of home and garden tools and accessories, and post hole diggers are part of the group.
This is an all-steel unit that looks more like skewers on the barbecue grill than something you would dig with.
But there’s a twist… literally. The handles are offset, twisted around each other like a vine, and the offset allows the user to shoot the blades into the ground without scuffing up his or her knuckles due to handles smashing together. The design allows for deeper digging as well.
The all-steel handles do not have as much “give” as fiberglass or wood handles, which is good for the digging process, but transmits a little more shock to the hands.
All-in-all, this is not for heavy duty usage, but its ease of use and versatility (some users use it to plant flowers) make it a recommended buy.
The business end of this post hole digger is made of lighter steel – 16 gauge – than most of the other diggers on the list, but that isn’t necessarily a negative. Not at all. The blades are powder-coated a shiny red for durability and retention of sharpness. And that is the beauty of this tool.
If you think in terms of of kitchen knives, you know that the thinnest blade is often the sharpest, and that’s the one you want to cut that tomato open without splatter. This handles tough soil with ease, and its slightly lighter weight was easier on the back.
With 48-inch fiberglass handles rigidly bolted to the yoke, this is one strong tool.
Rubberized hand grips ensure that you will always be in control.
This is an Ames post hole digger, part of the Jackson brand, which has a solid reputation as a manufacturer of a number of quality tools for construction and yard use.
This is strictly a no-nonsense tool at a no-nonsense price. The handles are hardwood. Really hard wood. When stored in a dry location, they will be just fine for years and years to come.
The blades are 12-gauge carbon steel, rounded off to the “Hercules” pattern, which allows easier soil penetration without sacrificing the ability to lift dirt out of the hole.
For occasional and even moderate use, this is about as easy on the budget as they get. The blades are tempered steel and extremely reliable. This is a medium duty tool that will still satisfy the needs of a lot of customers.
Best Powered Earth Augers
“Let the machine do the work; not you!”
If you’ve ever let a piece of power equipment get away from you – like a commercial grade electric floor scrubber than went spiraling into the dishwasher panel and left a dent – you can appreciate the wisdom of the above statement.
So it is with power augers. They were designed to do the – literally – dirty work. When used properly, all the user has to do is hold a power auger in place, and let it do the digging. A day-long outing with a power auger is still no picnic in the park, but it beats a manual post hole digger hands down. Or up.
When selecting a power auger, there are two main considerations, assuming the overall weight of the unit is not a problem. Those are: (1) the horsepower of the engine and (2) the strength of the steel auger (corkscrew-like blades.)
It is absolutely worth it to get more horsepower – 2.4 hp or greater. Don’t go cheap here. Get the horses. Product listings for most of today’s powered tools don’t show horsepower, but rather the bore size in terms of cubic centimeters (CCs). Roughly 15-17 CCs = 1 hp.
A lot is asked of the blades, since they will be violently twisted into hard soil, rocky soil that’s been undisturbed since the Civil War. Therefore, demand carbon steel blades and nothing less.
Here are the top three earth augers that pass the test.
With a 43cc two-stroke engine and 316 rpm on the auger, this will meet most any challenge. Easy to start and easy to carry and use (40 pounds) most homeowners should be pleased with this tool. It comes standard with an 8-inch bit (auger), but if you need smaller diameter holes, a six-inch bit is available.
Butterfly handles help balance the weight and they are removable for storage.
The engine runs on a 50:1 gas/oil mix. It is highly recommended to use premixed fuel, available in most any hardware store or home supply store. The fuel does not go bad when sitting for long periods of time, and equipment tends to start better with this fuel.
You can get a variety of augers and extensions for this unit as add-ons, but the recommended purchase here is the unit pre-packaged with six- and 10-inch augers. The 52cc engine is the centerpiece of the power auger and it is probably the most powerful engine of the three listed here.
In some heavy applications, this may require two persons to operate, but for the most part, it’s a one-man tool.
Power augers do not drill exceedingly deep holes in the ground. Thirty inches is about the max, but that is plenty deep enough for the vast majority of household tasks. The Proyama comes with three augers (four, six and eight-inch) and an extension that allows for slightly deeper holes, if desired.
It starts easily and runs smoothly. The 51.7cc engine helps it get through tough, rocky soil. The extension is less-than-perfect, however, but assuming it would not be needed all that often, it might not be an issue.
The Best DIY Earth Augers
A good alternative for those who are on the fence (pun intended) about either a post hole digger or an electric earth auger, also have the option to create their own earth auger. This is good for those jobs that don’t require large diameter holes or also a good option for those who mainly want to install garden fencing. All you need is a drill and these earth augers can easily be attached just like a drill bit.
This earth auger can easily be attached to an electric or cordless drill. It is 100% made in the USA with all American parts as well. This auger is mainly used for digging holes for small garden fences, mixing soil and planting.
If you spend a lot of time in the garden and don’t feel like digging holes for each individual plant, this is a great tool for you. The bit measures 3 inches in diameter and 12 inches deep, perfect for bulbs, tubers, or small garden pence posts. It’s also a favorite for digging holes for fruit trees.
The bit will fit any standard 3/8″ drill. There must be at least 18V of power output, however. The bit itself is hefty, sharp, and made of solid steel with a thick powder coating for protection. It’s also backed by a lifetime guarantee.
If you want to dig deeper than one foot, this two-foot long earth auger drill bit is a great choice. Also measuring 3 inches in diameter, it is good for most small jobs. It has a 3/8 inch powder coated steel shaft and comes with a non-slip hex drive, perfect for attaching to your favorite portable electric drill.
Good for bulbs, vegetables, flowers, plants, shrubs and small trees, this earth auger bit will make any job much easier. Some people even use it at the beach as an umbrella hole digger.
It is designed for use with an 18V or larger drill with the setting placed on slow speed. Don’t overdo it and keep note of the heat of your drill so you do not burn out the motor when digging this deep. Its long length is also useful for reduces back strain when digging if you don’t need to go down as far.
This is probably not your best bet for digging in hard clay, however. Also, when digging in dirt make sure to cover your drill with a plastic bag or garbage bag to keep the dirt from getting inside of it.
All in all, a well made tool, high quality and great for DIYers who love to spend time working outside and in the garden.
Looking for something for bigger jobs? This handy earth auger bit is a great choice with its 6-inch diameter blade. Great for almost any outdoor project, this is a heavy duty earth auger bit made of pure welded steel. It digs holes with ease and does so without any twisting, jerking or jarring the user.
The blade is covered in a thick powder coating and is resistant to abrasion. It also has flex coil shock absorbers that are designed for hitting solid objects, such as rocks, without jarring you with the nasty kickback you usually get when you hit these objects. The blades are also replaceable, so no worries about having to buy a whole new earth auger bit just because yours is starting to get a bit worn.
This auger is large enough for fence posts and also great for digging in dirt or clay. It can dig down almost three feet with its 36-inch with length. It even has a fishtail point for easy hole starting and placement. The point can be replaced too, when needed. However, it may take some rigging up to get this blade to work with other types of high-powered drills or earth augers as it is designed for use with E43, Dually, 9800B and 9800H auger powerheads.
This earth auger drill bit also comes in 2-inch, 3-inch, 4-inch, 8-inch and 10-inch diameter sizes.