• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Must dig, but solely by hand?  RSS feed

 
Stephen Lloyd
Posts: 37
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just looking for ideas, maybe.

I'm adding on to our little cabin, digging into the hillside. I did this already for a cellar, and so far that seems to have gone well. Our soil is clay. I get the soil wet and then dig away. It works.

It's just me digging this by hand, and it's time consuming (obviously). Any miracle devices for digging that I am not aware of (and don't say 'a team of people')? There's no getting an excavator back there, since it's only a narrow walking path (and steep, somewhat). I have used one of those auger drills, and they're OK...

If I found a tiny excavator, would it be worth it, in your opinion?

 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
46
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Stephen,

Yes, there are "micro excavators," and for the professional and a paying job they are worth the effort (sometimes.) However, most of the time, a five gallon bucket is the best bet. I would suggest digging "dry" as you are only adding weight by adding water. Yes it is hard but will be less effort to moving wet clay soil (I know from experience.)

As for a trick, yes there is one of those also, its called "a really good shop vacuum." These (if the earth is somewhat dry) can really make thing much easier on the back (until you have to empty the vacuum.) This is the method of digging in "confined space" applications.

Regards,

j
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6795
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
266
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A few don'ts. Don't use a shovel that gums up. Don't work with a heavy bar unless there are large rocks. Don't use heavy tools where light ones will do. Never dampen clay.

Use the right tools to do it dry. On tough clay, that is already damp, you want to slice through it, not mush it up and have it stick to the shovel. Use a square spade that doesn't have sides. Sharpen the tool. On hard dry clay, use the lightest pick that will do the job. When working a face, place a bucket under your work so a good portion falls in. This saves a step. Clean up as you go. Don't walk on materials that are loose. Clay will pack and require more clean up energy if you walk on it.

The biggest energy saver is this. Determine the spot where it will be easiest to get to your maximum depth. Concentrate on getting there . Now you can stand on a flat surface and hack materials down. A scoop shovel makes floor clean up easy. I like to do deep stuff in a series of level shelves. Don't spend all day standing on a slope. A man in good shape should move a few tons per day when it's done right.

When clawing a face to a floor area, I like to lay a half sheet of plywood flat on the floor so that any materials that miss the buckets is easy to clean up. This is doubly important if the clay is rocky. Chunks of rock protruding from the clean up floor can stop the shovel dead. This is hard on the body, tools and production. The shovel slides effortlessly along smooth plywood. Never use a round mouth shovel for this since it wastes energy.

I did about 3 tons of backfilling today during a 90 minute run.
 
Stephen Lloyd
Posts: 37
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes. Damp is key. Wet is impossible, and bone dry is slightly possible. But damp is great. The soil is heavier, but it also possible to make each shovelful really massive because it sticks together.

I just have a shovel. I don't know about shovels that don't gum up. You're saying that a sharp shovel doesn't gum up, correct? I'm trying to take your meaning there. Whenever possible, I use a pick. I love that thing. It's about a medium weight pick, and the end is not too curved, but more straight, which makes it possible to etch away at a slope very nicely.

I tried a digging bar, and that completely didn't do a thing for me. I had high hopes.

How is it that you can know how many tons you moved?

The good news is that I am now finished with digging (for now) and am on to the building part. Hooray!


Dale Hodgins wrote:A few don'ts. Don't use a shovel that gums up. Don't work with a heavy bar unless there are large rocks. Don't use heavy tools where light ones will do. Never dampen clay.

Use the right tools to do it dry. On tough clay, that is already damp, you want to slice through it, not mush it up and have it stick to the shovel. Use a square spade that doesn't have sides. Sharpen the tool. On hard dry clay, use the lightest pick that will do the job. When working a face, place a bucket under your work so a good portion falls in. This saves a step. Clean up as you go. Don't walk on materials that are loose. Clay will pack and require more clean up energy if you walk on it.

The biggest energy saver is this. Determine the spot where it will be easiest to get to your maximum depth. Concentrate on getting there . Now you can stand on a flat surface and hack materials down. A scoop shovel makes floor clean up easy. I like to do deep stuff in a series of level shelves. Don't spend all day standing on a slope. A man in good shape should move a few tons per day when it's done right.

When clawing a face to a floor area, I like to lay a half sheet of plywood flat on the floor so that any materials that miss the buckets is easy to clean up. This is doubly important if the clay is rocky. Chunks of rock protruding from the clean up floor can stop the shovel dead. This is hard on the body, tools and production. The shovel slides effortlessly along smooth plywood. Never use a round mouth shovel for this since it wastes energy.

I did about 3 tons of backfilling today during a 90 minute run.
 
it's a teeny, tiny, wafer thin ad:
Thread Boost feature
https://permies.com/wiki/61482/Thread-Boost-feature
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!