Granted, an earth auger is not a tool everyone needs, but when your project requires a lot of holes (think new fence), a post-hole auger is the solution.
The concept of an earth auger is simple, they work basically the same as a power drill. Powers augers come in one- or two-person models. Choose based on the number and size holes you need and the depth of the hole. Your soil type might make a difference also if it’s rocky. A one-person machine weighs about 35 pounds, a more powerful two-person unit is close to 60 pounds. This does not include the weight of the bit, which is likely to be about fifteen pounds.
A one person auger is likely to run on a two cycle engine. They require a gas/oil mix. Two-person models are generally four-cycle and need no fuel mixing.
Small bits are good for setting steel T-posts or U-posts. Wider and longer bits are available (the standard is 10 inch diameter and 36 inch drilling depth). If you’ll be using concrete in the holes, you’ll need a larger diameter bit.
Remember that even though a power auger can make your job easier, it’s still a bit of work to heft it around. It’s a good idea to get a helper to share the load even on a one-person machine.
• Measure carefully before you start digging – especially for fence posts. It’s hard to “un-dig” a hole.
• Dig a small pilot hole with a shovel to keep the bit from wandering.
• Keep the auger plumb as you dig.
• Be prepared for the clockwise force as you engage the throttle and the bit starts to work.
• These tools nave no reverse like a power drill, so pull it up frequently to clear the hole of loose dirt.
• A digging bar helps you fine-tune your holes.
• Remove the last of the loose soil with a shovel. A drain spade (shown) or trenching spade works well for this.
• Let the tool do the work.
• You can always rent an earth auger or go old school with post hole diggers.
• As with any project that requires digging, call 811 before you do anything.
• Hearing and eye protection are a must. Dirt will fly as you clear the hole, so also wear sturdy shoes and long pants.
• Turn off the machine when moving to the next hole.
• Tree roots and rocks can stop a bit in an instant, so be prepare for the unexpected jolt.
• Landscape fabric can quickly get wrapped around an auger bit and even cause injury. Know what’s under the surface where you’re digging.
• If you’re not setting posts the same day, cover the holes with something (ex. a piece of wood) to prevent debris from getting in or people or pets stepping or falling in.
• Always follow manufacturer’s guidelines for fueling, cleaning and general maintenance.
Earth augers are NOT ice augers. Ice fishermen need a power head that’s designed to start and run in cold weather. More importantly, an ice auger bit is vastly different from an earth auger. Ice bits are extremely sharp to cleanly penetrate thick ice.