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Yep — it’s a 6′ long metal toothpick.  And if you need to dig in hard soil, it’s your friend.  Perry writes: “This is an approximately 20 pound, 6′ long steel bar with a chisel tip on one end and a point on the other — like a pencil point.  It’s create for breaking up hard soil and for chopping through roots.  I’ve had one for a while now, and it’s a Godsend with the hard ground around me.  I’ve also hit rocks and concrete several times with no problems.”

I could have really used one of these digging at my father’s old place.  Where I live now the soil’s all pretty much artificial, so it’s loose and easy to work with.  But at times I thought dad’s place was built on solid stone.  This would easily have broken up the ground enough to work with a shovel, and at only $22 or so from Lowe’s, there’s no excuse not to have one if you need it.

These are available from lots of other brick-and-mortar and online vendors as well.

True Temper 72″ Pencil Point San Angelo Bar [Lowe’s]
Street Pricing [Google Products]


30 Responses to A Simple, Effective Answer To Digging In Hard Soil

  1. Russell says:

    Spud Bars! I perfer the chisel bars with a head on the end that you can hit.

    what makes these useful is the force that you can impart to a small area just by lifting the bar up and down.

    These are my favorite method for removing stubborn roots and leveraging rocks out of holes. (Be careful! It’s easy to slip)

  2. scott says:

    Used to use these as a summer greenskeeper here in the Pacific NW. I used to have a helluva time digging through layers of dense clay with a shovel, but it was quick work using one of these bars. It’s pretty amazing how well it works with a modicum of downward force.

  3. Paul Mc Cann says:

    Here in Ireland we call that a crow bar.
    I find a mattock (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mattock)very useful in difficult ground and for clearing scrub etc

  4. Zack says:

    In AZ we call that a calichi bar – basically, once you get 1-2 feet down, you hit rock that can be broken up with one of these bars.

    Works kind of like a pickaxe , but better for digging narrow holes, and requires less clearance to swing.

  5. Zeb says:

    Reminds me of something I saw on TV the other night – the Dalby Digger. It’s sort of a shovel/crowbar/mattock combo.

  6. Zeb says:

    While we’re on goofy crowbar variants, here’s the Slide Hammer.

  7. BJN says:

    Absolutely necessary for digging postholes where you have rocky ground and big roots. I have two styles. The pointed end works best for prying rocks, the chisel end can be honed sharp as an axe so you can chop roots at depth. The mushroom end version can be used for tamping. Any of them make great pry bars for rolling rocks, logs, beams, or corpses.

  8. james b brauer 66 says:

    As my ex-geologist buddy explained: this area (high plains) used to be at the very end of a prehistoric river tail. The very finest silt got carried here and deposited before things dried up and left this super dense dry clay from hell.

    Trying to dig a little hole for a rain-bird head during a drought I busted the head off my shovel, drove steel spikes into the ground, and finally used my handheld pneumatic chisel to gouge out a small hole. It took about an hour for a half-gallon hole. I’ve sense learned to just wait until it has been raining or snowing before I try to dig anything. The moisture loosens things up enough to get some work done.

  9. Leslie says:

    It may seem obvious, but since something like that cost my former neighbor megabucks in damages, I’ll say it anyway: Be very sure that you know where your sewer/septic lines (and all other buried utilites) are located before you use one of these.

  10. Eric says:

    Definitely not a new idea, and definitely still as useful as ever. In old Hawaiʻi, they were called ʻōʻō and were made of hardwood. These days they’re usually made of steel, except for the fancy ones used for groundbreaking ceremonies.

    I have one in my garage. Most recently, I used it to pry rocks out of the heavy clay in my back yard while landscaping, probably in much the same way that the old Hawaiian taro farmers pried the exact same damned rocks out of their fields.

  11. Scraper says:

    We would call that tool a “Rock Pick”. What we called a “spud bar” had a chisel point at one end and a round,flat end at the other for tamping. A very useful tool to use when setting fence posts.

  12. false_cause says:

    I’ve got the chisel type that has a flat end to hit with a sledgehammer. I was wishing I’d brought it this week when some sudden landscaping work came up and the soil was more rock than dirt. It’s tough to swing a pick inside a planting hole sometimes.

  13. cc says:

    how effective is this against vampires?

  14. Bowen says:

    The first thing that occured to me when I saw that was how much fun it would be to shoot out of an appropriately sized compressed air cannon (with a sabot of course).

    That, or build yerself a ballista….

  15. Abe says:

    No affect on vampires. It’s made of steel not wood.

    I use broken, old hamer handles to deal with our vampire problems.


  16. Wheels17 says:

    A bar like this and a shop vac make quick work of post holes in hard soil. The diameter of the hole can be kept very close to the diameter of the post, really cutting down on the amount of digging needed.

  17. Eric says:

    I throw mine in the back of the truck when I go up to my friend’s mountain property. It makes short work of moving the fallen trees off the roadway to get back to the cabin. My uncle used to call this an “idiot stick” because, after using it to bust apart rock on a few fence-post holes, you start feeling like an idiot for not calling someone with an auger. Oh well… mine has always gotten good use in a number of ways!

  18. PaulS. says:

    These are good for several jobs besides digging holes and prying out rocks. For demolition work in remodeling jobs like ceramic floor tile removal I’ve used one with great success. Slam it down to bust tiles, then slide/slam it horizontally to lift tiles, make sure you wear your safety glasses.

  19. Brad Justinen says:

    used one of these many a time. very useful.

  20. o1d_dude says:

    Out here in Cali, this thing is called a “Laredo bar”. Not sure why but that’s what it’s called.

    Absolutely essential for digging fence post holes in adobe soil. Bust up the clay / hardpan / plowpan with the bar, lift it out with the clamshell style post hole digger.

    I own one of these. It reminds of my days in the Army where we used a similar tool called a “tanker bar” for various purposes in addition to its design purpose.

    2nd Armored Division…Hell On Wheels, bros.

  21. mike says:

    The proper name I think is San Angelo bar. We have really dense soil down in Arkansas with lots of bolders and filler under the topsoil in my area. There’s no way to dig a hole without one of these. Post hole digger… Forgetabout it. Auger.. Forgetabout it. If you don’t have a back hoe, you’ll have to have one of these.

  22. John says:

    Perhaps folks can give me some advice for a similar situation.

    My chore was to dig a 4 foot diameter round hole in heavy clay down about 4 feet and then an interior round hole about 3 feet in diameter another 13 feet deep. We had a team of folks using a pick axe and a spud for the top part, but it took several days to get 4 feet down. In the narrower part, the pick axe was used by getting on our knees, and progress slowed down even more.

    This hole was one of several for the septic system of homes in El Salvador and gasoline power tools are not an option. (Another hole is 5 feet wide by 8 feet long and 7 feet deep. That crew used a pick axe, but did not finish in the 5 days that we were there.)

    I plan to go back next year and will be lifting weights before I go, but any ideas on how to make this go easier and faster would be most welcome. Depending on where we are next year, we might have 120 volt electricity.

    Thanks much,


  23. David Ace says:

    I use a tool called a Terrax or Drapper Ground-buster sold by Drapper tools in the UK it great for hard ground and rocks.

  24. Karen says:

    John – what solutions did you come to for digging in El Salvador? My team is facing a similar problem digging holes for septic systems in rural Cambodia during the dry season.

  25. Abigail Kreiss says:

    I’ve had a terrible time planting anything in the rocky, clayey soil of my new (to me) house. There was one of these bars under the back deck; I thought it might be old gold mining equipment. Now I know!!

  26. Mandy says:

    How would you actually use one of these to break up the soil?

  27. Deborah Lippitt says:

    Too funny..my husband digs the holes for my plants and trees(I’ve planted over 20)at our new home. He built a fence of no-climb with braces and 2 gates around an acre of ground here too.
    We have red clay with hard pan and some places rock. I’m hear to tell ya it ain’t easy going and it definitely is not quick digging thru this stuff…my husband has put in miles of fence and been doing it since he was a kid and he is 67.
    He loves the digging bar/tamper and it lives in his truck. I painted it bright orange so we don’t lay it down and lose it.

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