Q: “While watching TOH TV recently, I saw Roger digging postholes with a tool I’ve never seen. Can you tell me what it is?”
—Joe Foti, Dalton Gardens, Idaho
A: That’s my Boston digger, and I often get puzzled looks when I go to use it. But after watching it in action for a few minutes, people quickly realize how much easier it is to use than a typical posthole digger with scissored handles.
The Boston digger has a long hardwood shaft with a sturdy fixed scoop at its business end. About two-thirds of the way up the shaft, a short handle hinged to a steel rod controls a movable scoop. To dig, you fold the short handle up, pointing the movable scoop down, and slam the fixed scoop into the ground. Then flip the short handle down to clamp the scoops together around the loose soil, and pull the digger straight up and out of the hole.
With this design, you can dig an 8-inch-diameter hole with straight sides nearly 4 feet deep. With a conventional digger, the scissored handles collide with the sides of the hole at about 18 inches down. To go any deeper, you have to make the hole wider, slowing down both the excavation and the backfilling process.
My digger, alternatively called an Erie digger, after the manufacturer, Sinclair Erie of Milverton, Ontario, is sold online at snugcottagehardware.com. At about $135, it’s a serious tool, tough enough to chew through my native rocky soil. That’s more than I can say for the thin, stamped-steel blades on most posthole diggers.