Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Digging Bars are a Necessity, Not a Nicety
The heavy bar, at left, rarely leaves the truck, while the lighter bar, to the right, is used on almost every dig.
My digging bar is 3/4 inch hex steel with a blunt point on one end, and a chisel tip forged into the opposite end. The bar has been hardened for about 20 inches or so on each end. This bar was a gift from veteran terrierman Larry Morrison, and has been much used. I am proud to say that this bar is as straight as the day he gave it to me -- I value this tool and do not abuse it. With proper care, I expect it to be used to dig my grave. A similar bar can be made by any welding shop -- 3/4" hex bar is off-the-shelf stock steel.
My digging bar is 6 feet long, and I consider it the proper length and shape for good digging. I find a T-bar transfers too much vibration back into my hands and is too jarring to use when being hammered through shale, marl or rock. A bar that is too short cannot be used to reach deep in order to shatter rock or cut the edge off a hole that is four feet down (a frequent need).
The digging bar to the left of my regular digging bar is the heavier type of bar you might find at Home Depot or some other hardware store. The point end of this bar is attached to a cut down drain spade head to serve as a "Bertha," spoon, or heavy grafter (all the same thing). This heavy tool can cut through solid igneous rock -- and has. It almost never leaves the truck, but when it does, serious digging of very hard stuff has to be done.
I do not believe in going into the field with too light a bar -- it's a matter of safety for the dog. Though dogs can almost always exit places they can enter, there are times when you want to get down fast. In those rare occasions where a rock has slipped behind a dog, or a stump root prevents an easy exit, you should be able to call up the heavy artillery and get the dog out without having to call for reinforcements.
I use my light bar on almost every dig, and consider it a necessity, not a nicety.
A bar slammed deep into the ground behind a critter can be rattled to make it bolt to a snare, while a blow from a chisel point can quickly dispatch an animal in a hole. And, of course, a bar can be used as a listening device.
The primary job of bar, of course, is to break up hard packed rock and marl. When a bar is absolutely needed, nothing else will do.