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Posts Tagged ‘earthbag tools’

Grub hoes and grape hoes are my favorite digging tools. Shovels work fine with loose material such as gravel and sand, but it’s rather difficult digging clayey soil such as road base with shovels. One of these hoes, however, can cut right into the soil and readily pull the material into buckets without lifting. Think about how many buckets you have to fill to build a house and obviously simple work saving tips like this really add up.

Grub hoes and grape hoes are my favorite digging tools.

Grub hoes and grape hoes are my favorite digging tools.

When you have lots of digging to do for foundation trenches, leveling the site, planting trees and so on, it’s hard to beat grub hoes and grape hoes. In fact, I found on the Internet that they are the world’s most widely used garden and farm tool. They’re used by millions of small farmers and gardeners around the world, and have been popular for centuries.

One final note. Grub hoes are slightly larger and therefore better suited for digging difficult soil. You can swing it and blast through tough soil, sod and soil with roots. This is my favorite for digging foundation trenches. But on the other hand, it’s a bit heavy for using all day long. The lighter weight grape hoe, almost the same shape except shorter, is perfect for filling buckets with soil.

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My Favorite Slider

My Favorite Slider

Here’s a drawing of my favorite earthbag slider that makes it easy to place bags on the wall without getting hooked on the barbed wire. If you want to make one, start out by cutting a sheet of 1/16th thick steel about 13 inches wide by 16” long. Tack weld a piece of 1” by 1-1/4” angle iron on one end for a grip and then weld the back edge. Radius the front corners 2” or so. Grind off sharp edges, remove any rust with sandpaper and then spray paint to protect the metal. Recoat after each project since these sliders really take a beating. And don’t skimp on the steel thickness or the barbed wire will quickly destroy it. Typical galvanized sheet metal is inadequate.

Related: My Favorite Tamper

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It’s relatively easy to make your own earthbag tampers, but some may decide it’s simpler and more expedient to just purchase them. Here’s one tamper I came across after a quick search on the Internet: Ames True Temper 8″ x 8″ Tamper, 42 inch hardwood handle, $24.98, available from Lowe’s building supply centers.

Ames True Temper Earthbag Tamper

Ames True Temper Earthbag Tamper

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Earthbag building requires very few tools. You mostly need sturdy, basic tools such as shovels, buckets and tampers. Buy the best quality you can afford. This may mean buying from yard sales or Craigslist to get older, higher quality tools. A lot of new stuff is junk that will fall apart in a few days or weeks.

I’d start by reading Doni and Kaki’s Earthbag Building book. They describe everything you need, and their book has lots of photos and drawings on how to make your own tampers, etc.

These are the earthbag building tools I use.

These are the earthbag building tools I use.

Note: Now I use cement buckets, not the kind in the photo.

Don’t buy anything until you think it over a long time. Chances are you don’t need it. Builders in developing countries have a bag of tools about the size of a grocery bag, and with these tools they are able to build everything up to and including large houses, apartments, shops and other structures. Now personally, I would get a few more than that, but it does show how simple building can be.

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