Grave diggers (shovels)

Discussion in 'Functional Gear & Equipment' started by hot diggity, Jul 21, 2018.

  1. hot diggity

    hot diggity Monkey+++ Site Supporter+++

    This is something that nobody wants to think about, but when nobody is coming to take your dead away, you will have to do it yourself.
    KIMG2601. When that happens, it would be nice to know things like, will you hit water at 42"....or 18"? Roots? Clay? Rocks? Maybe that grave site location is less than optimal.

    If you stick to the way we do it, with every adult male taking a turn at the shovel, it is still a big job. Break a handle on a root and it can become much worse.

    I'm a big True Temper fan. They're made in USA and come in shapes and sizes that work in my sandy, root filled ground. Their handles are okay now.... but looking long term, I'm swapping broken hickory for fiberglass. It's the coastal humidity that is the issue. I could do pine tar treatment on them and extend their life, but not as long as fiberglass.

    There is a little added weight, but that is useful in root cutting, and not
    near the strain that digging with a broken handle would be.

    Not a tool subject that's pleasant to think about. Even more unpleasant to practice, but comforting to master before it is necessary.
    oldawg, arleigh, Tully Mars and 6 others like this.
  2. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    I do not think we own a fiberglass handled shovel. We have had many broken handles but living in the materialist world of ours, I always buy a new one. I will look into replacing some of our old handles and seeing if the weight difference is bothersome.
    Altoidfishfins, Sapper John and Meat like this.
  3. Meat

    Meat Monkey+++

    There’s a lot of technique involved digging a hole or shoveling in general. I’ve done plenty of it. The only time I’ve ever broken a shovel handle though is doing something stupid with it. A claw hammer, pick axe, or a small digging bar(large will wear you the eff out) is also extremely helpful. :D
    Tully Mars and snake6264 like this.
  4. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    If you do it the Vikings did, Ashes are a whole lot easier to deal with, or when the Boat burns to the waterline there isn’t anything to worry about....YMMV....
  5. Lancer

    Lancer TANSTAFL! Site Supporter+++

    If the "residue" is someone you have no concerns about - will a pack of feral hogs do sufficient composting? I have dug far too many hole in the %$#! red clay around here. In the dry season a tractor mounted auger will stall out. The thought of a hole 2x6x6, with out benefit of diesel assistance is really depressing.
    john316, Alf60, Tully Mars and 4 others like this.
  6. azrancher

    azrancher Monkey +++

    I thought fiberglass was the ultimate handle, until I learned they break just as easy as wood, and don't run over one with the truck, a hickory handle won't break, a fiberglass handle will splinter, and they deteriorate very fast in the AZ heat and sun. Soooo hickory for me, with linseed oil after the elements take care of the varnish, just sand them down lightly and use a rag with L-oil on it to soak into the cracks, this method will last you years and years.

    Last edited: Jul 21, 2018
    Alf60, Tully Mars, oldawg and 3 others like this.
  7. Seawolf1090

    Seawolf1090 Retired Curmudgeonly IT Monkey Founding Member

    Yep, got plenty wood here to help reduce the bodies. Digging ain't a plan for me.
  8. Bandit99

    Bandit99 Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    There is no way you want to dig a deep hole here (Northern Idaho) for a grave, just too darn many rocks. I have never seen any other place like it except Ireland, so many rocks there in the ground they make fences out of them. There is a reason for all the rocks but let's not bore you too much...LOL!
    Gator 45/70 and Altoidfishfins like this.
  9. Altoidfishfins

    Altoidfishfins Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    Without a backhoe, or maybe a few sticks of 60%, forget any hole in NW AZ (BOL) deeper than the topsoil, even with a digging bar. Now I know why the American Indians "buried" their dead on elevated platforms.
    john316, Gator 45/70 and Tempstar like this.
  10. hot diggity

    hot diggity Monkey+++ Site Supporter+++

    I've got three shovels and a post hole digger with broken handles in the barn. They all had been weakened by exposure and neglect. I'll have to shop for handles as soon as I pull the old handles out. (an easy job at work) I do want to treat one with pine tar, and maybe one with linseed oil. Makes me wonder if soaking the handles in kerosene will make them as flexible and unbreakable as a hickory ramrod treated this way? I've got a PVC tube full of ramrod blanks soaking in "coal oil". I could do the same with spare shovel handles. :)

    The extra long fiberglass handle on the center shovel was some sort of pavers shovel, and I had passed it up several times at a local shop. When they dropped it to $5, I snatched it up. It seems to be the best suited I've tried for dealing with the pine roots and sand that I dig in.
    Witch Doctor 01 and Gator 45/70 like this.
  11. Tempstar

    Tempstar Old and crochety Site Supporter+

    We used 40%, not many rocks just clay. 60% throws the dirt too far in these parts.
    Gator 45/70 likes this.
  12. Meat

    Meat Monkey+++

    My trebuchet would work for burials as well as removing human waste. :D
    john316, oldawg, Gator 45/70 and 2 others like this.
  13. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    I am not sure if this thread is about burying bodies or shovels. But I agree with @BTPost, burning is the most sanitary and easiest way.

    This is good to know. I am in a dry sunny area. It is important to get what works and holds up in your area.
  14. duane

    duane Monkey+++

    Shovels last a long time, wear out after a while if you use them a lot, just like Bibles, treat them well and respect them. Grand dad had a box with sand and a little oil and all shovels, hoes, etc were cleaned, run thru the sand, or wiped off with a lightly oiled rag and "HUNG UP" !!!!!. I still flinch when I see an axe, maul, pick, hoe, etc leaning against a wall or embedded in the ground or a round of fire wood or leaned against a building outside. They will rust, lose their sharpness, and the moisture will rot the wood out in the eye and the handle will either break or the head will be loose. I use fiberglass on splitting mauls, broke all the handles I want by overstriking, but like the feel of wood for the rest. Best finish I have found for handles is like others have said, linseed oil, like to thin it a little with turpentine and let it soak in a bit. Takes some time to dry, but keeps the wood from getting brittle and keeps the finish smooth. Most useful shovel I have found for digging any kind of a hole is the rounded end sand shovel, but it is a "sand" shovel. In anything but sand it is part of a system to remove things. Need a pick, mattock, brush hook, or something else to loosen and prepare the soil to be removed, if not you will do a lot more work and probably in the long run break the handle. If your hands are not in shape, wear gloves as you will get blisters and they are painful, will keep you from working, and if they get infected in the after, could kill you. Grave digging in the old times was either a labor of love, done be friends and family out of respect, or done by the town drunk or other low class. Old rule, only 1 person at a time can work in a grave, just isn't room for 2 in the small space and it is not a good idea to hit the one with the shovel with the pick as you try to loosen the soil. In the old days it was well understood that you had to do a lot of work to dig a grave and if digging in a cemetery, you could catch diseases from the soil where bodies had been placed before. 70 years ago they built a road near my grand dads place and they moved an old cemetery and the workers who dug up the old graves, many buried in wooden coffins that had returned with their occupants to the soil, lived in isolation at the site and were kept there for a couple weeks afterwards in isolation, in fear that they might catch something. If using wood to burn a body, it is a science and a quick study of the methods used in India and other areas where it is a practice, will help you understand how it is done. There is a lot of residue that does not burn well and in today's world, the "ashes" are usually the finely ground residue. If the world does return to the old ways, our handling of the dead will also return to the old ways, a short viewing period, a sheet to wrap them in, and removal from the living quickly. Some burn, some bury, some place on platform, some place in crypt, but all remove them for safety and esthetic reasons. Old Russian proverb comes to mind. No matter how much you love them, after 3 days both guests and the dead stink. If things truly do go to he**, getting the dead safely interred, both your loved ones and strangers, is going to be in the short run a major problem.
    john316, Lancer and hot diggity like this.
  15. hot diggity

    hot diggity Monkey+++ Site Supporter+++

    This might be uncomfortable to read. It made me remember things I've tried to forget, but never will.

    If you have the fuel and labor resources, available real estate, experience burning bodies and time, burning might be best for you.

    It's easy for the funeral home to do it. Check the chart, set the timer for the weight, press a button. No worries about finding a half dozen buzzards eating Grandma's partially cooked carcass in the morning, or Uncle Phil rolling out of the fire. And the wind! Have you smelled a burning body? It's a smell that imprints, and you can never wash it out of your memory. Even with the biggest open fire, you will likely still have to dig a hole and bury the bones... the bits that fell off, and the ashes that got soaked with juices. (Location, location, location.) Oh, and moving the dead. Cold dead is tough, cold stiff leaking dead is worse, .... roast dead = pulled long pork. Your intimate final goodbye is obvious to anybody and anything with a nose over a vast distance, and it's... illuminated. Watching a bunch of crazed strangers running around in the dark trying to gather more wood for their cooking fire is a scenario that could get you killed if there have been any reports of cannibalism in the wind. There won't be anyone alive to hear that it was "just a misunderstanding."

    I have the real estate to drag bodies into the salt marsh and let the buzzards and crabs deal with them, but not the labor. I might go unnoticed with a body in the car, but in a cart behind a bicycle? So moving the body to a safe distance is out. Burial at sea is out too, since I can't row far enough out to be sure my weighted cargo wouldn't be on the beach with the next tide. What I do know for certain in my neighborhood is the depth of the water table, the easiest route to drag a body to high ground, which neighbors can be expected to help dig/stand watch, and the consistency/stability of the soil. Simple, local, quiet, planned and final. Put some shells on top so you don't dig them up when you dig the next hole and go back to living.

    And all I need is a shovel.
  16. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    @hot diggity your post above has given me and I am sure a few others some extra considerations should the need ever arise. It was an in-your-face, uncomfortable truths but realities are what I am here to learn. You have my respect for what you have endured in your life.

    Now on to shovels... I have 5 of them and most are in rough shape. I think it is time to rotate out the old and get in the habit of every few years fixing or retiring the heavily used ones.
    Meat likes this.
  17. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    Agree 100%. While I have both, both need to be taken care of just like any other tool.
    +1 the linseed oil. My Grandfathers used it, my Father used it and I use it. Like you said, a little sandpaper and a soaked rag is all a person needs.

    As far as bodies go we have a dozer and loader buckets. The plan is to dig a small pit and burn them. What I actually hope for should the need arise is to be able to use the little local crematorium that's 20 minutes away. I also know of two vets that have ovens in their hospitals.
  18. arleigh

    arleigh Goophy monkey

    I worked at ski areas and during the summer there was a lot of erosion control and some ditch work , but the guys use the shovels for things they were not designed and broke a lot of handles, so I made handles of the electrical conduit and they lasted indefinitely.
    Secondly Picks and adds and digging bars are more appropriate for digging breaking up hard material . As a kid one of my jobs was digging a ditch for the sewer system at my house roughly 200' of rocky soil 36"-45" deep . I did another ditch about the same distance for the water line from the well to the house .
    There are proper tools for the job if it can't be done with machinery . I was fortunate that my dad had the tools and demonstrated their function. We worked as a team when he was home ,but I had no trouble working on my own . we did footings and trenches often enough doing construction my hands had calluses at age 10 .
    As for dealing with the dead.
    Post SHTF and there are no public records keeping or hospitals or such , especially if the fear of disease is present ,burning corpuses might just be the best solution especially if ground water is high. Also the use of lime or lye . Lacking the chemicals for doing old fashioned photography , maintaining electronic technology might just be the better solution to maintaining a record of those being buried or burned ,muck like forensic work.
    Worst case scenario drawing a picture and a written record of the deceased would be appropriate .
    Kin folk searching for their family members can at least have some closure .
    I like having loads of paper and drawing equipment , it's what i do .
    Even if the person happens to be an enemy , it is all the more important that his demise is documented , and I might add creating a library of information as to one's events during the event . A jurnal if you will . Factual/honest as possible .
    Motomom34 likes this.
  19. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    If there's an ink pad or something similar around, taking a set of finger prints to go with the written record might be another way to go.
    arleigh likes this.
  20. Meat

    Meat Monkey+++

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