Anyone who’s used a sledgehammer to pound in dozens of steel fence posts will recognize the true value of a fence post driver – it’s faster, easier and a lot safer for setting fence posts and stakes.
No need for an assistant to hold the post– nervously hoping you can maintain your accuracy – as you stand on a wobbly stepladder, your muscles turning to mush with every swing.
I’ve loaned this handy home-made version to several friends over the years to build dog runs, stake grape vines and anchor special event tents. It makes setting posts truly a one-person operation.
You can rent or buy post drivers, but if you need one frequently, and have welder or a friend with one, they’re relatively easy to make. My brother-in-law whipped this one up for me in a couple of hours using scraps lying around his shop. The handles were rescued from a defunct lawnmower.
I have virtually no experience with welders or torches – other than watching mechanics cut rusty parts off the bottom of my cars – so I’m not going to get into the finer points of metal working. But here are the basics:
What you need:
3" steel pipe – 24 to 30 inch long – (30 inches recommended)
3" diameter cap – 1/4 – 1/2" flat steel
2 handles – two 18" lengths of 3/4" steel tubing
What you do:
Cut the pipe to length.
Cut the end cap from flat stock.
Bend the tubing for handles as needed.
Weld it all together really, really well – because it’s literally going to take a pounding.
How to use a Post Driver
We fenced a 125 x 50 foot dog run in our orchard which required about 36 – 7 foot steel T-posts. Using the driver, I was able to set all the posts by myself in about 3 hours – without working real hard. Once you get the technique down, it goes very quickly.
- Slip the open end of the driver over the post in a horizontal position and stand the post up with the driver in place. This is much easier than trying to hoist 20 pounds well above your head to clear tall posts.
- Set the base of the post into position, grab the handles and pivot the post until it’s plumb. Raise the driver about 12" and then pull it down quickly to start driving the post. Repeat.
- You can push or pull the driver as you set the post to make corrections if the post starts to go off vertical. The length of your "backswing" will increase naturally as the post goes further into the ground .
- Change your orientation to the post by 90 degrees (Front to Side) every two or three strokes to keep it from leaning in or out from the fence line.
- Cut a piece of lumber to the height that you want your fence and use it to quickly gauge the height for each post.
- If the post goes off vertical no matter how much you try to correct it – you’re probably hitting the side of a rock. In most cases, you can just pull out the post, move it a few inches and try again.
Setting Tent Stakes
I used my fence driver to set 42" stakes for a 50 x 20 foot tent for a backyard wedding. In about 5 minutes, I was able to set a dozen stakes, deep enough to be "hands free" for my four brothers, nephew and a brother-in law to take turns driving them home with their sledgehammers.