No matter what method I use to dig a post hole, a significant amount of dirt at the bottom has to be compacted before I can place my concrete. But commercially available tampers fall short with this task, because of either their light weight or their small contact surfaces. I solved both of these shortcomings in my own design, which uses a 24-inch-long section of a treated 6x6 post and $20 worth of 3/4-inch-diameter black gas pipe (see photos, slideshow).

First, I cut about 1 inch off the post’s edges at 45 degrees and applied waterproofer/preservative to all the cuts. The bevels prevent sharp corners from catching the sides of the hole, allowing the post to do a better job of tamping the dirt around the hole’s bottom circumference. Then I centered a floor flange fitting on one end of the 6x6 and screwed it on with 2 1/2-inch #12 stainless screws. I fastened a 36-inch length of straight pipe to the flange and added a T-fitting to the other end. A pair of 6-inch-long pipes with end fittings completed the handles.

The weight and large contact surface of the 6x6 makes easy work of compacting any hole 8 inches in diameter or larger. The 63-inch finished height of the tamper places the handle at a comfortable working height in a 42-inch-deep hole. Finally, the T-style handle allows me to generate more downward compacting force, which conventional tampers costing twice as much can’t match because they have straight handles.

Rich Blumer owns BREM Construction Co., in Streamwood, Ill.