How long to dig a grave by hand?

I was digging a large trench for some arborvitae last night, and the end result looked very much like a shallow grave. It got me to wondering, how long would it take a reasonably healthy, able-bodied person to dig a regulation grave by hand? I had a shovel and a pickaxe with one flat end, and it was hard work to get to where I dug.

So, here is the question - you are a summer intern for Sam and Dean Winchester, and they need you to dig a grave for them while they are off slaying a demon. You have a shovel and the pickaxe, and your ground is relatively soft, not hard packed clay. (I’m in Oregon, near a farming region, for reference.)

How long to dig a 6 foot deep grave by yourself?

I would say at least a full 8 hours… In TV shows, it usually seems to be a few hour job, and the diggers aren’t completely wiped out when they are done, and I just can’t believe that to be realistic.

I can’t provide a good answer for a grave specifically but I’ve dug many holes in the ground over the years. 2 guys digging a 6deepx7longx3 1/2wide is gonna take a good 5 hours. With 3 or 4 guys you could probably cut it down to 3hours.

My personal best is 1:37:34, but I was in a hurry.
Seriously, if you use the 3-7-77 Montana Vigilante thingy, and let’s say a shovelful of dirt is 8" cubed, and you dig about a shovelful every 15 seconds, that would be around 2 hours. I’d say 3 to allow for lemonade breaks and such.

When we had our sewer lines replaced, two guys dug a trench about 3 feet deep and 30 feet long (maybe longer, I haven’t measured our back yard) in about 8 hours. They didn’t dig at the same time, one dug while the other rested, and they took turns. I don’t think it would have taken long for those two to dig a grave, maybe 2 hours.

I hate that, when you just have to get rid of a body, and the man is rushing you.

You seem to be quite the Shoveler, by the way. The trench I dug was about 6 feet long, 2.5 feet wide, and about 2.5 feet deep. Part of the dirt was already turned up, and I think it took me about an hour to get all of the dirt out. If I had to go another 4 feet deeper, I would not have been able to do it in another hour.

It was just a back-of-an-envelope calculation. You’ll never catch me toiling like that, ever, unless I’m doing hard time.

No you couldn’t. Once you get down a certain amount where are those extra guys going to stand? Granted, you can rest some and take turns, but at some point you have to get in the grave and I’m not sure two people can even do that together.

The deeper you dig the harder it is, because of the dirt removal. You can’t expect to dig fast below a couple feet. Somebody with a hoist and bucket could make it much faster for the digger. Then they only lift the soil a couple feet again.

My experience at digging garden pools about four feet deep is that earth becomes more densely packed the deeper you go. Obviously a function of the soil type, but at pipe burying depth the soil has been worked by drainage, worms and armadillos. :slight_smile:

Yes this is very important when considering digging. For anything in my field of work we typical bring in a backhoe for anything deeper then 4 feet, as it ends up being more cost effective for the customer.

It was a number of years ago, but I dug a hole 4’X4’X4’ for a tree. I had watered the ground for a couple of days, so it wasn’t too hard.
It took me about 2 hours to dig all the dirt out.

That would be a mattock.

Simply do what I do: Dig the grave beforehand.

I’ve actually participated in a grave-digging. Bunch of cousins and a couple uncles dug the grave for Grandpa by hand. Unfortunately for the OP, it was over 10 years ago and I really don’t know how long it took. Probably about 3 hours. It was afternoon, and we didn’t rush out from lunch or back for supper. Course, we had 8-10 people there and so you could go pretty hard when it was your turn. Two people in the hole to start, but after it gets deeper there’s only room for one using a long-handled spade to throw the dirt out. As I recall we’d put the shorter folks down two at a time to break a bunch of dirt loose, then a taller one to throw it out.

I’m just glad this didn’t have “Need answer FAST!!!” in the thread title.

Never dug a grave, but I dug a basement stairwell. It was about 12’ long, and 11’ at the deepest point. There were three of us - I was breaking up the dirt with a thin post-hole shovel, a second man was shoveling up the broken dirt and tossing it up, and the third guy actually caught the tossed dirt on his shovel, which he then tossed into the dumpster. It probably took six hours, as this was in Kansas City where any dirt more than a couple of feet deep is actually red clay.

The same project required digging a “French drain” system all around the basement perimeter, 75’ long and 16" to 24" deep, and a 4’ deep pit for the sump pump.

This experience filled me with the resolve to never find myself in a situation where I would have to dig a grave.

Thanks! I didn’t know the name, and a quick google search only described pickaxes with two points or with one pointy/one flat end.

So it seems, as most things go on TV, even the work needed to dig a grave is abbreviated.

Note to self: if you need to dig a big hole, get a backhoe.

My foster brother and I dug many graves 30+ years ago. I can’t remember ever timing it but one cemetery was sandy loam and the other was clay. The clay one had a storage building for winter, as frost and clay made for imposable digging.
We had a reflector hood to get through the frost at the sandy cemetery.
$20.00 was split for the work.
I think one of the biggest misconceptions is about the depth. I never dug a grave deeper than 5-5.5 ft… The only thing I ever heard was 6’ was for communicable diseases.
My dislike for a lawn mower stems from mowing the cemetery(push mower w/motor). That was a never-ending-job:( Today with the smooth riders/Ipods its a decent job.

A few years ago my girlfriend (now wife), buddy and I were hanging out in my apartment on a hot Chicago summer night.

He gets a call from his girlfriend’s widowed mother that her dog (very old and sick) just died and to please come over. Turns out she wants it buried in her overgrown backyard because that’s where all the other family pets are buried.

My buddy’s girlfriend is out of town, so my wife drives us to the Home Despot to pick up a pair of shovels and some white sheets at Target. We pick up some old kerosene lanterns at his place for light and a case of beer.

My wife spends time with this poor woman who is pretty distraught while my buddy and I use the sheet to carry this 80lb dog outside. There is no way he died that evening. Probably that morning or the day before. I threw up after we got it outside.

We had a hell of a time picking a spot because of trees, roots and previously buried pets.

What a surreal scene if the neighbors happened to look out the window: Two dudes swigging beer and digging an obvious grave in an overgrown backyard at 10pm on a hot and steamy night by kerosene lantern light. I’m surprised the cops weren’t notified.

To answer your question: It took two men 4.5 hours to dig a 5’ long 4’ wide 5’ deep grave half drunk at night under lantern light in 80+ degree temps.

Good times.