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Posthole diggers.

The ultimate powered posthole digger system was designed, fabricated and patented about 40 years ago by Ken Wesbrock, owner of Valley Fencing and Construction in Aurora, Illinois. He built three systems, one for each of his three tractors--two Cub Cadets and a small Ford tractor--in the former Cadillac dealership garage.

Each unit was self-contained, fabricated out of 2-by-2 heavy wall tubing, and was fastened to the tractor's frame rails with U-bolts. The hydraulic reservoir was on the left side to balance the drilling carriage on the right side, and the hydraulic auger motor rode on a captive carriage that moved on brass slides screwed onto the vertical frame. The auger motor carriage was powered up and down with another hydraulic motor with a gear that engaged a heavy fixed roller chain. The carriage frame pivoted at the chassis mount frame and was aligned vertically with a hydraulic cylinder.

This alignment adjustment allowed fence postholes to be drilled vertically, even when driving along the contour of a hillside. The fenceline did not have to be straddled. All control valves were mounted to the rollover protection structure frame with U-bolts. Power was supplied by the tractor's hydraulic pump.

These were the first prototypes and were immediately placed into daily service. We unbolted each system after six years of abusive use for a thorough examination and found no signs of structural failure. Although they could be judged serviceable, we replaced the brass bearing strips on the vertical frames. The only maintenance performed was hose replacements and fluid changes during those first six years. The brass slides and roller chains were greased with boat trailer wheel-bearing grease.

The soil auger's leading edges were reinforced with steel strips and flame tempered. Replaceable carbide-tipped bits from a trenching excavator were then welded to the reinforced leading edges. Asphalt and frozen ground didn't stop fence hole drilling.

I don't know whether or not Mr. Wesbrock was ever able to get a manufacturer interested in purchasing his patents, but I do know that the less-than-delicate operators he employed never came in from a job early because the drilling system failed. They managed to break other things, but not that drilling system.

JAMES TOMELL

Antipolo City, Rizal, Philippines

What an incredible account, James. Our research didn't turn up much in the way of Ken Wesbrock or his company and posthole diggers. Perhaps another reader can shed even more light on this historical account of an all-time favorite farm tool.--Editors

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Title Annotation:Mail Call
Author:Tomell, James
Publication:Grit
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2015
Words:411
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