Here is an excerpt on driving wooden fence posts by hand the old-fashioned way, from Fences, Gates, and Bridges, first published in 1900.

“Where the soil is soft, loose, and free from stone, posts may be driven more easily and firmly than if set in holes dug for the purpose. An easy method is shown in figure 149. A wagon is loaded with posts and furnished with a stage in the rear end of the box, upon which a person can stand to give the posts the first start. Another man holds the posts upright while they are driven. When one post is driven into its place, the wagon is moved to the next place, and this operation is repeated.

Driving Fence Posts

“To drive posts, a wooden maul should be used. This is made of a section of an elm trunk or branch, eight or nine inches in diameter, figure 150. An iron ring is driven on each end, and wedged all around, the wood at the edge being beaten down over the rings with a hammer or the pole of an axe. To prevent the posts from splitting or being battered too much, the ends of the maul should be hollowed a little, and never rounded out, and the ends of the posts should be beveled all around. The hole in the maul for the handle should be made larger on one side, and lengthwise of the maul, the handle spread by two wedges driven in such a way as not to split the maul.

Maul for Driving Posts

“Posts are very liable to split in driving, unless some precaution is used. This damage and loss can be avoided in great measure by proper preparation of the posts before they are driven. The tops of sawed posts should have the sides cut off, as in figure 151, or simply cut off each corner, as in figure 153, while a round post should be shaped as in figure 152. The part of the post removed need not be more than half an inch in thickness, but when the corners are cut away, the chip should be thicker. In driving, it is very important to strike the post squarely on the top, and not at one corner or side.”


If you are interested in more on this subject, check out Fences, Gates and Bridges and How To Build Them. The second edition of this classic is rife with wonderful illustrations and informative graphs and tables, is the perfect pocket guide to American ingenuity.