Genealogy & DNA Studies
DIY Grave Poker
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ravemarkers often fall over and then quickly get covered by leaves.
The leaves decay and become dirt.
After a few years or decades, a marker can be completely hidden just under the surface, and the grave location lost
Here's a DIY (Do It Yourself) article describing how to build a simple tool that can be used to
find makers that are just a few inches below the surface.
It consists of a wooden pole with a sharpened metal spear on one end.
The DIY grave poker can be built for just a few dollars in materials and a little handywork on your part.
I hope you find the instructions clear and I wish you well in finding lost grave markers.
Note: The gravepoker sort of looks like a medieval weapon, so don't let the kids get ahold of it.
- Roger Arrick
All of this material can be had at any home improvement store such as Home Depot or Lowes.
Total is about $15
• 12" or more of a 1/4 inch steel rod - not aluminum.
• 6 foot wooden clothes rod, normally 1.5" diameter.
• Wood glue, epoxy, Gorilla or other type of strong glue.
• Wood saw.
• Hack saw with a metal-cutting blade (Most are).
• File, sandpaper - or preferably a belt sander or grinder.
• Drill and 1/4 inch drill bit.
Cut Wooden Pole
Cut the wooden pole to a convienent length.
About 5 foot works well.
Sand off any splinters on the ends and the entire pole.
Cut Metal Rod
Cut the metal rod to about 9".
Steel is tough so use a hack saw and blade made for the task.
Clamp the rod in a vice first and saw away.
It doesn't take long.
Point Metal Rod
This is the business end of the grave poker.
The metal rod needs a decent point to penetrate the ground.
The point doesn't have to be sharp like a knife, just pointed gently.
The easiest way is to use a belt sander or a grinder, but a file, sand paper and elbow grease can also do the job.
Don't worry about making the point perfect because it'll be all dirty and dented up in no time anyway.
Slot Metal Rod
The metal rod must be secured within the wooden pole or it will come out when pulling it out of the ground.
Putting a few slots in the metal rod will give the glue something to grip and solve this problem.
The rod will be in about 3 inches, so put half a dozen slots within 3 inches of the unpointed end.
Clamp the wooden pole with a vice or workbench you can access the end.
Use a drill (preferably electric) with a 1/4 inch drill bit that is at least 4 inches long.
It's best to drill the hole 3 inches deep or more.
It's not important that the hole be in the exact center of the wooden pole but it will look prettier if you do.
Insert Metal Rod
Put some glue into the hole on the wooden pole, then pound in the metal rod.
Glue will seep out - that's ok.
Let it dry overnight while you're looking up cemeteries to visit tomorrow.
The toe pusher is not required but it can help you push the poker into hard ground.
Basically it just provides a place to put your foot and add some pressure.
I haven't found a good off-the-shelf item that can be used as a toe pusher
but some of the options that work OK are metal L-brackets and hose hangers.
A simple piece of wood attached to the pole with strong screws might also work.
If the wooden pole is unfinished, you may want to put a coating of lacquer on it to prevent splinters
and give a better grip.
A coating will also allow your poker to survive the elements longer if stored outside.
Check the paint department of a home improvement store for all the options.
Personally, I like the simplicity and quick drying action of the spray-on Lacquer,
but polyurethane and other products will also work.
Find a Marker
Now it's time to put the poker to use.
One good place to look is in empty spaces within well-defined rows.
You can usually tell the general area that a marker should be.
Remember that the marker may have fallen forward or backward, so check those locations too.
And don't forget footmarkers, they are often small and easily covered up by dirt.
Footmarkers can be a valuable aid to confirm a worn headstone if they have initials on them.
Hey, that just might work!