Tools Used For Digging Fossils

You must use the right tools when digging for fossils to avoid breaking your finds.

Knowing that the tiny fossil you just dug up has not seen daylight for possibly millions of years is enough to get anyone hooked on fossil hunting. Both young and old can enjoy collecting fossils as a hobby, and some large examples can be valuable. Being correctly prepared, with the right tools and suitable clothing, will allow you to dig for fossils year-round.

Geological Hammer

These specialized hammers come in various weights, ranging from 8 ounces to 40 ounces and are used to split rocks that you believe contain a fossil. The head usually has one, square flat surface and a thinner chisel-like blade opposite. For longevity, you can use steel-handled hammers, which are sometimes cast from one piece of metal. A disadvantage of steel-handled hammers is that they transfer most of the shock of impact to your arm. Using a wooden or fiberglass handled hammer reduces this shock.


Picks are used where fossils are located in soft rock and clay soils. The long head usually has a sharp point at one end and a chisel at the other to remove loose material during a dig. As there is no flat surface on the head, they cannot be used to drive a chisel into rock so are often carried in conjunction with a geological hammer.


Large chisels are used to split tough or large rocks in the hope of discovering a fossil within. If you take a selection of sizes or, at least a large and a small chisel, you can use the small one for more intricate work once a larger rock has been split. Ideally, you should use a chisel that incorporates a safety guard on the handle to protect your hand. Choose a chisel made from chrome vanadium to ensure that its blade stays sharp.

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Fossils can be extremely delicate and can be destroyed by careless use of heavy implements. Fine sand or shale can be removed with a brush, with little chance of damaging the specimen. Use a fine bristled brush to avoid breaking the fossil while deciding how it can be extracted using your other fossil digging tools.