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Equipment used for Installing Benchmarks:
This page provides information on the equipment used to establish benchmarks
for the SET. For the past 10 years nearly all SET installations have used stainless
steel rod benchmarks (and the Rod SET). The aluminum pipe benchmarks were
generally used for the older design SET's and are not commonly used today.
Stainless Steel Rod Benchmarks

1) Demolition Hammer
2) Rod Pounder
3) Sledgehammer

3" Aluminum Pipe Benchmarks
1) Vibracorer
2) Pipe Pounder
3) Vibracorer or Pounder?

Blackwater NWR, MD USA

Installing Stainless Steel Rod Benchmarks

1) Demolition Hammer

Forsythe NWR, NJ USA Generator, Demolition Hammer

A demolition hammer is a smaller, lighter version of a gasoline powered jack-hammer. Gasoline powered jack hammers typically weigh well over 50lbs (23kg). A demolition hammer weighs about 25lbs (12kg). Demolition hammers are commonly used to break up concrete and drive in electrical grounding rods. They are also excellent at driving in the stainless steel sectional rods for an SET benchmark. A demolition hammer (or Jackhammer) is the preferred method for driving in the SS rods. Demolition hammers are electric and require a small generator (~2kw) to power them. The extra gear you need to carry into the marsh is easily offset by the ease with which this tool will drive in rods.

2) Rod Pounder

Pounder - Sandy Hook, NJ USA
Pounder - ENP, FL USA
Sandy Hook, NJ USA Everglades NP, FL USA

The Rod Pounder is custom built out of steel. It is similar in design to equipment used to sink fence posts though we had it specifically made for driving 9/16" SS rods into the ground. The device is about 22" in length, 2" in diameter and has a 1" hole throughout most of it's length. The pounder weights about 19 pounds (9 kg).

The pounder works very well for all rod benchmark installations. It's easy to use, relatively safe and quieter than the other methods. This is the backup method we use if we can't get a generator and demolition hammer to the site. The only drawback is the physical labor required to drive the rods into the ground.

3) Sledgehammer

Sledge hammers can also be used to drive rods into the substrate. You need to have a pounding head on top of the SS rod to protect it from getting damaged. This method is more potentially dangerous than using the demolition hammer or pounder. We do not recommend that you use this method.

Installing 3" Aluminum Pipes

4) Vibracorer

Vibracorer - McFaddin TX
McFaddin NWR, TX USA

The vibracorer is a gasoline powered concrete vibrator used to remove air bubbles from concrete forms. We have them modified to attach to 3" aluminum pipes. The vibration of the pipe helps to drive it into the ground.

Most vibracorers consist of the following components:
1) Gas powered 3-10 HP engine. Our older machine has a 5 hp Briggs and Stratton. Our newer machine has a Honda 5 hp engine.

2) A 14', shafted cable which attaches to the engine on one end. This is about as short as you can get the cable. You can also get them in 22' lengths.

3) A 2-2.5" Vibrating head which attaches to the other end of the cable. This is a large (heavy) piece of metal. This is what "vibrates" when the engine is running.

4) Pipe attachment assembly. This is a custom built piece which connects to the vibrating head and the 3" Aluminum pipe. This piece is quite heavy.

Vibracorer - McFaddin Texas
McFaddin NWR, TX USA

NOTE: We have seen people use smaller backpack size vibrators but we have no experience with using them for SET installations.

All four of these components are HEAVY! You will also need some rope and other gear (gloves) to try to minimize your exposure to the vibrating pipe.

5) Pipe Pounder

Pounder - Cape Cod
Cape Cod NS, MA USA
Pounder Bayou Sauvage, LA
Bayou Sauvage NWR, LA

The pipe pounder is a custom built piece of equipment that consists of two parts.

a) Collar - The collar consists of two pieces of steel which are clamped to a piece of 3" pipe. There are four bolts which hold the two pieces to the pipe. This piece is about 8.5" in height.

Collar Side View
Collar - Side view

Collar - Top View
Collar - Top View

b) Pounder - This is a single piece of pipe with handles. It slides over the 3" pipe and pounds the piece which is clamped to the pipe. This piece is about 12" in length.

Pounder Photo

6) Pros and Cons of the
Vibracorer and the Pipe Pounder.

Pipe Pounder:
  • Lightweight and portable (relative to the Vibracorer).
  • Easy operation and use.
  • Not much to break down (except your back).
  • Don't need too many people. Can get away with as few as two.
  • Damage to the study area is less than with a vibracorer.
  • You can get away without having a platform (if necessary).
  • Pound, pound, pound. Driving pipes is tough work!
    No way around this.. It's hard.
  • Very noisy. You will need hearing protection.
  • You don't have to pound the pipe in. Hooray!
  • The vibracorer and associated gear is bulky and heavy. Many pieces to lug into the marsh
  • Requires at least 3 people. One to operate the engine and two (or more) others to support the pipe and help to drive it in.
  • You don't pound pipe but you do get vibrated to death!
  • Tough on the hands!
  • Need Hearing protection
  • Can be more destructive to the surrounding marsh because of all the additional gear.
  • Definitely need a platform to minimize impact.

Both of these devices are horrible backbreaking operations. I don't think one is a better choice than the other. They are both hard work. We've settled on using the Pipe Pounder since it is small, lightweight and is easier to carry around in the marsh. In areas with a lot of clay, we've had to use the vibracorer. But overall, we prefer the Pipe Pounder.

It does depend on the area you are working in. Many of our sites are logistically difficult to get to so the less gear the better. If you can essentially drive up to your study site with a truck. The vibracorer wouldn't be a bad option. Just be aware that there's a lot of gear associated with a vibracorer.