The term "hand compactor" can refer to several types of machines used to compact materials or items. A tamp, for example, is a type of hand compactor used to compress soil or other fine particulate matter; it consists of a long metal or wood handle, at the end of which is a heavy steel plate that can be pressed or slammed against materials to compact them. Another type of compactor that is hand-operated may be used to press asphalt into cracks or holes that may have been drilled for specific purposes.
Other machines may also be considered hand compactors, even if they are motorized. A vibratory plate compactor, for example, may fall into this category because the user will operate the machine using hand controls and he or she will guide the machine by manipulating a fixed handle. The vibratory plate compactor features a broad, flat, steel plate that will vibrate at a high rate of speed to create dynamic compaction of particulate matter such as soil or even asphalt. The user will walk behind the machine as it compacts the soil to manipulate the direction of the machine as well as the speed of the vibration.
Tamps are perhaps the most basic of all hand compactor models. These simple tools feature no motors; they accomplish compaction using the operator's own strength. The user will grasp the tool by its long, vertical handle, lift the tool off the ground, then bring the tool down against the soil or other materials that need compaction. The broad steel plate at the bottom of the handle provides a flat surface for compacting materials. This hand compactor is most useful for smaller projects; larger projects would take too long to accomplish using this method, so plate compactors or even motorized compactor rollers may be used instead.
In recycling settings, the term hand compactor may refer to a machine that is used to crush various types of materials. Such machines will generally require the user to activate the crushing motion manually; this is often achieved using a metal arm that is cantilevered for leverage. The user will pull on the arm once materials are loaded into the compaction chamber, and the arm will activate a crushing mechanism that will crush the material into a compact shape. Such compactors are usually used for smaller items or lower capacity jobs; sometimes they are even used in the home to facilitate easier recycling habits.