Augers are handheld or machine-powered tools and devices used for boring holes through surfaces like soil, wood, ice, stone, rock or pavement. You can use these tools for a wide variety of applications from digging a mere hole in soil to drilling deep into the earth through shale rock to boring a hole in ice.
Whether augers are handheld or powered by an engine, the size of an ordinary screw or several feet in diameter, the basic design and function is the same. Augers utilize a helical screw blade that enables them to bore through a surface and route displaced material out of the hole. Despite their similar basic function, a wide variety exists due to diverse and specialized applications.
Basic handheld augers have been around for thousands of years, but designs and capabilities began to advance swiftly at the onset of the industrial revolution and after the invention of the internal combustion engine. Industrial-use, internal combustion engine-powered auger boring machines were first used in the coal mining industry in the early 1930s and commercial auger boring machines became available by the early 1940s.
Augers fall into two main categories: handheld and machine.
Handheld augers can be self-powered or powered by electric or internal combustion engines. There are several types of handheld augers:
Machine augers can be used for medium to heavy-duty industrial and agricultural applications. They are often a powered attachment to a tractor or other agricultural or construction machine.
How Augers Work
Augers have a helical screw blade called a flighting that acts as a conveyor, causing debris to move up and out of the newly drilled hole as the blade is rotated.
Features of Augers
Machine-mounted agricultural and industrial augers like auger boring machines use two drive systems to accomplish their work. There are direct drive augers that use a directly mounted hydraulic motor to provide a balance of torque and revolutions per minute (RPM). Second, there are planetary augers that are powered by a gear drive system to deliver high levels of torque so they can dig through difficult ground conditions like rock, shale and clay.
Agricultural augers are often attached to tractors or other machines, allowing them to draw power from the machine’s engine. However, these augers are designed to be attached to and work with particular machines, and users should consult manufacturer’s guidelines and product specifications to determine which auger is right.
Handheld augers are portable and relatively lightweight, although models vary considerably.
All forms of auger machines and handheld augers powered by electric or internal combustion engines provide varying levels of forward thrust, torque and revolutions per minute (RPM). Other features include:
Selectable auger heads that can be specialized to cut through dirt, rock and any other type of surface
Casing size adapters
While augers large and small have the same general form and work using the same basic mechanism, their specialization allows them to complete the task of boring many different types of holes for numerous purposes.
Applications for handheld augers—whether self-powered or powered by an electric or internal combustion engine—include boring holes:
In ice for ice fishing
In the ground to plant seeds and trees, install fence posts or poles, and draw soil for samples
In wood to create screw holes or for other woodworking purposes
Agricultural augers attached to machines like tractors are also often used to bore holes for:
Planting mature trees or to help with foundation work
Moving grain by pushing it up through long metal tubes during the rotation of the helical flighting
Industrial augers like auger boring machines perform heavy-duty purposes, including:
Horizontal auger boring in coal mines
Drilling for fossil fuels through hard shale and rock formations
Boring through concrete and manmade surfaces during construction projects, particularly for completing deep foundation work
Essential specifications for all augers include feed screw requirements, such as inside diameter (ID) or the size of the core, length of the pitch or the flighting’s outside diameter (OD). Other important specifications include torque, speed, weight, forward thrust, capacity and orientation.
Specifications are necessary reference points to assist in proper use of any auger. Industrial augers, such as boring machines, contain critical information for the job. Consider specifications for the following areas:
Gearbox ratio and torque rating
Fuel type and capacity
Auger drive type
Augers are usually made of steel, although the quality and durability of the steel can range with products made from varieties like stainless steel and carbon steel. Many augers also have tips or cores made of ultra-hard materials like diamond.
Because of the range of applications for the vast array of augers on the market, selecting the right auger depends heavily on what purpose it is needed to accomplish. A woodworker or a drilling company might require a highly specialized, specific auger. However, a homeowner looking to accomplish a variety of tasks around the yard may be able to choose a general-use handheld or powered auger to complete a variety of gardening, landscaping and home project tasks.
Calibration and Standards
Calibration and standards for augers vary by the design and intended use. The complexity of an auger and its ability to work with or without hookup to a machine for central power will determine appropriate specifications. The main standard is the most general, yet critical – always use the device for its intended purpose. Forcing an auger to perform correctly for a job it was not designed to do introduces risk to safety, failure of the device and obtaining effective results. The manufacturer provides instructions for use and detailed specifications. Often, calibration and settings will be different for a particular job.
A-A-50501 - Auger machines, pipe and swer cleaner; gasoline-engine-driven, trailer mounted.
A-A-52305 - Auger, earth, boom mounted.
A-A-59144 - Auger, earth, portable; hand-held two-man gasoline-engine-driven.