What are the different types of augers?
Outside of gardening tasks augers are available which are used for woodworking, plumbing and drilling into ice. Giant motorised augers are used in large scale construction projects for creating foundations, digging for water and even oil. However, for the purposes of this article we will only refer to the hole augers used in gardens and yards for structural, gardening and landscaping.
We will only be discussing hole augers which are used to drill holes in the ground by hand, instead of motorised augers which are powered by electric or gasoline motors.
- 1 What are the different types of augers?
- 2 How do I choose the right hand auger?
What to know before buying a hole auger
- 3.1 How many different types of tasks are you planning?
- 3.2 How wide do the holes need to be?
- 3.3 How deep do the holes need to be?
- 3.4 How many holes will you be digging?
- 3.5 What type of soil do you plan to dig?
- 3.6 How much storage space do you have?
- 3.7 How often do you plan on using the auger?
- 3.8 Is comfort important?
- 3.9 What size auger do I need?
- 3.10 What are garden augers made of?
- 3.11 How to choose a simple garden auger
- 3.12 How to choose an auger blade
- 3.13 What auger sizes and configurations are available?
- 4 Buying a hand auger
- 5 Sources
How do I choose the right hand auger?
Width and diameter of the blade
First off you need to choose between a small, medium, or wide blade depending on the types of tasks you’ll be attempting to do. Anything smaller than 4 inches in diameter is typically used for planting seeds, bulbs and smaller plants, with mid-sized blades up to the 9-inch diameter more suited for larger plants, shrubs and small trees. An auger blade larger than 9 inches is most suited for structural work such as digging holes for fence posts.
It may be possible to purchase a hole auger supplied with different sizes of removable blades giving you the choice to dig different sized holes.
Length of blade
This will dictate how deep you will be able to dig, a longer blade will dig deeper whereas a shorter blade can only dig a shallower hole. Our advice when choosing the right auger is to pick the longest one possible as you can not only dig deeper holes, but still dig shallow holes just by stopping turning when reaching the desired depth.
A hole auger is a heavy-duty tool which is subject to a lot of stress and pressure during use, therefore always look for a model which is durable and does not bend or break if it encounters an obstacle in the ground.
Collapsible hole augers might have a point of failure between the shaft and removable handle – therefore look for joints which can be locked securely rather than flimsy screws which could snap under stress.
Always look for a steel construction with the blade and if possible either a solid wooden or hollow steel shaft and handle. Hadfield steel and manganese steel are perfect for augers due to their resistance to abrasion and high impact strength, carbide blades can be sharpened making them suitable for slicing through tree roots.
The type of finish found on a hole auger can prolong the life span of the tool provided that you clean the auger after every use. A coating of paint, carbon or epoxy over the blade will protect it from rust and decay but remember if the coating is scratched it will lose protection in that area.
Height of shaft
Operating an auger involves turning a handle repeatedly then lifting out a heavy tool made of steel containing soil out of a deep hole in the ground, this type of work can take its toll on your back. Therefore, you should use an auger where the handles sit comfortably at waist height to avoid stretching and bending down constantly.
Width of handles
The longer auger handles are, the less effort is required to turn the auger into the ground. An auger with short handles might look compact and easier to store however is a lot hard to turn, especially in denser soil.
Types of handles
Thinner hollow handles are more likely to bend or break than a handle made of a thick solid material, and a square shaped handle without grips will feel uncomfortable after prolonged use unless wearing padded gloves.
You will need to grab the auger handle tightly with your hands, so we suggest that you look for an auger where the handles have rubberised grips on the ends. Not only is this more comfortable for prolonged periods of use, but grips also prevent sweaty hands or the smooth fabric of gloves from slipping on a shiny painted handle. Loosing your grip suddenly on an object that you are leaning your entire bodyweight on can be a painful and dangerous experience.
As with most tools you will need to consider where you will be storing them when not in use, the large T shape of a hole auger may not be easy too slot into a small tool-shed. Therefore, you might want to buy an auger with a removable handle that can be taken off the shaft for storing, then safely attach it back to operate.
Check how the handle attaches to shaft, a flimsy bendable pin or loose-fitting bolt could be a point of failure – does the handle wobble around or feel safe and secure? Also check if the shaft can be attached to more than the central location on the handle – this might be useful when digging a hole next to an obstacle such a wall. If you can attach the shaft to one end of the handle rather than the middle, then this gives you the option to perform 180 degree turns of the auger.
Check that it is possible to replace the blade, shaft, and handle on the auger you plan to buy. Auger parts are available separately in a wide variety of different sizes and should work out cheaper than having to replace an all-in-one hole auger.
Type of soil
Some augers simply aren’t suitable for some terrains, if there is a chance you’ll encounter tough rocky soil then you should invest in a quality hole auger with robust build quality.
Value for money
As with any tool – buying the cheapest is not always the best option; especially with a tool subjected to repeated stress. You could end up snapping a cheap flimsy hole auger midway through a job forcing you to purchase a replacement.
Remember that an auger can be used for multiple tasks around the garden, so it can make sense to have a good quality tool to hand ready for any unforeseen digging task in the future.
What to know before buying a hole auger
Knowing exactly what you will using an auger for and how often you will use it will help you decide which hole auger to purchase.
How many different types of tasks are you planning?
Hole augers are a flexible tool capable of a wide range of gardening, landscaping and structural tasks – even if you’re only intending to do one task now it can be worth investing on a quality auger with longer lasting build quality should you find yourself needing to perform more tasks in the future.
How wide do the holes need to be?
Different blade diameters are used for different tasks, generally smaller blades are better for gardening tasks like planting bulbs whereas larger ones are better for structural tasks like fence posts.
How deep do the holes need to be?
Longer blades dig deeper holes which are more suited for structural placements such as fence posts. Longer blades can also dig shallow holes by stopping mid-way, but short blades are limited to digging shallow holes.
How many holes will you be digging?
For longer repetitive tasks you will need a strong heavy-duty auger which is comfortable to use and will not fall apart. Building a fencing perimeter around an acre of land will need an auger which is substantially more durable and comfier than one used to plant an occasional shrub.
What type of soil do you plan to dig?
Softer, lighter or sandier soil shouldn’t present a problem to a lightweight auger but anything thicker will require a heavy-duty auger – especially the deeper you dig. Augurs can’t cut through rock and thick roots, if you think you’ll encounter these obstacles then realistically might need to use a digging bar too.
How much storage space do you have?
Remember that you will need to store your auger when it is not in use, the T handles on some earth augurs are removable so will use up even less space in the garage.
How often do you plan on using the auger?
If you are only planning on using a hole auger just once then a cheap model should still be fine, but we recommend always thinking longer term when buying tools and to avoid anything too flimsy.
Is comfort important?
Comfort is an important factor to consider when creating multiple holes for fence posts over several hours. Heavy stainless-steel blades and frames, short shaft lengths and handles without grips can leave you with a strained back and sore hands after extensive use. Remember you will repeatedly be lifting your auger out of the ground, a longer shaft means you don’t have to bend over as far, and don’t forget some padded gardening gloves to avoid blisters!
What size auger do I need?
The type of job you intend to do will reflect the length and width of the auger blade that you need.
A thicker width of around 9 inches is the most heavy duty auger, suited for foundations for fence posts or gates.
Mid-sized augers are mainly geared towards landscaping, if you are planting large plants, shrubs and small trees then an auger between 4 to 9 inches is ideal.
You can plant vegetables, annuals, potted plants, bulbs and also create grass plugs with augers less than 4 inches in diameter.
What are garden augers made of?
Typically, the helical corkscrew shaped auger bit is made of cold-rolled steel, depending on the design it might have a wooden shaft and handle or hollow steel tube shaft and handle.
How to choose a simple garden auger
If you are choosing a simple no-frills manual auger, then always pick the size matching your requirements and aim to purchase the most durable version available. The weight, comfort, handle shape and grips will be features to sacrifice if you are on a budget – ultimately a well-built auger with the correct sized blade for your needs is most important.
How to choose an auger blade
To satisfy any drilling condition there are numerous blade options for hole augers, different blade materials will be suited to different types of soil with heavier duty metals such as carbide more suited for augers used in rocky soil.
The length and diameter of the auger blade are the two biggest factors when choosing an auger blade. A larger diameter will result in a wider hole whilst longer blade will result in a deeper hole. More expensive augers use small removable blades that attach to the end of the corkscrew which can swapped over depending on the type on soil without needing to swap the entire tool.
What auger sizes and configurations are available?
There are 3 common sizes of auger for gardening and landing – up to 4 inches in diameter, 4-9 inches then 9 inches and above. Larger diameters of the solid strong stainless steel bits create wider holes and are more suited for tasks such as digging fence posts. Augers also vary in worm length which give the option to create deeper holes. Handles are T shaped or a mechanical crank styled made of either hollow stainless steel or wood.
Buying a hand auger
How much does an auger cost?
This will all depend on the materials, diameter, and length of the auger along with other factors such as the blade finishing and optional grips.
Where to buy an auger?
You can purchase an auger by supporting your local garden centre, local hardware store or purchasing an auger online. You might also consider hiring an auger, however due to the small storage requirements and low price of buying a brand new one there may not be much advantage in hiring the tool.
Where can I find a small auger?
Augers are available in combinations of all lengths and diameters including auger bits for cordless drills starting from 1.6 inches in diameter as short as 7 inches long. An auger can be any length, it makes sense to use the longest option and simply stop digging when the auger reaches the desired depth.
- powerplanter.com – Power Planter Auger Guide – Learn to pick the right auger for your landscaping or gardening project with our Auger Guide. Plus, you can learn how to power your auger. 9th April 2015.
- theimpatientgardener.com – How to use a bulb auger – Using a bulb auger attached to a cordless drill makes bulb planting so much faster and easier. 29th October 2016.
- How to choose the best hand auger
- What are the pros and cons of a hole auger?
- How to prepare to use a hole auger
- How to use an auger to dig a hole
- How to get an auger unstuck out of the ground
- Hole augers vs post hole diggers
- Using a cordless drill with an auger bit for gardening
- How to clean a hole auger
- Auger maintenance