A carpenter’s instrument for boring holes, chiefly in wood. It consists of a long shank or axis having a cutting edge at one end, and usually a handle placed crosswise at the other, by which it is turned with both hands. — Webster, 1882
Maple sugar is made by tapping maple trees with a gimlet and grocery store hogsheads with an auger. -Brookings County Press, May 4, 1882
An auger is a wood-working tool used to bore holes. In published Little House on the Prairie, Charles Ingalls uses an auger to bore holes for pegs in the slabs of wood he uses to build a door; in the manuscript, Pa nails the door pieces together. In Farmer Boy, Almanzo Wilder and his father use an auger to bore holes for pegs when constructing a lumber sled; in the manuscript, an auger is also used to tap the maple trees for sap collection.
The auger most likely used was a T auger, consisting of fairly large diameter drill bit with a wooden handle attached at a right angle to the long shaft. If the handle broke or split, another one could easily be fashioned from a piece of wood. If the bit became dull, it was sharpened with a file. The bit had a small screw tip used to position the bit in the center of the spot to be drilled, then the hands grasped the handles on either side, turning a half or quarter turn before letting go and re-positioning the hands. The angled sides of the bit cut into the wood, creating a round hole. The twisted shank cleared chips out of the hole as it was drilled.
When pegs were to be used, the hole was drilled slightly smaller than the peg so that it fit tightly and wouldn’t come lose. An auger could also be placed with the screw tip at the edge of a piece of wood in order to cut a half-hole.
auger (FB 9, 24; LHOP 8)