The auger was an important tool for carpenters and wheelwrights. It enabled them to bore holes of a width and depth impossible to achieve by using lighter wood-boring tools such as the brace and bit or gimlet. Paired with the auger were annular bits, designed to cut away wood around a central peg in a board either for making plugs or cutting around nails or screws.

(Right) Auger, S. Horton (Maker), United States, 1775-1825. Wood; Iron; Steel. 1.5" (H) , 14.4" (L) , 12.6" (W). There is a mark stamped "[S] HORTO[?]" (partially effaced) set in a serrated rectangular border on the shaft. Museum purchase with funds provided by Henry Belin du Pont 1957.0026.110

Nathaniel Dominy V worked with shell augers - also called a "nose" or "downcutting" auger - to create spigot holes in casks or socketing chair legs. The nose auger was still commonly used in the nineteenth century.

(Left) Shell auger, 1800-1830. Beech, American. 19.9" (L) , 17.12" (W). Marks: On shaft "ND" (conjoined) "WR" over "E" On handle: Stamped "ND" (conjoined) at either side of the center top. Museum purchase with funds provided by Henry Belin du Pont 1957.0026.106

Developed in the nineteenth century, the spiral auger was a revolutionary improvement over the old augers in use for hundreds of years. The tool required no starting hole, and the shank, twisted in a spiral, is designed to discharge shavings, not to cut.

(Right) Spiral auger, 1810-1850. Probably Birmingham, England. Wood; Iron. 23.4" (L) , 15.6" (W). Museum purchase with funds provided by Henry Belin du Pont 1957.0026.093


The Dominy craftsmen used awls to pierce holes in leather and wood. Certain types of "scratch" awls scribed lines or markings into wood as determined by the rule, bevel, or square. Also useful were bradawls, which come with a chisel-shaped edge to push aside wood fibers without splitting them. This was especially important to rural craftsmen like the Dominys in applying decorative moldings to cabinetwork and in attaching the moldings with sprigs.