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Working with Hands - James E. Price

  Bulgarian “tri-auger”  

How long does a type of tool continue to be made and used after its invention?

Members of this group are really interested in planes and use them as have woodworkers for the past 2,000 years.

Through time, planes have evolved thanks to improvements in metallurgy and innovations on more efficient ways to hold a blade in a stock but the basic concept of a chisel captured securely in a wooden or metal body still remains.

Other tools also have deep roots in the past. A few months ago I wrote a post about a Bulgarian combination auger consisting of three different sizes of bits on a single Y-shaped piece of forged iron. It was the only one I had ever seen and I set out researching it and searching for more specimens.

I found them in different areas of Bulgaria and assembled a collection of five examples of this strange tool. In the canyons of my mind I realized I had seen an illustration of such a tool years ago.

I finally found it, a depiction of such a tool in The Codex Löffelholz written in Nurnberg, Germany in 1505. If it were in use in 1505, it is likely that the “tri-auger” had been in existence even earlier in time.

What we see in Bulgaria is a continuation of the forging and use of this tool well into The 20th Century. It was probably more widespread in Eastern Europe during the last 500 years and ceased being made and used except in The Balkans.


This is the tri-auger illustration in The Codex Löffelholz dating to the year 1505.

It is a very useful tool and the user never has to worry about his augers being separated his shop or on a job site. No matter which auger you use, the other two form the two handles for rotating it.

These two augers date from the 19th Century and came from Dobrich, Bulgaria.

The central auger came from Montana, Bulgaria and
the other two from Karlovo, Bulgaria.

This photo illustrates the largest bit on each of the three augers.
They approximate 1/2 inch in diameter.

This photo shows the middle-sized bit on each of the five augers.
They approximate 1/4th inch in diameter.

This photo shows the smallest bit on each of the augers.
They approximate 5/32nds of an inch in diameter.

It is most interesting that in Bulgaria the three sizes of augers are found in “sets” consisting of three separate bits with T-handles.

James E. Price
June, 2018




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