I seldom see any current
woodworkers using this method to make perfectly round or square
holes in wooden workpieces.
When I was but a youngster burning
augers were common here in the Missouri Ozarks and were often
used by blacksmith's to make bolt holes in wooden wagon parts.
But their use was not limited to smiths because I remember a man
named Punk Murray sitting by a small fire in his yard burning
holes in wood with a burning awl.
My impression is that this was a
common method used during pioneer times to make holes in logs
and rived boards.
In 1974 I made a burning auger that
I have used many times since. It has a square cross section at
the top for a distance of about two inches and then is square
tapered to a sharp tip. With it I can burn 1/2-inch square holes
or use it as a reamer by turning it to create tapered holes of
various diameters smaller than 1/2 inch.
This morning I built a fire out of
fallen pecan limbs for heating the auger and demonstrating to
unplugged woodworkers just how easy it is to do. A rived red oak
board was used and I used a period brace with a quill bit to
bore a small hole through the board in order to efficiently
start the burning process.
Then, the hole was enlarged with a
period gimlet with a cow horn handle to enlarge it.