June 06, 2003
Even Lileks Nods

James Lileks has more than once written things like "Screw 'em! Twice! With a rusty augur!" That's from the August 22, 2001 Bleat, but I know I've seen similar remarks much more recently, even if Google can't find them. If you're wondering, his words in that case were aimed at pretentious architects.

I think he meant to write auger, with an E -- like these, only rusty:

(There are more nifty tools at the Antiques of a Mechanical Nature site. I hope they don't mind my copying their picture: it seemed more polite than hogging their bandwidth by linking to it in situ.)

This is an augur, a Roman priest who predicted the future from bird signs:

I suppose a rusty augur would be one who had forgotten much of what he was supposed to know about augury, or screwing, or both. This picture is not just any augur, but Cicero, who once wrote that he couldn't see how two augurs could meet in the street without laughing out loud. There were sixteen of them, appointed for life, and by his time (1st century B.C.) the upper classes had lost faith in the idea that the number of vultures or other birds seen in a particular quarter of the sky from a particular vantage point at a particular time could tell them anything at all about the will of the gods.

Finally, here's an ancient image of an augur:

I lifted it from the site for a university "Introduction to Ancient Rome" course: there weren't any copyright notices, so the professor may well have borrowed some of his images without explicit permission. This one is labeled "Bronze statuette of an augur holding a lituus in both hands. From the votive hoard of Lapis Niger, Rome. ca. 550 B.C." The lituus is just a ceremonial staff, though this one looks dangerous. I don't know whether the face has worn away over the years or it never had one.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at June 06, 2003 12:57 AM

I meant what I said! Take a metal statuette of a divination expert, expose it to the elements, and -

Wait a minute. I'm apologizing for a typo from 2001?

Posted by: Lileks on June 6, 2003 03:08 PM

You're still publishing it. That's one of the powers of web publishing, and, as we've all heard, with great power comes great responsibility.

Posted by: Ray on June 6, 2003 11:05 PM

Oh lordy, my sides hurt from laughing so hard! Dr. Weevil, thank you! I am afraid that the image of a rusted, pointy statue of an augur or haruspex with a rusted, pointy object in his hands will now forever more compel me to burst out in uncontrollable laughter.

Thank you!

Posted by: Felicity on June 7, 2003 02:06 AM

Hi Dr. Weevil, funny post! In my experience however if someone talks about an "auger" they do not mean an "auger bit", which is what's in the picture; an auger is shaped similarly but larger (at least I have only seen them of 1" diameter or greater), and with a wooden handle set crossways at the top. It predates auger bits by a good long bit, probably a hundred years or more, and is used for poring large holes, I think mostly by shipbuilders and coopers (makers of barrels). Auger bits are a specialization, meant to fit into a chucked brace, which I would guess was invented sometime in the 19th century. The specific bits you show here appear to be Jennings pattern, which features two cutting edges and a double helix. Augers usually have only one cutting edge, which I think is called Irwin pattern.

Posted by: Jeremy Osner on June 8, 2003 04:58 PM

Oops, scratch that "Irwin pattern" comment -- single-twist drills are called L'Hommedieu pattern. Here is a page with good info, and a picture of many augers and gimlets (scroll down to "Boring tools"): http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~jacover/tools.htm

Posted by: Jeremy Osner on June 8, 2003 05:06 PM

"Boring tools"? But I find them fascinating! Sorry, I can't resist a pun.

And note that the weevil is classified among the boring insects, since it uses its impressive snount to bore holes in things, for instance nuts larger than itself.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on June 8, 2003 05:23 PM

Thanks, Jeremy. That page on tools was...bracing. I'd think that as a Boilermaker, you'd have preferred to present a riveting account of hammers and metal fasteners.

Yes, I know you matriculated elsewhere. I really needed the Boilermaker bit, though.

D. Perron
BSEE Purdue '83

Posted by: David Perron on June 11, 2003 07:44 AM

all those big cylinders? in the country? silos? giant vertical cylinders filled with corn, and sometimes barley etcetera. to move it? to move the corn up into the silos from the trucks that bring it and then sometimes in between the silos and later back into trucks? augers. big ones. then later still at the feed lot the grain haulers dump the corn onto an auger at the mill with a big screen like a cattle guard over it and it moves the corn up into the feed lot silos and then later other smaller augers move it as needed over and up to the top of the grain mills where first it gets steamed good and then falls between big rumbling rollers that flatten it out and it falls out of there into piles on the next lower level and the skip-loaders down there pick it up in their buckets and dump it into long open augers on the next level down where it gets mixed with molasses and antibiotics and tallow and alfalfa and one more level down it gets dropped into the backs of the feed trucks that have augers in them that keep it all mixed up on the way to the pens and then it gets augered out into the feed troughs and the cows eat it.

Posted by: msg on July 22, 2003 02:04 PM