How to Use a One Man Auger Machine

Digging holes in dirt is easy when you have a post hole auger machine.  But what if you’re stuck digging those post holes yourself? 

How to use a one man auger machine is simpler than you think. 

Let’s find out how you can get those post holes dug today! 

how to use a one man auger machine
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How to Use a 1 Man Auger Machine 

If you’re using an earth auger in basic soil, you can totally do it with a 1 man auger.  Here are the steps to get your DIY drilling done! 

  1. Mark off your utility lines so you know where they are   
  2. Check your auger to make sure all the parts are in good working order   
  3. Predig a small pilot hole with a shovel in each spot where you want to drill a hole   
  4. Start your auger and place it in the center of your pre-dug starting hole   
  5. Brace your left side against the auger and hold fast against the clockwise torque 
  6. Drill down a bit at a time and reverse the auger out of the hole and remove any soil.  Too much soil in the hole and your auger might get stuck  
  7. Do this a few times and your hole will be finished! 


Tools You Need to Get Those Post Holes Done 

On top of having an earth auger, you will need a few extra tools on hand to make sure the job gets done.   

You will need a shovel to start your hole, a wheelbarrow for the extra dirt, a digging bar to chop away at roots, dislodge rocks, and working at hard soil.   Some folks prefer a different kind of digging tool called a Root Slayer Shovel.

You might also need a clamshell digger to get rid of the dirt at the bottom of your hole or to dig deeper, past the limits of your auger machine.  

Auger Machine: Using an Auger in Rocky Soil Alone 

Most soil will have rocks in it.  That doesn’t mean you can’t drill a hole by yourself.  It just means you will need to use some extra tools and take a bit more time than if you were using a 2 man auger. 

A digging bar is an essential tool here.  When you are drilling a hole in the ground and you get to a rocky part, you will reverse your auger out of the hole.   

Taking your hands, shovel or clamshell digger, remove the extra soil from the hole.  Take your digging bar and stab and pry at the hard ground and rocks to loosen them.  

Using either your hand or shovel/clamshell digger, remove those rocks/roots/hard soil from the hole.  You are now ready to put your auger machine back in the hole and keep drilling. 

How Deep Can Post Hole Diggers Drill Holes in the Ground? 

How deep can a one man auger dig?  While there is a bunch of post hole diggers available with different drilling depths, most augers tend to dig down to about 3 feet.   

If you need to go deeper, you can buy extensions that will get your hole to around 4-5 feet deep for a small cost.  Some post hole augers come with extensions so make sure to check that the auger you’re buying can dig as deep as you need to go.

Can One Person Operate an Auger?

Yes, one person can operate an auger. Actually, most of them are made for use by just 1 person. Although some augers are designed for use by 2 people and they are more powerful and 1 person augers.

Manual augers, such as a post hole digger or bulb auger, can be operated by one person. One person can hold the handle and turn it to dig the hole.

Gasoline-powered augers, either for ice fishing or digging post holes, can easily be operated by one person. Same goes for propane and electric powered augers.

When using an auger, remember to let the weight of the machine do the work instead of pushing down on the auger while its drilling. Also, if you hit rocks or roots, let go of the throttle right away, lift out the auger, and dig out the obstruction by hand using one of the tools discussed in our digging in rocky soil post. Always know where your kill switch is for your auger.

Use your auger at the minimum throttle level required to drill, this reduces kickback if you hit a rock or root. Only increase the throttle as needed. Be prepared when drilling in tough soil conditions for kickback.

You will have to stop drilling once an awhile and lift out your auger to clear dirt out of the hole, which can be tiring if you’re doing this alone.

It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines when operating an auger, regardless of the type of auger. Also, be aware of your own physical limitations and if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe operating the auger, it is best to get help from another person or professional.

How Hard is it to Use a 1 Man Auger?

Using a one-man auger can be challenging and physically demanding, depending on the type of soil and the size of the hole you are digging. It’s always good to watch a few videos and maybe have a friend around when you use it for the first time.

Manual augers are not as physically demanding as powered augers. These tools are designed for small, shallow holes and can be operated by one person without much difficulty.

Gas, electric and propane powered augers are designed for larger and deeper holes, and they can be heavy and difficult to control. Operating a heavier and powered auger requires some physical strength, as well as the ability to handle and control the weight of the machine. This is especially true in less than ideal soil conditions where roots and rocks might get in the way of drilling holes.

The Best Tool for Digging Holes: Using a Gas Earth Auger Machine 

Getting through anything but the easiest soil (like sand) will require power and torque.  The best tool for penetrating through roots, rocky and hard soil is going to be a gas powered auger.  Read our Best Gas Auger Reviews post to buy your next auger.

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Precautions: Call Before You Dig! 

You never know what is underneath your top soil.  You could have gas and water lines, power, just about anything.  Don’t take any risks.   

Always give yourself enough time to find out what is underneath the areas you are planning on digging and call 811 to connect with your local utilities services for full details. 

Also, a little know fact here, you will want to make sure that your tetanus shots are up to date before digging around in the dirt.  Apparently, you need them updated every 10 years. 

Make sure that you have all your safety gear on hand which includes glasses, hearing protection, gloves and steel toed boots. Also wear tight fitting clothing to avoid having your clothes get caught up in the auger. Yikes.

Storing Your Auger Machine 

Because your storing a gas powered machine, you will need to make sure that there is no chance water can get into the carb (or they get all gummed up).   

Treat it with fuel stabilizer by pouring the stabilizer into the gas and running the engine to make sure it gets all the way through the system. 

Ensure to store your auger upright and in an area that is safe from the weather and super cold temperatures. 

Always store your auger at a 90 degree angle (standing straight up) in a place where it won’t be bumped.  If you lean it up against a wall for example, you can damage the pump, engine and blade.   


How to use a 1 man auger machine is easier than most people think.  You can get your holes drilled ASAP without waiting for a buddy to help you. 


What is the Best post hole auger for 1 person to use?

Check out our Best Post Hole Auger Reviews to pick an auger for you.

Can a 1 person auger drill through roots

We go into detail about using an auger to drill through roots in our post HERE.