Jim Lee, Auger Boring Guru: Industry Profile

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | November 2012, Vol. 67, No. 11
Jim Lee (left) talks auger boring specifics.

When he took the telephone call, Jim Lee was busy preparing to leave town.

He was at home in the Jackson, MS, suburb of Brandon and would leave the next day for an extended trip that would take him to auger boring job sites in New York, Wisconsin and Canada. Such a schedule is routine for Lee, a field service technician for American Augers.

The caller wanted to talk about Lee’s career in the auger boring industry, how he has come to be regarded by many as the most knowledgeable expert in the auger boring industry.

However, Lee would never describe himself that way. He’s been in the auger boring business since 1973, first with an auger boring contractor. Twelve years ago he joined American Augers. He knows about every brand of auger boring machine and encountered about every possible situation while making auger boring installations. He has a quiet confidence in his position with his company and within the industry and doesn’t find it necessary to boast.

“Jimmy Lee has years of real-world experience, and that certainly gives him an advantage when he goes in the field to help crews troubleshoot difficult projects,” says John Hoffman, American Augers product support manager, and Lee’s boss.

“A lot of people in the boring business rely on Jimmy and what he knows,” continues Hoffman. “When they get in trouble, they say, ‘It’s time to call Jimmy.’ Much of Jimmy’s knowledge comes from literally living auger boring for all these years. He knows what to do because he’s been there, done that.”

In the Navy, Lee was a welder in a shipyard. After leaving the service, he went to work as a welder for Fornea Road Boring in Jackson. He quickly took an interest in boring machines and the auger boring process and became a boring crew member. He’s been immersed in auger boring ever since.

Old days
Auger boring was among the first trenchless technologies, in use for years before the term became popular. Auger boring provided the means to make short, relatively large-diameter bores of 50 to 100 feet.

“In the old days,” says Lee, “you dug a pit, set the machine in at the right elevation, and hoped it would come out right on the other side. In the ’60s and ’70s an old ‘hound dog’ locator would be used to track the path of the bore -- it beeped when you got over the bore head.”