Drilling a shallow well with a DIY machine

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by smbaker, Jun 14, 2009.

  1. smbaker

    smbaker New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Okay, so winter came and went, and I'm back to this boneheaded well drilling project that I was last working on in the fall. I have a small 13hp rotary hydraulic well drilling machine. It's a small machine, but an upgrade from the post-hole digger DIY machines. It uses a hydraulic power head and a 13hp engine and hydraulic pump, and uses 1.5" plumbing pipe as drill stock. The swivel that came with the DIY rig was very light duty, so over the in winter I constructed my own heavy duty swivel that works like a charm. I also upgraded from the low quality pump that came with the rig to a decent quality Wacker pump. I'm using a fairly think bentonite mixture for drilling mud.

    Anyhow, I have fairly easy drilling for the first 10 feet through sand and fine gravel (small pieces about 1/4 - 1/2 inch). The next two feet we start running larger gravel and then at about 13 feet I'm into pretty big gravel. What's coming out of the hole looks like broken up pieces of golf-ball size river rock. The machine frequently binds and has to be backed off from this large gravel. It just doesn't seem to have the power to break it up, and the trash pump I'm using (a contractor-grade wacker pump) doesn't seem to have the power to lift that large of material unless it's first broken up. It's unclear whether I'm making progress or not. An hour worth of drilling might get me down a foot or so, but then we seem to have a cave-in and lose that foor of progress.

    The hole also went a bit off-level, likely as the bit tried to walk it's way around some large chunk of rock. I have a feeling the out-of-level condition is making a hard process even more difficult (next time I'll construct a better guide to hold the pipe at the bottom and prevent it from walking).

    I installed a 3" casing and a pitcher pump to this depth of about 13" below surface. I can get water flow; the static water depth is only a couple feet below the surface. Problem is, I just dont get much recovery. A dozen pumps or so on the pitcher pump and the hole is dry and I have to wait 5 minutes for it to recover. My gut feeling is that this area of large size river rock is exactly the water bearing layer that I need to punch into. So close and yet so far away...

    I know I can get someone out here to drill a well for me commercially, and probably save money doing so at this point. However, I'm stubborn, I hate being defeated, and want to find some way through this project.

    Any tips/suggestions?
  2. 99k

    99k Radon Contractor and Water Treatment

    Messages:
    460
    Location:
    Fairfield Co.,Connecticut
    It sounds like you've done what to can. Large rocks, poor penetration and little water. You could try another location or pick the phone and make the call:D
  3. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Messages:
    4,540
    Location:
    Riverview, Fl.
    Have you ever tried to dig a hole in a box of marbles??? That's what your up against.
  4. smbaker

    smbaker New Member

    Messages:
    7
    My understanding was that the drilling mud was to keep the "marbles" from falling back into the hole. How do the professionals deal with this? Do they install casing as they go? Or do they use a different technique than rotary drilling to get through these sorts of formations?

    I've only witnessed one well professionally drilled, and it was done back in Arizona through what looked like solid rock formations (about 450' depth). Up here in the pacific northwest I'm in a river valley and the conditions seem very different with all of this river rock down there.
  5. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Messages:
    4,540
    Location:
    Riverview, Fl.
    They use REAL drill rigs and REAL mud pumps. Those toy rigs don't work too well. If they did, all of us would be out of business.
  6. valveman

    valveman Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,418
    Location:
    Lubbock, Texas
    They also use reverse circulation drill rigs to get out the big chunks. Or they drill and drive casing as they go, if the hole won't stay open.
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