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Digging a well with an extendable post hole auger

 
jim forster
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We are working on digging a well with a modified post hole auger. Most methods of well drilling require lots of water in a slurry to bring up all of the extracted material. Without much water on hand this seems like a good method to try.

I researched a post hole auger from amazon and funnily many reviews and comments talked about how to extend this thing well over 30ft to drill wells. There are a few people on youtube who document what they do and one African mission group who shares their open source plans. Luckily we have found quite a lot of knowledge to build off of. Some people claim to extend these things close to 100ft long. The annoying part being that every 4 inches it has to be lifted out of the hole and cleaned out.

We used 11guage square tubing 1in x 1in welded to short segments of 1.25x1.25 tubing as a coupler. This tubing is maybe a bit overkill as after about 30ft of extensions are on it becomes challenging to balance it. The sections are quickly removable and at longer lengths I think we will have to take sections off for every bucket of dirt. We may consider switching to aluminum tubing, I regret not getting it originally as the cost is not that different.

So far we have dug 2 holes.
1. The first hole is about 25 feet deep. It was very easy digging until we hit rock. Mostly clay and a bit of sand. Some very red playdough like clay. And a bunch of the removed earth had orange streaks in it. Probably iron. We dropped the rock bar it the hole about 50 times. After that the bit did grab up some small fragments of rock. But it is hard to know how much damage we really did to the rock layer.

2. The second hole is 15 feet deep. It is 4 feet away from hole 1. We hit a lot of gravel in the first 2 feet but that is easily removable with a normal shovel. Hoping we get luckier at 25 feet. Busy the pastfew days with other projects, but will update as we progress.

Equipment upgrades: trying to keep this project on a tight budget as it would be great to prove you can get water with limited resources.
1. rock auger bit; not even sure what this would look like but need a bit with a bigger opening to grab up larger fragments
2. aluminum square tubing
 
evan l pierce
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Some pictures of our well-drilling adventure so far:













 
Julia Winter
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good luck!
 
jim forster
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Anybody have experience using an auger bit like this to get through rock? Not sure if it can be used unpowered or if it would get stuck inserting into such a deep hole.

http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200337868_200337868
 
Rhys Firth
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Does anyone have an explosives licence?
 
Chadwick Holmes
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I have a 75 yr old version of this tool........you have my respect!!
 
R Scott
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Woohoo! Yes they will dig, especially in dry clay. I have never extended mine past 5 foot, can't imagine pulling it out of the hole at 25+ feet.
 
jim forster
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Two days ago we reached the same depth in hole number 2. We also encountered rocks at the bottom of this hole.

R Scott, are you saying you have used a bit like the one we are using or the corkscrew style that I linked? Have you pulled up rocks with it?
 
R Scott
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I use one like you are using all the time. The one in the link is made turn fast with a motor, don't bother. It will pick up small rocks, but so will the one you have. Both stumble on big rocks.

 
Corey Schmidt
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I have broken up and dug through a fair bit of rock and when i don't have a power tool i always use percussion with a big heavy steel digging bar. i never tried drilling rock by hand, but even with the electric rock hammer i use, percussion mode is usually more effective for bulk breaking of rock. I don't know what kind of rock you have and this would be very labor intensive, but perhaps rigging up a very long percussion bar that could be raised up with some pulleys (it seems you have lots of tall trees around for rigging something) and dropped some distance so gravity does a lot of the work for you? the longer the fall(higher speed on impact) and the heavier the object and the sharper the point of impact the more the breaking force. congratulations for digging a hole 25 feet deep with hand tools. what an effort! good luck
 
Frank Lee
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I'm a bit distressed that when I click on this link - "African mission group who shares their open source plans." - I am taken to rocket mass heater plans. I already have these. They are not useful in my part of the country (Deep South). Is this thinly disguised SPAM?
 
evan l pierce
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Frank, I think the "link" you clicked on might have been one of the special little built-into-the-forum-software things that automatically turns the word "plans" into a link to rmh plans, regardless of the context or intent of the person making the post. Words like permaculture, profit, greenhouse, and feed also seem to do this.

One way to tell the difference between a real link and the forum's automatic links is that a real link is usually underlined with an actual line, (like this: spam,) whereas the auto links seem to be underlined with a dotted line, (like this: land.)
 
Dave Burns
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Using a post-hole digger just like in the picture jim forster posted at the top of this thread (I bought the adjustable one, I think it will make holes from about ab 5 to 8 inches in diameter), I made 5-foot extensions out of EMT (light-weight metal electrical conduit - it comes with one end swaged already, very handy), just drilled a hole thru and attached each section with a 1/4 inch bolt thru the joint. I dug a hole 16 feet into northern Idaho ash and sand in about 2 hours, not working too hard. Ran out of pipe at that point, I'll have to make another extension or 2 to reach water. In my area, I'll probably hit water at 18 or 20 feet, the sand was getting coarse and very wet at 16'. Will probably hit gravel at about 18 feet. I plan to put some plastic pipe down as far as I can dig as "well casing", big enough around so I can get a relatively inexpensive dc pump down the hole close enough to the water table to reliably self-prime. After the casing, I'll try driving a well point down further if needed to get into the water table, but I'm hoping the post hole digger will go the distance for me. If I use a driven well point past the bottom of the casing, I'd have to drop the suction nose from the pump down inside the well point pipe to reach the water. I'm real fortunate for the soil and water table in my area, and suspect I can "drill" and install a 25 foot well start to finish (including pump, piping, and solar panel) in 2 days using this method.
 
Sharon Hilchie
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I us one of these all the time for digging post holes. I usually just use 3/4 inch threaded pipe and a coupler to extend it when needed. I'm curious as to why you chose to cut the original pipe instead of just unscrewing it. Does yours not unscrew? Wondering if I should consider doing the same more than questioning you.

I've had some luck sharpening the blades with a file getting it to wear through soft rock like sandstone. Not harder stuff, and it's a lot of work and you have to resharpen often.
 
Michael Newby
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Any further progress on digging the well?

Would something like this rock bit work for trying to get through the rock?



They're about $50 here but I bet if you put it on the ant wish list there's a good chance it would show up at base camp.

 
jim forster
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Sharon, I did read about threading on extensions. I heard that when you thread on too many the metal weighs so much that when picking it up the threads can strip off or snap there. Because threading pipe reduced the strength at the joint since you remove a lot of material. I do think itd be a great way to do a short extension. Also, the pinned joints allow quick removal compared to threading. I think once we get deep we will have to remove extensions every bucket full.

Michael, we havent made much progress in the past few weeks. Everybody has been catching up on other projects or taking a few days away. I did dig 5 new holes last week in random new areas. None got deeper than 10ft before rock.

Im not too knowledgable on that style of rock bit but my understanding is that it needs to be powered to do much damage.

We did just get a new bit, the corkscrew style, but havent tested it yet. It should be able to pull up rocks as big as baseballs based on the gaps between the tines. Also Paul has given us the green light to try excavating past the rock layer.
 
jim forster
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Yesterday we reached a bit over 40 feet below the land surface and hit a sandy segment that is saturated with water. Upon removing 2 feet of the sand, water flows into the bottom of the hole. We were able to pull up water with a jar on a string. Yay water! We dug this in a new spot, a pit that is 8 feet deep near Allerton Abbey.

We now need to determine how much deeper to continue. The bottom of the well hole is now clay. Worried that if we dig further we will puncture the next layer and drain the water we have found? Or is every permeable layer below going to be a water table? I think for a reliable well we need to be 10feet below the surface of the water table.

Pictures and video to be added soon for more detail.
 
Michael Cox
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Great news on your well!

We had a well "drilled" on our property two years ago. I say "drilled" because what they were using was nothing like what you would usually consider a drill to be, and they used no additional liquid slurry.

Their setup was a very heavy tube of steel about 6ft long. The tube is winched up on a sturdy steel A frame and then released so it crashes into the soil. A plug of earth/rocks is forced up into the tube. The winch is re-engaged, and the tube is lifted up to the surface. A chap swings the tube off to oneside and rams a bar through it, dropping the load of earth. The whole process is repeated. Our borehole was around 50m deep and took a day and a half.

I mention it in this context because the equipment appeared incredibly simple and cheap to fabricate - I guess the expensive part would be the winch. The effectiveness of the system actually increased as the depth increased, as they were able to drop the tube from a greater height to impact.
 
evan l pierce
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Some more pics:









 
Tim Skufca
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congratulations! Hope the well produces sufficient amount for you!
 
jim forster
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Been awhile since I update this post. We have 3 wells with water in the bottom. One of them has a hand pump on top. It is a shallow well pitcher pump.
pump.jpeg
[Thumbnail for pump.jpeg]
pump
 
Tim Skufca
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Can you report on the status of the well(s)? How deep, what's the flow, how clean?
 
jim forster
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Hi Tim,

The well pictured is 28 ft total depth. The water rests at about 20-21feet. The pump has only been on 2 days now. We are still developing the well. Over time it should clean up and produce more water. Veins will develop underground where the water continually flows.

Since in this well the water is flowing in a layer that is mostly clay, it only refreshes at about half a gallon per hour. Meaning we can get 12 gallons a day. But based on what I read that should significantly improve over the first month. There is also the chance it drys up in the driest time of the year. We are working on more wells for redundancy.

The water was very murky the first 5 gallons. Now it is clear enough you can see through it but has a tint. We will run a water quality test on it within then next few weeks after it develops.

Two other wells with water that we are still working on, will update once we make a decision. One has a submersible pump but is incomplete.

 
Tim Skufca
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To many that may sound like poor specifications for a well, but it sure beats no water. I am very impressed.
Are you allowed to install a cistern on the Lab? That seems the only practical way to utilize a well with such low recovery rate.
 
Destiny Hagest
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So glad to hear of the success with this project - it's a ray of hope for those of us that have seen the price quotes for having a well drilled by a company before

 
Marla Kacey
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evan l pierce wrote:





Did you turn this by hand?  How heavy is it?  How did you lift it when it was covered with wet clay?

Thanks for posting this.  And for any answers.
 
paul wheaton
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I don't have the answer you seek, but i do know that jim and janet are hosting a well drilling workshop on august 5th:

http://www.permies.com/t/56785/labs/drilling-Workshop


 
jim forster
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Hi Marla,

We did turn it by hand. It is pretty easy to turn by hand except once you get into the wet clay. Then the suction makes it pretty hard. Also hitting a rock can slow it down and even stop it.

The hardest part is pulling it out of the hole once it is >15feet deep. You either need another person to help or to dismantle it every 10foot section. One could build it with thinner guage steel than we used.

I will demo how to build one 2 weeks from now at wheaton labs in Montana. There are still spots in our well drilling workshop available!

Jim
 
Marla Kacey
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Thanks for answering, Jim.   I wish I could afford the workshop, but I can't.

It looks like something designed to be hooked up to a machine of some sort (bobcat, tractor, etc.).  Am I wrong?  Do they actually make a drill like that designed for hand use?

Thanks again!
 
Jay Le
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jim forster wrote:Hi Marla,

We did turn it by hand. It is pretty easy to turn by hand except once you get into the wet clay. Then the suction makes it pretty hard. Also hitting a rock can slow it down and even stop it.

The hardest part is pulling it out of the hole once it is >15feet deep. You either need another person to help or to dismantle it every 10foot section. One could build it with thinner guage steel than we used.

I will demo how to build one 2 weeks from now at Wheaton Labs in Montana. There are still spots in our well drilling workshop available!

Jim


Jim,

Can you please let me know where did you buy the drill bit for your hand auger? I've dug down to about 15 feet and can not go down any farther due to the hard pack clay/gravel soil. I've looked everywhere from the Internet and couldn't find the the bit that will fit my hand auger.
Thank you so much.
Jay
 
Jay Le
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Thanks so much Jim. Will give it a try. I imagine that you have to modify the end for it to fit into the auger handle.
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