A visit with Ed Erickson on Groundwater Supply Co.

Today's bits are less prone to premature wear. Photo courtesy of Halco.
I asked Ed Erickson, of Groundwater Supply Co., aka “The Drill Store,” in Sterling, Mass., what his title is at his firm. He describes himself “primarily as a sales consultant,” but with a caveat. “It just depends on what's going on at any particular time,” he explains - to no one's surprise. “In a family-run business, you have to wear many hats.”

Erickson, representing a second-generation at The Store, started working full-time there in 1998. A third generation seems a safe bet. Ed's three brothers - Andy, Ken and Rob - also work for the company, and between the four of them, they have 10 sons. The four brothers also share the memory of their sister, whose life unfortunately was cut short by an automobile accident. “She would have been our accountant,” Ed assures.

As often is the case, my discussion with a drilling equipment supplier quickly turned to hammers and bits. Asked to compare today's hammers to those of a few years ago, Erickson offers: “Hammers, since they've been invented, have done nothing but go up and up and up in quality and performance. There always are enhancements being made to make them faster and more efficient. Speed is the number one goal for contractors here in New England; everyone's looking to get to that next jobsite before the competition. So the hammer manufacturers have been coming out with hammers that allow faster drilling so the drillers can get to depth quicker. Twenty-foot drill bars are going into the ground in four minutes - that's fast.

“And the drill rig manufacturers are putting on larger air packages, which do a number on the hammers, so the hammer manufacturers have had to go back to the drawing board and get their hammers adjusted to accommodate the high air. All the leading manufacturers have hammers that can take the high air abuse and go deeper faster.”

And what manufacturers does Groundwater Supply offer? “We carry all the hammer lines,” Erickson replies matter-of-factly. “If we didn't, and someone came in looking for a specific hammer, we wouldn't be able to take care of that customer's needs and that person would look elsewhere. A lot of manufacturers want us to represent their products only but we can't do that. Hammer manufacturers have had their ups and downs and if you're tied to one manufacturer that suffers a down period, you have problems. And we're located in an area where there are a lot of drilling contractors, so that keeps us busy.”

When it comes to bits, Erickson tells us, “Bits haven't changed like the hammers have. But, the splines, which drive the bit in rotation, have gone from eight to 12 because more energy is absorbed in the bit. There are fewer problems with premature bit wear.

“The carbide manufacturers have been making improvements, too,” he notes. “They have a harder makeup to them now, so it takes longer for them to dull - giving the drillers more footage before they have to take out that bit and sharpen it. In the past, bit manufacturers would recommend taking out the bit at 300 feet to 350 feet to sharpen it, because when the bits get dull, there's a risk of carbide breakage. And when one carbide breaks in the hole, it, in turn, breaks the other carbides. But the drillers would just laugh; they'd run it the full depth of the hole before they'd go through all that time and effort - and the holes around here typically are 500 feet to 800 feet deep. Now there are bits out there that you can take to that depth before they get dull.”

Groundwater Supply serves water well, environmental and geothermal drilling contractors. “Environmental drillers have picked up more and more over the years on DTH hammers and bits due to hitting refusal with their augers,” Erickson explains. “On an environmental job, a driller often has to drill in a very specific spot; if he can't get through, the customer will find another driller who can. So what happens now is once the driller gets down to their refusal point by hitting a boulder, they'll put on another hat and take out their air compressor, take out their pneumatic hammer and bit, put it on and drill through that boulder and then return to their augering.”

Erickson expects the water well market to remain strong in his area, citing a healthy building boom that's not about to slow down. Droughts also play a role. “It seems we have a drought every other year,” he says. “Everybody's deepening their holes. That means they're wearing out their bits, wearing out their hammers and breaking things on their rigs - and that's where we shine, so people come into 'The Drill Store.'”

Drill Store Team

The Groundwater Supply Co. is a leading supplier of drilling-related materials and equipment in Central New England. In its 16th year of operation, the family-owned business is owned and operated by the Erickson family. The “Drill Store” staff:

  • Andy Erickson
  • Dianne Erickson
  • Ed Erickson
  • Gary Erickson
  • Ken Erickson
  • Rob Erickson
  • Jim Capman
  • Jean Conrad
  • Matt Hashway
  • Jenn Recko