A discussion of a type of drop pipe.

You regular readers will recall that in the past several columns I have been writing about a Ruston Bucyrus 22-W in particular, spudders in general, and several months back some articles on drop pipe. Yes, I did take a side trip into vehicle tires, and I had a very nice phone call from a friend who had the same problems with faulty valve stems on his truck. This man is a highly respected member of the ground water industry, and it was interesting to learn that he had just about the same valve stem problems that I had and came up with the same solution. It was good to talk with you, Fred.

As I began to write this month’s column, I realized that I had forgotten to talk about a couple interesting spudder facts and just recently saw what is, to me, a new type of drop pipe. I will talk about the drop pipe this month, and finish the spudder stories in another column.

You will recall that in my drop pipe articles I mention that one of the problems with PVC material for this product has been, at least in the past, split couplings. The solution to this is to use metal couplings – galvanized steel, brass and, most recently, stainless steel. I recently attended a dealer day at a supply house that I buy from. I don’t know if these are held all over the country – they probably are – but these are fun events to attend. In effect, these are mini-conventions, usually part of a day or entire day long, and the supplier will have the companies whose products they sell come and set up a booth. These manufacturers usually have specials or are introducing a new product. In addition, lunch will be provided, and everybody who comes gets some take-homes – baseball caps, water bottles, shopping bags, ball-point pens and paper pads are popular give-aways and always welcome. At the end, usually a drawing is held, and some pretty nice gifts are handed out – among recent gifts I have seen are a large screen TV and an ATV.

At this most recent event, I saw a new, at least to this area, drop pipe. This was made of PVC material; it had one end threaded and the other end was a bell-type fitting with female threads. This pipe is complete in itself in that no coupling is needed. One of its huge advantages is that the construction of the bell is such that cross-threading or misalignments are just about impossible – in fact, I would say totally impossible. The bell end itself was made really heavy-duty, and it looked like it would not be prone to splitting. I believe the pipe is made in schedule 120, so it is plenty robust and looked like a great product to use on submersibles. I’m looking forward to trying some myself. Thanks for the demonstration of this product, Don.

Also at this dealer day, a seminar was given on how to do proper solvent welding (a glue joint to us) of plastic pipe. I had pretty much seen all the exhibits by the time this was held, and although I have solvent-welded a lot of joints, I figured, who knows, maybe I can learn something. As a matter of fact, I did.

This seminar was presented by a knowledgeable manufacturer’s rep from a company that makes solvents and, I believe, plastic pipe, too. One of the first things he mentioned that’s important to do when making a solvent-weld joint is to bevel or chamfer the male end of the pipe. One can buy tools to do this on small-diameter pipe, but the installer also can use a file or even a pocket knife. The instructor explained that failure to do this could turn the end of the pipe into a plunger or piston, and it could push the glue right out of the female or bell end. Another thing to look for is freedom from burrs, due to the fact that a small plastic burr can act like a scraper and leave a glue-less line straight through the joint – a potential for a leak.

The instructor further said that it was important to dry fit the parts of the joint before applying primer, and it was imperative to apply primer. The technique after applying the primer, he said, also is very important in that too little or too much glue can cause a failure. After applying glue to both the male and female ends of the joint (and not everybody does this; some apply the glue to the pipe only), make the joint quickly, giving the parts a quarter turn and holding them, as they will have a tendency to push apart before the glue sets.

Another very important and often-overlooked factor in solvent-welding is the size of the applicator tools. I believe this instructor said that the brushes for both solvent and glue should be no less than one-half the diameter of the pipe. The little dauber that comes inside the can is not going to be adequate for 5-inch PVC. He also mentioned that for one man to try to glue pipe of this size and larger is going to be an impossibility. He recently mentioned receiving a complaint from a journeyman plumber that the solvents were bad as they had “nudged” a 10-inch-diameter elbow with a backhoe bucket, and it popped right off the pipe. The instructor asked him how many workmen did this joint, and the fellow replied that he did it alone. The instructor said that for 10-inch pipe, to do a good job, you’re probably going to need three workmen at least. A person working alone just can’t apply the proper solvents quickly enough.

The last part of this seminar was a real eye-opener to me. While we did not have a huge crowd for this presentation, we probably had 20 drillers present. The instructor asked the assembled crowd how long they would let a solvent-welded joint of 5-inch PVC casing set before lowering the casing into the hole. Most of the answers were a couple minutes, and one fellow said perhaps 30 seconds. The instructor was pretty shocked in that the recommended set time (that is, the time from when the joint is put together until it is disturbed) is 30 minutes for pipe from 4 inches to 6 inches in diameter and an air temperature between 60 degrees F and 100 degrees F. Needless to say, nobody-but-nobody present lets their casing set that long before lowering the joint into the hole. In fact, one fellow present almost bragged that he does a “quick and dirty” job on many PVC joints.

Now the point of all this is that I am not making a case against PVC pipe and especially PVC casing. I have two wells on my own property – one has 6-inch welded steel casing and the other, drilled a few years later when I built a building, is 5-inch PVC. I do wonder about the integrity of joints that are not made according to recommendations. One can misuse any product.

Next time, I will tell a couple humorous stories about some spudders, and I will have beaten to death both the drop pipe stories and one of my favorites, cable-tool or spudder rigs.

As this is written in mid-May, we have had quite nice spring weather here in Michigan, although as I write this, the farmer who works my land is planting soybeans and creating a huge cloud of dust. We need rain, even if that means more lawn mowing. Until next time, work safely, and make those joints properly.