There are many small, portable drilling machines manufactured all over the world that I would classify as wannabe drills-drills that are purchased by well-meaning nonprofit charities, church groups and others to drill water wells in developing countries. In the hands of a properly trained user, these drills are capable of drilling water wells in unconsolidated formations.

Some manufacturers advertise that their drills are capable of drilling to 400 feet, meaning only that these drills are capable of lifting the drill stem from their rated depths. However, if the drill stem becomes stuck in the hole, there is not enough extra lifting power to break it free. I have personally operated a similar drill to a depth of 380 feet. For many years the manufacturer of that drill built some exceptional small drills, but as of this year it is no longer in business.

Although some manufacturers advertise that their drills will drill rock, that isn’t necessarily true. These drills aren’t heavy enough to apply the weight required to drill with a roller cone bit (rock bit). Some of these drills (if properly equipped) could drill some rock using a Down the Hole (DTH) hammer and a large air compressor. However, this process is costly and requires a lot more on-site technology.

Only a few of these small-drill manufacturers display their equipment at trade shows or advertise in the major well-drilling trade publications. I have offered my services, knowledge and experience to critique and make recommendations about how to improve their equipment, but they have all declined.

I have drilled (washed) a 2-inch well to 120 feet with only a contractor’s pump, some drilling mud and some electrical conduit-without any drilling machine. I could have gone deeper with a little help from a tripod. I could drill a 4-inch cased well almost as easily.

A drilling machine for unconsolidated shallow wells is a minor part-knowledge and manpower are the most important parts!

Before investing $10,000 to $50,000 or more for drilling equipment, do a little research. You’ll find a wealth of information–some good, some not so good-on YouTube when you search “well drilling.”

I recommend that anyone interested in purchasing one of these drills follow these steps: diligently research the product, call this master certified driller and observe the drill in operation somewhere.


We’re currently rebuilding our funds for the rig, but fundraising may take a little time since money is tight right now.  ND