Last time, I wrote about selecting a drilling line for a spudder. These lines will vary in size depending of the capacity of the machine. In this column, the subject will be the sand or bailing line. The sand line, as it is always called, get far less use than the drilling line. It is important, though, as it will handle the bailer on our rig, which removes the cuttings created by the drill tools in a slurry form.

Some older spudder rigs were called “two-line” — they had only a bull reel for the drill line and a sand reel for the sand line. On these rigs, the sand line could hoist individual sections of casing if it was not too heavy. I have seen rigs that had a divider on the sand reel, so when the bailer was detached the line could go to a small-diameter spool and give the sand line more capacity. This setup could also run drop pipe for test pumping or to install a submersible pump. When the casing handling was done, the line came across the divider onto a larger ball of line where it had less capacity but a much higher speed.

A sand line gets much less use than the drill line and will not be subjected to the same repeated flexing. That means we can select a different construction. A good wire line for a sand line is 6 x 7 construction. This would be six main wires wrapped around a hemp core, with each of these six wires consisting of seven wires (not 19 like our drill line). In my experience 6 x 7 wire line spool much more smoothly than 6 x 19 and is less apt to snarl. I have used 6 x 19 sand line on the sand reel of a pump hoist, and it worked OK, but 6 x 7 line would have worked better.

As far as sizes go, if we run a small spudder line a Bucyrus-Erie 20W or a 55 Speedstar we have a choice of many line sizes, but 5/16-inch or ⅜-inch diameter would be ideal. If we run a really small spudder like a 35 Cyclone, we can go down to ¼-inch diameter sand line. These 35s were somewhat popular in Michigan at one time and drilled mostly 3-inch wells with an occasional 4-inch. I haven’t seen one of these on a job in many years, but have been told of at least two sitting in fence rows somewhere.

On a medium-size spudder like a 22W or 71 Speedstar, choose at least ⅜-inch sand line. If we plan to drill to the maximum capacity of these rigs on a large-diameter well, we might consider 7/16-inch sand line. For really large spudder, like a 28L or 36L Bucyrus-Erie or a 72 or 81 Speedstar, the minimum sand line should be at least 7/16-inch. We might want to go to ½-inch or even 9/16-inch for deep drilling, where you have to consider the weight of the line itself in the load at the top of the hole. A 10-foot-long bailer for a 16-inch diameter well weighs nearly 2,000 pounds when full. Add a few hundred pounds of sand line down the hole, and you can see we want a line with good capacity.

How we attach the sand line to a bailer involves several methods I will cover in later chapters about drilling tools. Efficiency on the job dictates that we have a quick-change device. Our sand line will also handle a jar bumper, which will break stuck tools loose (especially if we are not running drilling jars).

In my next column, I’ll discuss casing lines, the third most used line on spudders.

Something New (at Least to Me)

It is often said that the drilling and pump industry is a mature one, and there is nothing new under the sun. I disagree with this and recently got to see a new, at least to me, product for use when installing a submersible pump. A couple weeks ago, I got the opportunity to witness a pump repair. I have repaired thousands of pumps in my career but have not done one recently. The homeowner reported he was suddenly and completely out of water (or OOW). He contacted a good friend of mine for service who sent an experienced service man with a pump hoist. I have known the service man for many years and his father before him. This was a steel-cased well with a submersible pump hung on PVC pipe.

I give credit to the service man that he did not just pull the pump up, but started by testing the continuity of the electrical part of the pump with an ohmmeter. He found one leg of the two-wire submersible wide open. He proceeded to pull the drop pipe, which looked in fine shape. However, when he got everything up in the air he checked the drop cable and found one of the wires completely broken off. No pump runs without the proper electrical feed and it was obvious the broken wire caused it to quit. This drop cable was of a common construction used here in Michigan for the relatively shallow wells we have. In this case, it consisted of three conductors, insulated with plastic and wrapped in a spiral — much like the steel cable I wrote about earlier.

The service man replaced this cable with a heavier duty version that had the three insulated conductors but wrapped in an outer shield, making this cable far more robust than the simple three-wire braided cable that failed. When it came to connecting to the pump wires, I asked the service man if he planned to use shrink tubes. These plastic tubes slide over the electrical connection — sometimes called a Stakon, which is really a trade name — and when heated with a heat gun, torch or even a cigarette lighter will shrink down tight down against the wire for an insulated connection. “No,” my friend said, ”I’m going to use something far better than that.” He proceeded to get from a storage box on his truck something I had never seen.

It was a blue, hollow tube insulator about 4 inches long with a heavy wall. My service man friend injected a bit of silicone from a tube into the hollow part of the insulator. He then slid the insulator onto one side of the wire. He made the electrical connection and then slid the blue plastic tube over the connection — that was it, no heat, no tape, nothing else. He told me his company had used this type of connection and insulation for some time with excellent results. Connection secure, he put the pump back down the well and test pumped it over the top of the casing. It produced a good volume of water, plenty for a residence. He hooked up the pitless adapter, and the homeowner was back in water and very happy having experienced “no water at all,” which my late father would say was not a good thing.

You may be saying, “Gosh, where has John been lately?” Well I have to admit I have never seen a wire insulator like the one my friend has used. I have since learned that these type of insulators are quite common in the wiring systems for lawn irrigation. See? There are some new things, at least to me, in our industry. In the years I installed pumps, we used compression couplings that fit over the splice. It could a real disaster if you needed to fish a submersible out of a 4-inch well. We also would use just plain electrical tape that, if done right, worked just fine in the shallow wells we have in Michigan. This was a difficult taping job if you were working alone and I made a jig (which I still have) that would hold the wire tight so I could get a good tape job. Watching this repair on a cold snowy day makes me wonder what other modern advances I have missed. Certainly, our industry is not totally mature yet.

Spring had finally come to southern Michigan, although we have had a lot of cool, rainy weather. I have actually mowed my infamous lawn one entire time — after having some difficulty getting my tractor converted from a snow plow back into a lawn mower. Until next time, work safe, enjoy life now and then, and be aware of new products for our industry.

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