As known to do, I am going to put the text into reverse and write about something I forgot in my last column.

Last time I described an early pump hoist I knew of that used a block and tackle in reverse for lifting. This created a real advantage, but also a disadvantage. This method’s advantage, as I understand, was smooth, predictable control of the hoist line. The disadvantage? This line had a limit on how far it could move — about four times the movement of the hydraulic cylinder that pushed the pulleys. In most cases, however, this was not an actual disadvantage. This hoist still gave us a large step forward from chain hoists, block and tackles, and so forth.

Moving forward to 2023, we find most pump hoists are in fact quite similar. What manufacturers deem the best drives their designs. However, all models have a hydraulic-raised mast extendable either with hydraulics or, perhaps, mechanical means. These masts range from about 30 feet to over 50 feet. The masts have adjustable layback, the distance from the hoist frame to the center line of the hoist cable. This is one of the huge advantages of a pump hoist. You could use a spudder drilling rig as a pump hoist — and my father and I did for many years — but the fixed, or very limited, layback presented a huge downside. I can remember at least one pump, and probably more, where it took us twice as long to level the rig as it did to pull the pump. This was not a good use of time.

Modern 2023 pump hoists have at least two or three reels on which to spool steel cable for different purposes. All of these are driven by a hydraulic motor, which itself is driven by a hydraulic pump powered by the engine of the truck that transports the hoist. I have heard of some fellows who mounted a small deck engine to run a hydraulic pump. I get mixed reports: It works anywhere from great to not too good. I does seem redundant to me to have two engines.

The main line of any pump hoist does the heavy lifting — and indeed sometimes is rigged up with a tackle block for really heavy lifting. I believe most available hoists lift from 1,000 pounds to perhaps 10,000 pounds on a single line. They also have a braking mechanism to hold the load at any position. Some hoists use a self-locking “worm” gear. Hoist main lines mount to either the frame or the mast.

Pump hoists may have an optional second line called a sand line after the sand reel on a spudder-type rig. This line has a lighter capacity than the main line and moves much faster. It is designed to operate a bailer to test pump a well during service, or to perhaps bail sediment from the well before installing a new pump. In Michigan, we often see high mineral content in our water. As I mentioned it in my last column, we can use 4-inch pumps in 4-inch wells. However, if the mineral builds up on the casing walls it can present a problem, first with getting the old pump out on a replacement and, second, causing a new pump to pump a lot of scale (of course, not a good thing).

I solved this buildup issue using my pump hoist by rigging up a scraper to clean the inside of a 4-inch casing. I attached a 4-inch cable tool bit to a rope socket with a loop welded to its neck. On the end of the bit, I welded a steel ring with hard-facing metal welded to it and ground to a diameter of about 3-15/16 inches. I would run this down the casing attached to my sand line, which had a free-fall clutch. When I got to a tight spot I would pick up this reamer about 2 feet, and let it drop. I kept this up until I got down to the top of the screen (as most wells in my area are equipped with such a device). I then removed the reamer and went down inside the screen with a suction bailer and bailed it out clean. When you hit the bottom of the screen, this bailer would make an unusual popping sound when the plunger was pulled up. Hearing that, you knew you had the screen clean. I would then put on a regular dart valve bailer and bail the well until I got reasonably clean water. A new pump would then not have to deal with much scale, and I could also get a good idea of the capacity of the well.

I did get this reamer stuck once on a well that I did not drill. I think the driller over-drove the casing, making it smaller than usual. I had to go in with some heavy fishing rods with a hook and pull the reamer loose with my hoist main line.

Some of the larger pump hoists made in 2023 have a third line which, in some cases, will extend the mast, but is really meant for a pullout line when using large-diameter casing pipe or working with a line shaft type turbine. I’m not aware of any of these three-line hoists working in Michigan. I do believe a third line like this would be more popular west of the Mississippi River, where you see more large-diameter, deep wells — especially for irrigation — than we have here in Michigan.

Unlike early pump hoists I talked about, which were very narrow, most units today have a frame at least 48 inches wide — ideal for fitting in a utility truck bed. I have seen some advertised lately with 84-inch frames. I can see where this would be necessary in really heavy lifting. Most all pump hoists, of course, have hydraulic outriggers to level them from side to side. This feature, like the adjustable mast, offers a huge advantage.

Next time, I will write a little bit about pump pullers and offer some final thoughts on pump hoists — in my opinion a great invention.

As I write this in late January — having done two columns in one month at the request of my editor, winter has come to Southern Michigan. Last week we got about 7 inches of heavy, wet snow. We refer to this type of snow around here as a “killer” snow. The weight of it makes people work hard with a snow shovel. Sometimes, they work too hard and have a heart attack. A 72-year-old man in Detroit made the local news recently as he did just that: went to shoveling and died doing it. The sad part? A neighbor with a new snow blower in his garage had offered to help him. My trusty John Deere lawn tractor, now equipped with chains, wheel weights and a 54-inch blade, did a good job on this nasty snowfall. I did not touch a shovel even once; I want to be able to write that next column for you to read. Hope and pray you are doing well wherever you are, whether you have snow or not.

A Lifetime in Drilling

We interviewed columnist and former NGWA President John Schmitt for our Drilling In-Site video series. Click here to hear him share his cable-tool expertise and wisdom earned with decades in the industry.

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