From the title of this column, you probably think that Schmitt has finally lost it. Believe me I have not. Since my last column, I have had two interesting phone calls, both about spudder rigs.

The first was from a contractor who operates a long, long way from southern Michigan. The second was from a non-contractor, also a fair distance from me. The first person, whom I have known for many years, sought a 20W or 22W spudder machine. In many areas of the United States, contractors have long-since stopped using spudders to drill water wells. In other areas — Michigan, for instance, drillers may still occasionally need one. In fact, some contractors still drill every day with a spudder and anyone in business for a long time likely has one stored in a shed when needed. The two models, Bucyrus-Erie 20W and 22W, are very popular in Michigan.

The contractor had probably learned, as I have, that you can no longer buy a new one of these rigs. I advised him of people he might contact who had one of these rigs and might sell it. A good contractor friend of mine has two 20Ws, including rotary rigs, but uses both and had no interest in selling. I heard over the grapevine the caller may have located a rig in the center part of the state. I do not know for a fact, but I do hope found a rig to purchase.

Incidentally, I do know of one company that can rebuild either of these rigs, including equipping it with a new engine. Like any drill rig, a good engine is important. Actually if the gears on a spudder are in good shape you could rebuild one yourself with a bushel basket full of bearings, a sand blaster, a paint spray gun and a new engine. You’d have a just-about-like-new rig.

Picturing the 20W Controls

The second caller was the son of a well contractor who quit drilling years ago to become a well inspector. I was glad to hear that his state employs experienced well drillers as inspectors. The son had some knowledge of well drilling, but had another line of work. He was, however, interested in making a model of a 20W rig, either the entire rig or at least the operators controls. He wondered if I had a picture of these controls. We had a pleasant conversation and I said I would look.

My wife took several pictures of one of the two 20Ws I owned, and I started to look through them. Then, I remembered that I had an old catalog about the 20W. Sure enough, we found the old catalog, probably printed sometime in the 1950s, in my files. As luck would have it, the catalog featured an excellent picture of the operator’s controls. My wife Shirley captured this picture and emailed it to the man who called. I really hope it fit his needs and that we were able to help.

After we finished, I leafed through the catalog, which I found quite interesting. This catalog has 23 pages, not including the front and back covers. The manufacturer describes the parts of the 20W in fine detail. Every important part of the rig got at least part of a page: the engine, the three cable reels, the spudder mechanism, the frame, the mast, and even the recommended mounting if the rig was going on a truck. The general specifications went on for two full, quite detailed pages. Recommended drilling tools took up a half page. Even recommended fishing tools got a short, one-eighth page section.

What Came with a 20W

The catalog included a half-page list of the equipment regularly furnished with the rig. This included 66 separate items that came with each rig. It is interesting to note that among these were four steel guy lines, along with four guy line stakes. I have never seen an operator use a guy line on the mast of a 20W. Rounding out the list were seven wrenches to adjust the machinery, two red danger flags and even two quarts of paint and a paint brush. It even talked about an optional, eight-piece blacksmith outfit that weighed over 220 pounds.

About 50 years ago, I bought a new 20W. All I got was a crank pin wrench, a grease gun and an oil can.

This catalog in total showed 13 different pictures of a 20W in operation. Eleven of the pictures showed the operator as well as the rig. Not one of these operators work a hard hat. Most, in fact, were wearing a baseball cap. (Heck, I saw a picture in another catalog I have with the operator wearing a fedora.) The photo on the cover features a nice 20W mounted on a good-looking Dodge COE truck. The operator in this picture is bare-headed. You just don’t see that on drill jobs anymore — just like you don’t find catalogs like this one.

As I mentioned, this catalog suggests several fishing tools to have on hand for hard formations — seven, in fact. A catalog I have about the 22W, a larger version of the 20W, suggests 11 fishing tools it might be handy to have. Next time, I will write about some of these, which I haven’t covered previously.

We have had some strange and variable weather here in southern Michigan as I write this in early September. Twelve days ago, we had a short but violent storm with heavy rain and damaging winds. Many trees went down, knocking out electric power. We were out about 60 hours but survived pretty well on stored-up water and a Coleman propane stove. Of course, the farm crops and my infamous lawn look green as can be from the abundant rain we have had. Now, it is hot, hot — and not nice to be outside especially to run any drill rig including a spudder.

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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