1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Boring

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BORING. The operations of deep boring are resorted to for ascertaining the nature, thickness and extent of the various geological formations underlying the surface of the earth. Among the purposes for which boring is specifically employed are: (1) prospecting or searching for mineral deposits; (2) sinking petroleum, natural gas, artesian or salt wells; (3) determining the depth below the surface of bed-rock or other firm substratum, together with the character of the overlying materials, preparatory to mining or civil engineering operations; (4) carrying on geological or other scientific explorations.

Prospecting by boring is practised most successfully in the case of mineral deposits of large area, which are nearly horizontal, or at least not highly inclined; e.g. deposits of coal, iron, lead and salt. Wide, flat beds of such minerals may be pierced at any desired number of points. The depth at which each hole enters the deposit and the thickness of the mineral itself are readily ascertained, so that a map may be constructed with some degree of accuracy. Samples of the mineral are also secured, furnishing data as to the value of the deposit. While boring is sometimes adopted for prospecting irregular and steeply inclined mineral deposits of small area, the results are obviously less trustworthy than under the conditions named above, and may be actually misleading unless a large number of holes are bored. Incidentally, bore-holes supply information as to the character and depth of the valueless depositions of earth or rock overlying the mineral deposit. Such data assist in deciding upon the appropriate method for, and in estimating the cost of, sinking shafts or driving tunnels for the development and exploitation of the deposit. In sinking petroleum wells, boring serves not only for discovering the oil-bearing strata but also for extracting the oil. This industry has become of great importance in many parts of the United States, in southern Russia and elsewhere. Rock salt deposits are sometimes worked through bore-holes, by introducing water and pumping out the solution of brine for further treatment. The sinking of artesian wells is another application of boring. They are often hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of feet in depth. A well in St Louis, Missouri, has a depth of 3843 ft.

Boring is useful in mines themselves for a variety of purposes, such as exploring the deposit ahead of the workings, searching for neighbouring veins, and sounding the ground on approaching dangerous inundated workings. In the coal regions of Pennsylvania, bore-holes are often sunk for carrying steam pipes and hoisting ropes underground at points remote from a shaft.

Several of the methods of boring in soft ground are employed in connexion with civil engineering operations; as for ascertaining the depth below the surface to solid rock, preparatory to excavating for and designing deep foundations for heavy structures, and for estimating the cost of large scale excavations in earth and rock.

Lastly, a number of deep holes have been bored for geological exploration or for observing the increase of temperature in depth in the earth’s crust; for example, at Paruschowitz, Silesia, about 6700 ft. deep; at Leipzig, Germany, 6265 ft.; near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, 5532 ft.; and at Wheeling, West Virginia, nearly 5000 ft. The two last mentioned were intended to obtain as complete a knowledge as possible of the bituminous coal and oil-bearing formations.

There are five methods of boring, viz.: by (1) earth augers, (2) drive pipes, (3) long, jointed rods and drop drill, (4) the rope system, in which the rods are replaced by rope, (5) rotary drills. The first two methods are adapted to soft or earthy soils only; the others are for rock.

1. Earth augers comprise spiral and pod augers. The ordinary spiral auger resembles the wood auger commonly used by carpenters. It is attached to the rod or stem by a socket joint, successive sections of rod being added as the hole is deepened. The auger is rotated by means of horizontal levers, clamped to the rod—by hand for holes of
Fig. 1.Fig. 2.
Pod Auger.
small diameter (2 to 6 in.), the larger sizes (8 to 16 in.) by horse power. Clayey, cohesive soils, containing few stones, are readily bored; stony ground with difficulty. The operation of the auger is intermittent. After a few revolutions it is raised and emptied, the soil clinging between the spirals. Depths to 50 or 60 ft. are usually bored by hand; deeper holes by horse power. For sandy, non-cohesive soils, the auger may be encircled by a close-fitting sheet-iron cylinder to prevent the soil from falling out.

Pod augers generally vary in diameter from 8 to 20 in. A common form (fig. l) consists of two curved iron plates, one attached to the rod rigidly, the other by hinge and key. By being turned through a few revolutions the pod is filled, and is then raised and emptied. For boring in sandy soils, the open sides are closed by hinged plates. Fig. 2 shows another type of pod auger. For holes of large diameter earth augers are handled with the aid of a light derrick.

2. Drive pipes are widely used, both for testing the depth and character of soft material overlying solid rock and as a necessary preliminary to rock boring, when some thickness of surface soil must first be passed through. In its simplest form the drive pipe consists of one or more lengths of wrought iron pipe, open at both ends and from 1/2 in. to 6 in. diameter. When of small size the pipe is driven by a heavy hammer; for deep and large holes, a light pile-driver becomes necessary. The lower end of the pipe is provided with an annular steel shoe; the upper end has a drivehead for receiving the blows of the hammer. Successive lengths are screwed on as required. For shallow holes the pipe is cleaned out by a “bailer” or “sand-pump”—a cylinder 4 to 6 ft. long, with a valve in the lower end. It is lowered at intervals, filled by being dashed up and down, and then raised and emptied. If, after reaching some depth, the external frictional resistance prevents the pipe from sinking farther, another pipe of small diameter may be inserted and the driving continued. Drive pipes are often sunk by applying weights at the surface and slowly rotating by a lever. Two pipes are then used, one inside the other. Water is pumped down the inner pipe, thus loosening the soil, raising the debris and increasing the speed of driving. The “driven well” for water supply is an adaptation of the drive pipe and put down in the same way.

3. Drill and Rods.—This method has long been used in Europe and elsewhere for deep boring. In the United States it is rarely employed for depths greater than 200 or 300 ft. The usual form of cutting tool or drill is shown in fig. 3. The iron rods are from 1 to 2 in. square, in long lengths with screw joints (fig. 4). Wooden rods are occasionally used. For shallow holes (50 to 75 ft.) the work is done by hand, one or two cross-bars being clamped to the rod. The men alternately raise and drop the drill, meanwhile slowly walking around and around to rotate the bit and so keep the hole true. The cuttings are cleaned out by a bailer, as for drive pipes.

EB1911 Boring - Drillbit, Rod Joint Fig 3 & 4.jpg
Fig. 3
Drill Bit.
Fig. 4.
Rod Joint.
EB1911 Boring - Sliding Link Fig 5.jpg
Fig. 5.
Sliding Link.

In boring by hand, the practical limit of depth is soon reached, on account of the increasing weight of the rods. For going deeper a “spring-pole” may be used. This is a tapering pole, say 30 ft. long and 5 or 6 in. diameter at the small end. It rests in an inclined position on a fulcrum set about 10 ft. from the butt, the latter being firmly fixed. The rods are suspended from the end of the pole, which extends at a height of several feet over the mouth of the hole. With the aid of the spring of the pole the strokes are produced by a slight effort on the part of the driller. Average speeds of 6 to 10 ft. per 10 hours are easily made, to depths of 200 to 250 ft.

For deep boring the rod system requires a more elaborate plant. The rods are suspended from a heavy “walking beam” or lever, usually oscillated by a steam engine. By means of a screw-feed device, the rods, which are rotated slightly after every stroke, are gradually fed down as the hole is deepened, length after length being added. A tall derrick carries the sheaves and ropes by which the rods and tools are manipulated. The drill bit cannot be attached rigidly to the rods as in shallow boring, because the momentum of the heavy moving parts, transmitted directly to the bit as the blow is struck, would cause excessive vibration and breakage. It becomes necessary, therefore, to introduce a sliding-link joint between the rods and bit. One form of link is shown in fig. 5. On striking its blow, the bit comes to rest, while the rods continue to descend to the end of the stroke, the upper member of the link sliding down upon the lower. Then, on the up stroke the lower link, with the bit, is raised for delivering another blow. For large holes the striking weight is, say, 800 to 1000 ℔, length of stroke 21/2 to 5 ft., and speed from 20 to 30 strokes per minute.

EB1911 Boring - Kind Free-Falling Tool Fig 6.jpg
Fig. 6.
Kind Free-
Falling Tool.

By using the sliding link the cross-section and weight of the rods may be greatly reduced, the only strain being that of tension. To deliver a sharp, effective blow, however, the rods must drop with a quick stroke, which brings a heavy strain upon the operating machinery. For overcoming this difficulty, various “free-falling tools” have been devised. By these the bit is allowed to fall by gravity; the rod follows on its measured down stroke, and picks up the bit. Free-falling tools are of two classes: (1) those by which the bit is released automatically; (2) those operated by a sudden twist imparted to the rod by the drillman. One of the best known of the first class is the Kind free-fall (fig. 6). The shank of the bit is gripped and released by the jaws J,J, worked through a toggle joint by movements of the disk D. When the rod begins its downward stroke, the resistance of the water in the hole slightly raises D, thus opening the jaws and releasing the bit, which falls by gravity. On reaching the end of the stroke the jaws again catch the shank of the bit and raise it for delivering another blow. The Fabian free-fall may be noted as an example of the second class (see Köhler, Lehrbuch der Bergbaukunde, p. 57). Tools are sometimes used for cutting an annular groove in the bottom of the hole, and raising to the surface the core so formed, for observing the character of the rock.

4. Rope and Drop Tools.—This method was long ago used in China. Because of its extensive application in the oil-fields it is generally designated in the United States as the “oil-well system.” In its various modifications it is often employed also in general prospecting of mineral deposits and in sinking artesian, natural gas and salt wells. One of its forms is known in England as the Mather & Platt system.

The chief point of difference from rod-boring is the substitution of rope for the jointed rods. For deep boring it possesses the advantage of saving the large amount of time consumed in raising and lowering the rods, as required whenever the hole is to be cleaned out, or a dull bit replaced, since the tools are rapidly run up or down by means of the rope with which they are operated while drilling. The speed of rope-boring is therefore but little affected by increase of depth, while with rod-boring it falls off rapidly. In its simplest form the so-called “string of tools,” suspended from the rope, is composed of the bit or drill, jars and rope-socket. The jars are a pair of sliding links, similar to those used for rod-boring, but serving a different purpose, viz. to produce a sharp shock on the upward stroke, as the jars come together, for loosening the bit should it tend to stick fast in the hole. A heavy bar (auger stem) is generally inserted between the jars and bit, for increasing the force of the blow. The weight of another bar above the jars (sinker-bar) keeps the rope taut. The length of stroke and feed are regulated by the “temper-screw” (fig. 7), a feed device resembling that used for rod-boring. Clamped to it is the drill rope, which is let out at intervals, as the hole is deepened. The bits usually range from 3 to 8 in. diameter, the speed of boring being generally between 20 and 40 ft. per 24 hours, according to the kind of rock. A great variety of special “fishing tools” are made, for use in case of breakage of parts in the hole or other accident.

EB1911 Boring - Temper Screw Fig 7.jpg
Fig. 7.
Temper Screw.

5. Diamond Drill.—The methods described above are capable of boring holes vertically downward only. By the diamond drill, holes can be bored in any direction, from vertically downward to vertically upward. It has the further advantage of making an annular hole from which is obtained a core, furnishing a practically complete cross-section of the strata penetrated; the thickness and character of each stratum are shown, together with its depth below the surface. Thus, the diamond drill is peculiarly well adapted for prospecting mineral deposits from which samples are desired. The first practical application of diamonds for drilling in rock was made in 1863 by Professor Rudolph Leschot, a civil engineer of Paris.

The apparatus consists essentially of a line of hollow rods, coupled by screw joints, an annular steel bit or crown, set with diamonds, being attached to the lower end. By means of a small engine on the surface the rods are rapidly rotated and fed down automatically as the hole deepened. The speed of rotation is from 300 to 800 revolutions per minute, depending on the character of the rock and diameter of the bit. While boring a stream of water is forced down the hollow rods by a pump, passing back to the surface through the annular space between the rods and the walls of the drill hole. The cuttings are thus carried to the surface, leaving the bottom of the hole clean and unobstructed. For recovering the core and inspecting the bit and diamonds, the rods are raised at every 3 to 8 ft. of depth. This is done by a small drum and rope, operated by the driving engine.

EB1911 Boring - Little Champion Rock Drill Fig 8 &9.jpg
Fig. 8.—Little
Champion Rock Drill.
Fig. 9.   
EB1911 Boring - Diamond Drill Bit Fig 10.jpg
Fig. 10.
Diamond Drill Bit.

Diamond drills of standard designs (fig. 8) bore holes from 19/16 to 23/4 in. diameter, yielding cores of 1 to 115/16 in. diameter, and are capable of reaching depths of a few hundred to 4000 ft. or more. They require from 8 to 30 boiler horse-power. Large machines will bore shallower holes up to 6, 9 or even 12 in. diameter. For operating in underground workings of mines, small and compact machines are sometimes mounted on columns (fig. 9). They bore 11/4 to 19/16 in. holes to depths of 300 to 400 ft., cores being 7/8 to 1 in. diameter. Hand-power drills are also built. In the South African goldfields several diamond drill holes from 4500 to 5200 ft. deep have been successfully bored. Rates of advance for core-drilling to moderate depths range usually from 2 to 3 ft. per hour, including ordinary delays, though in favourable rock much higher speeds are often attained. In deep holes the speeds diminish, because of time consumed in raising and lowering the rods. If no core is desired a “solid bit” is used. The drilling then proceeds faster, as it is only necessary to raise the rods occasionally, for examining the condition of the bit.

The driving engine has two inclined cylinders, coupled to a crank-shaft, by which, through gearing, the drill-rod is rotated. The rods are wrought iron or steel tubes, in 5 to 10 ft. lengths. For producing the feed two devices are employed, the differential screw and hydraulic cylinder. For the differential feed (fig. 9) the engine has a hollow left-hand threaded screw-shaft, to which the rods are coupled. This shaft is driven by a spline and bevel gearing and is supported
Fig. 11.
Core Lifter and Barrel.
by a threaded feed-nut, carried in the lower bearing. Geared to the screw-shaft is a light counter-shaft. By properly proportioning the number of teeth in the system of gear-wheels, the feed-nut is caused to revolve a little faster than the screw-shaft, so that the drill-rod is fed downward a small fraction of an inch for each revolution. To vary the rate of feed, as suitable for different rocks, three pairs of gears with different ratios of teeth are provided. The screw-shaft and gearing are carried by a swivel-head, which can be rotated in a vertical plane, for boring holes at an angle.

The hydraulic feed is an improvement on the above, in that the rate of feed is independent of the rotative speed of the rods and can be adjusted with the utmost nicety. There are either one or two feed cylinders, supplied with water from the pump. The rod, while rotating freely, is supported by the feed cylinder piston and caused to move slowly downward by allowing the water to pass from the lower to the upper part of the cylinder. A valve regulates the passage of the water and hence the rate of feed.

The bit (fig. 10 and fig. 11, B) is of soft steel, set with six to eight or more diamonds according to its diameter. The diamonds, usually from 11/2 to 21/2 carats in size, are carefully set in the bit, projecting but slightly from its surface. Two kinds of diamonds are used, “carbons” and “borts.” The carbons are opaque, dark in colour, tougher than the brilliant, and have no cleavage planes. They are therefore suitable for drilling in hard rock. Borts are rough, imperfect brilliants, and are best used for the softer rocks. As the bit wears, the stones must be reset from time to time. The wear of carbons in a well-set bit is small, though extremely variable. Above the bit are the core-lifter and core-barrel. The core-lifter (fig. 11, A) is a device for gripping and breaking off the core and raising it to the surface. The barrel, 3 to 10 ft. long, fits closely in the hole and is often spirally grooved for the passage of the water and debris. It serves partly as a guide, tending to keep the hole straight, partly for holding and protecting the core.

Diamond drills do not work satisfactorily in broken, fissured rock, as the carbons are liable to be injured, loosened or torn from their settings. In these circumstances, and for soft rocks, the diamond bit may be replaced by a steel toothed bit. Another apparatus for core-drilling is the Davis Calyx drill. For hard rock it has an annular bit, accompanied by a quantity of chilled steel shot; for soft rock, a toothed bit is used.

Diamond drill holes are rarely straight, and usually deviate considerably from the direction in which they are started. Very deep holes have been found to vary as much as 45° and even 60° from their true direction. This is due to the fact that the rods do not fit closely in the hole and therefore bend. It is also likely to occur in drilling through inclined strata, specially when of different degrees of hardness. By using a long and closely fitting core-barrel the liability to deviation is reduced, but cannot be wholly prevented. Holes which are nearly horizontal always deflect upward, because the sag of the rods tilts up the bit. Diamond drill holes should therefore always be surveyed. This is done by lowering into the hole instruments for observing at a number of successive points the direction and degree of deviation.[1] If accurately surveyed a crooked hole may be quite as useful as a straight one.

Authorities.—For further information on boring see Trans. Amer. Inst. Mining Engs. vol. ii. p. 241, vol. xxvii. p. 123; C. le Neve Foster, Text-book of Ore and Stone Mining, chap. iii.; Glückauf, 9th December 1899, 20th and 27th May 1905; Scientific American, 21st August 1886; Engineering and Mining Jour. vol. lviii. p. 268, vol. lxx. p. 699, vol. lxxx. p. 920; Trans. Inst. Mining Engs., England, vol. xxiii. p. 685; School of Mines Quarterly, N. Y., vol. xvi. p. 1; Zeitschr. für Berg- Hütten- und Salinenwesen, vol. xxv. p. 29; Denny, “Diamond Drilling,” Mines and Minerals, vol. xx., August 1899, p. 7, to January 1900, p. 241; Mining Jour., 26th January 1901; Mining and Scientific Press, 28th November 1903, p. 353; Öst. Zeitschr. für Berg- und Hüttenwesen, 21st May, 4th June 1904; Trans. Inst. Mining and Metallurgy, vol. xii. p. 301; Engineering Magazine, March 1896, p. 1075. (R. P.*) 

  1. Brough, Mine Surveying, pp. 276-278; Marriott, Trans. Inst. Mining and Metallurgy, vol. xiv. p. 255.