The Cable Tool Method of Well Drilling offers three huge primary advantages:

  • More Water Volume: The plunging action of the drill stem opens and develops the underground water fissures while drilling.
  • Better Water Quality: The shallower the water, the better the water quality is – it’s ‘younger water’ and not so mineralized.
  • Environmentally Friendly: There is no oil that is forced down into the Borehole while drilling, since there is no air compressor.

But wait . . . there’s more . . .

  • Machines have low energy requirements.
  • The Borehole is stabilized during the entire drilling operation.
  • Recovery of reliable samples is usually possible from every depth.
  • Wells can be drilled in areas where a little makeup water exists.
  • The driller maintains intimate contact with the drilling process and ground material encountered for more accurate logging.
  • Generally, only one person is needed to operate a drilling rig.
  • Because of size, machines can be operated in more rugged or inaccessible terrain and in areas where the drilling footprint has to be minimized.
  • Rig can be operated year around.
  • Wells can be drilled in formations where lost circulation is a problem.
  • The Borehole can be completed at anytime – can be pump tested at any time.


The rest of the Cable Tool Drilling story . . .

In 2002, my Dad and I drilled two wells on two different properties in Colorado only 20′ apart. The first well was drilled with a Cable Tool Rig (CT) and the second well with an Air Rotary Rig (AR) using a roller cone button bit. Both wells were exactly 160′ deep. The first well had a bore hole of 8″ in diameter. The second well had a bore hole diameter of 12.25″.

The first well drilled with a Cable Tool Rig produced 7 GPM. The second well drilled by the Air Rotary Rig produced 3 GPM. Why?! And only 20′ apart?

CT drilling has a heavy plunger that is the drill stem with the drill bit on the bottom. The ‘plunger’ – that may weigh a ton or more – is lifted and dropped inside of the bore hole 40 to 50 times per minute. The bit on the bottom crushes the rock, clay, or other ground material, and with the little bit of water added to the bore hole, the now ground-up ground material is turned into a mud. When that mud gets thick enough, the driller removes his drilling tools from the bore hole, then uses a device called a bailer to slip down the hole and pick up the mud and then discharge it on the surface. In the picture above, you can see both the drill stem and the bailer.

The plunging action with the thin mud and water is what makes a Cable Tool Drilled Well SO successful. Once the water bearing zone is drilled into, the mechanical hydraulic flushing and plunging of the drill stem and bit forces the water in and out of tiny cracks in the ground that drillers call water bearing fissures. Water may be all around the bore hole but that doesn’t mean that it can get travel into the bore hole. With the force of the flushing and plunging action, the fissures open up and align themselves to the bore hole allowing water to travel into the well. Think of how you unplug a toilet. Kinda gross, but you get the idea.

This is the reason why people who know about well drilling techniques always try to get a well drilled by someone with a cable tool rig. The development action of the drilling almost always creates more water.

The Air Rotary Drilling process makes a bore hole by injecting small amounts of water and foam mixed with lots of air though the drill stem and bit. It flushes the tip of the turning drill bit and keeps it clean and in contact with fresh unground up rock while the ground up cuttings travel up and out of the bore hole around the drill stem. There is little to no development to gain the surrounding water around the bore hole with this process. Often, these wells have to be drilled deeper to get the same or less amount of water.

The ONLY reason why CT drilling is not used all of the time is because it is a slow process. Small companies like mine are able to drill and survive financially since I am an owner / operator. There is no possibility of wells being drilled with the CT process when employees have to be paid.

Just for fun: Cable Tool Drilling is the oldest form of drilling in the world. In Egyptian times, a Pharaoh would begin to drill a well by having slaves or oxen walk around in a circle that would create the vertical lift that would lift the plunger and then drop it. That process was SO slow that his son’s would continue the very deep drilling to sometimes a couple thousand feet deep well during their lifetimes.

Here in Lake County, more wells by percentage have been drilled by the Cable Tool style of drilling than probably any other County in California. The reason is that beyond trying to get the most amount of water, much of the ground in Lake County is unstable and bore holes often need to be steel cased during the drilling process – which is the other thing that Cable Tool Drilling does very well. I have a deep respect for the Cable Tool drillers in Lake County past and present. The Cable Tool Driller in Upper Lake is probably the most experienced Cable Tool Driller in this country. His techniques of drilling in the sands and separating the water from the sand in the Northern part of Lake County was admired and envied by even the Cable Tool Driller that taught my Dad how to drill almost 30 years ago. He takes Cable Tool Drilling to an art form and he’s still in business.

Let me drill you a great well while I am able to take the time to drill with a Cable Tool Rig.

Kharom Hellwege