Advice from a Real Well Driller

I get lots of emails – five to 10 per day – comments and questions mostly.  I post the questions that I think might be helpful to others.  I occasionally hear from real well drillers.  Most are not too happy with the site.  They point out that wells drilled by genuine well drillers with rotary bit equipment and large drilling fluid recirculation systems are superior to wells washed using the technique that I have posted.  And, of course, they are right.

I am certainly no real well driller.  I obviously have an interest but I have never worked on a well drilling rig.  I just stumbled on some information about a very inexpensive way to sink a well that I thought might be useful to others so I posted it. 

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when this email came in.  It is from Bob Tabor who has been a driller all his life.   He doesn’t resent our using the inexpensive technique and he has some great insight that can be useful to us.

He also has a great site on pumps at   This is particularly fortunate as I regularly get questions I can’t answer about pumps.  Take a look at his site when you can.

Hi Mike,

I have been browsing your website today.  You have some nice videos and a lot of helpful advice. 

I have been in the Well Drilling business since I was a kid and am 65 now.  I have a Website and Forum and today a poster put up a link to your site.   He is going to try a well according to your instructions.  I only had a few things to tell him which were:  First, going a certain depth not  knowing what your going to encounter is not the preferred method.  You are looking for that nice clean sand that can be one of many different colors.  The way to tell when you get there is that it just keeps washing up without you doing anything.  It is also very easy to wash into unless it is gravel.  This is where you want to put the screen   from the point you encounter this clean soft sand to at least three feet down below that.  Secondly, not to use anything that comes from big box stores.  The screens they sell do not allow much water flow.  And the pumps they sell are not that much cheaper than a quality pump sold by a reputable driller or pump guy like myself.

Something else that is missing is a good description on just how to find the nice clean sand or small gravel that actually gives the water your looking for.  I think most people think that by putting a pipe in the ground they will obtain water.  Another thing that is usually misinterpreted is the fact that they can dig a hole two feet deep and get water.  Yes you can, but this is not a well and it won’t produce enough water to feed the bird.

Another piece of good advice is telling them to look for a good quality screen.  The big box stores PVC screens are junk.  A good slotted stainless steel screen made by a few manufacturers is best.  Johnson has been around the longest.  The more slots, the more water.  And you can beat on the SS screens.


He continues in another email:

I haven’t done a shallow well in several years.  And there are so many different ways to do one.  When I was a kid we knocked them in with a home made hammer.  It weighed about 60 pounds, had two handles on the side and a stem that went inside the 1-1/4″ pipe.  About 100 whacks and it was time to take a break.  They all went about 20 to 30 feet deep.  That was in Michigan.  Here in Florida, most of the shallow wells are washed in similar to what you do.   The difference is, you use 2″ pipe as the casing, and 3/4″ as drill rod.  Cut in on a 45° angle, push the water down the 3/4″ pipe and the cuttings come up the 2″.  The 2″ follows the hole as you drill. 

I asked Bob to give us some more tips on how to tell when we hit water bearing sand.  He responds:

As for finding that sweet spot in the ground where the water comes from.  There are a few things I can think of that might help.

1. Sometimes when you start into a water vein, you will lose circulation or your water flow will slow down.  This means that the material you are in will take water.  Sand that will take water will usually give water.  The very top of these veins, generally don’t give much water, but as you get a foot or so into them, it gets better.  If your water flow slows down or stops all together, your there.  Now just get 3 to 10 feet of screen into that vein and you will probably have a well.

2. When you’re driving or washing a pipe into the ground, you will encounter different types of soil.  Dry sand, clay (blue, gray, white or red), top soil, hard pan etc.  Generally the hardpan is just above your water vein.  So it will be hard for a few feet then hopefully get real easy.  The real easy part should be the vein.

3. When you think your in water and you have put in the screen with the washing method, try pumping the well with a Pitcher Pump.  While driving a well, try the pump after each 5′ section. Pour water into the spout with your hand over the opening while pumping the handle.  If the handle goes down hard and wants to pop back up, you’re not there.  If it goes down easily and stays down so that you have to pull it back up.  You’re in water.

4. All pumps hate air.  All joints must be tight and leak proof.

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