Hand Digging a well

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by michiganfarmer, Jul 16, 2007.

  1. michiganfarmer

    michiganfarmer Max Supporter

    Messages:
    6,615
    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2005
    Location:
    Near Traverse City Michigan
    The water table around here is between 60, and 100 feet. Im always asking my dad, who is 64ish, how people did things 100 years ago. He grew up on a very poor farm and did a lot of things the old way.

    I asked him one time how people hand dug wells. It wass pretty obvious to him....and to me after he told me,lol. They dug a hole big enough for the digging person to fit in it. WHen the digger got down 4 feet or so they build a wood or brick support to hold the dirt from caving in...and they just kept doing that...sending th edirt up in a bucket...for however many days it took until they got water.


    I met this young couple who want to live as old fashioned as they can once they get some land. I was thinking today that I would like to help them hand dig a well. As I ran it through my mind, I got into a day dream...I saw myself in the bottom of the hole, looking up as my full bucket was being pulled up. I got to thinking....do these things ever cave in while being dug?

    I tell ya what, that thought will snap a guy out of a daydream! lol

    So does anyone recall any grand parent or great grand parent stories about digging wells?

    Id like to hear them
     
  2. BAmaBubba

    BAmaBubba Homestead Dreamer

    Messages:
    878
    Joined:
    May 10, 2007
    Location:
    N. Alabama
    Unfortunately, many a well digger met an untimely end by exactly as you imagined. I'd strongly suggest against it.
     
    Silvercreek Farmer and thesedays like this.

  3. MountAiry

    MountAiry Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    632
    Joined:
    May 30, 2007
    Location:
    Georgia
    I don’t have any stories, but the idea of digging and being lowered into a well that deep does spark the imagination. Some scary images! Lol
    :eek:
     
  4. SRSLADE

    SRSLADE Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    339
    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2004
    Location:
    VERMONT
    michiganfarmer.I've done this in sandy soil.The method is to get cement well tiles.These tiles are about 5 foot round.DIG Hole about 5 feet deep. Set first tile.Under mine first tile by digging deeper. Set 2nd tile.Continue to dept you need.I only had to go about 25 feet.The weight of the tile pushed the casing down as I went.At 60 feet I would think the hole at the top would look very small.
     
    Terri and fordson major like this.
  5. bill not in oh

    bill not in oh Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,869
    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Location:
    Earth
    I'd rather chew glass than climb into a hole even 10 feet deep. LOL That would be a LOT of work. I'm certainly not opposed to physical labor, but when you factor in the risk and the options.... AND you gotta figure out what to do with 2000+/- cubic feet of clay, rocks and God knows what else you might dig up... Then you still have to get the water out - hand crank a 3 gal bucket? That's 25 lbs plus the weight of the bucket how many times a day? I'm gettin' tired just thinking about this... Wouldn't need a health club membership though...

    Take pics if you decide to do it!
     
  6. Jim S.

    Jim S. Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,963
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2004
    Location:
    Tennessee
    Max, yeah it can cave in. It also is none too sanitary if it is left uncased. I was never so glad as I was the day we got off our 25-foot, 70-year-old hand dug well and got on a cased drilled well. The difference in the water is unbelievable. This is a good time to "go modern," as it will affect your friends' health and well-being if they use an uncased hand-dug well. I mean, I know some folks just have to do it the hard way, but this is the hardest way. This is when I ask myself, "Would the old timers have done it this way if they had this modern stuff?"

    That question gets asked a lot around my place. The answer is almost always NO.
     
  7. Jim S.

    Jim S. Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,963
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2004
    Location:
    Tennessee
    bill in oh, if you decide to chew glass...please take some pix, also!!! LOL.
     
  8. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

    Messages:
    15,066
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Between Crosslake and Emily Minnesota
    MichiganFarmer, I really don't think that anyone would of hand dug a well 100, or even 60 feet, deep in the old days. I am willing to bet that the well drillers in your area drill down 60 to 100 feet or more for wells. That doesn't mean that the ground is not saturated above that depth. It is likely that the watertable is well above the 60 to 100 foot depth in your area.
     
    haypoint likes this.
  9. bumpus

    bumpus Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,280
    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2003
    Location:
    Right Here
  10. Windy in Kansas

    Windy in Kansas In Remembrance

    Messages:
    11,076
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2002
    Location:
    South Central Kansas
    In much of central and western Kansas the water table is just short of 100 feet deep. My parents eventually owned 6 quarters of land with a total of 4 hand dug wells on them. The two on the home quarter were 75 feet and 85 feet deep.
    They were both capped with old grain drill wheels that had been filled with concrete with the center cut out for the pipe to enter the well. That means they were about 5 feet in diameter at the surface.

    Check this hand dug well out in the Kansas town that was destroyed by tornado this spring.
    http://www.bigwell.org/bigwell.html
     
  11. Hoop

    Hoop Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    799
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2003
    Location:
    Northern Wisconsin
    Remember. Native Americans use to live in teepees 150 years ago. They have since wised up.

    You should too. Digging a well by hand claimed many a life. Saving a few dollars isn't worth a life.

    They dug wells by hand years ago, because it was the ONLY AVAILIBLE OPTION.
     
  12. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,808
    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2003
    Location:
    Dysfunction Junction, SW PA
    my neighbor uncoverd a stone lined dug well behind his house, we dropped a light on a ext cord down it to see.....

    75 feet and no bottom in sight, and the rope "felt" like it hit something at about 125 feet.

    3 feet across and tightly lined with field stones.... that alone had to be a feat.

    I wonder if there is any body down there....
     
  13. bill not in oh

    bill not in oh Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,869
    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Location:
    Earth
    If it gets down to either I dig a 60 foot well or chew glass, I will take the pics as you requested...
     
  14. RedneckPete

    RedneckPete Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,278
    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2004
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I think it would be kinda fun. If the bricks were stacked carefully and the hole wasn't over dug to much, it seem it would be impossible for the brickwork to collapse, as it would form a continuous arch around the hole.

    Pete
     
  15. Sandhills

    Sandhills Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    389
    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2004
    Back in the mid to late 1800's my great-greatgrandfather was drilling wells with a horse drawn rig. I don't know how it worked but I do have a picture of it somewhere. It's just finding the picture. Anyway, tell your friends that they did drill wells before the 1900's so they would be doing it the old fashioned way.
     
  16. hillsidedigger

    hillsidedigger Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,565
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2006
    Location:
    NC/Blue Ridge foothills
    How about digging a well as a 1:1 side-slope cone? Reduces the danger of cave-ins. Increases the volume of earth to be moved.

    When a depth sufficient for water is reached a vertical casement can be constructed and backfilled.

    When I was a kid, I imagined that is how it was done.
     
  17. FrankTheTank

    FrankTheTank Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    366
    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    haypoint likes this.
  18. Christiaan

    Christiaan Dutch Highlands Farm

    Messages:
    1,642
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2004
    Location:
    Along the Stillaquamish, Washington
    Our well is hand dug, about 30 feet deep. I have never opened it up so have no idea what it looks like. A nice benefit of the hand dug well is that we are about the only people in the area that don't have arsenic in their water. Drilled wells here that exceed 40 feet have arsenic it seems in non-ending supply.
     
  19. Spinner

    Spinner Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    6,727
    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2003
    My homestead has a 2 hand dug wells. One of them has been filled in, the other is still in use. In my area the water table is about 25 feet, but the well was dug 55 feet deep. I wonder how they did that?
     
  20. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,808
    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2003
    Location:
    Dysfunction Junction, SW PA
    the water probably didnt erupt into the pit till they hit 55 feet, and it flooded up to 25ft.