Hand water pumping or water systems 101.

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Windy in Kansas, Feb 27, 2004.

  1. Windy in Kansas

    Windy in Kansas In Remembrance

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    The topic of hand pumping water from wells is often a topic discussed here. Today I'm going to give you a little different slant of water well systems.

    I grew up on a family farm that had two hand dug water wells, one 75' deep, the other 85' deep. Pumping water was done with windmills unless there were a few too many calm days during the summer. We had about 100 head of livestock, so water consumption was fairly high. The three 10' stock tanks were topped off daily, sometimes more often if it was hot.

    The wells were covered over with old wagon wheels that had been filled with concrete. We called these the well platform. The hole for the axle was left open and through it pipe would extend into the well.

    Setting on the platform was what we called the pump. This is an incorrect term, and Lehman Hardware lists them as the "pump head". They are cast iron, about 4 feet tall, and have the handle and a spigot on them. They are often seen in movies, not the ones inside of cabins at a sink however, but outdoors a few feet from the doorway, or a distance away.

    The pump head is internally threaded to receive the down pipe. Rather than risk damaging these threads while making repairs, most farmers would install a length of pipe that was about 18" longer than the bottom of the pump head. Then the connections to the down pipe would always be made here without risk to the threads of the pump head.

    The pipe used would be 20' lengths of 1¼" galvanized steel pipe. This was the standard size of the internal pump head threads. It allowed for an ample flow without restrictions.
    The down pipe had a small hole drilled in it a few feet below the platform, to allow water to drain from the pump head and pipe so that it didn't freeze in the colder months. Over this hole we would wrap a piece of tin around and wire in place. This would keep a small stream of water from squirting against the side of the well to prevent soil erosion. Remember these were hand dug wells, lined with brick or tile for the first few feet.

    Inside of the down pipe was a plunger rod, what Lenhman Hardware calls the pump rod.
    It was 7/16" in diameter, and came in 20' lengths to match the length of pipe. We called the couplings holding the joints together knuckles. Why? I don't know, but that is what the old timers always called them, so I do too.

    At the bottom of the drop pipe was the well cylinder. This is the pump. We used a 3" diameter cylinder/pump that was 18" long. The stroke of the windmill was not 18", so if the brass liner of the cylinder became scored from wear or sand, the pump rod could be shortened a little to allow wear in a new spot within the cylinder. The stroke of within the cylinder was typically to be 10". Lehman Hardware lists the 3" X 18" cylinder with a 10" stroke as having a capacity of .31 gallon per stroke on a well less than 80' deep. The smaller diameter cylinders are used for deeper wells, with decreased capacities.

    At the bottom of the cylinder we always had a 24" pipe or thereabouts, with a foot valve installed on the bottom of it. The foot valve had slitted sides for the water to come through, and inside was a finer mesh screening. The slits and mesh and the 24" down pipe were all means of keeping fine sand from getting into the cylinder.

    The cylinder was simple enough to repair. The end caps came off. Inside there was a piston like one-way water valve. Water would pass through it on the down stroke to fill the cylinder, then close on the upstroke to force the water up the pipe. The foot valve really didn't have any maintainence that could be done on it other than cleaning.

    Around the water valve, which unscrewed, were cup like leathers. The leathers rode against the cylinder wall, so the cup of the leather was faced upwards. As they were pulled into the water the pressure would expand them against the side to prevent the least amount of leakage as possible. The leathers had to be replaced every year to every couple of years. On occassion if some sand had gotten into the cylinder the brass lining could be honed back smooth. If severly damaged, the cylinders could be sent off to be relined. Relining them in this day and age costs almost as much as a new cylinder, or so I'm told.

    As the windmill turned, the pump rod stroked the water valve in the cylinder up and down, causing the water to come up inside of the down pipe. The water came out the pump head spigot, or the spigot could be closed via a turn valve and the water would then be diverted out a pipe fitting on the other side of the pump head. From this fitting our water pumped further up into our home water supply tank, a 1,000 gallon redwood tank that set within a building. From there the water gravity flowed to all plumbing. This building had to be heated a little in the winter to prevent the pipes from freezing. Fresh water would be pumped each day to replace what we had used. The heat of this water would afford some freeze protection.

    Backing up a bit, if the water were allowed out the spigot instead of being diverated for home use, a small bucket like cast iron device threaded for pipe would hang below the spigot to catch the water A pipe from this would go to the stock tank a few feet away. A garden hose fitting could also be turned onto the spigot to take the water away by hose. A hose couldn't carry away the volume of water being pumped, so some would be forced up into the overhead supply tank. The weight of the water and the force from the cylinder gave greater pressure to the hose and would allow a sprinkler to be used. Poorly I might add. lol.

    These systems were good at providing low cost water. The pressure from the overhead tank was low, and FAR FAR from what we are used to today. There was more maintainence to the well cylinder than there would be to a submersible pump of today. You pretty much had to turn the windmill on and off manually rather than rely on a modern pressure switch to do so. Some people did rig floats up to turn the mill on and off, but with limited success.

    If you are ready to give up the convenience of automatic higher pressure water and an electric bill, the aforementioned systems work great. Now a days they are very costly to initially install, but cost little to operate thereafter. There are trade offs as with anything relatively free. A plus is that we always had a supply of water even if the electricity was off. Windmill or pump jack, pump head, down pipe, pump rod, well cylinder, foot valve and proper well tools to install, VS. submersible pump, pressure switch, bladder tank, wiring, installation by an electrician, breaker box, poly down pipe, and ???

    Proceeding---
    Now when the wind didn't blow, the windmill was unhooked and the pump handle was moved into place. AND YES, the pumps easily pumped the water from the 75-85 foot depths. There was no standing water in a casing, only a few feet of water at the very bottom.

    If more water was needed than the tiring hand pumping could provide, then a "pump jack" could be mounted to the pump head and be powered by an electric motor or a gasoline motor. A pint of gas will pump a lot of water as will a few cents of electricity.

    Some of you often ponder how to pump water without electricity, the aforementioned system and a pump jack powered by gasoline is the way to go.

    You don't need to add an overhead tank to a system like this if you don't want to. Merely catch the water as it comes out the spigot and carry it to where needed.

    I really can't think what else might be said on the subject. If you have questions I'll try to answer them.
     
  2. RANDEL

    RANDEL Well-Known Member

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    wow! thanks for a very informative post!
     

  3. barbarake

    barbarake Well-Known Member

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    I agree - thanks so much for your post. I saved it as information I will (hopefully) need in the future.
     
  4. george darby

    george darby Well-Known Member

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    chain pumps were common in this area still some around but the company stoped selling the parts a chain with figure 8 links and spacesinterlinks with a rubber flange. the chain turned on a wheel which pulled it up through a thin wall galvanized pipe worked great and lasted a long time
     
  5. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Windy; You done a great job of discribing the wells that were common here not so long ago. The two differences being our wells were a pipe with a screen/point on the bottom, and not having a cylinder on the deep wells. The leathers and check valve were below the water level, and the pipe itself acted as the cylinder. Ours had a pumpjack and pumped water into the house like yours, and when the house tank was full, it overflowed down a pipe and run underground to our stock tank. Our rods going down into the pipe were 1x1 wooden rods 20 feet long.. There was a knuckle with threads that screwed the rods together. One summee we had to pull the rods to replace the leathers 3 times before my stepdad added about 3 feet to the rods to get below the rough place that had developed in the pipe.
     
  6. flaswampratt

    flaswampratt Well-Known Member

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    I would like to thank you too for a most informative post.

    Is it still possible today for a guy(or gal) to make a living out on the plains servicing mills? I know alot of the larger ranches still use windmills today, just wondered if it would be a viable thing to look into?

    Best Regards..........
     
  7. Windy in KS

    Windy in KS Guest

    I really doubt a livelihood could be made servicing windmill. There isn't a great deal of maintainence to one of them. A yearly changing of gear oil, which is often ignored, and changing the brake bands if often the only maintainence a mill might need for 20 years or more.

    The Aeromotor windmill heads on our farm have served for most of my 57 year life. The one head was replaced in the 1960s, but the other is original to my lifetime. Both mills were taken out of service in the 1980s.

    The wells themselves require more service than the mills. Most farmers will work on them during a slack season.

    To be honest, most farmer/ranchers have gone to submersible pumps if electrical lines are anywhere near. This saves them from tending a mill as float devices, automatic waterers are used, etc.

    Here is a company that does repair service, you might contact them to inquire more.
    Raymond Windmill Service & Farm Supply (620) 534-3131 105 W. 4th, Raymond, KS 67573
    ------
    In western Kansas where the water is 50' to 100' deep well points just aren't used. I'm not sure you could successfully get that deep with them. Where I live now they are used on occassion.

    The old chain cistern and shallow well lifts just aren't used. I never saw one until I lived in Missouri.

    Same for sink pumps, the water is just too deep to suck the water, so a cylinder at the bottom of a well is used instead. Always nice to have an overhead tankful of water anyway. Turn a faucet and get running water. Wow, what a convenience.

    I eventually hope to get moved to my farm. Rather than paying a monthly bill to pump water I plan on using a mill to pump mine. Unless of course I irrigate a truck garden and need the extra volume that a submersible would provide.
     
  8. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The working windmills that were common here are mostly gone except for a few up in the Amish country. Instead people are paying good prices for the old ones and having them rebuilt where needed and painted before hiring them put up on their place. My neighbor bought an old one that had missing fan blades, then hired a man to take it down and put it in like new condition. He had a 5 inch well, 86feet drilled near his house among trees where the man put the mill back up. He bought a little 100 gallon sheep watering tank to pump into. All this to water his wifes flower garden which he had to put in around the mill. I figure it cost him around $3000 and there was already a garden hose to use right there from the house well across the driveway. And since the trees are taller than the mill, it takes a baby hurricane to make the mill pump water.
    The money in mills is buying the old ones and reselling them like new to people who just want to look at them in their landscaped lawn. They are getting scarce to buy here. But they are all still here. Just have new owners.
     
  9. Windy in KS

    Windy in KS Guest

    Good point. A great many mills are moved to suburbia and painted.
    All of my cousins that come for the yearly family reunion nearly always talk about the windmills on the family farm. I think they all climbed them at one time or another.
    I don't know what cousin Merz would do with one in New York City, but he seems more nostalgic than the others. Perhaps because he only seems them on rare occassions.

    I get a real kick out of the city folks actions (And they call farm folk hicks). Last year they discovered a plant with a real pretty yellow bloom. Out came the spade and out of state went the plant. I certainly wouldn't move a plant to another area without identifying it, might be a noxious weed. The one they dug up to transplant was one of the giant dandelions. Hey, I could have saved them some trouble and sent them some seed. lol.

    We sold one mill off of the family farm as it no longer had the 20' joints of down pipe in it. A submersible pump now does the work as there is no one to tend the mill for the cattleman that rents the pasture. The other mill is still in place, but rarely used. I have one on a quarter section that my grandfather homesteaded in 1887, but it is used to water cattle on stubble, so I don't really have intentions on moving it. I do have a mill I salvaged. It blew down a number of decades before and just lay in the weeds until I asked if I could have it. The tail fin is bent, as is the tower legs. That should be a reminder to stake them down securely. The wind doth blow. (Greatly today, yesterday, and the day before.) Tiring to say the least.
     
  10. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I wonder how much electrical power could be expected from a windmill powering a generater.
    Another question is why do windmills have a nearly solid set of fan blades when most wind powered generaters only have about 3 skinny blades? It seems logical to me that the old windmill type fans would catch more of the passing wind and thus be more powerful.. What am I overlooking here?
     
  11. flaswampratt

    flaswampratt Well-Known Member

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    I'm not a rocket scientist but I'll take a stab at your question.

    The first thing to remember is that a water pumping windmill and an electric generating wind turbine are two different types of workhorses.

    I beleive that a mill is designed not for speed, but to overcome torque and resistance. In fact, a mill is desighned to turn more or less out of the wind so as to not tear itself apart. Hence, it's speed is geared down and converted to a reciprocating energy.

    A turbine on the other hand works most efficiently by turning at a high rate of speed, or RPM's to generate an electric feild in an alternator or generator.

    A mill wouldn't turn fast enough for an alternator to generate electric power.

    If I'm wrong, please correct me.

    Thanks for the info, I just might call these folks.

    Best Regards.......
     
  12. East Texas Pine Rooter

    East Texas Pine Rooter Well-Known Member

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    I enjoyed so much your memories of a hand water pump. I have a hand dug well, only maybe 25-feet deep, with 36-inch concrete tiles, but has 7-feet of water. I rented a submercible pump, and borrowed a generator, and pumped it almost dry, because water was still pouring in. It recovered in 1-hour to the 7-feet of water. A spring of water just poured in 6-feet off the bottom. The electric service pole is just 40-feet from the well, but runs another 750-feet to my cabin where it terminates. I could get electricity, but would have to pay a separate meter fee, which would be charged at a monthly commericial rate, plus the water usage. I have comunity water to my cabin. I could run underground back to the well, but then the aditional expence. I'm planning on building on the place in 5-years, then I would be closer to the well to justify a underground for a submercible pump. If I can find, a hand water pump , and using your instructions, I would like to do it. But the expence only to satisfy my thirst for a drink of well water. I guess I will just have to wait. Thanks so much for such a nice forum subject. I saved it to my favorites.
     
  13. Windy in Kansas

    Windy in Kansas In Remembrance

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    East Texas Pine Rooter, your well has shallow enough water in it that you should be able to get by using a pitcher pump, i.e. what I called a cabin or sink pump previously. They suck water as I understand it, so must be primed upon first use, and sometimes thereafter.

    From reading posts of others I wouldn't necessarily get a generic made in China cheap one that I couldn't get parts for. While the pumps are readily available at many farm stores, hardware stores, etc. I don't think parts are, such as replacement leathers.

    Someone else can best advise you on pitcher pumps.

    I'm happy to know that someone is getting some good out of the post.