Q. Who is Little Beaver?
A. We are a third generation family owned company based in Livingston, Texas, about 75 miles north of Houston. We have supplied a unique one-man earth drill to the rental market and to professional fence installers for over 50 years. In 2005 we purchased the Lone Star product line from Harry Westmoreland with the intention that he would remain as a consultant while he pursued other interests in his Christian ministry. Unfortunately Harry passed away in February 2007, but we are committed to honor his legacy by providing the very best water well drill rigs in the market. We have a modern manufacturing facility that features four CNC machine tools, a high definition plasma plate cutting machine and a powder coat finishing line. We have an in-house engineering staff and a dedicated, caring production and customer service staff with an average length of service of 20 years.
Q. How much do your rigs cost?
A. Our water well rigs are economically priced. We offer basic drill rigs starting at $5,000 and complete rig packages starting at $9,000. Discounts are available for qualified missionary and humanitarian organizations. Please send an email inquiry for a complete price list.
Q. How do I order one?
A. You may call us at 800.227.7515 (+1.936.327.3121) from 7:30am to 4:30pm US central time to speak with one of our sales representatives. You can also contact us by email from the web site form or directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. Where can I get training?
A. With the purchase of a hydraulic rig we can provide a half or full day training at our factory. Several organizations offer complete well training classes lasting four or five days. Among these are Living Water International and Lifewater International.
Q. How does it work?
A. All of our water well rigs work on the mud rotary principal. The rig is used to rotate the bit and raise or lower the drill pipe while a separate mud pump is used to circulate drilling mud. The rig can be either a mechanical type where the rotary is driven by an engine through a gearbox and the pipe is raised with a hand winch, or a hydraulic type where both the rotary and draw-works are powered by a remote power unit. The mud pump pulls the drilling mud from the suction pit and pumps it through the 3-way valve, swivel and drill pipe to the bit. The mud then travels up the borehole removing the cuttings and carrying them into the settling pit. In addition, we offer the option to use a DTH air hammer with some of the rigs. This requires an air compressor in addition to the drill rig. Our soil sampling rigs can be configured to use dry auger in addition to or in place of mud rotary. This can be accomplished using an auger adapter for the swivel or more commonly with a separate rotary head.
Q. Should I buy a mechanical or hydraulic machine?
A. This depends on how you plan to use the rig. If it will be occasional use (once a month or less) and there is little or no rock, then the LS100 or LS200 will be fine. For a more active drilling program or where you will encounter rock then we recommend the hydraulic rigs for their ease of use and efficiency. Another consideration is the maximum depth. If you will be consistently drilling to 150 feet or more a hydraulic rig will be best.
Q. What type of bits come with the rig package?
A. The typical rig package includes 3-7/8” and 5-7/8” drag bits and a 5-7/8” reamer. These bits are sized to fit through 4” and 6” casing pipe. A 7” reamer is also included for use where it is necessary to set a surface casing. Larger reamers are available, as are tricone roller bits for rock.
Q. I see many cheap water well rigs on the web. Why should I buy yours?
A. The old adage is you get what you pay for. With Lone Star you can be assured of the highest quality product manufactured by a company that has been around for 60 plus years and has a reputation for quality and customer service in the US domestic rental and fence industry. You also get a warranty from a company that will stand behind it. Little Beaver and Lone Star will provide the advice and support you need both before and after the sale.
Q. What other resources are available?
A. Check out the National Groundwater Association bookstore for many helpful books on the subject. We especially recommend the Australian book “Drilling” (ISBN 1-56670-242-9) which is very easy to read and understand.
Q. How do I ship a drill rig to Africa (or anywhere else)?
A. Most of our rigs are crated and ready for shipment via ocean or airfreight to your destination. The LS300T+ requires a 20-foot container and can only be shipped by ocean. The LST1 or LST1+ can be shipped by container or can be knocked down and palletized for air or ocean shipping. We work with several forwarding agents to arrange for shipment at your preferred price and service level. You will need to make arrangements in the destination country for receiving the equipment. You may also be required to pay duties, taxes and customs fees upon arrival.
Q. Can I leave the drill pipe in the hole while I break for lunch or overnight?
A. NO. You may get away with this but there is a great risk that the borehole will collapse and trap your pipe in the ground. The best practice is to remove the drill pipe when you take a break. If this is not practical, then for a short break you can pull the bit up about 5-10 feet and leave the mud pump running to maintain circulation. For an overnight break always remove the pipe.
Q. Should I buy diesel or gas engines?
A. In our opinion this decision should be driven by the availability of fuel. If you can get a good quality gasoline (and in most places you can) then you should select gas engines. Diesels are a little more fuel efficient, but the initial purchase cost and long-term maintenance costs can be much higher than for gasoline engines. We use quality Honda engines on all of our gas-powered rigs.
Q. I’m drilling my first well. Should I go for the maximum depth?
A. In our experience, it is best to drill your first well in a location where water is within 100 feet, and the resources you need for support are close by. This will help to make sure that your first efforts are successful. Then you can build on your success with future projects that are farther away or more difficult.
Q. What other tools will I need in addition to those included in the rig package?
A. There are many additional tools and items (gas cans, shovels, tarps) that you should be able to source in your country of operation. Here is a link to our mobilization checklist that is art of the rig manual. You should also take a look at our accessories section for useful suggestions, such as a pipe retrieval tool, mud kit and others.
Q. How can I tell when I’ve reached water?
A. As you will learn in training, it is very important to examine the cuttings and drilling mud as they exit the borehole. When you drill through a possible water bearing strata you may notice that the cuttings change to a fine or coarse sand or gravel. You may also notice that the mud dilutes and the temperature drops as the groundwater mixes with it. All of these are signs of water, but you can never be sure until you begin to develop the well and test its yield.
Q. What diameter borehole do I need?
A. The typical borehole for 4-inch casing is 6 inches. Depth capacity for all of our rigs is based on this size borehole. We also have 7-inch and 8-inch reamers available if a larger diameter is required, although the maximum depth will be reduced.
Q. Can I use a DTH air hammer with the rig?
A. Yes, a DTH hammer can be used with the LS200H+, LS300H+ and any of the trailer mounted rigs (LST1, LST1+, LS300T+, LS350T+). We recommend the use of a shock sub for hammers larger than 3 inches. For 5-inch or 6-inch hammers, we recommend the LS350 swivel with 3-1/2-inch OD drill pipe to provide the proper up-hole air velocity. With 2-inch and 3-inch hammers you can get by with a 185 cfm/125 psi air compressor in most circumstances. With larger hammers you should use a minimum 380 cfm/175 psi compressor. Our rigs can be configured with an interchangeable air manifold and pumps for injecting foam and/or hammer lubricating oil.
Q. Can I drill through rock with your rigs?
A. If you are using a LS100 or LS200 mechanical rig, it is best to move to a location where there is no rock. Depending on the formation that could be a few yards or a substantial distance. Continuing into rock with these machines can cause damage to the clutch or other components. The LS200H or LS300H standard hydraulic rig can tolerate some soft rock formations, but you should avoid hard rock, especially if there is excessive vibration or chattering of the drill pipe. The ‘Plus’ hydraulic rigs, such as the LS200H+, LS300H+, LS300T+ or LST1+ are recommended when it is necessary to drill in rock formations. These rigs can be anchored into the ground and use the hydraulic system to push down on the bit. You can use drill collars (heavyweight sections of drill pipe) and tricone rock bits with these machines to penetrate most rock formations. If all or most of your drilling is through, then you should consider a rig with a DTH air hammer.
Q. How many people does it take to operate the rig?
A. The minimum crew size for safe operation is two persons, although most training programs use a crew of four.
Q. What type of drilling mud should I use?
A. For most soils bentonite is the best choice. It adds viscosity to the water and also forms a “wall cake” on the inside of the borehole. Some believe that the wall cake can block the aquifer however, so the use of a viscosifier such as guar gum (Poly-Sal) can prevent this. One technique is to drill the pilot (4-inch) hole completely and the 6-inch borehole using bentonite to just above the aquifer, then empty the pits and use guar gum to finish. This can result in reduced development time. Other additives are available to help prevent clay swelling, etc. Contact a mud products company such as Baroid or Economy Mud Products for additional information.
Q. What kind of water pump can I install?
A. Most of the Lone Star users are putting in hand pumps for remote village wells. The most popular are the India Mark II and the Afridev. Both of these are very durable and easy to repair using simple tools and semi-skilled labor. An advantage of the Afridev is that the foot valve can be replaced without removing the drop pipe. You can also install a submersible pump, as long as it is sized to fit the casing. There are many models that will fit into a 4-inch casing. These can be powered from the mains, or by a generator or solar cells. Keep in mind that these items may be a target for theft or vandalism.
Q. I have an aquifer that is trapped under a layer of rock or one that is charged through fissures in the rock. Is there an economical way to reach this?
A. Yes, you can use a combination of mud rotary and DTH air hammer. Drill a 6-inch borehole to the rock using the mud rotary technique, then install a 4-inch pvc casing and grout in place to seal. After the grout sets up overnight, drill the rock using a 2-inch or 3-inch DTH hammer with a 3-7/8-inch bit. It is not necessary to case the hole in rock, and in most cases the water level will rise into the pvc casing. With this system you can get by with a smaller compressor (185 cfm/125 psi). The total cost can be one-third to one- half that of a system to drill a 6-inch borehole.
Q. I was drilling and the water level in the pits suddenly dropped, what should I do?
A. You have drilled into a porous formation. Be prepared. Have a barrel or two of a thick bentonite mixture standing by to pour into the mud pump suction if this happens. In extreme cases you may need to use a “lost circulation” material such as chopped straw to stop the loss of mud.
Q. My mud pump impeller/swivel stem has worn out. Why?
A. Silica and sand particles are very abrasive and can wear out the moving parts quickly. Proper mud pit design can help to alleviate the problem. Always use two pits, the first to settle out the cuttings and the second for the mud pump suction. Make sure the mud stream has at least one 90-degree turn and does not travel straight through the pit.
Q. I can’t get the bentonite to thicken even though I put a whole bag in a 55 gallon barrel. Why?
A. Check the ph of the water. It should be nine or above to ensure proper hydration of the bentonite. If it is too low, add calcium carbonate (soda ash), which is available at swimming pool supply stores. Also, remember to give the bentonite about 30 minutes to fully hydrate. The best way to mix it is to use your mud pump. Put the suction and discharge hoses into a barrel of water and run it as you slowly pour in the bentonite powder. Work the suction around the bottom to pull up any lumps. It usually takes 10 to 20 minutes to mix thoroughly.
Q. My bit keeps getting stuck after I add drill pipe. I have to raise it up a few feet before it will start to turn. What is happening?
A. Most likely you are drilling through sand or gravel and the cuttings are settling around the bit when you stop circulation to add the next section of pipe. In this situation you should allow extra time to clear the hole of cuttings, sometimes up to 10 minutes. You may also need to thicken the mud to ensure complete removal of the cuttings.
Q. I’ve completed my borehole but when I try to put the casing down it hangs up. What’s happening?
A. There are a couple of possibilities here. You could be in a clay formation that is swelling and closing the hole between the time you remove the drill pipe and insert the casing. The best thing to do is to pull the casing and ream the hole again to open it up. Forcing the casing down can lead to undesirable results; for instance, it can make it impossible to get the gravel pack around the screen. There are some mud additives that can mitigate this problem by encapsulating the clay and prevent it from hydrating. If you have drilled through a rock layer, it is possible that you have a crooked hole. You should try to use a reamer/follower above a tricone bit to keep it from wandering. In this situation you could try to push the casing, but this could make it difficult to install the pump or drop pipe later on.