A scale model Bucyrus-Erie 22W well drilling machine. Birk took dimensions for this working model from a full-size version that his neighbor owned. He made a second model for the neighbor as well. This machine doesn’t actually turn a drill bit. Instead, it repeatedly raises and drops a heavy rod to pulverize the rock and dirt in the shaft. Then, water is pumped in and the slurry is withdrawn. This method of drilling goes back to Roman times.

Birk provided the following information about the construction process for this miniature:

“The city where I live gets the majority of its water from wells, and the growing population requires more wells. Several years ago the city let a contract to drill a well in the corner of a park just over a block from our home. I have this problem of being attracted to machinery like iron to a magnet, so I had to go investigate the ruckus. It only took one trip to become acquainted with the owner operator, Robert Perry. He worked alone and enjoyed having visitors like myself come every day to check the progress and chat for a while. Not only did I make a good friend, but I received one heck of an education in well drilling.

Then, I have this second problem of wanting to build a model of every kind of old machine I see. So I Started looking closely at the workings of the machine. Robert could see my interest, and suggested that rather than building a model of the #36-L machine that he was using, I should build a model of a Bucyrus-Erie #22-W. He claimed they were the most popular well drilling machines in the world.

Robert loaned me some operator’s manuals and part books, and furnished me a key to his yard over in Spanish Fork City. He stored his fleet there, including three 22-W machines that I could go measure and photograph as needed.

About ten months later, the model was finished. That may sound quick, but you need to know that back then I did not limit myself to 8 hours a day or 5 days per week.”

A working scale model Bucyrus-Erie 22W well drilling machine.

Exhibit added: May 7, 2016 - Last modified: January 24, 2024

Presented by The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship