What Did the First Directional Drill Look Like? A History of Directional Drilling

October 14, 2021 6:19 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that is certainly true with directional drilling. Curious about how directional drills were designed and developed? Read on for some fascinating history!

The inventor of the equipment was Martin Cherrington, who created the process that would revolutionize construction and trenching. Cherrington first developed the idea in the 1960s while working for a utility company in Los Angeles. While he was out working, he saw another company using a handheld air drill for installing gas lines. This provided the basis for Cherrington’s ideas that would take the concept of guided drilling several steps further.

Cherrington knew the ability to drill directionally could significantly change the trenching industry. It would give drillers the ability to bore out tunnels and trenches underground without having to tear up massive surface areas in the process.

By 1964, Cherrington left his job to build his own rig, which he took to work with him at Titan Contractors, Inc., where he got several contracts with the Sacramento Municipality Utility District.

How were directional drills designed?

The first directional drill rig designed by Cherrington featured a very light, basic framework with a spindly sort of appearance. The frame supported a carriage that rotated the drill pipe.

Many of the directional drilling machines that exist today still somewhat resemble that machine, but at a larger scale and a bit more technologically advanced. But the drill worked, and word quickly spread about the benefits it provided.

Cherrington’s crew did road boring work for a variety of utility companies in northern California and quickly became known as an industry leader for that type of work. Without electronic tracking available at that point, Cherrington’s crew instead used a technique involving drilling potholes at certain intervals along the path of boring, and then using depth to check the direction and angle of the drill head.

Modern directional drilling equipment

Over time, more companies picked up on directional drilling, and rapid advancements were made with the technology—particularly in the areas of tracking and steering.

Early work tended to be done in rural areas without a lot of congestion. If the work was going to be done in urban areas with congestion and lots of construction, better surface tracking was going to be necessary to improve accuracy and to get around the fact that the potholing method would not be sufficient for tracking the accuracy of the drill.

Magnetic steering tools were a turning point for directional drilling modernization. These allowed contractors to verify exactly where the drill was located below the ground, creating a situation where teams were essentially drilling with a subsurface compass. This created a much broader market for directional drilling, and as more and more potential clients became aware of it, its market penetration significantly increased.

Want to know more about how directional drilling can benefit you and suit the needs of your construction or trenching process? Contact us today at Es7 Comm-2 U Inc. with any questions you have for our team of directional drilling experts.

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