Pages from a sketchbook: ‘Single-Handed Driving’

In my posting of 11 January 2016, I  referred to the use of compressed-air as a motive-power for rock drills used underground. The image below illustrates the method used prior to the invention and production of such drills, and essentially uses ‘main force’ (a man swinging a hammer) to drive a pointed length of steel (termed a ‘drill’) into a rock face.

Known as either ‘Single-Handed Drilling’ or ‘Single-Handed Driving’ and with little refinement (and that of a metallurgical nature) this method had been in use for centuries. It was, if you will, the ‘traditional’ method of drilling holes in both underground and surface mining operations.

In Single-handed Drilling (and as can be seen), two men were involved; the ‘Driller’ (who held the pointed and especially-hardened steel drilling rod against the rock face) and the ‘Striker’ who wielded a steel-headed hammer and repeatedly struck the outer (flattened) end of the steel drill, forcing it into the rock.

The ‘Driller’ sat cross-legged on the floor of the mine working, holding the drill steel (the pointed steel rod) against the rock. the Striker being placed at the other (outer) end previously referred-to.

The holes were driven in series and to a pre-determined pattern , and when the drilling of all the required holes was completed, were filled with explosives.  These in turn were detonated and the rock. after falling to the floor of the working, was taken away for chemical processing to extract the metal it contained.

The drill teams worked within spaces that measured (at most) 5ft tall x 6 ft wide, and  with only candles to provide illumination. The need for mutual trust between the team members will be evident.

it should also be noted that, on occasion, there could be two ‘strikers’ operating in the same enclosed environment, such a situation being termed ‘Two-Handed’ Drilling.

Surprisingly, such methods  could drill holes into the rock face quite quickly, but, as technology developed, not quickly-enough, and these methods were eventually replaced by more-efficient mechanical rock drills, driven by compressed air. In that context, the well-known American song about ‘John Henry was a Steel-Drivin’ Man’ refers to the attempt by a Single-handed drilling team to improve their efficiency and delay their replacement by a compressed-air drill.  As we know, they failed in the attempt…

Title: ‘Single-Handed Driving’

Media: Black ink pigment liner (0.3 nib) on white cartridge paper.

Ownership: Artist’s personal collection.

This work is copyright.


Pages from a sketchbook: ‘Single-Handed Driving’

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