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What Is a Wagon Drill?

By Jean Marie Asta
Updated May 17, 2024
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A wagon drill, also called a wagon wheel drill, is a portable pneumatic drill that is used for rock drilling and blasting. Wagon drills are named for the wagon-like base upon which they rest. A wagon drill can be used above or below ground, and its main benefit is that it is both powerful and portable. Many models can be moved either manually or via a self-propulsion system, making wagon rock drills very user friendly.

Wagon drills usually have two front wheels, one on either side of the drill mechanism. The drill section of the wagon drill stands on a "mast" that holds the drill in a vertical position. The handle is located by the rear wheel, which usually rotates on a limited axis in order to help provide stability.

In order to drill appropriately, wagon rock drills have to remain stable. The "wagon" portion of the drill has a series of telescoping stabilizing legs that hold the drill firmly in position. These stabilizers mean that the drill does not have to be on perfectly level ground to operate effectively. To provide additional stability, the wheels usually lock in place with a brake mechanism, as does the mast.

Rock drilling can be hard on machinery as well as on the person operating the machinery. Most wagon drills have some features to help prevent damage to the drill itself and wear on the operator. A high-quality wagon drill is made with heavy-duty steel framing that can survive the knocks a drill on a mining site will take. To reduce operator fatigue, some units include a self-propulsion motor and an auto-feeding drill bit.

Even though wagon wheel drills are normally compact in size, measuring about 6 feet (1.8 m) long, they can still pack some power. There is a wide variety in the sizes of drill bits that wagon wheel drills carry. It is not uncommon for a wagon drill to be capable of producing a hole of about 4 inches (about 10 cm) in diameter and as deep as 100 feet (30.5 m) or more.

When it is used for drilling underground, one important consideration in a wagon drill is how high the mast is. There needs to be enough ceiling clearance in the mine for the mast to be fully raised. If not, the operator will not be able to position the drill bit in the vertical operating position. In general, the mast height on a wagon drill is about 10-16 feet (about 3-5 m) feet meters.

What Is a Typical Wagon Drill Price?

Wagon drills can be purchased either new or used. They're typically offered through third-party vendors of mining and industrial equipment. Due to their specialized functions, wagon rock drill vendors usually provide a price quote to their clients prior to selling them a drill.

It's somewhat difficult to accurately determine an average wagon drill price. However, it's not uncommon to see overseas wholesalers offering wagon drills for $4.600 and up. Keep in mind that these prices can vary widely according to the specific model and configuration desired by the buyer.

Which Type of Feed Is Used in a Wagon Drill?

Wagon drills require powerful mechanics to perform their jobs. Many versions use a chain drive feed system. A quick review of chain drive mechanics can be useful in understanding how it works.

Chain Drive Basics

Believe it or not, chain drives date back to ancient Greek times. They were key to an important advancement in ancient Greek siege warfare technology. Philon of Byzantium, a Greek engineer who lived during the third century B.C.E., described how the chain drive of his time worked in an ancient predecessor of the machine gun called a "polybolos." This missile-launching weapon integrated a chain drive to help it repeatedly fire projectiles.

The incorporation of a chain drive separated the polybolos from its predecessor, the ballista. Like today's version, the chain drive in the polybolos contained two gears and a chain. It didn't transmit power continuously, but it was the ancestor of later versions that did.

Modern chain drives do perpetually transfer power from one place to another. Each one incorporates a roller chain moving over a sprocket gear. The teeth of the sprocket line up with the holes in the roller chain, which turns the gear and moves the chain. The chain drive concept became central to later inventions such as the motorcycle. When adapted as a timing chain, this invention drives the camshafts in today's piston engines. Without chain drives, we wouldn't have automobiles.

Wagon Drill Chain Drives

Wagon drills' feed systems operate by chain drives powered by small motors. These feed systems are typically self-lubricated. This is key since the feed is responsible for turning the drill bit and boring holes into the rock.

The Difference Between Wagon Drill and Jack Hammer

Wagon drills and jackhammers are both pneumatic drills designed to bore holes into hard surfaces. However, they're used in different applications. A breakdown of each machine's design and function can help you understand what makes each one distinct.

Jackhammer Design and Function

As you probably know, jackhammers are handheld tools used to clear rock or concrete in construction projects. Sometimes referred to as demolition hammers, these machines put out a lot of force and can weigh 100 pounds or more. You can think of jackhammers as portable spot drillers, easier to transport from place to place than a larger drilling machine.

The origins of the jackhammer lie in the steam-powered drill, which was invented in 1806. Its development later led to pneumatic drills used in mining and excavation and then to the percussion drill, patented in 1849 by Jonathan Couch. But it was William Mcreavy who created a pneumatic tool that combines a hammer and chisel. He sold his patent to American inventory Charles Brady King, who in turn created and patented the first modern jackhammer in 1892. King was 24 years old at the time.

Jackhammers revolutionized how mining was done in those times. Before their inception, workers used sledgehammers and pure brawn to bust through tons of solid rock. Even though steam engines could perform similar tasks, they used combustion to produce that steam. Hot gasses in a dark, cramped mine created a recipe for disaster. But jackhammers harnessed compressed air to apply the necessary force to break rock.

Today's jackhammers work on a simple principle: a cylindrical chamber into which compressed air flows and activates a trigger valve that opens and closes at a very fast rate. Opening the valve lets pressurized air into a piston chamber: Once the pressure increases enough, the piston collides into the bit, and the trigger valve shuts. The bit is connected to a spring, which returns it back to its original position. This process happens at an incredibly fast rate, allowing the bit to chip away at the rock or concrete.

Jackhammers Vs. Wagon Drills

The first key distinction between wagon drills and jackhammers is obvious. Jackhammers are handheld tools, while wagon drills are larger assemblies that must be rolled from place to place. Wagon drills also use chain drives to move their drill bits. Jackhammers use pistons to accomplish the same feat.

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