Have you ever dug in your back yard with a shovel and ran into something very hard? Chances are it was a large rock. If the obstruction was small enough you could dig it up and be on your way. However, if it was too large, you probably started digging in another location. This battle between man and rock has been going on for thousands of years and today, thanks to hydraulic rock drill equipment, man is getting the upper hand. However, this was not always the case. Let’s journey back through time to witness some of these struggles.
Mining and Drilling
Perhaps some of the earliest encounters between man and rocks involved mining. In fact, the ancient Egyptians mined for materials as early as 4000 BC. They didn’t have special hydraulic rock drill equipment but they did utilize hydraulics in a way. In order to remove large rocks they built fires to get them very hot and then doused them with water. This was often enough to cause large formations to crack so they could easily be removed with the tools they had available.
Heating and quenching large rocks and boulders continued up until the 1800s. However, things changed when gun powder began seeing use in mining. This is where the value of drilling comes into play. Man needed a way to bore holes in solid material so he could plant explosives. This turned out to be much more effective than heat and water.
In the 1600s, man began rock drilling to use explosives. Early drills were literally hammered into the rock and by the 1700s chisel bits were used. However, these were very dangerous methods until the invention of the safety fuse gave workers more time to get away from the blast.
By the mid 1800s, the steam engine helped to create large drills and drills utilizing compressed air were in the design stage. The steam driven drill continued to see development and wide use for some time. The turn of the 20th Century saw a great deal of advancement and a special rock drill bit was invented. Pneumatics began to gain in popularity and the famous jackhammer made boring into rock much easier and convenient.
In the 1930s diesel engines were powering drills and it was not until the 1950s when the hydraulic rock drill saw a great deal of use. Today rock drilling is high tech and capable or boring many miles into the earth, and it appears the tide has turned in the battle of man against rocks.
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