Drilling Equipment Resources’ Inside Sales Representative Shares Tips and Techniques on Drill Bits

When it comes time to selecting the correct drill bit for the job, there are a variety of factors to consider.

LaTisha Shipman

“Know the formation you’re drilling in,” says LaTisha Shipman, inside sales representative for Drilling Equipment Resources in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was a first-time exhibitor at Groundwater Week 2021. “Is it hard, soft, or abrasive? What is the total depth you need to drill in these conditions?”

Beyond what the formation can indicate, Shipman advises checking with other local wells for the history despite formations being variable. She says it can’t hurt to do the research on existing wells in the area, especially if it’s a new location.

“Formation is important because you can communicate to your distributor that you need harder buttons, or dome gage/parabolic face, or wear pads, or convex bit face, etc.,” she says. “Please communicate with your distributor so they can relay to the bit manufacturer what you need specifically to complete the job in a timely fashion with the correct bit.

“Face design, button hardness and size, flushing, all that stuff matters. When you’re drilling with the proper bit, you’re going to save money and time in the long run.”

Shipman, who started in the industry in 2001 working for Sandvik and later Drill King International LP before beginning her current role in 2022, suggests it’s important considering adding wear pads or backreaming buttons. She says wear pads will help protect a contractor’s gage row when running in abrasive formations, especially if one is experiencing steel wash. Backreamers will help a contractor to drill out in an overburden situation where there is an unstable hole.

“I would also recommend using Matex Hole Control if you’re drilling in unconsolidated formations—your fluids and polymers will help with these situations,” she says.

“An example would be when you’re running in clay—what happens? Your flushing holes get caked up and then you have to trip out to knock all that off your bit face. You need to be running Clay Break or something similar. Your distributor should be able to help you with both bit design and function as well as providing you with the fluids to finish the job.”

It’s important to run the right size bit for the hole because undersized bits can bury the hammer and everything else above it. Oversized bit heads are not going to be covered under shankage warranty. Plus, running a bit and hammer that is the right size for the job will also save money and time in the long run.

“Do you need premium button inserts compared to standard inserts?” she asks. “Maybe you do if you’re drilling in hard, abrasive formations. Otherwise, the standard inserts might do the job just fine, saving you money. Talk with your distributor about your formation.”

Other considerations: “Is your chuck worn? You don’t want a mismatched used chuck with a new bit. Make sure to replace your chuck when it’s worn, otherwise you can shank the bit and you’ll be fishing rather than drilling.

“Is your blow tube cracked or broken? Replace it. You want to inspect your bit face and your blow tube after every run. You don’t want to be tripping out of the hole over a broken blow tube. That’s one of the cheapest things to replace but often overlooked. If your blow tube is cracked or broken, you’re losing air for flushing cuttings out of the hole.”

Shipman applauds those in the industry who regrind their buttons to extend their bit life.

“Handheld grinders and cups are a great investment considering you can extend the life of your bit up to 30 percent,” she says. “That saves you money. Keep those bits as your backups, keep them in good condition. If you don’t have the manpower to do the regrinding work, talk to your distributor about bit repair and what they have to offer you in that regard.”

Lastly, what happens if a bit breaks? Shipman again stresses to contact the distributor.

“Warranty claims are really few and far between—why?” she asks. “It’s not because of a lack of breakages. It’s because of a lack of communication. You need to communicate to your dealer that your bit broke.

“Sometimes you know it’s something you did, but when you don’t know, or if you know you didn’t do anything different than you normally do, tell your dealer you want to submit a claim. Part of submitting the claim is giving feedback. Yes, I know, there’s lots of questions on the form, but if it was your truck, you would fill out the form.

“Without this feedback, it’s hard for the dealer and the manufacturer to identify an issue. Instead, it’s just blasted all over social media. Your dealer should be going to bat for you with the manufacturers. Give the manufacturers an opportunity to correct these issues. They cannot correct what they don’t know about!”

By Mike Price