WorldWide Drilling Resource

8 SEPTEMBER 2022 WorldWide Drilling Resource® The Man Who Revolutionized Blasthole Drilling Adapted from Information by and A great reform in the history of industrial health and safety was championed not by a physician or lawmaker, but by a mechanical engineer. Machinist John George Leyner revolutionized the mining industry with a series of novel rock drills produced around the turn of the 20th century. His drills not only worked better than earlier tools, but also dramatically reduced silicosis, or miner’s lung, one of the most dreaded occupational diseases affecting miners. Linked to inhalation of rock dust created by conventional drilling and rock-breaking techniques, silicosis often led to death for exposed miners. By 1700, when the first treatise on occupational health was published, miner's lung was a well-documented phenomenon. It became a public health issue only after the industrial revolution inspired companies to dig deeper mines and hire more working-class men willing to risk their lives for a steady wage. It is possible Leyner had worker safety in mind with his novel hammer drill design - after all, he knew something of industrial-age hazards from losing an eye in a youthful mishap with dynamite. At the same time, Leyner was a savvy businessman keen to outsell his competition. Leyner was born in the right place at the right time with the right talents to make a difference in his profession. He was born to a German immigrant father and Pennsylvania Dutch mother in 1860 in the heart of Colorado mining country. Mechanization and the increased need for ores and minerals was driving settlement and expansion in the American West. Leyner’s formal schooling ended by eighth grade, but his education in the weaknesses of drilling equipment continued into his 30s as the operator of a busy machine shop repairing equipment for the local mining industry around Denver. He saw the need for a lightweight, fast, and powerful drill that could break through rock far faster than the dominant piston-driven models. He created his first drill between 1896 and 1897, and then took the technology one step further by adding the ability to blast rock casting away from the drilling area with compressed air. Leyner marketed the new drill, but miners refused to use it after seeing the billowing cloud of dust created by the machine. Undaunted, Leyner went back to his shop to develop what would become his signature breakthrough. By devising a method to fabricate a hollow steel drill bit, Leyner was able to channel a stream of water, as well as compressed air through the steel and directly to the point of contact with the rock face. This process converted hazardous rock castings and dust into cool, harmless mud. It was a major victory against conditions which gave rise to lung disease, and miners embraced it immediately. The Leyner water-flushed drill was such a game-changer many mining states soon banned dry mining techniques. Business thrived and he was soon enticed to move his growing Leyner Engineering Works Company to nearby Littleton. It employed nearly 170 workers in a ninebuilding complex. In 1904, the company won Grand Prize at the St. Louis World’s Fair for its superior compressors, drills, and hoisting equipment. By 1912, Ingersoll-Rand became Leyner’s sole distributor and manufacturer of rock drills under his patents. His inventions have continued to provide safety and efficiency to drilling professionals for more than a century. John George Leyner. Courtesy of A miner drills a blasthole with a Leyner ma- chine. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. EXB November Issue Deadlines Space Reservation: September 25th Display & Classified Ad Copy: October 1st