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Portable Cable Tool Drilling Machines
Opening Remarks
Corbett Portable Drilling Rig
Parkersburg Rig
Keystone Driller
Star Drilling Machine
Cyclone Drill
Columbia Driller
Wolfe Rig
Fort Worth Spudder
The Ohio Cleaner
Bolles Rig
Yo-Yo Rig
Combination Rig
Miscellaneous Rigs
Concluding Remarks

Yo-Yo Rig

Called a yo-yo rig because a sheave (wheel or pulley) to which the drilling cable is  attached travels up and down much like the motion of a yo-yo played by a youngster.  John B. Hawley, Jr., a Minneapolis engineer, gunmaker and defense contractor, designed this spudding type cable tool machine and put it to use in 1944, a war year.  Hawley's company was called Northern Ordnance.  Albert "Slick" Spence, Hawley's drilling contractor from the Pleasantville, Pennsylvania, area, assisted in this effort.  Hawley and Spence were a good team and, as Hawley put it, the way to get something done "was to break every rule in the book".  That sounds like an oilman talking!  According to the Oilfield Barker (1994) "Slick" Spence was hospitalized during part of the rig's construction in Minneapolis, but reviewed all of the final drawings which were brought to him in his hospital room by the project engineers.

Northern Ordnance via the Northern Pump Co. built 50 yo-yo rigs in Minneapolis in about a month's time.  Being a World War II project it was a rush-rush job.  Hawley used surplus materials and based the rig's design partly on the Cyclone drilling rigs of Orrville, Ohio.  Hawley (as Northern Ordnance) had leases in several states including  Pennsylvania.  Some of those Pennsylvania leases were in Oil Creek Valley.  Hawley shipped yo-yo rigs to Titusville, Pennsylvania, and then used bulldozers to get them over rugged terrain to the leases.  Northern Ordnance was counting on re-pressuring the shallow oil sands and using the old wells whenever he could (some dating to the 1860's).  The yo-yo rigs were busy drilling pressure holes, new production wells and cleaning or working over old wells.  Hawley even started an oil mine on the east flank of Oil Creek Valley but gave up when the economics went haywire.

A number of yo-yo rigs were left behind in Pennsylvania when Northern Ordnance sold to Quaker State in 1951.  Quaker State used some of the rigs for awhile, but Quaker State left the scene in 1995 and the yo-yo rigs, already abandoned, may have gone to new owners with the leases.  The author still sees them (in odd places), and the Drake Well Museum has one in working condition.

This yo-yo rig is probably in working order or close to it. The rig is in outdoor storage in Venango County. 
A newly made yo-yo drilling rig being tested in 1944 at the Northern Ordnance shops in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Photo courtesy Drake Well Museum.
This yo-yo rig has become lawn sculpture at a Venango County farm residence. 

© 2004, Samuel T. Pees
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