Soil Condition Determines the Right Piercing Tool for the Contractor

Manufacturer gives tips on selecting the right tool and taking care of the equipment.
Soil Condition Determines the Right Piercing Tool for the Contractor
Stationary heads are used for soft soils and reciprocating heads for harder soils.

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For contractors and utility companies, finding the right piercing tool can make the difference between a project that runs smoothly or one filled with delays. The trick to finding that right tool is figuring out soil conditions and how easy the tool is to use.

Piercing tools are normally used for installing utilities under existing structures and landscapes. The pneumatic-powered tools create a compact hole that lets contractors install underground water, gas, cable, irrigation, fiber or electrical lines without causing a lot of disruption.

“The key with piercing tools is getting the right kind for your soil,” says Chris Alexander, southeast regional sales manager for HammerHead Trenchless Equipment. “If you have the wrong one, it will take longer to get the job done.”

HammerHead, based in Lake Mills, Wisconsin, offers piercing tools with two head styles: a stationary head used for softer soils and a reciprocating head that can handle harder soils.


The reciprocating head design allows the piercing tool to handle tougher soils, such as clay or cobble soils.

HammerHead’s Active Head Mole piercing tool model has a specially designed retaining system and replaceable rings on the bit shaft and head so it lasts longer and maintains its performance level, Alexander says. The tools are available in four lengths ranging from 2 inches to 3.5 inches.

For contractors who work in both hard and soft soils, Alexander says the Catamount model, where the tool ranges in size from 2.5 inches to 5.125 inches, may be a choice. “The head is driven by air that resets the head, eliminating the need for mechanical springs, which can cause failure in some other trenchless tool designs,” he says. “It has an easy start. The design allows the user to start it faster and easier.”

The Catamount includes a patented quarter-turn reverse feature called the Power Port Reverse that locks the tool in either forward or reverse gear, preventing any accidental direction change during the bore. “That lock is important since you don’t want it to suddenly go into reverse. You lose time and the more you can bore, the more money you can make,” Alexander says.


When it comes to softer soils, a piercing tool with a stationary head is the preferred choice. HammerHead offers the tools in a variety of sizes ranging from 2 to 8 inches and the heads are interchangeable. All models run at 110 pounds per square inch.

The company’s rear anvil design features valve and head options that don’t require specialty tools to change. “The customer can service it in the back of their truck and not have to take it into a shop to change the heads,” he says. “We also have fewer working parts than our competing tools so there are fewer failure points.”


Regular maintenance is important when it comes to piercing tools. “I liken it to maintaining your vehicle,” Alexander says. “You need to get its oil changed after so many miles so it works at its best, and with the piercing tools, it’s the same thing and there’s a prescribed course of service.”

For example, if a contractor is laying 400 to 500 feet of fiber optic cable every day, the tool should be checked every few months, Alexander says. When contractors purchase a HammerHead Trenchless piercing tool, they receive training on how to take care of it so it lasts as long as possible.

“When it comes to replacing heads, a lot really depends on use, but overall, contractors should get long-term functionality out of the tool,” he says. “I also show them how to know when it’s time to replace the rings and how to do it.”

HammerHead Trenchless continues to look at ways to improve its piercing tools, including different head assemblies. “We’re constantly testing and evolving the product to meet users’ needs,” Alexander says. “We want to give customers a lot of different options so they can get the most from it.”


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