The Benefits of Positive-Turn Reverse Piercing Tools

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The Benefits of Positive-Turn Reverse Piercing Tools

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Let’s talk piercing tools for a minute.

1.     Are you using them? If not, should you be?

2.     Do you know what types of utility applications these small and productive tools are best suited for?

3.     And finally, do you understand the difference between positive-turn reverse and quarter-turn reverse models?

No matter how you answered these questions, if you’re performing utility, telecom or even irrigation installations, knowing the ins-and-outs about piercing tools can help you and your crew. 

Where to use piercing tools

Piercing tools, like Vermeer Hole Hammers, are fast and efficient underground solutions for bores ranging from 15 feet to 70 feet in length and bore from 1.8 inches to 5.25 inches in diameter. They are affordable to purchase, operate and maintain.

Crews using piercing tools simply need to dig entry and exit pits, connect their tool to a pneumatic compressor, and they are boring — no bulky machinery to position and then reposition. In neighborhoods where several bores need to be performed, a crew will often use a stitch boring pattern, where one entry pit is dug to perform several bores back-to-back. Once a bore is complete, the crew will reverse the piercing tool back through the hole in the entry pit and then line up the next one. It’s fast and cost-efficient.

So where should you be using piercing tools? Anywhere you have to make a short bore or a lot of short bores:

  • Cable and fiberoptic drops to homes
  • Running electrical lines
  • Installing gas or electrical lines
  • Putting in an irrigation system under driveways and sidewalks

Selecting the piercing tools for your needs

Now that you know when and where you should be using piercing tools, let’s dive into the different types you should consider. Piercing tools come in positive-turn reverse and quarter-turn reverse models.

Positive-turn reverse piercing tools use a screw mechanism on the inside that connects to a whip hose.

  • When you screw the hose clockwise all the way forward the tool moves forward, and when you screw the hose counter-clockwise all the way back it goes in reverse.
  • It takes seven turns to go from full power forward to full power in reverse.
  • At three and a half turns the tool is in neutral, which isn’t an option with quarter-turn reverse piercing tools.

Quarter-turn reverse piercing tools use more moving parts to simplify the reversing process.

  • Reversing the direction of the tool is done with just a quarter turn of the hose.
  • Besides cutting off around 30 to 45 seconds in changing directions, quarter turn reverse tools have grown in popularity because they used to be the only type of piercing tools that can be equipped with a moving head. However, positive-turn reverse models now can be outfitted with moving heads as well.

What about moving heads? If you’re working in compacted soil conditions, a moving head on a piercing tool is a huge advantage because it allows 100 percent of the striker energy to be delivered to the head of the tool to help improve productivity and accuracy. 

Advantages of positive-turn reverse piercing tools

Positive-turn reverse piercing tools have been widely used for more than a quarter of a century because they work efficiently and are manufactured with fewer parts. When you’re operating a tool that relies on producing 20 to 30 pounds of blunt force from the striker into a piece of steel to propel itself through the ground, you want fewer parts.

Next, positive-turn reverse piercing tools can easily be serviced in the field on the back of a tailgate while quarter-turn reverse units have to be sent in for any type of repairs. It’s the tail bolt design of the positive-turn reverse units that make this possible. All you have to do is remove four bolts, unscrew the tail cap to access the inside components to clean or replace wear rings — in as little as 20 minutes you can be back up and running.

With fewer parts and the ability to perform service in the field, you can expect lower operating costs for positive-turn reverse piercing tools compared to quarter-turn reverse units. But, if that’s not enough for you, most positive-turn reverse models are also more cost-effective to add to your operation.

The ability to put a positive-turn reverse piercing tool in neutral is a big deal. If you’re working around existing utilities, neutral can be pretty handy when you get close to other underground infrastructure. It gives you time to grab a shovel to further expose what’s in the ground and can help you avoid overshooting your exit pit. 


If you’ve been in the business for a while, you’ve likely heard a few reasons you may want to steer away from positive-turn reverse piercing tools. Let’s clear a few of those misconceptions up.

Positive-turn reverse piercing can’t be equipped with a moving head. At one time in the evolution of piercing tools, this statement used to be true, but not today. You can use a fixed or moving head with positive-turn reverse tools and swapping between them is easy.

To put a positive-turn reverse piercing tool in neutral, you must disconnect the hose from the oiler. Nope, you just need to have a swivel on the hose, which McLaughlin offers with every positive-turn reverse Vermeer Hole Hammer piercing tool. 

When to use a quarter-turn reverse piercing tool

As you can see there are a lot of advantages to using positive-turn reverse piercing tools. However, having a few quarter-turn reverse models may still come in handy if you’re doing stitch boring work and making a few more turns of a hose to reverse direction becomes too time-consuming and labor-intensive. 

Where to buy

Whether you choose positive- or quarter-turn reverse piercing tools, where you buy is one of the most important decision you’ll make. One of the significant advantages of doing this type of work is how nimble of an operation you can run, which makes it easy to follow work wherever it happens to lead you. To do that, you need to have the support of a dealer network that is everywhere you are, which is what you get when you choose Vermeer Hole Hammer piercing tools — powerful, durable tools with local support no matter where you are.

If you have any questions, visit to learn more.


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