Letter Re: Well “Torpedo” or “Bullet” Bucket Construction Plans

Jim –
Do you have a diagram or plans for a well torpedo? In case I have the term wrong, a PVC tube with a flapper valve at the bottom that when sent down the well shaft hits the water, the tube fills/sinks, when you pull on the rope the flapper valve closes sealing in the water for you to pull up the well shaft. I have the well. What I need is the way to install the flapper valve. Thanks, – DAB

JWR Replies: For any readers that aren’t familiar with them, narrow shaft well buckets–also sometimes called “bullet buckets” or “torpedo buckets” are designed for manually drawing water from modern modern small diameter wells that are more than 20 feet deep. Shallow wells (less than 20 foot depth) are much more efficiently accessed with a hand pump, such as a traditional pitcher-type cistern pump (available from Lehmans.com) or this home-fabricated PVC design by Keith Hendricks, shown at the PermaPak web site. Deeper wells require a sucker-rod actuated pump.

Have a deep well but you can’t afford a manual pump or you don’t foresee anything but short term emergency need to draw water? A bucket will do. The following method works, but you will first have to pull the pump, wiring and its draw pipe before you can use an emergency bucket. Most modern wells have 4-inch or 6-inch diameter casings. Well buckets can be made from PVC pipe and some fittings available at nearly any hardware store. (The only hard-to-find item is the foot valve.) Use a 4 or 5 ft. length of 3-inch diameter white PVC pipe if your well has a 4″ casing, or 4″ diameter pipe if your well has a 6″ casing.

Assembling the Bucket:
For the top cap, drill a hole in the center and insert a threaded eye-bolt with lock washer and nut to hold the lifting/lowering rope. Use PVC cement to attach the pipe cap. Be sure to use sturdy nylon rope. (Recovering a bucket if the rope breaks would be problematic, to say the least.) In the bottom cap, drill a centered hole and install a “foot” valve. This will be open when floating and allow water in to the bucket. The valve will automatically close when the bucket is pulled up. Foot valves (also called “check valves”) are available in PVC construction, as well as brass and cast iron. Depending on the type of valve you buy, you will probably have to screw a threaded pipe adapter (male-to-male short coupling) to into the top of the valve and then glue it into the appropriate size hole that you have drilled into the end cap. Needless to say, you need to be sure that the valve’s “flapper” is oriented in the right direction before you attach it to the bottom cap. You need the bucket valve to hold rather that release water when the bucket is raised!

OBTW, for anyone that would rather buy a commercially-made well bucket, they are available from Ready Made Resources (search on “Well Bucket”), and from Lehmans.com (search on “Galvanized well bucket”.)