Posted 05.04.18

13 Weird HDD Terms and Their Definitions

Like all industries, HDD has its own unique jargon that has evolved over years in the field. These terms come from shorthand, slang, or hijinks on the job site. Here are our favorite weird industry terms for methods, materials and HDD tools, along with a first guess of what a layperson might think they mean.

How many of these terms do you know already?


  1. Burp Hole

First guess: Cranial opening on buddy that has had too much soda and chili.

Actual definition: A hole dug along the bore path to relieve downhole pressure to help prevent inadvertent returns or hydrolocking.


  1. Filter Cake

First guess: Discarded cigarette butts in an ashtray. Losers of bets must consume the cake.

Actual definition: A thin layer of bentonite drilling fluid that seals the borehole, preventing the flow of liquids from the borehole into the native soil.


  1. Fly Cutter

First guess: The world’s smallest samurai sword.

Actual definition: Style of reamer that has an open blade configuration. Also sometimes called a “wagon wheel”.


  1. Fishing Tool

First guess: Name used for any piece of rod and line equipment by someone who is obviously not an experienced angler.

Actual definition: A specialty tool used to retrieve HDD tools that have broken off down hole.


  1. Magic Box

First guess: Cellular phone. Used for checking sports stats and responding to frequent communications from wife/girlfriend/significant other.

Actual definition: More commonly called a “receiver” or “locator” – an electronic instrument used to determine
the position and strength of electro-magnetic signals emitted from a transmitter sonde in
the pilot head of a boring system, or an impact mole tool or from existing underground services which have been energized. Also, sometimes referred to as a Walkover System.


  1. Starter Rod

First guess: Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodríguez.

Actual definition: Threaded connector piece that allows for easy detachment and exchange of directional heads and reamers.


  1. Sucker

First guess: A driller who waits until after tooling breaks to check its wear level.

Actual definition: Another word for “vacuum”. This is a stand-alone piece of equipment used to suck drill fluid and slurry out of the pit or from burp holes while drilling.


  1. Running Sand

First guess: Wasting time, as characterized by sand running through an hourglass.

Actual definition: A hazard that can occur where excavations in the sand go below the water table, where springs occur at the base of sand outcrops, around leaking drains or mains water supply pipes or in entire sand bodies if vibrated (liquefaction) e.g. by an earthquake.


  1. Cycle Rods

First guess: Shafts that connect pistons to a crankshaft in a dirt bike engine.

Actual definition: The action of “cycling” rods refers to pushing forward then pulling back a drill rod in the hole, in repetition, to clean the path and avoid disruption.


  1. Paddle

First guess: Equipment used by ping-pong champions and basement hopefuls.

Actual definition: Another name for a bit.  These HDD tools excavate soil or rock and facilitate steering at the face of the bore. Common types of drill bits used in HDD include slant-face bits, slanted-face rock bits, rotary rock bits, and percussive bits. Other names: blade, duck bill, drill bit, steer plate.


  1. Swab

First guess: Cotton-tipped device for removing buildup from ear canals.

Actual definition: To clean out a bore hole for easier pullback of product pipe.


  1. Pig

First guess: Farm animal, usually pink or black, goes “oink” and knows Old MacDonald.

Actual definition: A stabilizer barrel used to swab the hole.


  1. Doughnut

First guess: A delicious fried treat. The best part of Sunday mornings.

Actual definition: The rubber rod wiper at the front of the drill rig that wipes mud off the drill pipe as it pulls back


These bizarre HDD terms are just the beginning. What weird words do you and your crews use? Share your slang below.

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