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Curved blowpipe commonly used in Bisbee mines

Blow pipes are made from pipe and are used to direct a high velocity stream of compressed air to remove debris from a surface. They are better known as air lances and are commonly used in other industries.

In Bisbee they are made of ½” to ¾’ steel pipe with a valve attached. The pipes would in varying length most being 6 ft. in length and maybe be straight or bent at right angle.  To use the blow pipe, hearing and eye protection would be necessary, they are loud and material gets thrown about with great velocity. The pipe is connected to the main air line by a hose.

Blow pipes were commonly used to clean out blast holes of water and cuttings. The procedure is to insert the blowpipe part way into the hole then cover the entrance of the hole with your boot or gloved hand then turn on the air. Soon as the air is turned a continuous loud roaring sound was made and any water or cutting in the hole would be violently ejected. Then the blow pipe would be moved back and forth a few times to knock lose any stuck material.  The miner would then need to be careful of the blowback and not to get covered grime as it is would be blown everywhere. A Bisbee miner received his nickname “Grasshopper”, because he “hopped” behind the timber every time they used a blowpipe to clean the holes.

 In chutes the curved blowpipes were used to free clogs. In this case the chute door was propped opened. A lagging was placed near the door to keep the muck from running and filling in the drift.  The pipe would then be inserted as far as possible into the muck. Compressed air would be turned on and the muck would be prodded until the clogged was freed.

Blowpipes are very effective in cleaning out mine cars and the water ditches. The amount of force the air has, is surprising it can easily push small muck piles and throw 6” rocks.    In modern mines their use is frowned upon because of hazards associated with them.

Cleaning out drill holes with straight blowpipe (photo not Bisbee)

Straight blow pipe

 A glove covered hand  being used to direct blowback

Straight blow pipe inserted in drill  hole

Boot covering drill hole that is to be cleaned, to help direct the blowback away fro m the miner

Cleaning out water filled drill holes with blow pipe (photo not Bisbee)


Richard Graeme IV 2010, pers. comm., 8 February

Richard Graeme III 2010, pers. comm., 2 February

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