TEI Rock Drills Makes History in South Dakota

Powerful Precision Drills
A TEI MME Excavator Attachment ready to work on a gorgeous South Dakota morning

Just 17 miles from Mount Rushmore, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Crazy Horse Memorial stands tall and proud, chiseled in part by powerful precision drills out of the granite rock. This much-loved monument receives over a million visitors a year, despite being in a constant state of construction since sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski first envisioned it in 1946.

An inspiration himself, born to Polish immigrants in Boston only to be orphaned a year later, the uneducated artist went on to have one of his marble portraits win first prize at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. His award caught the attention of Henry Standing Bear, who invited him on behalf of the Oglala Sioux to create a memorial to their hero, Crazy Horse.

Known for bravely leading Sioux warriors in multiple battles against the new settlers and gold rushers utterly decimating their way of life, Crazy Horse was killed in captivity after his eventual surrender in 1877. He lives on forever in Ziolkowski’s 563-foot-high by 641-foot-long depiction; a true inspiration not only to his ancestors but to all those disenfranchised.

TEI’s Powerful Precision Drills Simplify the Task

Carving the monumental masterpiece hasn’t been easy, and the work is still on-going. Ziolkowski had to trust his artistic eye, self-taught geological knowledge, and simple tools. At first, he single-jacked or hand drilled holes for blasting, an extremely tedious procedure. Today, lasers for measurement and heavy-duty rock drills for blast holes are making this complex project somewhat simpler for the Crazy Horse Mountain Crew, as the dedicated experts are known, but it remains a painstaking process:


This is the opposite of most blasting operations, where the main concern is the final size and location of the material being blasted away … Rock to be removed is drilled on all sides with a series of parallel drill holes (pre-splitting.) Explosives are detonated throughout the entire length of each of the drill holes, cleanly removing the desired rock while leaving the remaining rock undamaged.” – crazyhorsememorial.org

Pre-splitting with powerful precision drills
Pre-splitting the granite before blasting is like perforating a piece of paper before tearing

TEI Rock Drills has been working with the mountain crew for some time: our highly durable, powerful precision drills are the perfect match. But drilling into granite creates a great deal of dust, which makes visibility and breathing difficult on the job site. The Mountain Crew asked TEI VP Glenn Patterson for a solution, and a custom-made Dust Pup was born. Recently, Glenn visited again with the crew in South Dakota to talk about further equipment tweaks and updates they may require as they get closer to finishing this American Icon.

Dust Pup on right attached to powerful precision drill
Dust Pup on right attached to MME drill for dust collection

An Enduring Legacy

“If you don’t have faith, if you don’t have any imagination, if you don’t have a dream — what are you doing here?” – Ruth Ziolkowski

Unfortunately, both Korczak Ziolkowski and his wife, Ruth, who also greatly helped to shape the project over many years, passed away before they could see their labor of love to completion. The family continues the tremendous work their father began. A welcome center, museums, and frequent special events are just a few of the cultural offerings to explore in addition to the memorial itself. TEI Rock Drills is so proud to be a part of history!