In driving levels it is necessary to cut grooves vertically parallel to the walls, a process known as shearing; but the most important operation is that known as holing or kirving, which consists in cutting a notch or groove in the floor of the seam to a depth of about 3 ft., measured back from the face, so as to leave the overhanging part unsupported, which then either falls of its own accord within a few hours, or is brought down either by driving wedges along the top, or by blasting.
The process of holing in coal is one of the severest kinds of human labour.
This is sometimes obviated by holing in the beds below the coal, or in any portion of a seam of inferior quality that may not be worth working.
At the back, the proportion of waste being very considerably diminished as compared with the system of holing by hand.
In the Gartsherrie machine of Messrs Baird, the earliest of the flexible chain cutter type, the chain of cutters works round a fixed frame or jib projecting at right angles from the engine carriage, an arrangement which makes it necessary to cut from the end of the block of coal to the full depth, instead of holing into it from the face.