How to build gold prospecting equipment on the cheap!
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If you have tips on how to build your own prospecting equipment please email us. We'll publish them here for all to see and give you credit.
1. Panning Tub by Tom Villone, Arizona: I've found that a mortar tray from Home Depot serves many duties. It is a fairly heavy black plastic tub, approximately 24"x18"x6"deep. They have one even larger if needed. The small one described is only $5.99, so I always carry a couple with me.
2. Cool Tool by Bill Westcott, California: This tool came with a Vac-Pac I bought several years ago. It is great for scraping out crevices and cleaning bedrock. I used to live in fear of losing it until I found out what it is and where to get them. It's a hoof cleaning tool for horses. I found them at PetSmart but you can probably find them anywhere horse supplies are sold. The ones I found at PetSmart have brightly colored handles so they are harder to lose but the pick part is made of softer metal so they bend more easily.
3. Dredging with Levels by Jim Witt, California I found that judging the right angle of drop on my 2" dredge sluice box was to cumbersome and I was often wrong. I often times work alone and could not take the time to watch the pitch carefully so I attached two levels on the dredge that would visually show me when the dredge was level side-to-side, and when it had the correct drop (2" for 3 foot). I established the correct drop for the sluice box and then mounted the level so that the bubble was centered. This way I also could tell when the rate of drop was wrong. This method worked great! Editor's Note: This idea could also be used on highbankers, drywashers or any other equipment that require leveling.
4. Classifying by Roy L. Calvert,Jr., Indiana: For a terrific classifier when a lot of fine gold is present, and overlooked nuggets aren't a big problem. Most retail stores carry sifters and colanders. I found one with a handle that comes in two sizes, one fits perfectly in the solid, outside portion of the standard galvanized minnow bucket, the larger one will work in a plastic 5-gallon bucket. I saw Jake Hartwick, at one of the GPAA Gold Prospector shows, using the standard classifier made from a pan, classifying into a plastic bucket. The only thing Jake overlooked was one of the first lessons taught by the GPAA & LDMA, the hydraulic force of water. Jake was classifying dry into his 5 gal. bucket! If you keep your minnow, or 5 gal. bucket filled to the top, your material will wash through much faster and leave the larger rocks, etc. in your classifier, cleaned of any heavies that may have been clinging to them. You can classifying much more material and faster, but don't forget to check your screen before tossing that material back, you may be pitching back the largest nugget you never found!
5. Tracking gold by Mark Naylor, California: I have found that by placing a piece of conveyor belt as your top mat on your dredge you will increase your fine gold recovery. You can find different kinds of conveyor belts at industrial supply stores. You will note the fine intricate grooves and holes in the rubber that will trap almost all your fine gold. It also makes it readily visible which allows you to track were the gold is coming from.
6. Underwater Viewer by Roy Madewell, California: I use what I call a "periscope" to look under the water and check out the cracks and crevices. I made mine from a foot long piece of 3" ABS and siliconed a piece of plexiglass between the pipe and a union and cut almost all of the other half of the union off. I left about 3/8" of an inch on the union to protect the plexi from getting scratched whenever I set it down and used a round file to make several channels around this rim. These channels allow any air to escape from under the rim when you set it in the water and offer a clear view of the bottom and keep air from building up when looking in the white water around rocks. I'm going to make another one of these using 1 1/2" or 2" PVC pipe for use in real shallow cracks since I ALWAYS seem to find a crevice that is too small or shallow to use the larger one. I think that keeping the length down to 12" for the larger pipe is probably wise since the deeper you plunge it into the water the more your fighting it from trying to float away. Also if you keep the length down on the larger pipe you can use both eyes when looking into it and have much greater depth perception. I'll probably keep the smaller version down to around 18" long to prevent the feeling of looking down a garden hose and make it fit with my pry bars in the upper compartment of my pack.
7. Expanded Metal by Chuck Alldrin, California: Home Base has a diamond lathe used for plasterwork. It is very light weight and works great to recover fine gold. I use it under the riffles and over the carpet. You can get a sheet approx. 2'x 8' for $2.98. This is plenty to do several projects and give the extra away.
8. Digging Trowel by Chuck Alldrin, California: I bent the "heck" out of several cheap trowels and finally found a good CHEAP tool. Wal-Mart has a Corona # CT 3020 Red padded handle trowel for $4.97. It is made in the USA and has a LIFETIME warranty. It looks like it might be forged. It is tough and if it bends or breaks it will be replaced "free."
9. Panning Tubs by Rich Downing, California: I use the blue food grade barrels (plastic) approx. 55 gal. I cut these with a skill saw about 8 to 10 inches tall. You get two out of a barrel if you find them with the caps in place. I use them for panning out the cleaning's from my sluice at my camp site or at home. I generally pay five dollars per barrel.
---> Jack Hipp, Oregon: I also use the blue 55 gal. Food-grade plastic barrels, but instead I cut them lengthwise and have 2 very good panning troughs for several to use at once, or use one for the discharge of my "pooptube" classifier and the other for a source of clean water for the operation. Supported on 2 2x4's they are also very easy to clean out and can be drained with the 2 caps.
10. Sluice Cleanup by Rich Downing, California: I have found that the produce drawers from old refrigerators work well for getting everything out of the sluice on my dredge. Just find one that is slightly wider than the end of your sluice.
11. Riffle Material by Spyder, Oregon: In the sewing/crafts department of the local Walmart or similar department stores you can find a material I believe is called crochet canvas or something to that effect. Essentially, it is a 12 inch square piece of Plastic screen which fits nicely between the carpet and riffles of a sluice box. It greatly increases the recovery of fine gold.
12. Flood Gold by Dennis Krupnak, California: After a heavy rain, test pan the side streams that form off the main stream channel. Many are just small diversions that flow back into the main stream. They are often good sites for fine flood gold, which will be close to the surface. The best concentrations are usually at the point where the branch first leaves the main stream, but be sure to test farther down also.
13. Bedrock by Dave Peck, Nevada: I have been gold dredging the past several years, and have found myself in public areas that have been dredged many times before. I had spoken to an older couple that had been doing this for quite sometime, and they told me something interesting. They explained to me that in the late summer in the drier season, the bedrock dries and shrinks, creating pockets, cracks, and crevices. In the wetter season, the rush of water moving material down stream fills these areas, and as the clay absorbs the water, it swells, thus closing the cracks and pockets. This last summer, I was in a area that had a lot of bedrock that had been cleaned very well by others. I thought I'd give it a try, so I took a crowbar and screwdriver and pried the bedrock apart (it came apart in sheets), and there between the bedrock sheets was gold, sometimes one to two feet below the surface of the bedrock. I hadn't thought of it before I was told, so just thought I'd let others know.
14. Classifier by Brian Benn, California Another idea for a classifying screen was given to me by a guy named Henry. He is a great prospector. He goes to Alaska with the GPAA and used to pal around with the Buzzard. Anyway, all you do is get a 4-inch long piece of plastic pipe (PVC) or a section of a plastic bucket. Cut some hardware cloth of whatever mesh you want to the same diameter as your plastic pipe. Heat the bottom end of the pipe on an old hot plate or wood stove. When the plastic starts to melt, take it off and set it on the wire cloth. The plastic will solidify and "weld" the screen to the bottom of the pipe. Large diameter PVC (8 to 12 inch) works good. The thicker the pipe wall, the better. Scrap pipe can be found at construction sites and scrap bins around industrial sites.
15. Highbanker by Brian Benn, California: Henry also has a unique highbanker design in that it has no riffles, just carpet. It's like a beach box. The larger rocks that make it through the grizzly clear off the sluice really fast so he can feed it faster. He might lose some gold but I think he figures that if he loses 10% but feeds 25% more material he'll come out ahead. It seems to work too.
16. Cement Mixer by Loren Baldwin, Arizona: Here in Arizona, we have a lot of gold bearing clay & caliche that I separate using a small cement mixer, a couple of small barrels, some PVC (to connect the barrels) and a small bilge pump (500 gph). Basically all that I do is put a few shovelfulls of dirt in the mixer, fill it with water, start the mixer, and recirculate the water. All (or most) of the light material runs out of the mixer into the first barrel, the water transfers into the second barrel, and is recirculated with the pump. This method should work for moss also.
17. Classifier by Ron Watson, Washington: The simplest and cheapest classifier I've found is to take a plastic bucket and drill holes in it, the size is personal preference. You should pick a bucket that fits freely into your other buckets to make it easier to twist back and forth during the classification process.
18. Clean Up Tub by Joanne, Greg and Azu Dueck, Canada: I have found the black Rubbermaid agricultural tubs to be excellent for cleaning out a large sluice or dredge and working concentrates. I found mine at a Co-Op store but the building supply stores probably have them too. They are strong enough to drag around over uneven ground when full of material and water. They are fairly pricey but have a number of great features:
· Heavy construction with cross braces underneath
· Heavy, large, curl over rim for a full grip all the way around. Strong enough to drill and put rope handles/attachments on.
· For large dredges, they will hold all the cons and still float to the shore (carefully) once you empty some of the water out. Dredgers can use rope attachments to hold the unit in place while doing a clean up so that it won't sink and frees up another set of hands.
· Large enough to properly shake out those 'golden' mats.
· Range of sizes from (30 and 50 gallon seem to be a good medium size)
· For cleaning cons it is large enough for two people to pan into and keep the overpan material in one spot. Also, large enough to comfortably screen your material.
· Large and sturdy enough to set up you clean-up concentrator inside with overflow buckets etc.
I'm sure there are other brands and varieties out there, look around and pick one for your needs. These larger tubs are great for the larger operations or working the cons at home but are definitely not for everyone even though the weight really isn't bad for the size and uses.
Some tips courtesy of treasurefish.com.
To view plans on how to build a rocker box visit: www.goldprospectors.org/pdf/ROCKERBOXPLANS.PDF and www.3451.com/html/rocker-box.htm
Make a bucket classifier: www.3451.com/html/bucket-classifier.htm