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Reader Submitted Prospecting Tips

This page contains a collection of hints and tips sent in by some of the best most creative, inventive prospectors around - the visitors to the Minin' Gold web site. If you have any ideas, hints or tips you would like to share, please send them in.

Crevice Sucker
From Dave Robinson

By using a basic bulb for battery acid and a copper pipe of one inch diameter for the body, you can make a turkey baster type of suction device. With the use of reducer bushiings on the end you have a full line of creviceing tools from 3/8 to 3/4 diameter and by the use of couplings, you can have crevice tools from short to any length by adding on. A multiple size tool for any crack.

Making Holes in Plastic
From Jack Womack

When holes are to be made in plastic buckets, etc., I use the size of rod to match the hole size and heat it with a propane torch. Heat the rod just enough to make the hole, heating after each hole. This makes a much cleaner hole than using a drill bit.

Moss Mining
From Dave Lammert

If you are Moss Mining,(looking for gold in the Moss that grows along streams and rivers). Take the moss home with you and let it dry out, crush it into powder and THEN sluice or pan through it. No need to wash it, tumble it, to work the gold out, (if any). Just let it dry until it can be crushed into powder.

Lightweight Sluice Boxes
From AuDetector

Watch Ebay for ABS Plastic....Every now and then companies sell out their "scrap" lots of plastic and you can pick up some nice pieces for cheap. Once you get the plastic, buy an acrylic cutter, some aluminum angle pieces and get creative. You can try some of your design ideas in one night. I also picked up some ABS adhesive (6.00 a pint and that's plenty) that welds it together if you want a bolt free project. Check out a lightweight sluice box design made from this stuff.

Cleaning Material in Cement Mixers
From Frank J. Skorupa

On a trip to "Tuckers Mountain Creek Gold Mine" in North Carolina, Mr.Tucker showed us a trick that he used when he filled his mixer with diggings and water. He added environmental friendly liquid soap to the mix. Boy did that make a difference in the cleaning of the material. If you ever panned in the red clay of Carolina you will appreciate this hint. Golden Life to you all.

Miners Moss Screen
No Name

For a lightweight screen to fit over you miner's moss, I have found that plastic rain gutter guard is lightweight and at 6 inches is about perfect for a minisluice or mini high banker.

Crevice Tool
No Name

This summer we got into gold panning in Colorado and I came up with a good idea for getting into those crevices above water line. I had been using an ice pick but soon found that it wasn't always long enough nor could you scoop up much if the crevice was deep. I found one of those hold down brackets for batteries that's about 18 inches long and using the threaded end I screwed it into a 2 ft shovel handle. The other end had a hook for the battery case and I just straightened it out to 90 degrees and ground it down flat, works great. You can also grind down a large soup spoon so it's narrow and reaches right into the crevice. I use one of those carpenter belts to carry all my tools into the field.

Kerry Cochrane

My wife and I do a lot of panning and other related activities. What I like to do when I get a new pan is to take these little rubber refrigerator magnets, the ones with some kind of advertisement on them that are about 1/16" thick. Peel the ad off and there is usually enough sticky stuff left on them to stick real good to the side of the gold pan usually for me near the bottom of pan. This works real well to attract and hold the magnetic black sands. You can then use your thumb to remove the black sands before you lift pan from water.

Cleaning Mercury
Steve McGraw

When cleaning mercury, try vinegar. It is nontoxic, nonpoison and cheap. Also, it's not controled by the US government.

Concentrate Separator
From Rod

I came up with a great idea for concentrate separation. Take a commercial bottled water 1.5 liter, clear, with ridges, many brands to choose from:
1 Cut off both ends, you should now have a bottle with 2 open ends
2 Cut the bottle in half like 2 u-shaped pieces
3 If you like, put both pieces together with blue gasket seal
4 Run a small stream of water through it
5 Add concentrates
If desired, and suggested, secure the bottle half by mounting 2 pieces of 1/2 or 3/4 PVC pipe to a board with bolts and  using small nuts and bolts to secure the half bottle to the PVC.
It really works well and saving fine gold and cost about $2.50 at most.

Having trouble getting the foot valve on your pump?
Cody Walton, UT

Sometimes it is hard to get your foot valve on your pump. Take some chapstick and rub it around your pump and it just slides right on.

Ribbed Rubber Mat
Cody Walton, UT

I live in Utah where most of the gold is fine so I came up with a pretty good recovery system for my three inch dredge. I put some ribbed rubber matting in the bottom and cover it with a non backed miners moss. I find it catching a lot more gold but sometimes it is hard to find the rubber matting. I finally found it at my local industrial supply store and they sell it by the running 3 ft. Believe me, the ribbed rubber matting works great for people in Colorado or Utah.

Another Rubber Mat
J.P. Las Vegas, NV

I've found that after working in grocery stores for a few tears (lol), that produce departments use a rubber type of carpet on the bottom of their fruit & veggy displays. This matting works great to help trap the finer flakes. It's similar to the stuff that they put on the back of quality carpets to keep them from slipping. The produce department uses it to make it easier to stack the apples and such. And the good part of it is, that they change it out often.. So what do you care if it had smashed bananas on it or not . Just ask - most "customer oreinted" managers or clerks would be glad to help you out at no charge.

YAM (Yet Another Mat)
Bill Westcott, San Leandro, CA

VW floor matHere is another mat that some of you might find a use for. The squares are about 3/4" X 3/4" X 1/4" deep.I use it in the sluice under the hopper of my highbanker (oops - that's a politically incorrect word these days) I mean powered sluice. The material and water drop onto it and the material tends to hang there a little longer than it would without the mat. This cleans the rocks and breaks up the material a little better. At clean up time, you'll find quite a bit of your gold in the mat.

So where do you get this stuff? Go to your local auto wrecking yard and find an old Volkswagon bus. Look at the underside of the floor mat. If it doesn't look like the photo, you need to find a older bus. I'm sure there are other uses and the visitors of this site will come up with some good ideas. Let us know what you come up with.

Gold Test
Larry Bass, Ottawa, Ontario
(Check out his Gold Page)
I use a baby food jar as a mini classifier to test fines I've dug from a stream bottom. Just fill the jar about 3/4's full of your sample and add water to fill. Put the top on and hold it between your palms so that it is sitting upright. Then, simply rub your hands together, thereby spinning the jar and contents in a rapid motion. Let the water clear for a minute and then check the sides of the jar carefully, especially the bottom edge where it meets the side of the jar. Works well for me.

Panning Tub
Tom Villone, Arizona
I've found that a morter tray found at Home Depot serves many dutys. It is a fairly heavy black plastic tub, approx: 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.

Cool Tool
Bill Westcott, California
Photo of crevice tool 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.

Dredging with Levels
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 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!
Ed. Note: This idea could also be used on highbankers, drywashers or any other equipment that require leveling.

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 gal. bucket. I saw Jake Hartwick, on one of the GPAA Gold Prospector shows, using the standard classifier made from a pan, classifing 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 classifing dry into his 5 gal. bucket! If you keep your minnow, or 5 gal. bucket filled to the top, your material will wash thru much faster and leave the larger rocks,etc.,in your classifier, cleaned of any heavies that may have been clinging to them. You can classifiy much more material and faster, but don't forget to check your screen before tossing that material back, you may be pitchin' back the largest nugget you never found!

Tracking gold
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.

Underwater Viewer
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.

Expanded metal
Chuck Alldrin, California
Home Base has what is called diamond lathe used for plaster work. 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.

Digging trowel
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".

Panning Tubs
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.

Sluice Cleanup
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.

Riffle Material
From 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.

Flood Gold
From 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.

From 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 bedrock 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.

From Brian Benn, California
Another idea for a classifying screen was given to me by a guy named Henry 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.

From Brian Benn, California
Henry 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.

Cement Mixer
From 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 shovelfuls 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.

From 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.

Clean Up Tub
From 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.

Courtesty of MininGold a great site for gold prospecting: Methods, Tools (including plans & projects)


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