Winter Methods #1
Copyright © 1997 Russ Ford, Arizona
Working in the water this time of year is pretty miserable - so one thing I do is to find a good gravel bench (high and dry). Take your pan and test all over it. The best one is one that will be "consistent". If you can get some color out of every pan your ready to work. Another thing to look for when you're selecting the right bench to work is to find one that hopefully is not to far over bedrock. Your best gold will generally be in the bottom foot or so above bedrock- but not always. Look for "paystreaks" in the gravel. These are areas where floods have washed in and deposited heavier concentrations of flour gold. They could be right on the surface after a flood. I took about a half ounce of fine gold right off the surface of a gravel bar at Lynx Creek last winter in about a week.
Here's how I do it. First make either a classifying bucket system or a standing screen. A bucket system works like this: Take 2 five gallon buckets, drill 1/2" (or what ever size) holes all over the bottom and up the sides about an inch or two apart in one of them. Now simply place the one with holes inside the one without holes and you are ready to classify your material. Using this method I have 1/2", 1/4", and 1/8" buckets nested together. You can work the system wet or dry. My 1/4 and 1/8 buckets have metal screen in them that I melted into the plastic with a propane torch to hold in place. Works great. I've been using the same ones for the last 3 yrs. You'll find that if the material is damp you won't be able to classify with the smaller screens, but I can usually get down to 1/2" with no problems. A standing screen is simply four (5 or 6') 2X4's. They are held together at the top by drilling a 1/2" hole through them and sticking a dowel or pipe through the holes. The back two can be moved back or forward to adjust the angle, and the front two have a 1/2" screen screwed to the back side of them. The only other thing you need is a piece of plastic (Naugahyde works well) that is stapled to the under side of the screen to funnel all material into your bucket (where you have your 1/4" bucket in a bucket mentioned above). Now you're ready to work. I use a four pronged "claw" garden fork to rake all of the larger rocks off the top of the area I'm working. Then just start classifying. Shovel into your bucket system or screen until you get the material down as small as you can. Remember you're after fine gold here not nuggets. 99% of all the gold in the world will go through a window screen. Now if you are in an area where you can't run a motor, or you don't want to work in the water today, just put the material into 5 gallon buckets and take it home for later processing. Another thing I do sometimes is take it home and spread it out on a piece of black plastic in the sun to dry. Then I can run it through my 151 Keene drywasher faster than messing with it at the creek. If I can bring home 20 bucket in a day, I'll almost always get 1-3 pennyweight this way. Give it a try..........
I've got just a couple of footnotes on my post "Winter methods # 1". It occurred to me that I should clear up two points: First, if you are working a gravel bar where you suspect nuggets may be present, you are going to want to check for them as you are screening down to the material you take home. Here's how. In your 1/2" bucket or screen a visual check is usually all that is needed. A 1/2" nugget or bigger will just about jump into your eyeball unless it's muddy (the nugget, not your eyeball). Save the material between 1/2" and 1/4" and pile it in a clear area and spread it out with you foot. Every second or third dump load you can run over it quickly with your metal detector. A 1/4" nugget will make an amazing signal. Anything smaller than that you had better run through your sluice or drywasher in the interest of time and success. Point two: This article was written for the sniper. That is the person who is not carrying any motorized equipment. I have designed and built a "mini rotating screen" that I use for this kind of work in areas where I can use a larger piece of equipment. It works on the principal of a small trommel. It has 3/16" screen in the shape of a cylinder that rotates with a geared down 3hp Briggs. I just shovel into one end and I can get classified material as fast as I can shovel. I think that about covers it for methods #1............
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