Thursday, July 28, 2011

Practice Gold Panning

If you are not in a known gold producing location, but want to do some practice panning to get accustomed to it, and acquire some skills before going out into the field, you can practice in your own backyard. Use a washtub to pan into and some diggings from your garden (or wherever) to simulate streambed materials. I recommend that you throw in some rocks and gravel along with the dirt so that it takes on an actual streambed consistency. Take some pieces of lead, buckshot or small lead fishing weights, cut them up into various sizes ranging from pellet size down to pinhead size, and pound some of them flat with a hammer. This puts the pieces of lead in the same form as the majority of gold found in a streambed--flake form. They will act in much the same way as will flakes and grains of gold. Leave a few of the pieces of lead shot as they are so that gold nuggets can also be simulated.

When panning into the tub, place a few of these pieces of lead into your pan, starting off with the larger-sized pieces first. Keep track of how many pieces of lead you use each time so that you can see how well you are doing when you get down to the bottom of the pan. Practice panning in this manner can be very revealing to a beginner, especially when he or she continues to put small and smaller pieces of lead into the pan as progress is made.

If a person is able to pan small pieces of lead successfully, then he or she will have no difficulty whatsoever in panning gold (higher specific gravity) out of a riverbed. And, who knows? You may end up with gold in your pan--right out of your own backyard! It wouldn't be the first time.

Panning Down All The Way To Gold

It is possible to pan all the way down to the gold--with no black sands, lead, or other foreign materials left in the pan. This often done among prospectors when cleaning up a set of concentrates which have been taken from the recovery system of a larger piece of equipment--like a sluice box or dredge.

Panning all the way down to gold is really not very difficult, once you get the hang of it. It's just a matter of a little practice and being a bit more careful. Most prospectors when doing so, prefer to use the smooth surface of the gold pan as opposed to using the cheater riffles.

When panning a set of concentrates all the way down to the gold--or nearly so, it's good to have a medium-sized funnel and a large-mouthed gold sample bottle on hand. This way, once you have finished panning, its just a matter of pouring the gold from your pan into the sample bottle via the funnel. Pill bottles and baby food jars often make good gold sample bottles for field use because they are usually made of thick glass and have wide mouth. Plastic ones are even safer.

Another method is with the use of a gold snifter bottle. This is a small hand-sized flexible bottle with a small sucking tube attached to it. Squeezing the snifter bottle creates a vacuum inside, and submerged gold from the pan can consequently be sucked up through the tube.

If you do not have a snifter bottle or funnel on hand, try wetting your finger with saliva and fingering the gold into
a container, which should be filled with water. The saliva will cause the gold and concentrates to stick to your finger until it touches the water in the container. This works, but the funnel method is faster.

The Gold Pan as a Production Tool

The main thing to remember about the use of a gold pan is that while it is effective as a gold
catching device, it can only process a limited amount of streambed material. For this reason
the gold pan is normally not used as a production tool in professional use, other than in the most remote locations where it would be very difficult to haul large pieces of equipment, and where there is only a limited amount of material present which is paying well enough to make the panning worthwhile.

The gold pan is most commonly used to locate richer paying ground (sampling,) so that larger production equipment can be brought in to that spot in order to work the ground at greater profit.

There are stories in the old mining records about the ground being so rich during the 1849 gold rush that as much as 96 ounces of gold were recovered from a single pan. That is $43,200 at today's rate of exchange, and must have been some very rich ground indeed!

Stories like that are rare and ground like that is not run across very often. However, it's not too uncommon to hear of prospectors today who are able to consistently produce better than an ounce per week with a gold pan in the high country, and have the gold to show for it. Some do better, but these guys have been at it for awhile and have located hot spots. I personally know of two guys who support themselves with a gold pan, and one of them lives pretty well. As mentioned earlier, the gold pan gives you unlimited accessibility, and these guys concentrate
on the pockets in the exposed bedrock along the edges of the creek beds in their areas, picking up a few pieces here, a few there, and a little pocket once in awhile. It adds up, and to them it's better than punching a time clock.

There is still plenty of rich ground to be found in gold country if you are willing to do the work involved in finding it.

How do you pan for gold?

You put a shovel full of dirt, rock, and gravel into your pan. Then you tip the pan towards the water and let a little water into you pan. Tip the pan back and forth just a little bit. Let the dirt and large rocks wash out of the pan. Watch to make sure one of those large rocks is not a nugget! As the soil and rocks wash out you are left with a smaller amount of sand and grit in the bottom of the pan. Slowly roll your pan and watch for "color". The gold stands out and you can see it. Carefully wash out the debris and let it slide over the edge of your pan, keeping the gold in the pan until that is mostly all you have left. Don't turn up your nose at flakes. A whole bunch of flakes can add up.
The gold found by panning is called placer gold. Another way of finding it is to clean out the crevices and crannies under or between rocks on the dry bank of the stream. Gold nuggets will get caught in these places.
My family used to go fishing on the Little Applegate River outside of Jacksonville. There was one place where we often went where there were thousands of little gold pieces all through the sand. It looked like gold. Of course, it wasn't. It was some kind of micha. So if you find a place where it looks like someone's gold bag sprung a leak, don't start thinking you've found your fortune. What you have found is called FOOL'S GOLD.
Other methods for Oregon Gold Prospecting use a sluice box or a dredge. Even a recreational gold prospector can use a small dredge. Some areas are closed to dredging and you can get this information from the U. S. Forest Service.
If you decide to become serious about Oregon gold prospecting as more than a vacation-time activity, there are clubs you can join where you can learn about methods and places to prospect.
Enjoy Oregon Gold Panning! I hope you find your fortune, if not in gold, then in the fun you had.

Where do you go to find gold?

Oregon gold prospecting can be done on lots of streams and rivers. It is best to go where you know gold has been found before. That doesn't mean you couldn't find gold in a new place - a new lucky strike, but you could spend an awful lot of time looking. There are places set aside by the United States Forest Service and by the Bureau of Land Management where you can pan. It is best to go to the USFS station in the area where you plan to prospect and get specific up-to-date information from them. I am including a list of these stations which are in gold mining areas. The places where you can prospect can change. You don't want to get into trouble for prospecting on a someone's mining claim.

What kind of equipment do you need for Oregon gold prospecting

You don't need much equipment to pan for gold - a shovel and a gold dust pan. The old prospectors used metal pans and you can also. Today they also come in plastic in bright colors and they have little ridges called "gold catchers" in them. I don't think you need the "gold catchers" but the plastic pans might be a little easier to handle. You can also get small pans which are usually used just for the last stages of flushing out tiny gold flakes. The small ones are good for children to use. My mother always said, "Never use a pan that has been used for cooking." I don't know if this is true or not. The picture to the right on this page shows a rusty gold pan. It looks like it worked but I don't think I would use a rusty pan if I had a choice.

My experience with Oregon Gold Prospecting

I grew up in Jacksonville, Oregon. Oregon gold prospecting was just something my family did. My uncle had a mining claim up the Little Applegate River. For several years we lived in a house beside a creek. During the long summer vacations I would entertain myself sometimes by taking our gold pan down to the creek and trying to find some gold. I usually found at least some flakes but it was hard work and I seldom perservered for long. Gold was there. I knew it was there.
It was on this property that my father and uncle mined during one year of the Great Depression. They took out enough gold, and the price of gold was not that high at that time, to pay the bills during a time when they were both jobless.

Oregon Gold Prospecting

It didn't take long for the 49'ers in California to inch their way north and discover that there was gold in Oregon as well. Gold was first discovered in Oregon near what is now the town of Jacksonville in 1851. It was found that many of the tributaries of the Rogue River had gold. Other areas in Oregon where there were gold strikes are the Klamath River and its tributaries, streams flowing out of the Blue Mountains and Wallowa Mountains in Northeastern Oregon, the John Day River Valley, the Brice Creek area near Cottage Grove, and Quartzville near Sweet Home. Commercial gold mining in Oregon still continues today.
With gold hovering close to $800 an ounce, recreational gold prospecting is becoming a serious hobby for many. Much of Oregon gold is of a very high grade and it has been estimated that only 20% of it has been mined to date.
Every year the streams and rivers rise from the winter rains and wash more soil over the rocks in the river beds. Gold is heavy. Gold sinks. In places where the water slows down or changes direction, gold lodges itself in the crevices and crannies, mixes in with the dirt and gravel, and stays there just waiting for someone to find it. In the spring and summer the water levels go down again. Along the banks where the water has been and where the gravel, dirt, and rock has collected, is where you look for gold.

Hand Crushing and Processing Rich Ores

Sometimes with high grade gold specimens, you have to crush your ore to recover it's gold.....
Gold is often found associated with the mineral quartz.  It is sometimes associated with other minerals as well, including iron and manganese oxides, calcite, pyrite and other sulfides as well. It is not uncommon for prospectors, especially those who operate metal detectors, to find a rich gold bearing specimens of ore. Sometimes the best use of these minerals is to sell them at specimens. There are collectors who will pay top dollar for beautiful mineral specimens that contain significant gold.  I have done a full webpage to discuss the best ways of getting top dollar for specimens and selling to collectors. (Selling your gold) Some specimens however, especially those with a large amount of rock and only a limited amount of gold are best crushed and the gold extracted and sold to refiner (information about selling to refiners can also be found on my gold selling page). Here is a discussion of the procedures to crush Quartz or other minerals and extract the gold from these rich ores.  
For really large chunks of material, it may be necessary to initially break down the large pieces with hammers.  Sometimes heavy-duty chisels can also come in handy in this part of the process as one breaks down large chunks into fist sized and smaller pieces that can be more easily handled.The classic old mortar and pestle was the method used by early day miners to crush their ore specimens for testing. You can still buy these things today at most prospecting stores - they are made of cast iron and last a long time and work fairly well. It just takes a lot of elbow grease and work to break up the rock.
A slightly different version of mortar and pestle work is a variety called hand stamp crushing. A heavy cylinder of iron is welded to a long rod and placed inside a pipe or tube which is just a bit larger than the diameter of the iron cylinder. This iron cylinder is picked up and dropped onto the ore, much in the manner of the old time stamp mills. This method seems to be popular in Australia.
A more expensive but certainly faster and easier method is to use a small jaw crusher, such as is used in preparing samples for assaying.  I have one of these in my garage and it is pictured at the right. For those thinking about processing larger quantities of ore such as hundreds or even thousands of pounds of rock from mines, there are several manufacturers that sell small portable hammer and impact mills. These mechanized crushing systems can generate some very significant dust, and so when using them is important to consider methods for dust control or elimination.
No matter which crushing system you're using, the process will go far faster, and come out better if you do repeated screenings of the material from time to time. What happens in crushing is that some of the material gets crushed down to the size you want but other pieces don't.  The small stuff then often gets in the way of the crushing process as you are working, basically protecting the larger pieces from being crushed and creating more work.  To speed things up and make things work properly you need to screen out the stuff that's already been crushed to a small size. So as you are crushing, stop and screen your material, removing any free gold which has already separated from the rock during your crushing that won't go through your screen with your fingers.  The coarser rock that won't go through your screen can then be returned to the crusher for further work to break it down, and the fines won't get in the way.If you're screaming of course you need to pick out the screen size you're going to use.  It is really not necessary to go to super small screens like 100 mesh. This reduces most of your rock quite literally to powder. The size of screen I use is 18 mesh and I think anything in the range of 16 to 20 mesh is a good size. I would not recommend going with anything larger than 10 mesh or smaller than 30.
Finally, once the rock is fully crushed we get to the part about separating out the gold from the crushed rock. Often, this is accomplished simply by very careful panning. Panning is the most suitable method if you only have an amount of rock less than about 15 or 20 pounds. On the other hand if you are going to be processing large quantities of rock on a regular basis such as would come from the workings of a hard rock mine, you will need some sort of automated system to process your crushed materials.  If you really are going to be working with ores from a hard rock mine, perhaps the best method for the small minor is the use of the a small shaking table.  A good table is fairly bulletproof in one set up operates well on its own, and does an efficient job of capturing small gold particles. Such equipment isn't cheap of coarse but if you're going to be handling thousands of pounds of rock, it's just too much to consider panning as an option for processing.
Another possibility that needs to be considered is the use of mercury in capturing the finest gold particles from your ores.  In most instances if you are just handling a few gold Quartz specimens that you find here and there, the use of mercury will not be worth your time.  In some cases the gold in the ore is extremely fine sized, and using mercury to capture it makes sense.  This is also true for operators processing large quantities of hard rock material. I've done up a web page on using Mercury to capture fine gold and you can view it here. (link to page)
For handling another purpose as many operators will be interested in melting down  the gold they recover in crushing their specimens into dore buttons and bars (Dore is a term for unrefined, impure gold and silver metal). I've done up a web page on melting and pouring your gold and you can view it here. (Pouring Your Own Gold)
It is also important to consider safety precautions when crushing ores. These include:
Ø       Eye protection. it is normal that one crushing rock small particles fly through the air. If a small sharp piece of quartz lands in your eye, it could do some serious damage.  It is important to always wear goggles or protective glasses when crushing. Goggles are the better choice of the two.
Ø       Dust mask: the process of crushing rock always creates airborne dust.  If your lungs are already compromised by smoking or other problems, you definitely don't want to expose them to additional hazards. Silicosis is a very nasty and incurable problem which is brought on by long-term exposure to quartz bearing dust. Using a dust mask when crushing is a good habit and make sense especially if you're doing it a regular basis.
Ø       Gloves are also a good safety measure to protect your hands.  I always use them.
Ø       If using mechanized equipment, always be very careful around any moving parts.  A good number of accidents in the mining industry occur when people get hands or clothing caught in moving mechanized parts.  The precautions you take will be well worth your time.

Do It Yourself, Homemade Gold Sluice Box

Have you wondered if using a sluice box would help you find more gold?  Here how you can plan and build your own gold sluice box......
A sluice box lined with riffles is one of the oldest forms of gravity separation devices still being used today. They are simple and have been in use all across the world for thousands of years. A sluice is really nothing more than an artificial channel lined with devices to catch gold through which water flows moving the lighter materials such as clay, sands and gravels out of the sluice. They heavier materials remain behind, trapped by the riffles. For many years, most sluice boxes were home made affairs designed and built in the gold prospector himself. To this day, in the gold bearing regions of  third world countries, prospectors design and build sluice boxes out the most unusual items – sometimes whatever materials are available locally. You don't really need any special sluice box plans - the exact size is really not all that critical.  They come in all sizes and a can range from small, portable aluminum models used for prospecting all the way up to large sluice boxes hundreds of feet long, which are used at fixed installations in commercial operations.
Making your own gold sluice is actually a very good beginning project for new prospectors in my opinion. Just take a close look at the sluices being offered by the manufacturers, and that will show you how to build your own sluice box.  It won't be difficult to get some ideas to make your own plans. Sluice boxes can be made out of wood, aluminum, plastic or steel. Injection molded plastic is not really an option easily available to the do-it-yourself prospector, and steel has a tendency to rust, so wood and aluminum are the preferred options.
In developing plans for a homemade sluice box, the more time you spend thinking about your design, the better. You don't want to have to buy parts you don't need, but on the other hand your slice box needs to work and catch the gold efficiently. A good plan and a good understanding of how a sluice box traps gold are important to your design. I think using miners moss underneath your riffles is a real important item for capturing that fine gold. That is why miners moss is used in the sluices of nearly all commercial suction gold dredges. Having a liner underneath the riffles is an important aid in catching small gold dust, and is very worthwhile. I went with miners moss under all the riffles in my sluice, and I strongly recommend it for you.
The typical wooden homemade sluice is made of boards and varies in width from 8 to 18 inches, usually with a depth of 6 inches to a foot.  A typical length would be in the three to 6 foot range. Riffles can be made from half inch square dowel nailed about every 6 inches down the length of the sluice.  The section without riffles in the top of the box about a foot long is often left for the spot where material shoveled in.  This type of sluice box does catch gold, and is easy to build, but is hard to clean out at the end of the day.  In addition the gravel will beat up the wooden riffles over time.  It is also possible to create steel riffles that fit inside a wooden sluice, and in that case you can also use miners Moss or some similar material to line the bottom of the sluice underneath the metal riffles.
Homemade sluices can also be made from lightweight aluminum. Wooden sluices tend to become waterlogged in increased greatly in weight after they have been in the water for time.  This gives aluminum quite an advantage and it is certainly preferred in the construction of the homemade sluice.  The trough of the sluice, whether aluminum or wood, is usually roughly the same size.
For those interested in making their own home made hand fed sluice box from aluminum with steel riffles as a do it yourself type of project, I can say if you have any metal fabrication skills, you will find this an easy project. A little welding, a little metal folding and the project is done. If you purchase fairly thin aluminum sheet it will be possible to bend it yourself into the trough shape as a single piece (just don’t go too thin).
The prospector's portable gold sluice box has an advantage that it can be quickly taken up and moved to a new location, as the prospector searches for spot with good gold. The grade slope when the sluice is set up usually ranges from about one to 2 inches per foot.
The riffles are really the most important part because they are the part of the sluice box that catches the gold. Riffles are often assembled from small slats of steel set at about 45° angle held in place by a rail on either side. They are best assembled by being welded together.  Take a look at the pictures with this article and you can see how I have welded my riffles together into a single easily removable piece.  Keene and many other sluice box makers do the exact same thing.  This makes the riffles easy to remove when it is time to clean the sluice out undercover the gold. Removable riffles, whether in wooden or metal troughs are held down with bots or wedges to keep them from moving around. Now my welds aren't pretty, but they do the job - they just need to be sturdy and hold the riffles in place.  I so strongly recommend that you consider buying one of these welders that I have done up a whole web page on it. If you are seriously considering building your own sluice box, check out my page: Low Cost, Small Arc Welders For Home Use
The more tools and fabricating skills you possess, the more likely it is that your home made dredge project will be a success. I have done up a page on the hand tools needed for this type of project, you can check it out at:  Mining Project Necessary Tools
If you would like to view some more information on how to operate a sluice box, be sure to check out my webpage on using one:  How To Use A Sluice Box To Find Gold
The hand sluice properly set up with smooth flowing water.
Prospecting with the Grandson - Priceless!

Do It Yourself, Home made Suction Dredge

Interested in building your own suction dredge and saving some significant money? Here is how I did it......
No question that many gold prospectors would love to own a dredge, and dredges are very cool pieces of prospecting equipment, but the prices for new ones are really high. Don’t forget however, that in the earliest days of dredging, there were no manufacturers, and all small suction dredges were handcrafted units made in someone's garage.  There's no question that a good dredge can be made at home, and I know you can save some significant money doing it, because I've done it myself.
Building a dredge is a big project with a lot of plans and decisions to be made. Take your time and think about what you really want to build.  Think about what materials you have on hand or what you could easily acquire, then build a list of what you need to construct your dredge. Unfortunately, a simple set of dredge plans that would work for all sizes of suction dredges is just impossible, so I've not tried to prepare any such thing.  However, you can do it for your project. If you really sit down and think about things, and use measurements taken from the commercial dredge makers you can design your own set of plans for your specific dredge project.
Of course you will be building on the cheap, but you don't want to shortchange yourself too much.  You don't want your dredge to be rickety, or to fall apart, or to fail to function. Dredges need to be functional, durable and sturdy.  The time you spend sorting through design concepts, deciding what you will build and how you will build it will be well spent.  Think about what you want and what you need then weigh those together with what you can afford.  Do up some drawings and lists.  Perhaps the best thing I can suggest is that you study the designs of the well-known dredge makers like Keene and Pro-line. These manufacturers have done quite a bit of research studying their products, they have tested different options and have developed efficient pieces of equipment that do the job well. Check out their web sites as most have good photos of their dredges and the individual components that make up these dredges – you can get a lot of information from their web sites. If your local prospecting shop has a dredge set up, take a close look and even measurements or photos if you can. Another great possibility is to join a prospecting club whose members actively dredge, and then go out to the claims and check out the members while they are dredging. Take some pictures of the dredges while they're in operation.  The club members may even let you have a few minutes behind the nozzle so that you can get a feel for the whole experience.  The more general knowledge you have about dredges before you begin your design, the better your construction plans will be.
Sometimes good used dredge parts are available to start a homemade dredge.
When you are sitting down to plan the designs of your own home made gold dredge, probably the first question you will want to ask yourself is “What size of dredge do I want to build?”  The bigger your dredge is, the more material you'll be able to process, but the more it will cost and the more it will weigh.  So weight and cost are the trade-offs for the volume you can process, and practically speaking, the depth of bedrock you will be able to reach.  It is a general rule of dredges that it is not practical to dredge feet of overburden greater than the inside diameter of your hose in inches.  So for a 2 inch dredge you don't want to go through overburden deeper than about 2 feet, for a 4 inch dredge you don't want to go through more than about 4 feet of overburden, and the 6 inch dredge would be limited to around 6 feet of overburden, etc.  Of course it is possible to dredge a 10 foot deep hole with a 2 inch dredge, but it will take forever and be highly inefficient.  This little rule of thumb does not count the depth of water, only the depth of overburden to bedrock. Another piece of design information to consider in your planning is that a four or five inch dredge is about as big as one guy can handle efficiently by himself.  If you're really big, tough and young you may be able to handle a 6-inch by yourself, but it will tax you. A 4-inch is probably the best size for a single guy operation.
Will you need compressed air for diving? If so, you will need an air compressor, an air receiving tank and related diving equipment. Air is really handy to have, but its optional, and you can always add air later if you plan well and allow space for the compressor on your dredge.  
Your homemade dredge will need a motor and a pump. If you want to dive, you will also need a compressor. I have developed a page to consider and discuss the purchase Mining Equipment component parts and elements. Before you make that buy, check it out at:  Mining Equipment Component Parts
Do you have the proper tools? Fabricating your own suction dredge takes tools.  Things like a hack saw, pop rivet gun, drills, wrenches and the like are the minimum. Do you actually have the experience to build such a project? The more tools and fabricating skills you possess, the more likely it is that your home made dredge project will be a success. I have done up a page on hand tools for this type of project, you can check it out at:  Mining Project Necessary Tools
Having the ability to do some arc welding, or to bend and shear cut metal are also handy abilities to possess. My little 120V arc welder, while underpowered, has helped me complete some serious fabrication projects. If you don’t already own a welder, this project might be just the excuse you needed to buy one!  I so strongly recommend that you consider buying one of these welders that I have done up a whole web page on it. If you are seriously considering building your own dredge, check out my page: Low Cost, Small Arc Welders For Home Use

An earlier incarnation of my dredge, with the old crash box sluice from Keene.
Count the cost and figure what is realistically possible: It’s not free! You can save a lot of money building your own home made dredge, but it still won't be cheap. I strongly recommend that before you actually begin to buy materials that you sit down with your design plan and figure those costs.  Be sure you have enough money to complete your project. I decided to buy some parts from Keene, because I didn’t think I could fabricate an item as good as what they had to offer. On the other hand, I bought some used dredge components as well. All in all my 4 inch dredge cost less than 1/3 of what a new one would cost.
Here are some of my comment on deciding what you will do for yourself and what you will buy:
Near Impossible to make (but you might them get used):
Hey, I’ve seen some really nice homemade dredges, but no one forges the steel to cast the block and make their own engine. You may be able to purchase a used engine and save a few bucks, but no one makes their own engine. Be sure your engine as the proper bolt holes for attaching the pump. Select a motor size to match the pump you will use. The manufacturers have certain motor sizes they use with certain pumps on dredges of a certain hose size. Plan to use the same sizes they use.
Water Pump:
Again, I’ve seen some really nice homemade suction dredges, but no one casts and machines the aluminum to make their own water pump. The centrifugal pumps used by all the dredge makers are well designed for this purpose. I recommend you purchase one of the pumps designed by Keene.  I got my pump used at my local prospecting shop. Don’t use a trash pump and think you can pump the sand through the trash pump, saving the need for a jet. This is very bad design, and the heavy load of sand and gravel going thorough the trash pump will destroy it in a short time. They are also quite heavy and a larger motor is required than would be needed if a centrifugal pump and jet were used.
Air Compressor:
I own a compressed air pump, but I have not gotten around to mounting it on my dredge. I have dredged for years with nothing more than a snorkel, but it does limit the areas that you can work. Long arms are real asset. Be sure if you do get one that you design your system so that it has room to fit in on the mount with the motor. Don't use a pump or hose that is not intended for producing breathable air - compressors for tools and paint systems add oil that you don't want to be breathing....
There are alternatives for hoses, but you need to be careful. Weak, thin walled materials will wear out. Transparency in a dredge hose is important to see where plug ups occur. The materials used by the dredge manufacturers is very suitable and durable and will get the job done.
Do-able With Some Effort:
Sluice Box: 
A sluice box is probably the biggest and most important thing that you can make for yourself on a dredge. It's an key and critical item - hey, if your sluice box doesn't capture the gold, then your whole dredge project is a lot of wasted time.  I've actually done up a whole separate webpage on designing and building the sluice box for your home made dredge.  This page shows you what I did build my sluice box. Building a 3 stage sluice box for a gold dredge
Header / crash box / flare:
This is one where you have to decide what you want to do.   You can go with a crash box style head and is relatively easy to make. A crash box is just a box that sits and the head of the sluice, directing the flow of water and gravel into the sluice. The other option is to go with a flair header which is much more difficult to make, but gets a lot better gold recovery.  I chose to go to the expense and buy a plastic molded flare header from Keene for my dredge. I have also seen guys build flares out of Orange Plastic traffic cones. I recommend using a damper (a sheet of heavy rubber) to help control the water and slurry flow out of the box.
This is a little difficult but not too bad if you have the right welding skills. First you have to decide if you want a suction nozzle or power jet type. The suction nozzle puts the high-pressure water in right at the nozzle. A power jet puts the high-pressure water in just before the sluice box. A suction nozzle is best in very shallow water; a power jet produces better overall suction. Most dredges are power jets, but some smaller units, 3 inches and smaller are suction nozzles. I recommend the power jet. Take a close look at the jets made by the manufacturers like Keene.
Here's an easy project: really all you need is a piece of pipe about 10 inches long and of the right diameter to fit in your dredge hose. Simply take one end of the pipe and saw cut the pipe about every quarter inch.  Take a hammer and gently tap the pieces down to form a cone on the tip.  Weld a bead around the edge of your new nozzle and your done.  You can even weld on a handle to the nozzle if you wish (I personally don't like them).
This is a part of a project where you can really save some money if you want to. There are a number of different flotation types which you might select for your project.  In the early days of portable suction dredges, most were floated on large truck inner tube tires. These large inner tubes are both light and inexpensive.  This is the option I chose for my home made dredge, but these large truck inner tubes are becoming more and more difficult to purchase. Few trucks still on the road use them and they are difficult to purchase even at tire centers specializing in large diesel trucks.
Nowadays, most commercial suction dredges are built on plastic pontoons. They are more durable but they are also a lot heavier.  There are a number of options in this direction as well.  I have seen homemade dredges built on a variety of plastic pontoons.  One interesting option is five to 10 gallon sized plastic shipping containers or barrels.  Sometimes these can be purchased quite cheaply.  Another option is to purchase the pontoons from the manufacturer, but in general these are quite expensive.  
The other part of the flotation system is the frame or mount for the sluice box and motor, allowing them to sit in a stable manner on top of your flotation units.  I made my frame out of scrap aluminum purchased at the local junkyard.  It was inexpensive and not difficult to construct.  Because it was flat it sat easily upon my truck tubes.
Foot valve:
The foot valve is an important but often overlooked item.   You can put one of these together from a piece of pipe and some heavy screening with just a bit of bailing wire and some tack welds. A fairly short time sucking pure sand can ruin your pump, so don't try to run your dredge without one - all the manufacturers supply them with the new dredges.

You will also need a wet suit of some sort, although the actual type depends on where you will be dredging for gold.  Even in California in midsummer the water gets awfully cold after an hour or two if you do not have some sort of protection. In Alaska, much more serious protection such as a well-designed dry suit is needed so that you can stay in the water while operating your dredge.
I have found that the junk yard / recycling yard can provide some important pieces that you may use at low prices. I suggest that one you have   good plans for the dredge you want to build, take your purchase list and go look through the local scrap yards - you can get stuff there a whole lot cheaper than you would at somplace like Home Depot. You may even find a suitable used engine there.
I suggest that once you have assembled all the pieces you need, the next step is to put your new dredge all together and test it. I suggest that you test it with a couple dozen pieces of small lead shot. Flatten them, and paint them red or some other bright color. Then suck up some gravel from the nearest gold bearing stream and put the shot in with the gravel you are processing.  Be sure to take in a good bit of gravel both before and after you've sucked up the shot.  When you clean up the sluice, count how many of the shot you have recovered and compare that to the number you started with. You should not lose more than one or two at the most.  If you lose more than three or four you need to adjust your dredge or make some changes to improve it so you can be confident you are not loosing gold.
If you would like to look at some more info that I have done up on using a gold dredge, including a diagram as to how a dredge works, take a look at:
I hope you have found this information on planning and designing your own home made dredge useful. I wish you the best of luck with your home made gold dredge project, remember to measure twice and cut only once!

My dredge frame shown from underneath

A close up shot of my home made dredge

The Very Unofficial MXT Users Support Homepage

Welcome to the Very Unofficial
MXT Users Support Homepage.

Many new and experienced detector users are purchasing Whites MXT metal detector as it is powerful, easy to learn and moderately priced. Its flexibility to hunt coins as well as gold nuggets convinced me to buy one and I purchased my MXT in mid-October 2002. I have been very pleased with it. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I have a few and I listen well to others. The MXT is a well designed detector, however, it is a tool, and all tools (including the MXT), produce more in the hands of an experienced user. Experience comes through practice and knowledge, so hopefully the information at this site will shorten your learning curve in mastering the MXT.

I’m not a dealer, and I’m not associated with Whites in any way, I’m just an independent metal detector user. Many of the dealers are highly knowledgeable about the detectors they sell, but not surprisingly, Whites dealers tend to think Whites are best, Minelab dealers think Minelabs are best, etc. As a result, some folks take their comments with a grain of salt. I have nothing to sell, no axe to grind one way or another, so my opinions contain no hidden agendas - they are just my opinions.

The purpose of the site to provide independent information, help and input on use of the MXT. This information will be helpful both to the new MXT user as well as the person considering an MXT purchase. You may even see a few things you disagree with - not everyone sees eye to eye on issues concerning metal detectors (or anything else for that mater). I really welcome your thoughts and input on the MXT, as well as this website. However, I don’t get paid to do this, and I’m not retired yet, so I don’t have infinite time available to answer email questions, however I will respond to emails as I have time available. I have tried to make this site as comprehensive as possible, to have the information to answer most questions people may have. Whether your interest is in hunting lost treasure caches, prospecting for gold nuggets or just coinshooting at local parks and schools,  I hope you will find the information here useful.

- Chris Ralph

NOTE: The MXT metal detector is a product of Whites’ Electronics of Sweet Home, Oregon. This site represents the author's personal opinions and is not reviewed or endorsed or approved by White's Electronics.

Ready for battle with my trusty MXT and light saber. Ever dig with one of these light sabers? They will cut quickly through anything. Have a target that's under a concrete sidewalk? No Problem! They leave some pretty nasty burn marks around the edge of the plug, so on second thought, better not let those city employees see you using it.

Build Your Own Homemade Mining Equipment

I am a individual prospector and a dyed in the wool do-it yourself enthusiast as well. I have a degree in Mining Engineering from the Mackey School of mines, and I write a monthly series of articles for the ICMJ Mining Journal covering various aspects of prospecting for gold, so I have a lot of experience with prospecting equipment. Over the years, I have built a quite a number of items for myself, including my own dredge.
I have put together design and plans information a number of homemade mining equipment projects that you might attempt. How are your fabrication skills? Are you set up to bend or cut sheet metal? Do you own an arc welder? (here are suggestions as to why You might want to own an inexpensive 110V welder - they are very helpful in repairing broken equipment as well) How about the other standard equipment like drills and a pop rivet tool? The truth is that with care, the proper tools and the skills to use them, you can make some worthwhile mining equipment for yourself. Take a look at the following projects and see if you think these are within your abilities to construct. I buy my project materials from the junk yard, Home Depot, the local prospecting shop or wherever I can purchase the items that I need. I also have some comments about buying the equipment, tools and materials you need to complete these projects.
Each project below has a lot of information, suggestions and plans for what you need to do, so make a selection and take a look......
 Make Your own Gold Pan
Most anyone can afford to buy a $10 gold pan, but on the other hand  there are sometimes reasons that you might need to improvise. Here is the information you need to know about improvising your own "emergency" gold pan for those occasions when you forgot to bring one.
Big Bowl Gold Panning
 Design and Build Your own Gold Dredge
Can't really afford expensive equipment to find gold nuggets? Interested in having your own dredge? There are a number of issues to consider, but I've done it, and you can, too. My dredge is based on a lot of experience in the field, so it works just great. A good homemade dredge will cost some money, but you may be able to build one a lot cheaper than you could buy one. Here are the plans and information you need to build your own homemade suction gold dredge. 

Build Your Own Dredge sluice boxHere is the information you need to consider about building your own sluice box for a dredge.  Maybe you want to upgrade your old crash box sluice. The sluice on a dredge is such an important part of the construction, I did up a separate page on it so you could see the full set up and how I built mine. After all, if the sluice doesn't catch the gold, what is the point of the dredge? If you are interested in a hand fed river sluice, look a the next item down on this list.
Home built dredge sluice box
 Plans to Build Your own Hand Fed Sluice Box
Want to move up from your gold pan and take the next step in prospecting? A simple hand fed river sluice will process more in an hour than you can pan in a day, and more material moved means more gold in your poke at the end of the day. Miners have been making their own sluices since the days of the gold rush. Here is all the information you need to design and build your own homemade sluice box.
Home built hand fed gold sluice  
 Plans to Build Your own Dry Washer
This is just the piece of equipment you need to prospect in the desert for gold. There is a long tradition of home built dry washers. This is a very do-able project, but it does take time, planning, good design and some work. Here are my plans and thoughts on how to build your own dry washer.
plans for a Home built dry washer
Build Your own Gold High Banker
The highbanker has become a popular piece of prospecting equipment. It is really just a sluice box set up to run at a location away from the waters edge. A close relation of the dredge and sluice box, the highbanker has the advantage of being able to  work bench gravels left high and dry by river erosion. There are two main elements of a high banker: they are the feed box and the sluice box. The main types of deposits for which a higbanker is a good choice are gravels away from the water, such as bench gravels and sometimes residual gravels. Building your own High banker is not an exceptionally difficult project.
Build Your own Gold Shaker Table
Shaking tables, sometimes also known as wet tables, consist of a vibrating riffled deck mounted on some type of support. The table is shaken back and forth longitudinally, using a slow forward stroke and a rapid return strike that causes particles to “crawl” along the deck parallel to the direction of motion. The lighter materials move up and over the riffles and down to exit on the tailings side of the table. Wash water is fed at the top of the table at right angles to the direction of table movement. Tables are most commonly used to recover gold from hard rock ores, but can also be used to recover other mineral materials of higher than normal density. While building a shaker table is a fairly difficult project, the results can be well worth it...
Make Your Own Hand Powered Rock Crusher
Building your own rock crusher really isn't that difficult, but you'll likely need a welder to do it. The basic concept of rock breaking is making big rock pieces into little ones. Popular hand crushing systems include the hand stamp type crusher. Usually these are fully hand operated like mortar and pestle systems, but more elaborate spring type designs can also be made.
Build Your own Gold Rocker
At the very dawn of the Gold rush to California, the rocker box was perhaps the most used piece of gold prospecting equipment. For a time it was perhaps even more important that the gold pan. Mostly this was because the miner could make a rocker for himself in the field from rough sawn lumber cut in the forest. They are also easily portable. So why might a modern prospector be interested in building his own rocker box? The principal use of a gold rocker is for mining small deposits where water is scarce. So perhaps the best use is in streams and waterways with very little water – where some water is present, but not enough to run a sluice box.
 Build your own Metal Detector
This is certainly not an easy task - but if electronics is your specialty, and you've already done a number of your own electronic projects, then you might want to check in here and see about just what what it takes to build your own homemade metal detector. I have also compiled some thoughts on coil fabrication. Take a look here.
electronics for constructing a metal detector
Low Cost, Small Arc Welders For Home UseMy recommendation is that if you want to start fabricating mining equipment (and keep the stuff you already have in good repair) its a good Idea to purchase a small low cost welder - you'll find it has 101 uses around the home. In fact, I so strongly recommend that you consider buying one of these welders that I have done up a whole web page on it. If you are seriously considering building your own mining equipment, check out my page.
small affordable home welder  
Fabricating your Own Prospecting Equipment: Useful Tools Here are some of the recommended tools for these mining equipment fabrication projects.  Many of the hand tools listed on my web page are already present in most homeowner garages – you need them for those little maintenance projects that come up for everyone who owns a home. However, I wanted to provide this list of the tools needed to build your own mining equipment to help you better plan out what you need for your project.
If you are considering building a dredge, highbanker or dry washer, you will need some components like engines or water pumps to construct your project. I have put together a listing and discussion of these items, which you will want to consider.
Library and bookstoreWant to learn more?  This website has loads of information, but there is always lots more to learn. Here is a large list of books I recommend on Prospecting, rock and mineral collecting, geology, jewelry making, etc. Each has a link where you can make a purchase from Amazon if you wish. 

Commercial Placer Mining Equipment

Interested in finding more about commercial scale operations to mine gold nuggets? This is my page of information on Commercial placer mining equipment......
Commercial placer mine operators can afford the expense, and need the capability of equipment that is beyond the typical workings of the small operator or individual prospector.  Three of the most common pieces of commercial placer processing equipment are jigs, shaking tables, and spiral concentrators. Lets take a look at each of these types.
Jigging is one of the oldest methods of gravity concentration - it is simply a method of pulsed shaking which allows heavier minerals to settle. One of the steps a panning for gold is a shaking step for heavy minerals settling.  The basic modern jig is an open tank filled with water, with a horizontal metal or rubber screen at the top and a spigot at the bottom for removal of concentrate. The screen holds a layer of coarse, heavy material referred to as ragging - steel shot is often used for this purpose. Ragging functions as a filtering or separating layer for heavy particles.  The feed forms a sand bed on top of the ragging which aids mineral separation. The ragging and the sand bed together are referred to as the jig bed. Mechanical plungers inside the tank cause the water to pulsate up and down. As the ore is fed over the ragging, the motion of the pulsing water causes the heavy minerals to work their way downward in the jig bed. Heavy mineral grains penetrate the ragging and screen and are collected at the bottom of the tank, while lighter grains flow across the top and are carried over the jig bed with the cross flow.
The conventional jig is a high capacity concentrator that efficiently separates material from I inch down to about 100 mesh (25.4 mm to 150 microns), although significant recovery of gold finer than 230 mesh (roughly 70 microns) has been reported. Jigs can process 7-25 tons of material per hour, depending on their size, with recoveries of 80- 95%. A usual configuration is a double line of four cells in series, each two cells driven by an eccentric box provided with a geared motor. These machines require a significant amount of floor space, head room, and experienced supervision. Nearly any fluctuation in feed size or rate will require the adjustment of the jig to maintain proper recovery.
The actual mechanics of jigging are complex, and differing models have been developed to explain the process. Generally, the processes involved in efficient jigging are as follows. First, the compression stroke of the plunger produces an upward water pressure that causes the sand bed and feed to accelerate upward. Due to particle density, lighter particles are moved farther upwards than heavier ones. This process is called differential acceleration. Secondly, the mineral grains undergo hindered settling. After the initial acceleration, the plunger stops and the mineral grains will fall and their speeds will increase such that the grains attain terminal velocity. Since the jig bed is a loosely packed mass with interstitial water, it acts as a high density liquid that restricts the settling of lighter particles while allowing heavy particles to fall. This allows heavy grains to settle further downward than lighter material. Finally, during the suction stroke of the plunger, a period of time is allotted for the fine grains to settle on top of a bed of coarse grains. The coarse grains have settled and are wedged against each other, incapable of movement. The small grains settle through passages between the coarse particles. The process is known as consolidation trickling.
In a jig, the pulsating water currents are caused by a piston having a movement with equal compression and suction strokes. At the point between pulsation and suction, the jig bed will be completely compacted, which hinders settling of all material. To keep the bed open, make-up water, referred to as hutch water or back water, is added. The addition of the hutch water creates a constant upward flow through the bed and thus increases the loss of fine material. This loss occurs partly because the longer duration of the pulsation stroke acts to carry the fine particles higher and partly because the added water increases the speed of the top flow, carrying fine particles through the jig and past the jig bed before the jigging action can settle them out.
Shaking Tables
Shaking tables, also known as wet tables, are basically a specialized type of sluice.  They consist of a riffled deck on some type of support. A motor, usually mounted to the side, drives a small arm that shakes the table along its length. The riffles are usually not more than half an inch high and cover over about two thirds the table’s surface. Varied riffle designs are available for specific applications. Shaking tables are very efficient at recovering heavy minerals from minus 100 microns (150 mesh) down to 5 microns in size.
Deck sizes range from 18 by 40 inches for laboratory testing models to 7 by 15 feet. These large tables can process up to 175 tons in 24 hours. The two basic deck types are rectangular and diagonal. Rectangular decks are roughly rectangle shaped with riffles parallel to the long dimension. Diagonal decks are irregular rectangles with riffles at an angle (nearly diagonal). In both types, the shaking motion is parallel to the riffle pattern. The diagonal decks generally have a higher capacity, produce cleaner concentrates, and recover finer sized particles.
The decks are usually constructed of wood and covered with a surface of linoleum, rubber or plastics. These materials have a high coefficient of friction, which aids mineral recovery. Expensive, hardwearing decks are made from fiberglass. The riffles on these decks are formed as part of the mold. In operation, a slurry consisting of about 25% solids by weight is fed with wash water along the top of the table. The table is shaken longitudinally, using a slow forward stroke and a rapid return strike that causes particles to “crawl” along the deck parallel to the direction of motion. Wash water is fed at the top of the table at right angles to the direction of table movement. These forces combine to move particles diagonally across the deck from the feed end and separate on the table according to size and density.
  ICMJs Prospecting and Mining Journal magazine
In practice, mineral particles stratify in the protected pockets behind the riffles. The finest and heaviest particles are forced to the bottom and the coarsest and lightest particles remain at the top. These particle layers are moved across the riffles by the crowding action of new feed and the flowing film of wash water. The riffles are tapered and shorten towards the concentrate end. Due to the taper of the riffles, particles of progressively finer size and higher density are continuously brought into contact with the flowing film of water that tops the riffles, as lighter material is washed away. Final concentration takes place in the unriffled area at the end of the deck, where the layer of material at this stage is usually only a few particles deep.
The separation process is affected by a number of factors. Particle size is especially important, but particle shape is important as well. Generally, as the range of sizes in feed increases, the efficiency of separation decreases. A well classified feed is essential to efficient recovery. Separation is also affected by the length and frequency of the stroke of the deck drive, usually set to 1 inch or more with an adjustable frequency that varies between about 240 to 325 strokes per minute. A fine feed requires a higher speed and shorter stroke than a coarse feed. The shaking table slopes in two directions, across the riffles from the feed to the tailings discharge end and along the line of motion parallel to the riffles from the feed end to the concentrate end. The latter greatly improves separation due to the ability of heavy particles to “climb” a moderate slope in response to the shaking motion of the deck. The elevation difference parallel to the riffles should never be less than the taper of the riffles; otherwise wash water tends to flow along the riffles rather than across them. I have a page on How to Build Your Own Shaker Table
Spiral Concentrators
Spiral concentrators are modern, high capacity, low cost units developed for the concentration of low grade ores. Spirals consist of a single or double helical sluice wrapped around a central support with a wash water channel and a series of concentrate take-off ports placed at regular intervals along the spiral. To increase the amount of material that can be processed by one unit, two or more spirals are constructed around one central support.
The newer Humphreys spirals are capable of recovering particles as small as 270 mesh (53 microns). In a test at CSMRI, a new Mark VII Reichert spiral recovered 91.3% of the free gold contained in the feed in a concentrate representing only 5.4% of the feed weight. The unit showed little decrease in gold recovery efficiency with material down to 325 mesh (45microns).
Sand and Gravel Mines
Finally, there is the issue of placer gold recovery from sand and gravel plants.  Gold recovery in the typical sand and gravel plant presents problems not normally associated with placer gold mines. Recovery systems must be designed to interface with an existing sand and gravel operation. This usually limits the type and amount of equipment that can be used and, consequently, reduces recovery. In addition, extreme variations in feed rate occur because the sand and gravel plants operate in response to demands for sand and gravel, not gold. Variable feed rates may reduce gold recovery by causing recovery equipment to function erratically.  Normally, in most sand and gravel operations, the material being mined has not been evaluated for gold content. In these cases, gold recovery cannot be accurately calculated, and the only measure of success is the extent that the value of the recovered gold exceeds the cost of processing.