There’s so much good prospecting equipment out there today and a little that's not so good...
I could never, ever, cover all there is on the market, so I will detail here what I myself use – all good stuff. For me, it has to be lightweight, efficient in gold recovery and cost effective!
I’ll try to give a generic description up front, some specifications, perhaps some images, and then I’ll close each section with my personal comments and advice.
NOTE: My page here isn't target at the "seasoned" prospector, but rather at those folks new to our hobby and are eager to learn and build their own personal collection of "tools of the trade"...
Here we go...
Randy's Home Made 2-Cycle Gas Vacuum:
I have wanted to have a "Gas Vac" for about 3 years now...to really suck the cracks & crevices in rough/jagged bedrock material in my favorite dry gulch in high Colorado. So, after a lot of planning, much delaying, and a little motivation, I built it!
I used an old Poulan Featherlite 1500 2-cycle leaf blower I got non-running at a garage sale for $5. After tearing it apart saw the plastic cranking hub inside was partially broken. I got a new hub for about $10, and installed it, plus a new sparkplug and gas lines and it runs GREAT!
Next, I got an electric 5-gal vacuum at Lowes, replaced the electric motor/impeller with my gas leaf blower, sealed it with 1/2 inch strip insulation, screwed in onto the lid, duct taped it around for a better seal, and installed 8 feet of 2 1/2 inch black plastic hose, and it snaps onto the 5-gal bucket real easily, and sucks loose material pretty well...
Randy's 2-Cycle Gas Vacuum
I had to make a small tin exhaust deflector out of a can, to keep the hot exhaust away from the plastic hose. I also added a tin can with both ends cut out as an extra measure of protection from the exhaust. No other way to mount the blower on the lid, so I did what I could!
Randy's Gas Vac Up Close...
It starts relatively easy, but is loud, as most 2-cycle engines are...so, I'll use foam ear plugs and hardshell hearing protectors too. Here's a link to my short video I made on YouTube:
Overall, only cost me about $60 to build, and two afternoons in my garage. I have seen new/professional gas vacs selling for about $395 to $425. Hope it works as I envision! Will let everyone know on my Forum, under Equipment & DIY projects too.
DREDGE with air! I bought a good used Keene 4 inch floating suction dredge in 2009 & sold it several years later:
I keep this info up on my site for those wanting to see & read about a really great dredge...
I've had this baby out on the creeks and have been vacuuming the bedrock...way down where the gold collects. My Proline 2 1/2 incher has been a great piece of equipment, but with air and a wet suit, I've be able to go and stay deep under water. Here's a few pictures for your enjoyment:
Randy's New Used Keene 4 Inch Suction Dredge
Famous Keene 3-Stage Sluice Box
Honda 5.5HP Engine, P-180 Water Pump, T-80 Compressor
As you can see, it's a real gold getting machine!
MOD TO MY PROLINE NOZZLE:
Here's a few pics of a modification I made recently to my Proline 2 1/2 inch dredge suction nozzle to help limit the number of rock jams I normally get.
Dredge Nozzle Modification -- Front View
It's basically a 3/16" steel rod placed across the opening to limit the size of the rocks allowed inside the nozzle/hose. I rat tail filed in two small notches to hold the rod and used a stainless steel hose clamp. After 2 days of dredging in Georgia recently, I can say "why didn't I do this a year ago!" Only had about 5 rock jams in 2 long days, and those were just from hogging in too much gravel too fast, going for MAX cons.
Dredge Nozzle Modification -- Side View
Rod stayed in place perfectly...allowed me to dig into the bedrock and slashed rock jams 1,000%! I can remove the clamp and rod in no time, if need be. Consider something like this if you hate rock jams as much as I do!
PUNCH PLATE RIFFLE MODIFICATION:
Here I added a small tin riffle onto my steel punch plate at the front of my riffle box, to try and slow down the incoming water/aggregate. I run a fairly high water speed to reduce rock jams in the line and move MAX material. But, I don't want to have the fine gold flush out of the sluice box either, so I made this riffle...
After 2 days of using it, it looks to be doing exactly what I hoped it would...let bigger rocks go past, but slow the water speed in my sluice. Judging from the -100 mesh gold I recovered in my miner's moss, it's a success.
Simple Tin Riffle Installed On Punch Plate
Tin Riffle Installed On Punch Plate -- Works Great!
I installed this tin riffle with 3 sheet metal screws, so I can remove it anytime I want to. I placed it about 3 inches back from the inlet, to let bigger rocks go past. I bent the riffle to adjust the height just enough to easily slide in/out under the hopper during clean ups. Cost about $1 to make -- cheap!
The most basic of all gold prospecting tools! My favorite pans are the Garrett “Gravity Trap” series – formed with a 90° riffled design in the side; ensures better gold recovery, wet or dry. Made of lightweight green plastic for enhanced gold visibility, and are very sturdy. Good for a prospector to wand the aggregate with a detector or pinpointer, as they’re plastic vs. metal. Kit below can be had for about $25 on eBay, plus $6.95 S/H.
Garrett Gold Pan Kit -- PN 1651300 Retail $29.95
• 14” Prospector Pan
• 10” Backpacker Pan
• 2 gold vials
• Find an Ounce of Gold a Day (book) by Roy Lagal
This is the Garrett gold pan kit, as listed above...a great value off eBay!
My Garrett Gold Pans And The GPAA 14 Incher (Top Right) -- All Great Pans...
Another good pan I Recommend: The large 14 inch gold pan that comes with your GPAA membership is a really nice pan too, with high sides, a large flat bottom…almost identical to the Garret 14 inch pan.
Here's A Close Up Of The Moulded In Riffles -- Great For Trapping Gold, Especially During Initial/Fast Panning!
O.K., get the Garrett kit…you’ll need a large “sampling” pan, a 10 inch clean up pan, a ½ inch classifier, and the accessories too. This kit is a great value, no question, for the same shipping cost. Use the large pan to sample for gold before you commit to working a particular area. You can classify a large sample, and quickly see if there’s any color. I do not recommend you use this pan for all your panning, as the extreme weight of the aggregate, rocks and water it can hold will tire out your arms in no time…no fun.
The small pan is perfect for careful sampling and clean ups of your concentrates. Be sure to always scrub them hard with dish soap and hot water to remove any oils and film.
TIP: I use a large piece of 40 or 60-grit sandpaper, to completely “pre-scratch” the whole inside surface, which allows even –100 mesh gold to “stick” to the pan and resist washing out while panning!
Le Trap– called the "River Robber" sluice, it is made in Canada, is incredibly lightweight, yet efficient at catching even fine gold. Measures 48" long, 4” deep, about 12-14" wide on the inside (exterior is about 16" wide), and weighs just 4 pounds! It’s vacuum moulded, one piece plastic design. The flared riffle design slows the water flow as it passes through the sluice, capturing even very fine gold. The maker says to run the water through very rapidly, about 2" deep, which keeps the riffles clean and will leave the gold and minimum concentrates to pan out later. Lists about $85 retail, plus S/H.
My Le Trap works great -- Low Water Speed, Classified My Material With An 1/8th Inch Screen...
Glacial Gold Captured With My Le Trap Sluice...It Definitely Works!
O.K., this was my first sluice, and I love it for its very lightweight and excellent fine gold recovery. I have to say I think it works better with slow to medium water flows. Also, I find classifying your aggregate is an absolute must…so I use a stainless steel 1/8-inch basket. This keeps the small rocks out that would otherwise clog the riffles. You have to carefully cut out the front wall, to make it a sluice, as it’s moulded for possible highbanker use, hence the front wall. I used a Sharpie marker, a coping saw, a wood file, and in 10 minutes had it stream ready!
How I Cut The Front Wall Out Of My Le Trap To Make It A Normal Sluice...
Wolf Trap – all aluminum design, has an 18-inch flare, tapering to 10-1/2 inches, and measuring 34" long x 10-3/4" wide when in working position, folds to just 24" x 18". This makes it great for the back-packer, or where space is at a premium. Weighs just 6 lbs, and has two unique features: a reversible riffle bar assembly – a "slow water" position, and by removing and turning up-side-down, the riffles are now in the "Hungarian" or "fast water" position. Second, it has a 1-inch “well” in the bottom, creating a slow/dead water space for fine gold to settle out and stay trapped. Comes with removable carrying strap and deluxe 1/4" deep indoor/outdoor carpeting. Lists about $100 retail, plus S/H.
My Two Wolf Traps -- One With Miner's Moss, One With Indoor/Outdoor Carpet...GREAT For Fast Water!
A Wolf Trap Disassembled -- Showing Reversible Riffles And 1-Inch Deep "Well" In Bottom
Better View Of The Wolf Trap 1-Inch Deep Well In Bottom -- Catches Fine Gold, Even In Very Fast Water!
O.K., This was my second sluice, and man does it excel in fast water! I bought it for working in Colorado, where the very heavy mineralization (hematite & magnetite) would rapidly clog the average sluice. To run the water fast enough to keep it clean meant fine gold loss. The Wolf Trap, with its two speed riffles and 1-inch deep well at the bottom works perfectly….best of both worlds. Run the water fast and right to the top of the sides, and shovel in your aggregate without classifying!
Wolf Trap Loaded Up With Heavies and Fine Colorado Gold -- Ready For A Clean Up!
Yep, no need to classify…the water flow easily rolls the bigger/smaller rocks and light material right on thru and the gold and heavies collect in the well. You just have to ensure the material is evenly troweled into the water flume to ensure max time settling in the sluice.
Loved it so much, I bought a second one used. I added miner’s moss to one of my two, and have a black ribbed mat too. Final note, at 24” long, it fits easily in my big travel suitcase, important for airline travel today…my Le Trap is way too big now to move easily/cheaply.
Dredge/High Banker Combo:
I graduated into the realm of gasoline powered prospecting in 2007, and I am glad I did! Shoveling, classifying, panning and/or sluicing all day has its rewards, but after awhile, most prospectors want to move more material, with less work, and recover even more gold…I was no exception.
What to buy? How much to spend? A dredge/highbanker combo or a full-blown floating dredge? I figured I’d step up easy….and with less investment, space requirements and ease of storage. I bought a good used Proline dredge/highbanker combo.
My Used Proline 2 1/2-Inch Dredge/Highbanker Combo Unit...
Proline 2 ½ inch model – touted as the perfect size dual-purpose machine. As a dredge, it is capable of processing in excess of five cubic yards of material per hour. It’s also the smallest Proline combo that can handle a continuous feed with a standard size shovel, making it the perfect highbanker for one or two people. Sluice box is 12”x 42”, dredge hose is 2 ½” x 10 feet, can come with a suction nozzle or jet nozzle set-up, a 4 HP engine and HP200 water pump. Lists new now for $1,975, plus S/H.
A Nice Clean Up -- Some Bright, Shiney Glacial Gold
O.K., my first powered dredge and what a neat piece of equipment! I bought it good used for $700, and drove from Rhode Island to New York to get it, and avoid the shipping. It came with a smaller 2 ½ HP Honda engine and HP100 water pump, but that hasn’t diminished its ability as far as I can tell. It breaks down into a very compact unit, easy to load into my Jeep, and easy to carry to the stream in pieces, in several trips. Space is very important, both storage in my garage and in my Jeep. I can move, set-up and operate this unit all by myself. Set-up only takes 15 minutes, at most. The suction nozzle is best for shallow water, when you need to pull the nozzle out of the water a lot, like around rocks/obstacles, without blasting your concentrates out of your sluice box, like a jet nozzle can do.
I have used this Proline dredge several dozen times now, and it works best when run fast, and with the sluice box as level as possible, to capture max fine gold. This position needs a person tending the sluice to keep rocks rolling out the end with a stick. When the riffles get filled up with black sand and heavies, time to clean up.
My Proline Dredge In Action!
MY NEW TOOLS!
Here's my new Apex pick!
I have always wanted to get a really good pick to take prospecting with me...one not to long, big, heavy.
This Apex "Weasel" model is perfect! 2 lbs 10 ounces, 18 inch hickory handle, 10 inch wedge head. It's extremely stout, great welds and strong handle.
Feels really good in your hand, with good balance & such.
Apex Weasel Model Hand Pick
Apex Weasel 10 Inch Wedge Head
Apex Label With Info
Apex Pick Quality Welds & Finish
Can't wait to get to diggin' with this pick. Will rough up the handle with some 40 grit sandpaper to improve my grip on the handle.
Here's a good & cheap pry bar for crevicing:
Carpenter's pry bar -- 16 inches long, only cost $4.99!
Pry bar worked great in California for getting to trapped fine gold!
Here's my 36 inch long pry bar -- AWESOME tool that really works well.
Stanley Bostitch 36 Inch Pry Bar
Awesome Forged Pry Bar!
Pry Bar Information Label
This Stanley pry bar is only 5 pounds and 5 ounces, has a unique curved head for extra leverage and really let me crevice as never before. HIGHLY recommended and only about $20 at Lowes.
Here's some of my smaller crevice tools:
Here are some of the newest crevice tools I bought & can't wait to use! They are a cheap set of picks/scrapers I picked up at the local auto parts store in the $9.99 cheap tool bin. Made in China of course... I smoothed out the rough seems and sanded the handles some, for greater comfort, and bent a few ends to get the right "hook" length. The little pry bar (scraper) is something I've wishied I had in the past. Should let me really big into those tiny cracks & crevices that hold gold in bedrock!
There are hundreds of detectors out there…and all I can say is you get what you pay for… I wanted a good, all-around, multi-purpose detector, and have found the White’s MXT a great value. I bought my two used off eBay.
My Two White's MXTs - Great All-Around Detectors For The Money
White's MXT Detector Close-Up
White’s MXT – legendary performance found previously only in specialty metal detectors. Has the ability to hunt for gold, coins and jewelry, and relics too – these three separate programs/modes allows you to accurately target what you’re after. Each operating mode contains optional search and discriminate methods, i.e., Disc Notch, Mixed Mode Audio, VCO and much more. Comes with a 9.5” Eclipse 950 search coil standard. Retails for $799, plus S/H.
My First Detecting Finds -- Hundreds Of Coins, a 14Kt Gold Ring, And Misc. Items!
O.K., I have had my MXT for several years now and I have got to say it’s one heck of a coin shooter! I have found hundreds and hundreds of lost coins at the beach, parks, school playgrounds, and other public locations. I have also found some lost jewelry, like several 14kt gold rings, several silver rings and necklaces, and a bunch of miscellaneous items, like sunglasses, pocketknives, car keys and such. When it’s too cold to dredge in the river, it’s not too cold to detect for lost treasure!
Sadly, I have not had the chance to use it gold prospecting yet, but look forward to someday finding my first nugget or picker with one. I did help recover a man’s lost 18kt gold wedding band in a flower bed, so it does know what gold “looks” like…
Classifiers & Screens:
Garrett ½ inch classifier – My favorite, and comes as part of the Garrett gold panning kit! Ideal for filtering out large rocks and gravel before panning, sluicing or when sampling. It can also be used to sift out coins jewelry, fossils, mineral specimens, arrowheads and other treasures too. This 14" model tapers to fit into the top of a standard 5-gallon bucket, and fits most popular large gold pans too. Pans nest nicely into the top of the classifier for compact travel. Holes are precisely .483 inch square, to retain dimes when used as a coin and relic recovery sieve. Retails for about $8.95, plus S/H.
My Asorted Plastic And Stainless Steel Screens & Classifiers
O.K., screens and such... I recommend you only use plastic or stainless steel, as cheaper iron screens will rust, make a mess and wear out faster. I get a lot of my hand screens cheaply at Wal-Mart, in the kitchen section or better yet, at local garage sales, where you can get them for next to nothing. I use a large stainless steel vegetable colander with 1/8-inch mesh for classifying cons or when sluicing with my Le Trap.
Deserdog’s Original Gold Sucker Hand Dredges – He makes all different models and sizes. Popular ones are the 2-inch super gold sucker with an adapter to fit 3 different nozzles. His other popular one is the 1 1/4 –inch model, with 3 nozzles…a 1-inch, ¾-inch and 1/2 incher. With these nozzles, you can clean out most any crack/crevasse.
In areas that don’t allow motorized equipment, having a 2-inch super gold sucker is the next best thing. You can quickly fill up a bucket with material, or set up your sluice to be feed directly with your 2-inch super sucker. No check valves to get clogged.
My Two Deserdog Hand Dredges...
O.K., Deserdog has been making hand dredges for years and years…and his are first rate, and cheaper than I could reasonable make myself. I bought is combo pack, with both sizes, and a small Grizzly sluice box and Grizzly micro-sluice. I have been especially amazed with the performance and usefulness of the 2-incher! It really moves the material, rarely gets a rock jammed in the elbow, and can keep a sluice well fed.
I used it in Maine to suck material out of deep pot holes in the bedrock, and got gold I’d never been able to get to by hand or any other method. The internal seal is easy to adjust for the perfect seal. Very sturdy Schedule 40 tubing too.
The smaller 1 ¼-inch model is not for large volume use…but rather getting gold out of cracks and crevasses. It can tend to get some fine sand between the housing and the pump shaft, causing binding/scraping. If I had to get just one, get the larger 2-incher with the 3 nozzles!
Keene Green Bowl:
The “Green Bowl” is called that because it’s moulded of hard, green plastic. No longer in production. It has 3 ramps inside, as well as moulded in riffles, to aid in fine gold recovery. Think of it as a recirculating circular sluice. Keene stopped making it several years back. Water swirls in, closest to the outside of the bowl, and accelerates as it approaches the cone in the center. Lighter tan sand and some black sand will tend to wash out, leaving the gold and heaviest material for hand panning.
My Keene Green Bowl Set-Up...12-Volt Bilge Pump Powered...
Swirling Water Revealing Crisson Mine, GA, Gold!!
The newest thing on the market today is a very similar device called the “Blue Bowl”. The object is to recover your fine gold with only the water from a garden hose, or it can be rigged to recirculate water in a tub, with a 12-volt bilge pump, and a 5-gallon bucket sitting in a water tub. It is highly recommended to classify your cons, by several different sizes, and run them separately. Also, wet the concentrates prior to spooning then into the bowl, and use a surface tension release agent, like JetDry.
O.K., some people love their Green Bowls and some people hate them all together. As for me, I am somewhere in-between. They are not as fast, nor easy, from my experience, as we have been led to believe. You definitely have to classify your cons by size, say 20-mesh, 30-mesh and 50-mesh for best results. Definitely need JetDry in the water too. I have a 500 GPM bilge pump in my system that I got from Wal-Mart.
My bowl sits on a 5-gallon bucket, it sitting in a cheap 27-quart plastic tub. I hook the pump to the 12-volt battery in my Jeep. When running, I adjust the water speed by tapping off the necessary water by means of a “Y-valve” I got at Wal-Mart in their garden hose section. Also, it definitely has to be leveled up with a carpenter's level. I use duct tape, from the bowl to the bucket, to keep mine set level while running...simple.
Trial & error – that’s what best describes the way to get a feel for water speed, how fast you can spoon in the cons, etc. I recommend you slowly spoon in from the extreme outside wall, right above the water inlet. Do not go too fast, or the black sand will build up too rapidly around the inner cone, and then it will slow the water speed and cause the floor of the bowl to build up too. I am still working to get mine just right…..
<!--[if gte mso 9]--> <!--[endif]-->Shovels, Crevice Tools, Brushes, Snuffer Bottles, etc.
O.K., there are almost endless tools available for prospecting….I recommend you use as many “dual use” tools that you may already have in your garage, storage shed or tool boxes. I use a regular #2 shovel, two different hand shovels, and several different hand trowels. All are cheap and multi-functional, especially when bought at a yard or garage sale!
My Shovels, Trowels, Pry Bar And Keene Crevasse Tools
Keene makes several very good steel crevice tools…a deluxe 20-inch model, with a hook at one end and a spoon at the other ($12.95). My favorite is the standard 16-inch Keene tool (shown far right) for digging for $7.95. I have used and abused both my Keene tools and they are well worth the money!
As for brushes, hit the kitchen and/or household cleaning area of your local Wal-Mart. Be sure to get the ones with only the stiffest bristles! Wimpy or soft brushes won’t hold up or move dirt well.
My Assorted Prospecting Brushes...
As for snuffer bottles, I don’t like or use the Garrett bottle that comes in the kit. The lip inside the screw lid makes it next to impossible to shake/swirl gold out of the bottle into a small vial.
Find the standard, cheapo, soft sided snuffer bottle with stiff suction tube, for about $3.79, as the suction tube easily pulls out, allowing the snout to “funnel” the gold into a vial real easily.
Great, Cheap Snuffer Bottles, A Small Pipet Sucker, And Old Stainless Spoons For Burning Mercury Off Gold
Close Up Of A "Good" Snuffer Bottle Lid...Will Fill A Vial Easily!
Grizzly Hand Sluice And Micro-Sluice
These two items came in the combo hand dredge kit I got from Deserdog. One is a hand sluice, designed on the rocker box theory...that if you rock or slosh your aggregate back and forth, the heavies and gold will settle to the bottom. It has a rubber plug in the bottom, so after you concentrate your material to your liking, you pull the plug and wash the cons into your gold pan for final panning.
The micro-sluice was another device that came in my kit. It's intended for final clean ups or perhaps small scale sampling out on the creek during a day hike.
I have not yet used either of these two devices, but intend to try them out some day soon!
Grizzly Hand Sluice And Grizzly Micro-Sluice