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Arid land prospecting 101


Hi blogsters:

It's been a long while since I've posted on this blog, so I'm having to re-learn some things.

I'm not going to regale you with empty-headed political parrotry.  If you're hungry for that you'll have to get it on another blog or three, or on the threads.

Instead, I'm going to tell you about a project that's going on in my yard and my shop.

I'm feeling a bit enthused about a particular canyon.  I'm anxious to work it, but it's waterless.  I lost most of my half-ownership of a lot of equipment, including a couple of drywashers when Mel got whacked, so I'm having to improvise.

Working a canyon without water requires some specialized tools if a person's not going to spend all his time carrying samples somewhere water's available.  Usually the best tool is a backpacker drywasher.

However, it requires a leaf-blower to provide air, which I don't wish to purchase.  Besides, drywashers blow dirt from hell to breakfast, fill the eyes with grit, and make a person want a shower when the day's done, along with some clothing roughly the same weight as went in with him.

So, after thinking about it a while I decided to try something I don't believe has ever been tried for desert work.  A vibrator/separator table, portable, built mostly from junk I have around here not being used.

 The first thing a person needs working dirt looking for gold is something with riffles.  There has to be a series of dams to inhibit the movement of the heavier material once the lighter stuff's separated.  I'm using this old utility shelf.  The side without mud-dobber nests.

Here's the first step toward having an experimental portable vibrator table.

I've already sawed the top off this nylon drum.  I'll cut another strip to make a bottom for the riffle box.


Since there's no water, no blowing air, a lot of vibration's going to be required to separate the heavier material (mineral) from the light stuff (dirt and gravel).  What I have available that's portable, high RPM is a weed-eater.  I've tested it enough to cause me to believe just cutting off one of the nylon cords will throw it off balance enough to create plenty of agitation when the engine's idling.


The thing will require a collapsing, light, cheap stand.  It needs to assemble easily, break down fast, and be easily transportable.

I used these old camp chair frames.  It will take a bit of messing with it, but I think they'll be fine.


This thing will work a bit like a rocker box, rocking fore to aft while vibrating to spill off the lighter material.  I'll be putting a grizzley at the high end to classify and feed the material across the box, but I might also put a classifier across the top of the riffle box just to allow material to be fed into it directly by shovel.

This is as far as I've gotten, thus far.  The bottom of the riffle-box needs to be relatively easy to remove, so I'm dreaming up ideas for a way to attach it with homespun key-clips.  Other odds and ends need to be completed and experimented with, including a way to cover the motor assembly to keep dirt out of the chicken noodle soup inside it, and keep dirt out of the air intake.

If anyone's interested, when it's done I'll post pics of the final product, along with some showing it in operation.

I'll be carrying it into the canyons on a stretcher/gurney thing I picked up at a flea market for a couple of bucks.  It's designed for man-handling dead deer and elk out of the wild.... has a couple of handles and a bicycle wheel to help a person who's feeling the years keep from having to carry so much weight.




Entry #539


mymonieComment by mymonie - May 6, 2006, 1:52 pm
Great idea Jack, hope you keep this article going on this board. I have bought a piece of property and with it I have access to an old mine that the goverment shut down before WWII. There no water there just a bunch of holes and a lot of rocks from the old mining days. May have to build me something like this.
Comment by Rip Snorter - May 6, 2006, 2:18 pm
Thanks for the visit and comment, mymonie.

Those old tailings piles might offer up some surprises. But, unless you're in awfully dry country, this probably isn't your best tool. It could be used with water, running a gallon at a time over it similar to a rocker box. But it sounds as though your mine's for lode, rather than placer. This is a placer tool, or crushed ore. It will never move a lot of material.

I'm betting you'll be wanting to crush some rock if you work it, or you might just get yourself a high-end metal detector if you find there's mineral worth going after. Those Minelab detectors are so high-tech they'll pick up an awfully lot the old timers missed.

Gracias amigo, and good luck.


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