Tag Archives: drywasher

Hot Prospecting

I had no work booked for the day, so I planned to wake up early and head out to my new spot and see what happened.  But first I had to replace my home made drywasher’s fan bearing, despite it being a “sealed bearing”!  I also had to service some of the hardware on the riffle box, due to all the shakin’, rattlin’ & rollin’ it has been doing this year.

Because we in Lake Havasu are now in the 100′s from now until late September, one needs to start digging around 6 am to have enough time to dig before it gets too hot.  This time of year, the early morning temps are still in the upper 70′s, so until that changes, (morning temps will eventually only get down into the 90′s), I’ll keep digging.

desert prospecting is hot and dusty

Dusty and hot!

The only issue I have in my current new spot, which is atop a series of gullies, fully exposed to gusty wind, is when the wind does start blowing from random directions, the dust from my drywasher sometimes blows right in my direction.  When I’m digging and sweating, the windblown dust sticks to any exposed skin.  In a matter of minutes, you have a caked-on layer of dirt!  So far this new spot has yielded over 2 grams of placer gold and even a few nice pickers, which have been pretty scarce this season.  So the price I pay (hot, sweaty, dusty, etc) is almost worth it…almost.  Spending on average 4-5 hours digging gold and coming back with an average of 2-3 tenths of a gram really does not constitute being worthwhile, but, as any placer gold prospector can attest, you never know when you’re going to find a nugget.

Sweaty and dusty placer gold prospecting

Sweaty and dusty

Maybe today will be that day?

As the morning  progressed, I did my usual routine, which entails processing about 8 – 10 buckets of dirt from more than location in my current gully, then walking the bucket of concentrates down the hill to my little base-camp, where my ice-filled cooler of Powerade, and water await, as well as my pan and tub of water. After digging and drywashing for an hour stretch up in the gully, in the hot desert sun, I like to turn on the stereo in my Samurai and pan to the music!  The first couple washouts yielded the normal multiple bits of flour gold per pan, which isn’t a bad thing, but you always think that the next pan will have one of those elusive little pickers that we all desire!

Since I’ve visited this new spot about half a dozen times so far, I had only found one nice picker amongst the normal bunch of fines, so I realized that finding more would be rare.   These trips are really noting more than filler trips, where I intend only to add to my total of gold.  During the third washout round, there it was, voila, a nice picker poked its head out of the black sand in the pan.

Another nice picker

Another nice picker

Finally!  Finding this new picker was a good boost to my ego as well as my motivation to continue on as the morning advanced near the noon hour, in which the sun is at its peak, bringing with it 100+ degree temperatures!  I had one bottle of Powerade left and with renewed motivation, I trudged back up the hill for the 5th and final time of the morning, in search of another picker.  I convinced myself to dig up more buckets of pay dirt than usual to finish off a productive day with hopefully more pickers.  The effort did indeed payoff, rewarding me with two more pickers!  Not as large as the first one, but they made my sweaty, dust-caked face smile.  the day ended up producing 3+ tenths of a gram.  With the price of gold falling below $1400.00 per ounce, not many reasonable humans would consider that total worth the extreme effort, but to anyone bitten by the Gold Bug, such as I have been, this is a good day!

Today as I write this, our temps topped 110 degrees in Lake Havasu, AZ, and my boat lettering business, Don Burda Design has increased, so I’m not sure how many more posts I’ll be able to write until things cool off a bit.  I can guarantee that in the last few outings of the season, I find something to brag about, you’ll see it posted here!

Time To Upgrade

After using my rigged puffer dry washer to be a blower-powerd dry washer, I knew the tiny surface area of the hopper would eventually be limiting.  That time had come.  It is now February, 2012 and I began to explore the possibilities of upgrading my dirt processing equipment.  Because I was financially challenged (still am!), I knew buying a new Keene or Gold Buddy was way out of my budget, so I began to look at alternative ways of ending up with a blower-powered dry washer that would’nt cost me an arm and a leg.  I recalled an old acquaintance of mine had picked up an old classifier from a garage sale and never used it, so I gave old Doug a call.  He said I could come by and pick it up, for free!  Now that I had the hopper part of the dry washer figured out, I had to somehow create the important part of it, the riffle tray and box. 

home made drywasher

home made drywasher

I also had to figure out how to make a weighted fan to create the vibration necessary to make material travel freely down the riffle tray.  I purchased some sheets of 3/8″ wood and some 1/2″ x 1/2″ square dowel material to add strength to the corners.  I designed it on paper then fabricated a box with a hole in the floor, that was cut from an old real estate sign I gathered from a foreclosure trashout (a former business of mine).  This hole was to house the fitting for my 3″ RV waste hose, that will connect to the Toro leaf blower / vac, that would provide the airflow necessary to spin the weighted fan mounted on top of this hole, slightly off-center, to catch more of the airflow and account for greater rpm’s.  Next I had to fabricate a fan that would rotate on bearings I used from an old pair of rollerblades.  This setup worked fine until the frequency of the bearings becoming seized up from all the dust blowing into them from the drywashing process was too great  I had to break down and buy a Gold Buddy’s replacement fan.  This came complete with allegedly sealed bearings, but even this professionally fabricated fan required bearing servicing almost every 6 outings.  Sealed bearings, my a**!  One more fun fact…the material used to line the floor, underneath the riffle tray was old screenprinting fabric from a local screenprinting acquaintance of mine.  Ironically, I owned a screenprint company for 13 years!  This new setup allowed me to also fabricate a blower / vac powered vacuum. 

leaf blower powered gold vacuum

leaf blower powered gold vacuum

This came from an old 6 gallon shop vac combined with the leaf blower / vac mounted into it.  This is extremely useful for desert prospecting, because of all the cracks and crevices present, once you get down to bedrock.  These areas can only produce gold if you have the means to vacuum it out and now I did!

 Now that I had a more proper dry washer, I was able to process more material that I dug and / or vacuumed from the desert, which would mean more gold.  This did end up being the case, as the average amount of gold I brought home increased.  Granted, I still had to find gold-producing spots and I’m still only finding tenths of a gram per trip, but it beats what I was taking home!

A New Spot

After moving on from Big Hill, I had absolutely no idea where my next gold would be found.  So I hit the Bison trail and headed east.  I looked for inlets leading into coves, where I could see exposed bedrock, covered with a layer of cobblestones.  I found an entrance to such a cove and cautiously manuvered my GMC van around hazards, until I found a suitable place to park and do some recon.  Immediately I saw a 4′ wide trench that appeared to be cut by flowing flood waters.  It ran where the slope of the hillside met the plane of the trail.  This had the trappings of a good spot, so I unloaded me gear and setup shop.  There was about 2-1/2 feet of overburden, which had little-to-no gold in it, leaving a very hard layer of  caliche, that required aggressive pick swinging to break it up.  I had learned that anything that sits on top of bedrock can carry gold.  After running this material through the drywasher, at this juncture, still a convverted hand puffer. 

drywasher, puffer
Puffer drywasher

I tend to be one who likes to run as much dirt through the hopper as I can, even if it means having some spill over the top, but with this little guy, I had to step out of a now, 3-1/2 foot hole, many times, to assist emptying the hopper.  After panning the concentrates, I ended up with about 2/10 of a gram and packed up for the day.  The results warranted a few more trips to this location and even further exploration, deeper into this canyon, even sampling steep ravines that had exposed caliche, packed with cobblestones.  I happened to run into Wade during this time, who said that many years back he had worked this area and how the only method that made this location worthwile, was to have two guys.  One to breakup the cobble-packed caliche, throw it down about 40-50 ft. to the other guy, who would smash it up further, then run it through the drywasher.