Did you know that recovering fine gold usually compensates for the majority of gold found by junior prospectors? It is much more abundant and is usually found in places that are easier to access. The problem with fine gold is that its lock boxes so small and improperly installed can let it pass unintentionally. To remedy the problem, you need to be aware of the main factors involved. The speed and volume of the water are essential! Even in a poorly designed lock, if you have the selected water volume and speed, you will still catch gold more efficiently than using a poorly configured high end professional lock. In addition, the angle at which the lock boxes sit is also very important. The angle will affect the speed of the water as it descends as well as the speed at which the lock is able to clean itself. If the angle is too shallow, larger rocks and chunks of clay can settle on or around the riffles and cause turbulence in the water that will effectively kill the back swirl action created by the guns. He will make you lose gold! These points being the most critical, then there is the construction and design of your lock. Its ability to catch gold and especially fine gold is determined from afar by the designs of guns and / or catch mat systems.
Finding the right water flow and velocity for your situation is absolutely essential. This can be tricky and require you to block the flow of water from the entrance to your lock or add additional water. This can be accomplished by building a small dam with rocks in the creek or river bed. Depending on where you are prospecting, this could be considered a violation of your local fish and game laws, so be aware of this. It is likely that if moving rocks in the stream bed is considered a violation, so is the use of a lock box. Make sure you know the laws !!!
The more water the better and overall it doesn’t hurt to fill the lock with water all the way to the top of the sides if you can. A good recommended minimum depth is around 2 inches. The volume is usually separated from the speed of the water, so you can easily adjust it by lowering the lock further into the water or finding deep places in the stream bed that act as a funnel for your lock.
The correct flow can be assessed using small pebbles or a handful of sand. Drop it in the entrance of your lock and watch it flow. all but the heaviest particles should be washed out within 3 to 5 seconds depending on the length of your lock. 3 is a bit fast but will allow much faster production of concentrates at the cost of losing fine gold. 5 is a bit long or about right depending on the coarseness of the material you are cutting. You should be catching a lot of fine gold at this speed, but at the risk of bigger rocks getting caught in the riffles and disrupting the flow. You can adjust the angles to solve this problem.
When setting up a lock, the correct angle must be observed. It is generally between 5 and 7 degrees of incline and should allow most round rocks and pebbles to pass easily. You don’t want the material to pass through, but rather to scroll slowly. An ideal speed is for a larger rock to clear in 3-5 seconds on a medium sized lock box. Also remember that the angle affects the speed of the water as it descends through the lock. Also, sometimes it is not possible to reach right angles if the stream is very flat. Under such circumstances, you may need to make a makeshift dam from more rocks to raise the water level on one side so that you can feed it through your lock. But it can be a lot of work, and it’s usually best to try increasing the speed of the water instead.
With the right angle, water flow and speed set, it is now time to use our sluice boxes !! Many people pre-filter their material before passing it through the valve. This is a lot of work and a properly configured lock does not need it. However, that being said, if you don’t preselect or rank the material, you will likely lose a few fine gold. This problem can be solved by using a grading screen on your sluice gate when shoveling dirt. I used an old dishwasher basket that I found in the creek bed and placed it in the entrance to my lock box. the water ran through it and when I poured material into it it washed it away leaving the larger rocks and pieces of clay that I could easily throw away. It’s a great lightweight solution that really speeds up my production. It is also a much better alternative to dry screening the material directly at the dig site and then hauling over 10 feet to my lock. Your results may vary, but at this point you should have a pretty good hunch about the possibility of losing gold.
Getting your lock out of the flow can be a delicate process and will inevitably result in a loss of gold. It is highly recommended to place a bucket or pan at the end of it to remove the lock from the water jet to catch anything that could be accidentally washed out. I have seen unsuccessful attempts to remove a lock that resulted in small pieces of gold being washed into the stream. Be very careful.
After that, cleaning up is a snap and not to mention fun. You can finally see how all of your hard work paid off. It should be noted, however, that if you own one of the new generation plastic valves, you often have the added benefit of even easier cleaning as well as a nice view of what is collected during the process. of sluicing! The downside is the lower production capacity.
Hope this should get any new prospector started! Hope you enjoyed my guide!