How to use a Gold Pan

How to use a Gold Pan

Learning how to use a Gold pan will take a small bit of hands on experience, however it is essential that you get the basics of it by simply reading the following page, that way you’ll be ready to pan like a pro when the time comes to it. Using a Gold Pan is essentially a way that gold prospectors use to sample areas of a riverbed or any other location to check the feasibility of further excavation. Gold panning is NOT an efficient way to extract gold from a location, you will understand why by the end of the page :). A much more efficient way to extract gold is to use a sluice box.



How to use a Gold Pan

How to use a Gold Pan

Before you learn how to use a gold pan you should be sure that you are taking a sample from the correct part of the riverbed, please read Where to find Gold if you have not already.

How to Use a Gold Pan:

First, you begin by taking a sample from a suitable area of riverbed/riverbank, be sure that this is deep enough as gold will be found deep under the gravels on either a false clay bottom or bedrock bottom –

 

  1. Once you have taken your sample from the river gravels and underlying deposits, place into the gold pan and add water, fill to about 3/4 the height of the pan. Leave larger rocks in the pan also, these could have small nuggets clinging on to them. Give it a thorough shake for ten seconds or so.
  2. Remove the larger rocks, be sure they are not large gold nuggets 😉
  3. Find a comfortable spot near the riverbank where you can sit or kneel comfortably whilst still being able to access a mildly flowing section of the river from less than an arms length away
  4. Place the whole pan underwater and sift through all of the material with your fingertips. What you are aiming to do here is to break up any remaining clumps of material. The water should briefly turn silty as the lightest of materials is kicked up into the pan, the flowing river should remove this over the edge of the pan and clarity should return. You can be rough here, gold will not go over the edge of the pan unless you are picking the material up and forcing it over the edge.
  5. Keep the pan under the water and lightly shake from side to side, you are trying to get liquefaction to occur. Do not allow the contents to spill over the edge of the pan.
  6. After swishing side to side for approximately ten seconds, place your hand into the pan sideways and gently remove the top layer of contents. If you have done the previous steps correctly this should consist of larger pebbles. Again check the larger pebbles for mud clinging to them, if you do find any rub the clay off the stone and allow it to go back into the pan, discard the pebble.
  7. Repeat steps 5 & 6 until you have gotten rid of the larger materials and there are only salt grain sized materials left.
  8. Tilt the forward edge of your pan downward slightly to bring the forward-bottom edge of the pan to a lower position. With the pan tilted forward, shake it back and forth using the same left and right motion. Be careful not to tilt the pan forward so much that any material is spilled over the forward-edge while shaking.
  9. Using a gentle forward and backward movement, or a slight circular motion just below the surface of the water, allow the water to sweep the top layer of worthless, lighter materials out of the pan. Only allow the water to sweep out a little at a time, while watching closely for the heavier materials to be uncovered as the lighter materials are swept out. It takes some judgment in this step to determine just how much material to sweep off before having to shake again so that no gold is lost. It will just take a little practice in panning gold before you will begin to see the difference between the lighter materials and the heavier materials in your pan. You will develop a feel for knowing how much material can be safely swept out before re-shaking is necessary. When you are first starting, it is best to re-shake as often as you feel that it is needed to prevent losing any gold. When in doubt, shake! There are a few factors which can be pointed out to help you with this. Heavier materials are usually darker in color than the lighter materials. You will notice while shaking the pan that it is the lighter-colored materials that are vibrating on the surface. You will also notice that as the lighter materials are swept out of the pan, the darker-colored materials are uncovered.
  10. Once the top layer of lighter material is washed out of your pan, re-shake to bring more lighter materials to the top. By “lighter materials,” I mean in comparison to the other materials. If you continue to shake the lighter materials to the top and sweep them off, eventually you will be left with the heaviest material of all, which is the gold. It does not take much shaking to bring a new layer of lighter material to the surface. Maybe 5 or 6 seconds of shaking will do it, maybe less. It all depends upon the consistency of the material and how much gold is present.Continue to pluck out the larger-sized rocks and pebbles as they show themselves during the process.
  11. Every few cycles of sweeping and re-shaking, tilt your pan back to the level position and re-shake. This keeps any gold from being allowed to work its way up the forward-edge of your pan.
  12. Continue the above steps of sweeping and re-shaking until you are down to the heaviest materials in your pan. These usually consist of old pieces of lead and other metal, coins, BB’s, old bullets, buckshot, nails, garnets, small purple and black iron rocks, and the heavy black sand concentrates. Black sands consist mainly or in part of the following: magnetite (magnetic black sands), hematite (non-magnetic black sands), titanium, zircon, tungsten materials and sometimes pyrites (fool’s gold), plus any other items which might be present in that location which have a high specific gravity-like gold and platinum.

As you can see, using a gold pan is inefficient, time consuming and tiresome work, hence the reason it is just used as a guide for prospectors for where to start a decent excavation of further materials. For example, if Prospector A had used the method above to test pan a location on a river and found no gold he would move on to another area. However, if Prospector B had test panned another area of the river and found decent gold he would examine that location further, he could maybe pan a nearby section to see if he could identify pay-streak.

A much more efficient way of finding gold is to use a Sluice Box, but at least now you know how to use a gold pan as it is an essential skill for gold prospectors. You can actually practice gold panning by purchasing some cheap pay-dirt online (guaranteed to contain gold), getting your hands on a gold pan and trying it out for yourself, learn more on this page – Practice Gold Panning.

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