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HOW TO PAN FOR GOLD.. AND OTHER MATERIALS
Before you actually start to process your
first pan full of material, look around for the best location for panning. Select a spot
where the water is a minimum of six inches deep and flowing just fast enough to keep the
muddy water from impairing your vision of your pan and a place where you can sit down
STEP A. WASHING OFF
LARGER ROCKS AND MOSS
1. Fill pan 3/4 full of gravel, then submerge
it deep enough so it is just under the surface of the water. Give the pan several vigorous
shakes back and forth and from side to side, but not too vigorous as to wash material out
of the pan.
2. Change from the shaking motion to a
gentle circular movement, so the material starts revolving in a circle. This process will
cause most of the dirt and clay to dissolve and wash out of the pan. If roots and moss
surface, work them over your pan with your fingers to dissolve any lumps. Pick out the
larger rocks after making sure that they are washed clean.
Repeat processes 1 and 2 of step A to get the
smaller rock to the surface and to cause the heavier concentrates to settle.
STEP B. WASHING OFF
LIGHTER SAND AND GRAVEL
1. Hold the pan just under the water and tilt
it slightly away from you. Begin to swirl the water from side to side, with a slight
forward tossing motion. Take care, but with sufficient force to move the surface and the
lighter gravel out over the edge of the pan.
2. Leveling the pan from time to time and
shaking it back and forth will cause the light material to come to the surface and the
gold to settle to the bottom.
Repeat process 1 and 2 of step B until there
is only about two cups of heavier material left in your pan. This material is usually
called "black sand," or "concentrate."
STEP C. WASHING OFF
BLACK SAND AND CONCENTRATES
At this point it is better for the beginner
to raise the pan completely out of the water, leaving about an inch of water in it. Tilt
the pan slightly towards you and swirl the water slowly in a circular motion to check the
pan for nuggets and pieces that are easily picked out by hand.
Then submerge the pan again in water and
repeat process 1 and 2 of step B for final concentration. This is the most critical part
of panning. Make sure this final process is accomplished with as much diligence as
possible so you do not to wash out the gold.
If you have a plastic pan, the use of a magnet can be employed to quickly aid in the
separation of gold from the black magnetic sand concentrate.
Apply the magnet to the bottom side of the
pan and move it in a small circular motion with the pan slightly tilted. This will swiftly
isolate the gold from the black sand.
When using a steel pan, make sure to remove all the oil from the pan before you use it.
The most common way is to "burn" it over the coals of a campfire using extreme
caution. The pan is heated to a dull red glow, then dunked in water. This not only removes
the oil but also gives the pan a dark blue hue, which makes the gold easier to see. If any
oil is left in the pan, it will cause the fine gold to float, making separation
Another secret to speed up the final
steps is to keep a small squeeze bottle of detergent close at hand. A couple of drops in
the pan during the last separation will break the surface tension of the water and speed
up the operation considerably.
In conclusion, don't let anyone tell you that this country's rivers and streams no longer
contain gold. Every year winter storms bring more to the surface, continually renewing
nature's supply. It's all there for the taking, and the gold pan is still the best way to
An item that is considered a necessary part
of a panners equipment is a panning sieve. The sieve sets over the pan and can screen or
classify the larger cobbles, making the panning process much easier. The sieves are
available in sizes from 1/4 of an inch (4mesh) to a 100 mesh size screen. The gold pan
sieves are most popular with the medium size pan and are available in most prospecting
stores that sell gold recovery equipment.