I don’t know how many times people have come up to me and said, “All you really need is a pan to find gold.” Technically that’s true. All you really need to find gold is a pan. At some time, even with machinery, you will probably pick up a gold pan. Maybe not at the start, but more than likely at the end.
However, gold is a numbers game. The more dirt you process, the more gold you will find. Unless you hit the Mother lode, and are digging nuggets of gold. You are dealing with something much smaller. From flour to flakes to pickers. (Sounds like a double play team in baseball. “5-4-3 Double play!” I can almost hear the PA announcer.)
That’s where machinery comes into play. However, this isn’t about machinery, it’s about pans. Probably since the dawn of time, or at least when man first discovered gold, there have been gold pans. Sluices made of gold, were discovered in King Tut’s tomb. I would imagine there were gold pans made of real gold as well. But even before that, most likely pans were made out of slices of a tree trunk dished out. Wood has one problem, it swells, shrinks and cracks. So maybe the first real gold pans, as we know them, were made during the Bronze age.
However, where you find relics from gold rush times, you will find wooden pans. They could be turned out on machinery run from water wheels driven by long belts. Someone had a bright idea to go to the maker of a Knights armor and turn out gold pans. These would have been made of iron, as a Knights armor were iron plate. Eventually steel came into play, and I’m sure steel gold pans followed.
A mixture of steel and wood pans have been found from California to Australia. The Chinese prospectors are credited with introducing the riffle to the Gold pan. And you can still see a form of it today in modern steel pans. Prospectors really like steel gold pans because it served two purposes. First, of course, it was a gold pan. Second, it was their dinner plate. The pan could withstand heat, they ate off of it, cleaned it up and go back to prospecting. Maybe old time prospectors were the original , “Multi-taskers”?
Back in the mid-70’s, 1970’s that is, I’m not THAT old! I started with pie pans, which I liberated from my Mom’s cupboards. (Liberated sounds so much better than just helped myself, without ask asking. IE: Stole!) I had already been bitten by the Gold bug at age 10. However, I had no clue on how to actually find gold. (My first discovery was Pyrite, that I thought was gold.) I met a couple of guys prospecting the Whitewater River in Southern Indiana. They both had steel pans with grooves formed in the sides. They had found these in the back of “Popular Mechanics” magazine. (Might have been “Popular Science.” It’s been a long time for my memory.)
They are the ones that told me to,, “go get your Mother’s pie pans.” They had a wooden homemade rocker box lined with Shag carpeting! (This was the 70’s.) Back then, I didn’t know anything about flour gold. I thought all gold were nuggets, or at least pickers. So, I’d sift through sand from the river looking for gold I could see. I pretty much never did.
Fast forward to today. Today we have gold pans, still in steel. However, now there’s copper and the most ones used are plastic. Plastic has opened up a world of new shapes, sizes and colors. (Again, another Triple Play team?) The pans can be found in round, square, rectangle, triangle, hexagon, U-shaped, to name the popular ones. And just about every color. Blue, green, red, black, purple, maroon, white and pink! Blue and green are the most popular, followed by black. Green and blue will make your gold stand out as well as your black sands. Black pans will make your gold “pop” out, but will hide fine black sands making final clean up difficult. The other colors, have their fans. I like blue, maroon and red for final clean ups. There is even a pan with riffles in the bottom!
Green is the most popular, but if you suffer from color blindness, then you want to stick with blue. Blue pretty much is still blue, throughout most color blindness. However, green can show up as various colors, including shades of yellow. They also come with various sizes of riffles. From no riffles to quite large riffles.
Sizes. Plastic pans range from 10” to 16”. Again, typically, bigger pans are used to work off the dirt and gravel and smaller pans are used for final clean ups. 16” pans can be a hand full, especially loaded with dirt and gravel. 14” can be as well, but is still easier to work off. 10” pans you can use one hand, but you’re limited to the amount of over burden you can work off at one time.
So, there you have it. Most small scale prospectors have many pans in there inventory. Lately there seems to be 1 – 2 new pans coming out every year. They always seem to have their supporters and their opposition. Like I always say, whatever works best for you. I always seem to end up buying the new ones and trying them at least a few times.
Until next time, this is the old prospector.