As seen in the September/October 2020 Gold Prospectors Magazine
Rob J asked:
Kevin, I am planning a long trip to Arizona in the wintertime to do some detecting and drywashing. I’m good with my detector but know nothing about drywashing. I’ve read your Ask Kevin on the size of a drywasher and I know I do not want a large machine, but what about the hand-cranked bellows verses a drywasher with a blower?
Both are great choices and I own both for many reasons. A blower drywasher will always offer faster production over a puffer, but there are times of the year and areas where a blower unit cannot be used. I will use where I live in Arizona as an example. It is the middle of summer here and fire season is in full swing. All gas-powered equipment is prohibited right now due to fire hazards on public lands. Equipment that is not gas powered is approved, leaving me with my puffer unit as my only option.
My puffer is a hand crank with the 12-volt-battery driven motor, and I have the battery in a sealed battery box that keeps the battery from moving around or shorting out if something could fall across the post. I have it used for years and had no issues with land administrators once they see how I am set up. That being said, every district has its own regulations and you need to know what they are before getting out.
My blower drywasher unit is a smaller size that fits easily in the bed of my side-by-side with all of my tools and fuel. I like this for many reasons and a big plus is that the blower engine doubles as a vacuum for working bedrock. Win-win for me when I can use these tools in the tool box.
I guess what it boils down to for me is that I really do not care one way or the other about what unit I end up using as long as it meets two major criteria: the unit has a fed-rate slide control and the degree of angle can be adjusted. I know that sounds redundant, but having two finite adjustments can make the world of difference in your recovery.
By far what I do care about the most is getting the material ready to run. After the prep work is done right and I begin running, I do not count buckets ran — just recovery.
I have talked about this before in another Ask Kevin and dedicated an entire Podcast to the subject: prepping your material is crucial and I will always hold to that, especially when drywashing. I think nothing about prepping and continually testing material to make sure I am on the gold for a full day, then running on the next day.
At no time while your drywasher is running should you see the riffles. You want the material running over the riffles to look like ripples in water. This is how your box should look when you are ready to clean up.
It doesn't matter if it’s a puffer or a blower; you want the material to move through the box with enough air to displace lightweight waste material, forcing the heavies down. No big air gaps on either type of drywashers.
Here are my steps for successful drywashing. You will see that they are no different than any other form of prospecting. Take what works and do it over and over again.
- Prospect to establish gold.
- Test to establish the highest values and mark the trend.
- Classify material to the largest gold (here is the exception, with drywashing I will classify everything to ½ and sometimes a ¼ inch after testing)
- Test run material to assure equipment is spot on.
- Run material until time to do a cleanup or are out of prepped material.
- Clean up, detect your rough tailings.
- Reclaim your area.
So, what are the differences in drywashing over sluicing? With drywashing you must make sure your material is completely dry or will be by the time you are ready to run. Even if there is no clumping, I lay my “to run” material out on plastic to dry more. When I begin running, I do not see the riffles at anytime and I do not stop until it is time to clean up or I am out of material.
Standing in a hole, throwing your material into the drywasher as you dig it is not going to offer you the best recovery. The best recovery is when material has a constant flow down the box. And whether you are using a blower or a puffer, having control of your material equals more gold.
Of course, the puffer feed is going to be slower and you will have to check and maintain the flow gate a little more often, but in the end recovery is recovery and better practices equal more gold.
Well, Rob, I am not sure if I answered your question on what to buy but I think that when, after taking into consideration where and when you will be using your unit, you will make the right choice for your needs. Either way, you will be ahead of the game in how to use your new unit properly for the best recovery.
Captions DW1 At no time while your drywasher is running should you see the riffles. You want the material running over the riffles to look like ripples in water. This is how your box should look when you are ready to clean up.
DW2- sorry for the bad photo. It does not matter if it’s a puffer or blower; you want the material to move through the box with enough air to displace lightweight waste material, forcing the heavies down. No big air gaps on either type of drywashers.
David C asked:
I have seen you posting about a Batea. Is it really that good and why are they so hard to find?
The Batea has long been known and used around the world except in North America and I have no idea why it has not caught on. Frankly, it is a pan that has been around since the beginning of panning and one that I have used around the world after being introduced to while I was in South America years ago.
I had brought a handful of GPAA and Garrett pans with me to use as trade and quickly found out there was no interest in trading, so I gave a few away to some of the miners I was working with to replace their hand-carved and chiseled wooden Bateas. Each accepted my gift with a great deal of thanks, looked them over closely, watched me pan, tried theirs, then asked if I would be offended if they went back to using their Bateas — a tool they knew and, more importantly, trusted.
When I asked to try one of their Bateas they smiled, held them close to their chest and told me that I would want one as soon as I used it. They were right and before I left, the site’s Segundo gifted me his Batea, which was the only one made of metal. The Batea he gave me was hand-hammered with a small indent in the bottom to hold the gold.
I carried that pan with me for years until someone else decided they wanted it more than I, and it went missing from my truck.
The action of the Batea is different and there are no riffles. It is a large conical-shaped pan that is easy to use and I found to be pretty intuitive, as did others to whom I handed it to try. Load your material, stratify and begin a circular motion with the pan almost flat, then tilt slightly still in the circular motion to let the waste start to roll out of the pan. Re-stratify a few times as you would with any pan and in no time you are down to a little black sand and your gold.
Big and blue with a drop for your gold to make it easier to get used to the pan.
Can you lose gold out of the Batea? You bet you can. Just like any pan, you have to work with it to find that sweet spot between speed and loss.
In the past century Beteas were made of metal (I have seen them made of carved wood and one that was ceramic) and there are a few being manufactured now in North America.
Full disclosure here to let you know that there is an alternative to the metal Bateas that, by the time you read this, should be in my hands for testing from a European company. Their Batea is a poly plastic and something I am really looking forward to testing, although I have already ordered two for me personally before getting my hands on the pan.
David, the bottom line is that the Batea is a pan that you will either make your main pan for everything, including your finishing panning, or you will use it for certain water and material conditions.
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Kevin Hoagland is the Executive Director of Development at the Gold Prospectors Association of America and the Lost Dutchman's Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com