From the January/February 2021 Gold Prosprospectors Magazine
By Kevin Hoagland
Although not truly an Ask Kevin question, this came from a great discussion with Steve Scukanec, the owner of the Placer Pete claim in San Bernardino County, California. We were sitting around talking about mining and Steve mentioned scales and inaccuracies and explaining how it works to a few people. So, Steve, thank you for bringing this and giving me a great topic to run with in this edition of Ask Kevin.
I have dealt with this for years when talking to people, with the most recent being a rather upset man stating that his scales and the gold buyers’ scales were not matching up. He felt like he had more gold than what the buyer was willing to pay for. In the end the buyer was right and the man’s scales were wrong.
There are three main factors to consider when buying a scale, especially a small electronic scale: Resolution, precision and accuracy each play a very important part in true weight.
CALIBRATION WEIGHTS ARE A NECESSITY, NOT AN OPTION, TO ASSURE THAT YOUR SCALE IS PRECISE AND ACCURATE
Let’s start with resolution. Resolution is simply how close your scale can read to your gold’s real and true weight. You are looking to buy a scale that has a resolution of one gram. What this means is that if you have a gold nugget that weighs 20 grams, then the scale will give a reading up to one gram more or less than the nugget’s true weight. Meaning that when you are looking to buy a scale you should be looking at a scale that has the lowest resolution possible, somewhere around 0.01g, which is pretty easy to find in an affordable digital scale. I would suggest that you always start with looking for a scale by resolution first. But then there are the other two factors that must be considered and met, which will narrow the field, thank goodness.
Precision & Accuracy
There is an old saying about precision and accuracy that I have used for years: Two buddies are sitting in the bleachers at a football game when one turns to the other and says, “Your kid’s not a very accurate kicker, he keeps hitting the same spot on the right upright post.” The father turns to his buddy and says, “He may not be accurate, but he is precise.”
Precision and accuracy are not the same. Accuracy is needed once while precision is needed every time you weigh your gold. If you weigh your gold over and over and get different measurements, then the scale is not precise. On the other hand, if you get the same reading every time you weigh your gold, then you have spot-on flawless precision.
MY FIELD SCALE IS ACCURATE WITH GOOD PRECISION AND ACCURACY. WEIGHS IN OZT (OUNCE TROY), G (GRAMS), AND GN (GRAINS). BUT IT IS A FIELD SCALE AND NOT WHAT I WOULD USE WHEN TIME TO SELL GOLD.
Yet, precision does not equate to accuracy. If the resolution of your scale is low, let’s say 0.01g, even with perfect precision, without accuracy it will not give you your true gold weight. To come up with high accuracy, the scale needs to have high resolution and high precision. There are extremely precise scales that will never give you the true weight of your gold. This is why when buying a scale, you need to assure that all factors are met; you can have a high-precision scale, but when the resolution and accuracy turn out to be excessively low, you’re just kicking to the same spot on the goal post.
RESOLUTION-ACCURACY-PRECISION WHEN LOOKING AT A SCALE. IF YOU CAN’T GET THE INFO ON ALL THREE FACTORS, MOVE ON.
Care for your scale, ALWAYS. If you invest in a good digital or even a balance beam scale, don’t drag it out into the field with you. Please. Heat, cold, humidity and jarring your scale around in your truck or buggy is just not a good idea to keep your scale working for any period of time.
Test your scales constantly. When you buy a scale, also purchase reference weights. You want to buy weights that cover the range of your scale. For instance, for my 200g range, 0.001g (1 mg) resolution, ±0.002g accuracy scale I use 1g-100g-200g weights to assure that my scale is precise and accurate. By the way, that scale has never left the house.
STILL ONE OF MY FAVORITE SCALES. TRIPLE BEAM SCALES ARE ACCURATE AND EASY TO TUNE UP, BUT NOT FOR EVERYDAY USE IN MY CASE. PHOTO COURTESY OHAUS
Gene R. asked, “Kevin, what is your must-have gear when you go detecting?”
This is going to get away from my normal ambiguous answers where I do not call out certain gear that I use. It is also not an endorsement for any company. Except for maybe one because I swear by his gear.
Let’s start off with my boot. Right now, I am wearing non-metallic boots (which are no longer available) by Under Armor. I’ll be calling Doc’s Detecting pretty soon for another pair of the Bates boots that are pretty much the standard in detecting. I know it sounds a little over the edge, but get out swinging a big coil with a steel shank or metal eyelets and a zipper and see if you don’t end up with the occasional falsing or an overload when you get close to your boot and have to make adjustments to your detector.
BOOTS: OLD AND GETTING LONG IN THE STRIDE, THESE BOOTS HAVE SERVED ME WELL FOR A FEW YEARS
Kneepads are a must. I can tell you that from a lot of experience in trying a lot of kneepads early on I have found my favorite, which are built by Blackhawk. I like the rigid construction but know that one kneepad is not for everyone. Some like something longer and more flexible. I don’t care what you end up with, but please for the sake of your knees, wear kneepads.
THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF KNEEPADS ON THE MARKET. I USE THESE BECAUSE THERE IS NO WAY THEY CAN’T PROTECT MY AGING KNEES.
My belt is a nylon tactical 2-inch wide from LA Police Gear online that has a composite loop-through buckle. Not a lot to say about this other than it does a great job of keeping my britches up. Which leads me right into a tool that I use for every detector and a real tool from (here is the shameless plug) Doc’s Detecting that if you do not have one, get one: the Ultra Swingy Thingy (ST) with the QWEEGLE Bungie.
I was a whole lot younger when Doc built his first Swingy Thingy and thought to myself, “That’s cool but I don’t really need one.” Man, was I wrong. Over the years I have completely adopted using the ST with every detector I swing, from the lightest to the heaviest of the lot, the GPZ-7000. Yes, even the Zed 7000. I do like the harness system that comes with the Zed, but it just feels just too something or another that just bothers me after a short time. The ST is a simple suspender-type rig that hooks to your belt. From there, adjust the shoulder padding, find the balance point of your detector and wrap the bungee clip to your detector, clip the other end of the bungee onto one of the D-rings on the ST and go hunt. Easy to get on and off, and to get your detector away from you when you need to dig a target. Plus, the added advantage for us older guys with a gut and no butt, it does better at keeping my britches up than my belt.
FROM LIGHTWEIGHT TO WHAT FEELS LIKE A BRICK ON A STICK DETECTOR, THE SWINGY THINGY IS A REAL TOOL. IT WILL EVEN HELP YOU CORRECT YOUR SWING POSTURE AND ALLOW YOU A FULL DAY OF DETECTING.
I don’t have a one-and-done pick. I use everything from a pick made from the tip of a number 2 shovel and a plasma-cut leaf spring welded together and tossed on to a wooden handle to an Apex Badger and a Mad Mining Stealth. For me, I pick my pick according to the ground I’m detecting. The most important factor about choosing a pick is that it will dig deep with the least amount of energy being expelled and that the blade is wide enough to pull material out of your dig hole with ease. In other words, heavy duty and wide. Do not forget a rare earth magnet. This is a must for quickly getting those junk irons out of your digs. And as always, FILL IN YOUR HOLES.
AMAZING WHAT SOMEONE CAN DO WITH A SHOVEL POINT AND A CHUNK OF LEAF SPRING OR PLOW SHEAR. THIS PICK IS OVER A DECADE OLD AND HAS DUG THOUSANDS OF TARGETS AROUND THE U.S.
Two scoops always. Gang, with today’s detectors getting more and more sensitive, many of you are dealing with something I have dealt with for years, detector going off on your hands. Get used to using two scoops. Get the target out of the hole and into one scoop and halve the material back and forth until you have your nugget, bugget or that tiny, tiny piece of rusted screen wire from an old drywasher deck.
I GENERALLY USE DOC’S NEW SCOOP (RIFFLE FOR EVERYTHING) AND A GPAA SCOOP. BUT I GAVE A NEW DETECTORIST MY GPAA SCOOP LAST TIME I WAS OUT PROSPECTING.
Headphones – Here we go down the rabbit hole. I have too many headphones and use any combination of wired, wireless connection kits and wireless headphones. I cannot say that these or those are the best. I use what works the best for me and my hearing, which is still exceptionally good. I will always tell you to try headphones if at all possible, and when it is not, make sure there is an exchange or return on the phones if they do not work for you. You do not need to go detecting to know if phones will work for you. Plug them in, run a target across your coil and if they sound right to you, you have a winner.
So, what is my Headphone du jour? Right now, I am running my long-time favorites, Detector Pro Nugget Busters. They fit great, feel great for long hours detecting and have great sound control. I use these wired or wireless into my Minelab Pro Sonic unit or my Garrett Z-lynk. One set of headphones that I use a lot with my Pro Sonic is a set of behind-the-head communications headphones sold by AirHeadz, although I am not sure if they are still available through them — a quick online search and I’m sure you’ll will be able to find them and configure them to meet your needs. I really like these for their pure sound and tight fit, making them perfect for cold, windy weather conditions under a beanie or with a full-brimmed hat on those hot, windy summer days.
HEADPHONES ARE PERSONAL AND SHOULD BE CHOSEN WITH RESEARCH AND A GREAT DEAL OF THOUGHT TO GET THE RIGHT PHONES FOR YOUR HEARING.
There you go, Gene! The tailgate edition of my gear up for every detecting adventure.
DOC DETECTING SUPPLY docsdetecting.com 11-800-477-3211
LA POLICE GEAR lapolicegear.com
GOT A QUESTION? ASK KEVIN!
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MY GO-TO DIGITAL SCALE HAS 200G TOTAL WEIGHING CAPACITY WITH 0.001G (1 MG) RESOLUTION; AND ±0.002G ACCURACY.
Kevin Hoagland is the Executive Director of Development at the Gold Prospectors Association of America and the Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org