By Klint Washburn
Gold has been and most likely always will be considered one of the most highly sought after precious metals. This is largely due to its presence in almost every country on the planet, and the fact that with a little gumption, a lot of hard work and persistence, the average person can get their own piece of the fortune that awaits.
While there have been many innovations in gold reclamation since the times of the early Egyptians, where a lambs coat was laid upon a rock and gold bearing gravels were washed over the top of the fur, trapping fine gold in the fibers of the wool, much like the sluices boxes of today are used. The one thing that has not changed much in design or function is the gold pan.
Historical artifacts and records, show that the gold pan was developed in the early Egyptian years, where clay and wooden bowls have been found, and in more recent history during the early gold rushes upon the North American Continent, the Chinese railroad workers used cooking pans, some with hammered depressions in the pan. Today's gold pans have evolved with the introduction of light weight polypropylene pan and the inclusion of a variety of riffle designs. Some have evolved to utilize a drop riffle system, others use combination of riffles and drag lines to slow the movement of gold during the washing process. One thing has remained the same, the technique required to eliminate gravels and blonde sands utilizes the motion of water run over and over the concentrates over and over again, pulling layer upon layer of light and black sands off until you can see the gold in the pan.
What most people don't consider when starting into gold recovery is that there is a lot of technique required to learn how to effectively utilize a gold pan. Most new comers discover very early that patience is an absolute necessity, as they spend hours upon hours working their concentrates over and over, scared that a single flake of gold might escape their pan. In fact many people who I've spoken with over the years, have reported that they absolutely hate working their concentrates and either store their cons until a later time, or they have abandoned their gold pan and turned to other devices such as water tables, shaker tables, blue bowls or jigs to get the gold separated out.
Recently however, there has been a lot of swirl over a new product that launched into the gold industry in October 2016. Klint Washburn, Founder and CEO of Gold Claw and The American Prospector Ken Snyder, hit the gold industry like wildfire introducing the Gold Claw Displacement Induced gold separation (DIGS) technology at the 2016 Annual American Mining Rights Association Dinner in Turlock, CA.
Displacement Induced Gold Separation is a technology developed by Washburn starting in the 90s and refined during his recent time mining in the Alaskan gold fields. During this time, Washburn grew frustrated with the exhausting efforts required to recover the gold from the dense sluice heavies captured at the end of each week after running thousands of yards of gold bearing material. Washburn, a highly talented Design Engineer was able to prototype and refine the technology solving the separation of fine gold from the worst of black sands at production rates.
"Typically we would have around 50 or so 5 Gallon buckets of the nastiest black sands.", said Washburn. "We would process hundreds of yards of material an hour and at the end of the week, we had to spend countless hours processing all the heavies. Heavies are worse than black sands, they are the heaviest of the heavies that manage to stay in the sluice with the gold till the end of the week. I knew there was a better way, a faster way to get the gold." He continued.
Klint went on to explain that the creation of this heavies separator was transformational with its speed and ability to recover the finest of gold down to 1000 mesh. During this time he also developed large volume gold recovery systems capable of running well over 100 yards per hour, he couldn't help but to begin to provide ways to speed up the process to make gold mining practical and profitable. He went on to develop a gold recovery system that not only would process large volumes of pay dirt, but would also permit you to maximize efficiency by eliminating the need to run cons through various pieces of equipment to extract the gold.
Klint explained that he didn’t plan on making a gold pan at first. As he developed the machinery he had to do the testing with a pan. He tried to find one that was fast to take the pain of panning away. He explained that after he went through about 30 different gold pans, he discovered that there was nothing out there that took advantage of displacement gold recovery to speed up gold panning and catch more gold. He realized that if he wanted a fast easy to use gold pan he was going to have to make it.
Displacement Induced Gold Separation takes advantage of physics (the specific gravity of gold), combined with sound engineering principles to make gold recovery quick and easy. The technology developed by Washburn utilizes liquefaction, keeping your material in a liquid state so the gold can drop while minimizing suspension forces that wash fine and flat gold away. Liquefaction allows the heavier materials to move to the bottom of the device where they get trapped in the aggressive riffles, thus displacing lighter materials to the top and out of the pan, leaving only the heaviest materials and gold in the pan.
If you take a look at the diagram below, you can see that shaking side to side puts the material in the pan into a state of liquefaction. While shaking side to side, tilting the pan forward then lets the lighter materials like sand gravel and rock flow up and out over the large riffles as they are displaced by the heavier materials such as gold.
Washburn initially built a machine that utilizes Displacement Induced Gold Separation but understood that most people would not have the luxury of affording a large volume gold separator, so he set out to find a way to bring the technology to the industry and into the hands of everyone regardless of the size of the operation. That's when he decided that he had to build the one tool that every operation needs, a fast and easy to use gold pan.
"Traditional round gold pans have the riffles and other gold catching features on the inside of the pan. The traditional design requires technique and experience to keep the gold safely down in the gold catching features. Util you have enough experience and patience it is easy to lose the gold." said Washburn. "To make it so anyone could pan gold easy and fast I moved the features to the outside of the pan forcing every particle of gold and gravel to interact with the gold catching features to insure you keep the gold. I increased the depth of the riffling system and replaced the swirling and washing motion with side to side shaking to take advantage of science and physics to maximize gold separation and recovery.
The traditional swirl and dip motion requires cycle after cycle of swirl then dip, swirl then dip…
The swirling stratifies the material to get the gold down which is good but then you dip to wash the light materials away. The washing uses suspension forces to drag the lighter materials out and away. It’s the same with a sluice. In either system the water motion suspends the lighter material and washes it away. If everything is set up just right then the heavier gold will sink to the bottom and be left behind.
The first problem is that it is hard to balance a washing system. To get it right, the suspension force must be high enough to wash the sand away, but low enough to leave the gold sitting still. It takes a lot of experience to balance this and it is easy for things to go wrong and blow out the gold.
The bigger problem is that the suspension force required to wash away the sand is dependent on surface area, size, and weight! In other words, a large piece of sand or rock is washed away by the same force as it takes to wash away a small or a flat piece of gold. This adds more complexity to mining as you now must classify or screen out your larger material to lose less gold.
A third problem is that fine and flat gold can float and be lost if it touches the surface of the water. Any gold on top will touch the water surface with each washing cycle and can potentially float away. It takes experience to know how to keep the gold safely under the black sands.
I was able to eliminate all that complexity by redesigning the pan for displacement rather than washing. If you try to swirl and dip with a Gold Claw you won’t like it, it is not designed for washing. With the Gold Claw you just shake and tilt. The big advantage of the new design is that Displacement Induced Gold Separation is only dependent on weight, which is golds greatest differentiator. When the physics are right everything gets simple.
With Gold Claw you no longer have to classify or go through cycle after cycle of swirl and dip. The whole process is fast because you only need one smooth cycle of shake and tilt, and because it all takes place under water the gold never touches the water surface so it can’t float away.
The large riffles do the classifying by displacement for you, this saves time and is one less operation you have to deal with or learn. Finishing is also simplified. When you switch to the fine ridges, you again use displacement to finish down to a skiff of black sand. Experienced panners are not used to this and usually stop way too soon and leave too much black sand. With only a skiff of black sand, the final step is to tap out the gold so you can snuff it safely away.
This pan was made for professionals to make panning fast. The greater breakthrough however is what it does for newcomers. This new technology opens the door so anyone can pan fast without any prior experience." This series of innovations combined with the simple "Shake and Tilt" technique, makes the Gold Claw a pan that anyone with any level of experience can take advantage of.
"I initially built the Gold Claw Pan thinking professional or seasoned miners would take to it naturally, and that beginners would struggle as they normally do. I quickly discovered I was wrong. People who have been panning for years have muscle memory, they use traditional swirling and dipping motion without even thinking about it" said Washburn. "For most people that have been panning for a while, their old techniques have become subconscious and they have to unlearn and retrain their brain and muscles to stop swirling and washing and instead to start using the side to side shake and tilt method. I was surprised to find that it’s the newcomers that take right to it"
Washburn went on to tell a story where he had introduced the gold pan to a gold mining club in Utah. Washburn recalled "I went to the local gold dig to introduce the Gold Claw. After showing it to the experienced club members, reminding them repeatedly to shake not swirl, the six-year-old daughter of the club president came up and asked if she could try it? I thought why not, she took to it like a duck to water. After only watching me, she panned perfectly down to the gold in about 30 seconds. I though ok, so she is the daughter of the gold club president. I was curious if other kids or beginners could have the same experience. I invited some of my neighbor kids and family over and the results were the same. With only a brief demo all of them were able to pan down to the gold within 30-40 seconds.”
Ken Snyder, The American Prospector added "Gold Claw wants to offer the gold mining industry high value products and services, that help foster education, experience, and excellence in the mining community" He continued "When Klint first reached out to me to get an unbiased review of his DIGS based pan, he will tell you that I was skeptical." Snyder went on to say that while he had been mining for many years recreationally, he like so many others had already bought just about every pan on the market and finally settled upon and old trusty pan given to him by a relative many years ago. "Honestly, I walked up to where Klint was holding his invention, looked at it for a minute and handed it back telling him that it would never work." He laughs as he tells the story "So I challenged Klint to a panning competition in his garage. I grabbed my pan and the next 2 minutes changed my life."
"We each sat down to a tub of water in front of us, the same amount of material placed in each pan, and turned on the video camera. Within 15 seconds Klint was grinning as he said done, and I looked at his pan in disbelief as the gold and few small granules of black sand were all that remained in his pan, while I had only worked off some of the largest rocks in my pan." Snyder Continued "I was in a state of disbelief and I turned off the camera and said, show me again, and again, and again." After the fourth time of watching this Gold Claw in action, I knew that I would never again be using my old pan and I had to have a Gold Claw."
Since then Gold Claw launched the Original in 2016 and started hitting the GPAA Gold and Treasure Show circuit. In 2017 Gold Claw made a few modifications to the Original Pan, such as larger drag lines to slow the gold down and adding a little length to the more aggressive riffles. At the GPAA Gold and Treasure Show in Las Vegas Gold Claw introduced both the Pocket Pan and the Production Pan.
The Pocket Pan is small enough that it can easily fit in your pocket, bag, or in your glove box and goes with you anywhere. It is designed for snipping and crevassing but employs all of the features offered in the Original Gold Claw Pan, so it is extremely portable making it an amazing tool for prospecting, especially in those places where hauling equipment in is difficult.
The Production Pan is a serious contender as it is capable of processing large amounts of material amazingly fast. Any serious miner knows that gold mining is an earth moving experience. To make bank you have to move a ton of paydirt. In Washburn’s Production Pan video, he demonstrates its extreme speed by panning a five-gallon bucket of material in 40 seconds.
This will be a real game changer for the serious prospector or for the commercial mining operation, as it affords the opportunity to sample a much larger quantity of gold barring material quickly or run more of your cons from your chosen concentrator (Sluice, Dredge, or High Banker). A real "Game Changer" for anyone considering a mid to high volume operation.
Washburn explains that the Production Pan can replace a small sluice and even a high banker setup. He says “Think about it, with a sluice or high banker, first you have to pack it into your car, and then up the river. How long does it take to set it up? You will not want to change locations once you do. Then, because it involves washing, you will need to classify the material. How long does it take to classify one five-gallon bucket? Five to ten minutes? Then you have to run the bucket, another five minutes or so. Then after you have run all your material you still have to tear down the equipment, clean out, and pan the concentrates. How long does that take? You need to save some energy because after that you have to pack it all back to the car, load it, and then put it all away when you get home.
With a Production Pan you throw a shovel and a Production Pan in the car and off you go. If you bring a 5-gallon bucket, what do you know, the Production Pan conveniently fits inside. Once you arrive there is no setup, just start collecting gold. You can pan five-gallons worth of material in under a minute. That is faster than somebody running a sluice can even classify the material. Just think how fast you can add up the gold when you are panning this fast and waste no time on setup or cleanup. The Production Pan takes it from paydirt down to clean gold so you don’t have to haul home a big bucket of concentrates.”
Gold Claw technology is a genuine game changer. Kevin Hoagland, the GPAA Executive Director of Development stated “Gold Claw is the most innovative gold pan they have seen in 40 years.” This new design is making prospecting faster and easier for professionals. Gold Claw has completely crushed the barrier to entry for newcomers. If you haven’t yet, it is well worth your time to check them out at their website www.goldclaw.com or on their YouTube channel.