While panning is, on its own, a means to finding and recovering gold, more seasoned prospectors tend to purchase a sluice box after about their first year in order to move more "material," the sand and gravel in which placer gold is found. Later on, a motorized highbanker, dredge, or highbanker/dredge combo becomes an attractive alternative.
Panning samples is still how the prospector finds the optimum place to obtain the most gold. You should always sample the same way each time: that is, if you use one shovel full of material in your pan when you dig your test hole, then use one shovel full in each following pan. If you dig six inches in the first hole, dig six inches in the following holes. That way, when you count the gold in each sample pan, you will have a base to work from. When the samples begin producing fewer pieces of gold to the pan, you will know to where you should go back in order to set up your prospecting operation.
Giving the owner the best attributes of both a floating dredge and a highbanking sluice box, the highbanker/dredge combo is two tools in one. The combo unit allows underwater prospecting plus it has the capability of moving 10 to 20 times the amount of material of a sluice either at the river's side or high-up on the river's bank and its prehistoric river terraces. With the pan and sluice box, you take the concentrates to the river. With a highbanker, you take the river to the gold.
Hints on setting up your highbanker/dredge
- Add a T-valve to your pump so you can prime it with a bucket instead of thrusting the foot valve into the river.
- Buy gray lay-flat hose, even though it costs 20 percent more than the blue, because it will last far longer.
- Consider more costly quick-release connectors as they allow you to move more material in a given time period.
- Cut lay-flat hose to no more than 50-foot lengths for ease of rolling, carrying, and storing.
- Don't have the hose retailer put their connectors on your lay-flat hose--they're permanently mounted.
- Always have an extra set of hose connectors at hand.
- Use a 1 1/2-inch piece of pipe double-threaded for use as a male-to-male connector.
- Use a 1 1/2-inch reducer to go from one hose size to another.
- Make sure the spray bar end caps are loose enough to be removed so you can flush them out more easily.
- Make sure the "grizzly" (parallel bars that sort out large rocks) are welded at both ends to keep rocks from sticking.
- Adjust your hopper with a slope steep enough to wash material, but not so shallow that you can't pull out the bigger rocks.
- Never pull the scalping mat from under the punch plate during operation--you won't be able to get it back in.
- Buy a small level that will fit across the sluice box so you'll always be able to keep a level flow of water.
- The new rule of thumb is: Angle your sluice 3/4 inch for each foot of sluice, or 3 inches for a 4-foot sluice box.
- Use the highbanker knob to check for proper flow, then open it back up and adjust your pump's throttle for actual flow.
- Whenever you can, put your pump upstream to make use of gravity, rather than downstream where you'll fight gravity.
- Replace your sluice box commercial carpet with 3M Nomad Miners Moss for optimum gold retention.
- Cut your Miners Moss in half as the resulting pieces will be much easier to put into your bucket for the "cleanup" process.
- Weld 3-inch T-handles of 1/4-inch steel rod on the bolts of your frame stand to make loosening and tightening easier.
- Modify all your equipment so that it can be set up and taken down without tools.
- Make sure your "cleanup" bucket has a mouth wider than the end of the sluice box.
Transcribed by Dick Oakes