By Dave McCracken

It is important to define for yourself how much gold you need to recover to make the effort worthwhile.

Dave McCracken

 

It is a very good idea for you to define for yourself what amount of gold is minimally acceptable for you to recover on a daily basis. It might be a half-ounce per day. It might be more. Or it might be less, depending upon the size of the dredging or other mining equipment you are using, your operating expenses, and how much gold you need to recover to make the effort worthwhile. The main point here is that you should set some minimum standard. If you are recovering that much gold on a daily basis, you will stick with it. If your daily averages start dropping below that point, you will start sampling around for better ground.

There are several good reasons for doing this. One is that if you do not know about how much gold is acceptable to you, and what is not acceptable, you can waste a lot of time “going on hoping” (for some undefined target) while you continue to dredge in low-grade material, rather than sample around for something better like you should. Another good reason is that you need to determine how far to each side and how far to the rear to dredge into the lower-grade material along the boundaries of a pay-streak. I covered this subject more thoroughly in another article.

Perhaps the best reason that you need to define a minimum acceptable level of daily gold for yourself, is so you can take in the better, and much better, and tremendously-better pay-dirt as a bonus when you find it. This could be on a regular basis if you become good at sampling. If you do not take on the good finds as a bonus, you can find yourself comparing the good finds with the acceptable finds; and pretty soon the acceptable finds may not be acceptable any more! This is especially true when you are dredging up a high-grade pay-streak.

I know of a guy that was new to gold dredging, who was into a very large pay-streak which was paying him a little more than half-ounce per day for every day that he went out and dredged. He was happy with this. That was well more than an average day’s wages in the profit he was making over top of expenses, and gold prices have been going up to make that even better. Everything was going along just fine until one day when he uncovered a bedrock up-cropping and pulled six ounces of beautiful gold out of a single pocket in the bedrock just in that one day. The following day, he was back into the half-ounce amounts again. Only that was no-longer good enough. He quit shortly thereafter. He left the area, never came back, and I have not heard of him since.

What happened? He got spoiled from the incredible feelings generated from uncovering really valuable golden treasure. This causes something which is often referred to as “gold or treasure fever.” Once the extreme high-grade was finished, he could not go back to recovering just half-ounce of gold per day, anymore. It is kind of like losing the person you love. Nobody else will do.

If you stick with gold prospecting long enough to get good at sampling, there will always be greater highs. But if the greater highs are the only thing that is now acceptable pay-dirt, you will find yourself frustrated a lot of the time.

If you define for yourself what is acceptable as pay-dirt, as you continue to get better at sampling, you will find that there is a surplus of acceptable ground available to you. Therefore, you will be able to upgrade your minimum acceptable levels a degree or two as time goes along.

If you are willing to mine every bit of acceptable ground that you can get into, and are willing to accept the bonuses as they are uncovered, and just treat them as a bonus, you will be making more gold more of the time – and you will find more bonuses, too

 

By Dave McCracken

Part Two – Sampling For Paystreaks

Dave Mack

 

There are few things in the world more enjoyable — and more exciting — than finding your own pay-streaks, particularly when they are rich! It is one thing if someone else turns you onto a previously-located deposit — which, by the way, you should always take when it is offered to you. It is much more emotionally satisfying when you locate a rich deposit by following the signs discovered by your own sampling program. Seeing the first flakes of gold uncovered, when you knew they were going to be there even before you saw them, is a wonderful feeling; it is a true thrill to follow those flakes into a rich deposit. There is nothing else like it! Some say there is no cure for gold fever.

The procedure for finding pay-streaks is quite simple, really. The key is having the emotional fortitude to follow through with your sampling procedure, by following up on positive signs if they are there. And remember, you don’t need to find a pay-streak in every sample hole. Otherwise, sampling would not be necessary. You only need to find a pay-streak once in a while to make mining pay off — on any scale.

As we discussed in part one, pay-streaks form in those sections of a riverbed where the water force slows down on a large scale during major flood storms. Because gold is so much heavier than other average streambed material in the river, particles, flakes and nuggets of gold tend to collect in these large, slower-moving sections of river, while the lighter materials continue to be washed downstream.

Pay-streaks can be large or small, depending upon the size of the low pressure (low velocity) area in the river and depending upon how much gold traveled through each particular area during major flood storms.

Here is a location on our mining property at K-15A during the 1997 flood

Here is the very same location at K-15A during normal summer flows.

Pay-streaks always form on the path that gold follows in the river. Sometimes there may be more than one gold path, because the gold may be originating in the river from several different sources.

Pay-streaks are very important to miners because they are larger than single-type deposits, such as those found in a bedrock crevice along the gold path. Therefore, pay-streaks are easier to find. Because they tend to be long and wide, pay-streaks are deposits which can be worked usually for quite some time.

Gold can be recovered from a pay-streak which is located on bedrock; it can also be found throughout the streambed material or on the top of a flood layer.

It is important to understand what flood layers are. They are separate strata of streambed, which were laid down by different storms or perhaps at different periods during the same storm. The various layers are usually very easy to distinguish from one other. Each has different colors and consistency, and the gravels are usually of different compact hardness. If you are looking for it, you can nearly always see the changes in flood layers as you dig or dredge a sample hole deeper into the streambed. Sometimes there is only one layer over the bedrock. Often there are two or more layers.

As we discussed in part one, gold is extremely heavy. Therefore, most gold travels along the bottom of the other suspended streambed material as it is being washed downriver during a major flood storm. If the material is washing down across bedrock, then gold can become trapped in the various irregularities, cracks and holes. Sometimes, if conditions allow, gold may even be deposited on top of smooth bedrock to form a pay-streak in a low pressure area of the river.

Sometimes, because the flood storm is not quite extreme enough to break up pre-existing hard-packed streambeds, material moving during a storm will wash over the top of already-established streambed layers, rather than across the bedrock. Therefore, newly-formed pay-streaks may be found on top of pre-existing streambed layers, rather than on bedrock.

It is very common to find pay-streaks on top of a streambed layer. Sometimes you can find pay-streaks on top of several different layers in the same location. Sometimes, you can find pay-streaks on a layer, but not on the bedrock in the same location.

Most gold-bearing rivers have some amount of gold disbursed throughout the streambed material, so you tend to recover a small amount of gold out of each sample hole. We call this “traces.” This usually is not very much gold; not enough to get very excited about and not enough to support a small-scale mining operation. It only takes a few sample holes to give you an idea of the average amount of gold that is disbursed in the general streambed. You can pretty-much expect to get this small amount of gold from each sample hole that you dredge or dig. If you recover more gold from a sample hole than is showing up in the average streambed, it is important to realize you are onto something — even if it is not exciting, yet.

Remember, sampling is the business of following positive signs into a pay-streak. When you are finding increased amounts of gold in an area, it is likely that you are onto the general gold path, and you are into a low pressure area of some magnitude. You may be very close to an excellent deposit.

So the first thing to do, once you start finding increased amounts of gold in a sample hole, is figure out exactly where it is coming from. Is it coming from a layer? This is really important to know.

Several years ago, I had a friend who was recovering two pennyweights (1/10th of an ounce) of gold per day with a 4-inch dredge, dredging in four feet of streambed material. He had been trained in the old school of thought, which says you always dredge to bedrock, no matter what. I jumped into his hole one day and noticed almost immediately that a lot of his gold was coming off the top of a flood layer which was located about six inches beneath the material’s surface. Investigating further, I found there was some gold coming off the bedrock, but it was not very much. About 95% of his gold was coming off that layer. Once I pointed it out, he began to just skim off the top foot of material, and he started recovering about five times as much gold. This is why it is important it is to establish exactly where the gold is coming from in a sample hole!

If you dig a sample hole through deep material and only find a marginal amount of gold, the location might still be worth working if you discover that the gold is coming from a layer change closer to the surface.

When I am dredging a sample hole and see a change in layers, I always slow down and uncover a section off the top of the new layer while careful1y looking for gold. If there is a substantial amount of gold on the layer, it is never hard to see if you are looking for it. All you have to do is hold the suction nozzle further away from the streambed material so there is just enough suction to pull the gravel, but not enough to pull the gold, which is about six times heavier. Underwater magnification makes the gold very easy to see. But you have to be looking for these changes in layers, and you need to slow down and look on top of them as they are being uncovered.

The gold is more difficult to see if you are digging up on the bank. In this case, layer changes can be sampled separately with the use of your gold pan or other recovery equipment.

Seeing an increase in the amount of gold in a sample hole, even if it is just a small increase, is one of the most important signs to recognize in sampling. You would not see the increase if you were not on the general gold path and on or near a low pressure location in the river. Seeing an increase in gold is always reason to investigate that location further, either by spreading the hole in different directions to see if it gets better, or by digging or dredging more sample holes in the immediate area. You should be acting like a dog who has found a nice, juicy scent!

As mentioned in part one, one of the biggest barriers new miners need to overcome is their own doubtful thoughts about how much gold they are not going to find in a sampling location. Many beginners have themselves talked out of finishing a sampling project long before they have properly completed it! Forget what you think might not be there, and just work hard to see what actually is there. This is what sampling is all about!

Time and time again, I have seen beginning miners start a sampling project, start recovering some gold which is not enough for their minimum requirements, but is far greater than the average amount of gold in the river; and then give the area up because it is not good enough. Afterwards, someone else will open up the same location a little more and find a rich pay-streak. Yet, the original miners are still sampling elsewhere, not having found a pay-streak of their own. Short of finding an acceptable pay-streak, a visible increase in the amount of gold recovered from a sample hole is the best sign you can look for. Don’t walk away from it until you are more than certain it is just a low-grade pay-streak which you have no interest in.

There is something mystical in the way gold affects people. This has been known for a long time. How much gold a person is finding, or not finding, definitely affects his or her emotions. Successful miners have learned to set the negative emotional impact aside and to use effective sampling techniques and hard work instead.

It has been well proven throughout history that gold is much easier to lose than it is to find. And, no doubt, men have walked away from more gold deposits than they have found due to the way they were emotionally affected by the results of their sampling operations.

I know of one man who dredged a sample hole and was recovering four-to-five pennyweights of gold per day. He spent a day pushing the hole towards the bank and discovered that someone had been there with a dredge ahead of him. He spent a day pushing the hole to the right and found the bedrock going deeper, but the gold was getting a little better and the pieces bigger. He decided the area was too difficult and not paying well enough, and went to sample elsewhere before he even came close to defining what kind of pay-streak he had located. What causes a person to give up so easily when the signs are so good? Why walk away from a location with fantastic signs to go sample a new location where you have not yet discovered any positive signs? The answer has to do with the way gold affects people’s emotions, and the fact that it is much easier to lose than it is to find!

There is an excellent lesson to learn from this: Watch for an increase in the amount of gold in your sample holes. Leave your negative emotions out of it. Follow up positive signs when you see them — always. Have some patience, and positive signs will lead you into the pay-streaks.

 

By Dave McCracken

Part Three – Sampling is a never-ending process

Dave McCracken

 

You would think that sampling could end once you’ve found a pay-streak. Because, once you’ve found a pay-streak, you start your production operation to recover the gold. However, sampling continues on, possibly even to a greater degree, even after you’ve located a rich deposit.

When you locate a deposit that you have determined is good enough to work, your next step is to define your deposit’s boundaries. This takes more sampling. It is generally done by dredging or digging more sample holes. The first and most important boundary you should find, especially if you are dredging, is the lower-end, meaning the downstream-end of the pay-streak. This is because you need to find a place to drop your tailings where they will not end up on top of your gold deposit.

In mining activities of any kind, tailings placement is of primary concern right from the beginning of the operation. You generally do not worry about it too much during sampling, because you have not determined there is a deposit in the immediate location as yet. But as soon as you are certain there is a deposit worth developing, where you place your tailings becomes very important!

In dredging, providing you are going to have the time to develop the entire deposit, you usually back your dredge further down river, dredging sample holes as you go, to locate where the deposit plays out. It is then smart to dredge a few more sample holes below this point to make sure the deposit really did play out where you will put your tailings. Then, start dredging from the tail-end of the deposit, dropping your tailings over the area that you have already worked.

As you work the deposit forward, you also must locate the left and right boundaries of the deposit. This also requires your sampling attention, only in a different way. Rather than dredge or dig sample holes, pay close attention to how much gold you are recovering while continuing to move your production hole in the direction of each side of the deposit. In dredging, if you are into a healthy deposit, you will see gold when you uncover the strata of streambed material where it is located.

As I mentioned in the earlier parts of this series, when you find gold in a sample hole, the first thing to do is establish where it is coming from. Is it from the contact zones between streambed layers or is it coming off the bedrock? This also applies to production mining. You need to know where the gold is coming from so you can watch that particular strata of streambed material closely to make sure it is still paying as you move your production hole forward and toward the left and right side boundaries of the deposit.

In dredging, if it is a good pay-streak, when the paying strata is uncovered, you can actually see the gold if you slow down and look. You will also see the gold disappear once you extend beyond the boundaries of your pay-streak. It is standard practice to slow down and watch your pay strata closely when production dredging. By following this procedure, you will continue to dredge up pay-dirt with a minimum of non-paying material. This means that the job of sampling never really ends, even when you are mining a good pay-streak; especially when mining a good pay-streak!

When digging, as in high-banking, you cannot depend as much on seeing your gold as you dig in the pay strata, so it can be necessary to clean-up your recovery system more frequently to make sure you are still mining in a section of the gold deposit. You can also sample the pay strata with a gold pan on a regular basis to make sure it is still paying in sufficient quantities.

The idea behind a production operation is to mine all of the deposit, while mining as little of the non-paying material outside the deposit as possible. However, you cannot always directly see where the deposit plays out. So you must be constantly watching how well the deposit is paying and where it seems to play out. This can sometimes be difficult to do; because some pay-streaks are not entirely consistent. For example, a non-visible obstruction or change in the bedrock upstream can cause an entire section of pay-streak deposit to boil out and give you the false impression of a boundary–when there might be an even richer section of the pay-streak several feet beyond where it apparently plays out! This has happened to me a number of times when I discovered further upstream that the pay-streak was wider than I thought. Then I had to drop back and pick up what I had missed on my first pass.

Keeping these thoughts in mind, just do your best to figure out what the deposit is doing as you follow it. Every once in a while, it is important to devote some time and energy continuing to sample beyond the apparent boundaries of the pay-streak to make sure you are not missing anything important.

Short of actually finding a rich pay-streak, finding an increase in the amount of gold in a sample hole is the best sign to look for while testing. Finding an increase in gold means more sampling is a good idea in the immediate area.

In the same way, finding a rich pay-streak means much more sampling is justified in that immediate area–especially beyond the apparent boundaries of the pay-streak you are working. This sampling is best done as you move forward, before you start dumping your tailings in that location.

Another important thing is to determine for yourself how much gold you actually need to recover on a daily basis to make it worth your while to work the deposit. Sometimes there is a big difference between what a person says he or she must recover and what a person will accept in order to remain in a deposit. You should be honest with yourself about this. If you need to recover five pennyweight a day, then you should not be production mining in a deposit which is paying only one pennyweight a day, unless you have some reason to believe it is going to improve right away. Also, if five pennyweight a day is your acceptable level, you should discipline yourself to mine the lower-grade gravel on the boundary-edge of a pay-streak if it is paying this much or more, no matter how much more the higher-grade section of the gold deposit is paying.

Some pay-streaks have a richer portion in the center or along one edge, and a lower-grade section throughout the remainder, which still may be high-grade enough to work by your own standards. Yet, you will find yourself much more interested in recovering the gold out of the rich section, because it is more exciting as you uncover all that gold. It takes personal discipline to work all of the acceptable portions of the pay-streak, when only one portion is extremely high-grade. I have seen many deposits (some of them my own) wasted by miners moving forward, dredging only the high-grade, while dumping tailings on the lower grade–but still acceptable–portions of the pay-streak. We all learn through hard-won experience just how valuable pay-streaks are once they are located, and how important it is to production-mine them in a disciplined and orderly manner, wasting as little as possible

There is an old maxim which always seems to be true: If you are looking for easy gold, go where others have already found it, and look beneath the area in which they started laying down their tailings! People get so excited when first discovering a deposit, they usually don’t think much about what they are dumping their tailings on top of until it is far too late!

The main point I have been trying to make here is that sampling really never ends. When you are not in a deposit, you will find yourself sampling to find one. When you find one, if you are wise, you will constantly sample to keep yourself within the boundaries of the deposit. Then, you’ll need to sample again to find another pay-streak in the immediate area once the first one runs out. Sampling basically is your procedure to acquire the necessary perception of where the gold is so you can recover as much as possible for your efforts. This is why you want to be good at it.

Don’t quit!

 

by John Cline

I talk to a lot of other miners, asking for different ways to do this or that. One observation that has surfaced is the importance of sampling. And, how many miners lack this practice. Many miners can “read” a river or creek, and some sample, but many don’t. This past year, I’ve talked to several miners who can’t understand why they are not finding gold. They are set up in a great looking location, they have moved many large boulders, they have cleaned the bedrock, but still very little gold. Well, believe it or not, they have been bitten by the gold bug. They have “gold fever,” they are working for all they have… but bottom line, recovering nothing for their effort. I have experienced this same frustration.

A couple of my friends and I set up our dredges in an area that looked great. Within the first hour, we knew that we were working someone else’s tailings. This area hadn’t been worked for ten years or so, but still we were in some tailings. We moved to our second location. We worked a hole for two days without success. Afterwards, we asked ourselves why we hadn’t found anything. We were in hard-pack, we found the red layer, we were on bedrock, but still nothing. When we asked some the local old timers why, their answer was “that’s gold mining” or “sometimes you find it and sometimes you don’t.” The real reason we did not harvest any fruit for our labor was that we had not sampled. Oh, we looked at the water flow and studied the river, but we had not sampled either location. It’s like working with our heads in the hole and not looking up to see which direction we’re going. When one climbs out of the hole, looks around and yells down to the others “We’re going in the wrong direction!” The others yell back “It doesn’t matter–we’re making good progress.”

Webster’s definition of sampling: “…a part, piece, or item taken or shown as representative of a whole thing, groups, species, etc., specimen; pattern.” We sample all the time and really don’t give it a second thought. Recently my wife Marge and I were going out to dinner with our son David and future daughter-in-law, Daphne. And, we had a hard time deciding where to go. I suggested one place and they said it was a great place for lunch, but not so good for dinner. This happened several times and then we decided on a nice restaurant. Believe it or not, this is a form of sampling. David and Daphne eat out much more than we do, and in other words, they sampled for us.

In my last article I shared with you my experience with Dave McCracken and his weekend Group mining Projects. During the workshop Dave made two points over and over, which have made a considerable difference in mining for me. The first is being proactive and having a goal. The second was the importance of sampling. During the Project we had twenty-plus people sampling and formed a good picture of the area–where the gold was, and where it wasn’t. When you work by yourself or with a friend or two, you must create that picture.

First, I believe that a sample hole when power sluicing (high banking) or dredging must have at least 50 square feet (5 feet x 10 feet) of bedrock cleaned. I feel that this should give us a fair sample of the potential for gold we should recover. We systematically take the hole apart by deciding the location that we will work, how big an area, and how deep we will go before testing the high-grade trap in our Pro-Mack High banker/Dredge Combo. Let’s say that the overburden is about three feet deep. We divide the area into sections. Take the first foot or so from one side, then test the high-grade trap for results. We then do the second half of the hole. If we run into a different layer of material we clean each half of our hole to that depth, trying not to go any deeper. Why? Well, if we do we’re not getting a good sample of the material and potential gold above that layer. After we have cleaned the top portion of each section, then we go down to bedrock, again looking for different layers of material, heavy metals such as lead, steel, etc., working each section and testing before working the next layer. We continue with this process until we have cleaned our test hole, thus creating a picture of where the gold flow is located. In the drawing I have included, we tested a creek on our claim. This is a secondary creek of the main creek, meaning that the creek “split,” forming an island. This section of creek is about 30 feet wide and runs about 150 feet long before merging back into the main flow. The water

was mostly 4-6 inches deep, with the exception of a few holes. As we sampled this area, we drew a map of each location we worked and recorded the results.

In Hole #1 at the top of the divide, we cleaned about 50 square feet of bedrock. There was about 2-1/2 feet of overburden. No defined layer difference. In the top half of each section, we recovered some fine gold and several small flakes (what we call flood gold). In the bottom of each section we recovered not only flood gold but several nice small nuggets. There was no apparent difference between the left or right side of the hole. Total weight recovered was 3.5 pennyweights (dwt).

In Hole #2, about 25 feet below the first, we cleaned about 150 square feet of bedrock. We started from the inside curve, working to the outside. We decided our approach would be to divide the hole into six sections, each being about five feet. Again, we systematically removed about a foot and a half of overburden, testing the high-grade trap before moving to the next section. We discovered that the west half of the creek had a good amount of flood gold and the east half had almost none. When we removed the remaining overburden to bedrock we found the following:

The west outside half: 2.5 dwt., and a one dwt. nugget.

The west inside half: 2 dwt. of nice pieces.

The east inside half: Five to six grains of fine flood gold.

The east outside half: Almost nothing.

In Hole #3, about 40 feet below Hole #2, we decided to work the center of the creek westward. This time we decided to test three parts. The bedrock was showing in several places and the overburden wasn’t more than two feet deep, so we cleaned the bedrock without sampling midway. We found the greatest amount of gold in the middle third of the hole. All total being a little more than 5 dwt., 3.5 dwt. from the center and very little from the inside third.

In Hole #4, about 25 feet below Hole #3, we decided to test out our theory that the gold was on the west side of the creek. Again, we systematically cleaned about 60 square feet of bedrock, but this time on the east side of the creek. The results–you guessed it, almost nothing.

As Dave McCracken states in his dredging videos, when you hit pay dirt or the paystreak, the hardest thing to do is to fall back and find the tail end of the flow. In Hole #5 we dropped back another 50 feet, almost to where the little creek flows back into the main channel. Again, we started at the center and worked westward, and you guessed it. Almost the same results. The westward half of the hole proved to be the best. Total weight found was 7 dwt. We talked to the miners above and below us. There have been several nice nuggets an ounce or larger, as well as several quartz rocks with gold taken.

I have talked to many miners about sampling and recording. It is hard to believe the number of miners who play the hit or miss approach to mining.

If you are out to have fun and find some gold, then sample, find gold and have fun. If you want to find a little more gold, then use a systematic approach. This approach must center around sampling and recording, sampling and recording, and more sampling.

Knowing where the gold should be does not mean that it is there, but your chances are better. Like many of you, David’s mining and mine is limited to weekends and summer vacation time. If we’re going to be productive, find gold and beat that gold bug, then our time sampling is of greatest value to us. We can plan our summer vacation in the area that has sampled out the best.

We have now sampled several locations and recorded our gold recovery. Some locations have been very interesting with good potential, and others did not prove out at all. We haven’t made our plans for next year, but we have created a fairly good picture of where the gold is, and where it isn’t. A very important first step.

If we decide to mine the creek above, guess which side of the creek we will be mining? I’ll let you know how the summer goes, but until then, remember to keep a smile on your face, your back to the wind, and watch out for that gold bug.

 
Dave Mack

“Sluicing for gold is the next productive step up from gold panning. Sometimes this activity is also referred to as “high-banking.”

 
 
 
Dave Mack

“Gold recovery systems also trap the other heavy elements — like iron sand. Here follows some helpful information about how to accomplish the final separation.”

 

by George McConnell

What can go wrong will!! And does!!

Never has such an adage been more true than with small engines – on a prospecting trip – a BILLION miles from nowhere! The engine sits after your arm breaks from trying to start it, and tempers flare while someone screams “The thing worked last year!”

Here are a few tips:

Repair of anything in the field is much more difficult, not to mention the trips to town for a spark plug wrench, or a clamp, only to find the store just closed! Make up a small kit of tools and parts to keep with the mining equipment.

1. Pliers
2. 4-way screwdriver
3. Inexpensive socket set with spark plug socket that will fit your spark plug!
4. Allen wrenches
5. Extra engine oil
6. Extra pump seal kit and gaskets and clamps
7. Extra spark plug
8. Whatever else you can think of that you’ll need!

Ok-ok, the season is over and I’m dreaming of next year’s expedition. DON’T WAIT. Now is the time to pickle that engine!

How to “Pickle”:

1. Make it a habit to run the engine until it runs out of fuel. This helps stop problems from “modern” gas formulas, forming gum and goo in the carburetor.

2. Check the fuel filter and replace it if you’re not sure.

3. Disconnect the spark plug wire and “ground” it to the engine. Most small engines have a triangular “tab” for slipping the spark plug wire onto it.

4. Change the engine oil (dispose of the old oil properly). If you don’t remember when you changed it last, or just “checked” it, change it NOW.

5. Remove spark plug. If it looks oily, cracked, black, or just plain crummy, REPLACE it. If it’s ok, check the spark plug GAP – .020-.025 is typical. If you’re not sure, get a new plug and make sure it’s the right plug for your engine.

6. “Pickling” rings and valve, and cylinder walls, protection hint: Pour a TEASPOON of “Marvel Mystery” oil (any light oil will do) into the spark plug hole. (Don’t go crazy and overdo it.) Let it sit for a minute, then press your thumb over the spark plug hole (after making sure the spark plug wire is grounded to the frame. Caution: “Instant Shock Therapy” is very possible if it is not.) SLOWLY pull the starter cord, ONE TIME ONLY! You will feel a suction and then a pressure “poof” on your thumb. (If you don’t, it’s time for the repair shop engine doctor!) The oil is now distributed into the cylinder rings and other engine parts to keep them from freezing up and happy while in storage.

7. Make sure weeds and twigs are not hanging in or on the fan.

8. Clean the air cleaner (foam type) and replace if needed.

a) For the foam type, wash in light soapy water, squeeze and let dry. Oil it up, squeeze out the excess oil and re-install.

b) For the paper type, blow carefully on the inside of the filter with an air hose. If it’s too clogged, replace it.

9. Re-install spark plug and wire.

10. Wipe the entire engine down removing dust, dirt and goo. You paid a lot of money for it, take pride in it by keeping it clean.

11. Don’t “adjust” those little screws by the carburetor, unless you’re SURE of what you’re doing. Those “adjustment” screws normally don’t “un-adjust” themselves. Consult the engine manual for adjustments and tweaking for altitude load or for poor fuel, only after everything else checks out, (clean air filter, etc…)

Hint: After dredging, high banking, etc…, I cover the engine, after it cools, with a plastic garbage bag in case it rains! That way, it will start easily the next time.

Now you can get back to dreaming and planning your next expedition with reasonable confidence that y our engine will run when you get there.

See you on the river!

 

By Dave McCracken

You don’t know what frustration is until you have gone back and forth from your dredge to your dredge hole three or four—or eight—times trying to knock out a single plug-up!

Dave Mack

 

plug upOne of the main impediments to production in gold dredging is the occurrence of plug-ups in the power jet and/or suction hose. A plug-up is caused when a single rock, or a combination of rocks, lodge in the suction hose or power jet, which then prevent further material from being sucked up.

Beginners are especially plagued with many, many plug-ups, because they have not yet learned which types of rocks, or which combinations of rocks, to avoid sucking up the nozzle. Everybody that dredges must get through this part of the learning curve.

When possible, an experienced gold dredger will watch to see what kind of rocks caused a plug-up every time he or she will get one. Beginners should do this as well. This way, after a while, you gain an understanding of which type of rocks and combinations to avoid putting through the nozzle.

For the most part, the rocks to avoid sucking up are those that are just large enough to fit in the nozzle that are sharp and angular, or that are shaped in such a way that if turned sideways, they could possibly lodge in the suction hose or jet.

Sucking up a larger round rock, just after a long-thin rock, or just after a medium-sized flat rock, is just asking for a plug-up. The reason for this is because the round rock, having more surface area, will move up the hose faster than the flat rock. So the round rock can catch up and possibly cause the flat rock to turn and lodge. Generally, we avoid sucking up large flat rocks altogether.

Generally, we avoid sucking up large flat rocks altogether. Just like there is a system of knowing how to avoid plug-ups, there is also a system for removing plug-ups quickly.

Many plug-ups occur in the power jet. These are generally caused for two reasons (in addition to sucking up the wrong rocks). The first is because of a design-flaw. Many power jets are smaller in diameter than the inside of the suction hose. Where the larger-sized suction hose meets the smaller-sized jet, there is a restriction which can cause rocks to lodge.

The other reason for plugs in the power jet is further up just beyond the inductor(s). High-pressure water comes from the side into the main jet tube from one or more inductors which can spin a rock just right to make it lodge.

Once you gain some experience in dredging, you can often tell from the feel of the plug-up when you get it whether the plug-up is in the hose or the jet. Jet plug-ups are usually very sudden; you can feel them “slam”, with a sudden complete loss of suction. Hose plug-ups sometimes leave you with some smaller amount of suction at the nozzle.

The first thing to remember with a plug-up is to stop sucking material into the suction nozzle as soon as you realize you have one!

All of us, sooner or later, experience the joy of loading a suction hose full of rocks and gravel. But you haven’t experienced life to the fullest until you have had the opportunity to do this with a 12-inch dredge! A plug-up is much easier to remove if you have not sucked up a bunch of additional rocks and gravel to complicate the problem.

When you get a plug-up in the suction hose, sometimes you can free it up simply by yanking forward on the hose, or by popping your hand over the intake of the suction nozzle. If there is still some suction, sometimes purging air from your regulator into the nozzle will help free the plug-up. When I get a plug-up, I will do this a few times, and then set down the nozzle (where it will not suck up further material) and move rocks out of my way for a little while to see if the plug-up will free itself.

I always like to keep the outside of my suction hose nice and clean. This means using a good wash brush to clean the algae off once every two weeks or so. Or, you can disconnect your suction hose from the dredge and clean it with a pressure washer. The good thing about a clean hose is that you can look into it for plug-ups as you move towards your dredge to knock the plug-up out of the jet. Sometimes, when you think it is a jet plug-up, you discover that the plug-up is in the hose. With a clean, clear hose, it is usually pretty easy to spot the plug-up quickly. This all saves time, energy and frustration.

When leaving your dredge hole to find a plug-up, always leave the suction nozzle positioned so that it will not suck up additional material, or will not get sucked against a larger cobble or boulder as the plug-up is being removed. As the plug-up is being freed, you need water movement through the hose to help carry the rocks which caused the obstruction out of the system. Sometimes, the offensive rocks free-up and then cause another obstruction further up the hose. On tough obstructions, I will generally follow the rocks up the hose until I am certain they are through the system. You can hear the rocks rattle up through your metal power jet if you are listening.

Another reason for leaving your suction nozzle so it will not get blocked by a cobble or boulder, is that when you are probing the power jet for the plug-up from the surface, you are paying attention to how much water is flowing through the sluice box. A plug-up slows the water down. When the obstruction is freed up, more water consequently flows through the box. If you are watching, you will then see the offensive rocks flow into the sluice (where you can take a look at them). This is, unless the suction nozzle gets sucked up against something down in your dredge hole which prevents forceful water movement through the suction hose.

It is really important to get this right. You don’t know what aggravation is until you have gone back and forth from your dredge hole to your dredge three or four—or eight—times trying to knock out a single plug-up!

You need to develop a feel for probing the jet from the surface for plug-ups. This is done with a “jam rod” (Also sometimes referred to as the “plugger pole.”).

What I mean by getting a feel for probing, is that you have to learn to feel around and find where the obstruction is in the jet.

Some beginners start off thinking the key is to simply slam the jam rod down into the jet over and over again—the deeper the better. This does absolutely no good if the plug-up is further up into the jet and the rod is just bypassing it. Sometimes the jam rod goes down into the jet, through the rocks causing the obstruction. The person comes to the surface, slams the jam rod deep into the jet a few times, feels no plug-up, decides the obstruction is in the hose, goes back down and follows the hose back to the dredge hole, follows the hose back up to the dredge, jams the rod deep into the jet, etc., etc., and finally decides there is something wrong with the pump! This is all part of the learning curve, and can be very frustrating.

What I mean by getting a feel for probing, is that you have to learn to feel around and find where the obstruction is in the jet. Some beginners start off thinking the key is to simply slam the jam rod down into the jet over and over again—the deeper the better. This does absolutely no good if the plug-up is further up into the jet. Sometimes the jam rod goes down into the jet, through the rocks causing the obstruction. The person comes to the surface, slams the jam rod deep into the jet a few times, feels no plug-up, decides the obstruction is in the hose, goes back down and follows the hose back to the dredge hole, follows the hose back up to the dredge, jams the rod deep into the jet, etc., etc., and finally decides there is something wrong with the pump!

And, this is why it is important to learn to get a feel for probing. I do this by probing down the jet about a foot at a time, probing at different angles, feeling for the obstruction. The obstruction is that solid-something that the jam rod touches as you are feeling around in the jet. Sometimes, it is barely a nudge as the rod slides past the obstruction. So you really need to pay attention when probing!

Once I feel the obstruction, I direct the jamming action to free it up. If smacking on the obstruction does not free it, try again after turning the engine down to idle.

Some experienced dredgers weld a “T” onto the upper-end of their jam rods. This is for the simple reason of avoiding the additional aggravation of having to remove the suction hose to recover your jam rod if it slips from your hand and slides down the jet and suction hose! If you make the T-handle narrower than the diameter of your power jet, you can turn the jam rod around and use the T-handle to help you find the occasional elusive rocks that lodge in the power jet.

It is also a good idea to have a bolt or some other solid rod material welded onto the probing-end of your jam rod. Otherwise, the pounding action can cause the probing-end to flair out. This causes problems when you jam the rod down through an obstruction, and the flared portion gets stuck when you are trying to pull it back out. The probing-end of your jam rod should be a smooth continuation of the rod itself.

If a plug-up is found in the suction hose, it can usually be freed-up by tapping against it with a smooth cobble from your cobble pile. If you look over the obstruction, you can usually see the best angles to tap against the obstruction. If one angle does not work, perhaps another angle will free it up. If the obstruction does not free up easily, the answer is not to beat your suction hose full of holes! The next step is to turn your dredge engine down all the way to an idle. This releases the heavy suction pressure holding the plug-up in place. Once the engine is idled down, you can usually tap the obstruction free with little difficulty. Then, by turning up the engine, often the rocks which caused the obstruction will get sucked through the system. Sometimes, they will also plug-up the hose or jet again—in which case, you go through the process all over again. This same procedure is used also in jet plug-ups.

If this procedure does not work on a hose plug-up, the next step is to remove the water from the hose. This can be done by lifting the suction nozzle out of the water while the engine is running at idle, or at just enough throttle to pump the water out of the suction hose. With no water in the hose, an obstruction is usually very easy to free up. In this case, however, it is wise to shake the rocks completely down the hose and out of the nozzle—to be sure you are finished with them. Here is a helpful hint: Remember to then toss the offensive rocks out of your hole, so you do not suck them right back up again when the dredge’s throttle is turned back up!

When a really difficult plug-up is in the suction hose near the jet, sometimes it is necessary to disconnect the suction hose and pull it up onto the bank to remove the obstruction. This is only on very difficult obstructions. If you are paying attention to what you are sucking through the nozzle, you should not be burdened with this chore very often!

All of this unnecessary additional work will prompt you to pay more attention to what you are feeding into the nozzle! I have spent plenty of time watching beginners invest more than 50% of their day just on freeing plug-ups!

Several years ago, in an effort to enhance production, we developed oversize power-jets and exterior suction hose clamps. In this way, the suction hose fits into a jet tube which is slightly larger in size than the hose. This can eliminate 95 percent or more of the plug-ups which a dredger will get on a normal day. Some of the dredge manufacturers are now creating dredges with oversized jet tubes and exterior suction hose clamps—which is one of the best things that has happened for suction dredges in quite some time.

Caution: just because a dredge has an exterior suction hose clamp does not mean that the jet is larger than the hose. You have to look closely and measure to be certain. If the mechanism has any part of the jet smaller in diameter than the inside of the suction hose, you are going to get plug-ups there no matter how careful you are at the nozzle. What I am saying is that an oversized jet tube for a 5-inch dredge should have an inside diameter greater than 5-inches.

Team work on removing plug-ups can be very efficient when two or more dredgers are working together. When I am nozzling and get a plug-up, I usually hand the nozzle to one of my rock men, or send the rock man up to find the plug-up. Once the plug-up is removed, material is immediately sucked into the nozzle. This creates a signal to the person trying to locate the obstruction that it has been cleared. If no material is moving through the hose and sluice box, it is a definite signal that the obstruction still exists somewhere in the system—or that the partner has fallen asleep and lost track of what is going on (It is a good thing that you cannot hear miners when they get frustrated at each other while underwater).

While sampling, or during production dredging, the end result is directly proportional to how much material you are able to feed into the suction nozzle. Plug-ups play a big part in this; because while you are spending time freeing up obstructions, you are not sucking up pay-dirt!

If you are having problems with plug-ups, sometimes you can improve production by just slowing down a little.

The real key is in oversized jets. The amount of work to build and install one on your dredge is small compared to the amount of energy and time you will spend knocking plug-ups out of your jet during the course of a mining season!

Everyone gets some plug-ups. The thing to do is improve your control of the nozzle to the point where you only get a few (or none) each day.

 

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