By Dave McCracken

I know I’m going to have a great season! How about you?

Dave Mack

Springtime! The days are getting longer and warmer. The birds are chirping. And, there is a magic in the air created by all of the living things waking up for a new start. This is when most of us who live on or near the river start really feeling the gold fever itch. Miners start returning to the river, and you can really feel the excitement about the prospects of the new season. What is it about spring that gives people so much renewed hope and interest? Even people who failed utterly during seasons past, who considered giving up gold mining forever, seem to be rejuvenated at the beginning of a new season!

Spring and early summer is usually the time when most of us are pulling our mining equipment out of storage, wiping off the cobwebs, doing the needed repairs, and ordering the necessary replacement gear and additional equipment to start our new gold mining adventure. We are also spending a lot of time thinking about where we are going to mine.

Having a successful mining season depends on many things. But all of these basically fall into four separate categories: having the right equipment; having the experience and knowledge to do it properly; having a location where recoverable gold deposits are present; and most of all, having good management–meaning the right approach!

Basically, if you have dependable equipment and you have a gold bearing location, and you know how to use the equipment to find and recover gold deposits, then you obviously can be successful. Creating the condition of having the right equipment, knowledge and location will be accomplished by you. You will decide on what equipment to use and how to service it and keep it operational. You will decide how you are going to improve your mining skills–or you will decide you don’t need any improvement. And you will decide where you are going to mine. Therefore, the final category, management, is more important than any of the others.

It is very important to know all of the technical aspects of successful gold mining: what pay-streaks are and how to find them, how to cleanup, the best way to utilize your equipment, etc. The “how-to” is one of the most important categories, but, what good is it go know the technical points if a person is going to approach gold mining with a losing attitude?

There is an emotional scale on which any person or group can be found with regards to any subject or activity. At the top of the scale is enthusiasm; down about halfway is anger and resentment, and at the bottom is total apathy and regret.

A person at the top of the scale, approaching the activity of mining with interest and enthusiasm, would try to do everything the right way. He or she would obtain the best possible equipment within his or her available resources. The equipment would be properly maintained. Communication would be energetically and enthusiastically undertaken to determine new and exciting places to mine, with plenty of new friends and allies being made along the way. And the person would be absolutely willing to learn everything possible about those aspects of mining that would affect his or her type of operation, even though he or she may already know a great deal.

Everybody makes mistakes–especially when learning. A person high on the emotional scale would recover quickly from mistakes, and enthusiastically approach his or her mining operation with the new-found knowledge. The idea of failure or giving up would probably never be considered. Also, at the highest level of responsibility, the person would not be found blaming others or “the world” for his or her momentary setbacks. Instead, the person would confront his or her mining activity with renewed energy and build his or her own success in the world. This is the way that successful people do it! It is the way you win in the game of gold mining.

A person who is further down the emotional scale will not take responsibility for the problems that are occurring in his or her mining operation. The person will feel more like his or her success and destiny are not really self-created, but are more at the effect of other people or the world at large. Most likely, the person will be found resenting others who are succeeding. The person is not as willing to make the extra effort to do things the right way in the first place, and not as willing to confront mining with the necessary perception to be able to predict what things to prepare for. Therefore, more mistakes will be made. In anger and resentment, this person is generally found striking out at the world, and generally is blaming others for his or her “bad luck.”

This type of person, for lack of incentive, and for lack of personal responsibility, will usually approach mining impatiently. If he or she does not have enough money to buy the proper equipment, rather than wait and do it right, the person is likely to buy worn-out gear, or equipment that is not large enough to work efficiently in the person’s operation. He or she is more likely, for lack of personal incentive, to allow damaged or worn equipment to go on without service or repair, which ultimately results in more damage or costly accidents. The

person is more likely to get angry and to give up because he or she is not able to locate an acceptable gold deposit right away. And the inability to find paying deposits is neverbecause the person does not know how. In the person’s “expert opinion,” it is because there simply is no gold left, or someone else already took it all.

A person in the resentment stage is more likely to be seen blaming the dredge because it is in a poor state of repair. He or she generally won’t have very many real friends; and the friends the person does have will generally be found to agree on the same negative viewpoints: “The gold has already been taken.” We already are experts on mining.” “Watch out for others so they don’t steal our gold,” etc. A negative person generally will give little help to others when it comes to passing along useful information about the potential location of valuable gold deposits. Therefore, he or she places little value on the information received from others, because he or she knows “no one would give me real information on the location of gold!”

Also, negative people have difficulty learning new skills. Learning comes from perception–which results from taking the responsibility to take an honest look at the subject or activity. A negative person generally has the idea that he or she is wrong in some way if he or she admits that something can be learned about a subject.

A person at the bottom of the scale has completely given up and is not even blaming anyone else for failure, anymore. Such a person has little or no chance to succeed at gold mining on a continual basis.

All of us can be found somewhere along this scale as regards to how we are approaching gold mining–or life. There are levels between enthusiasm and anger, and between anger and total apathy at the bottom. A person’s basic survival (or success) level is largely determined by his or her volume of positive energy, in comparison to the volume of negative energy. That is what this scale is all about. People having more negative than positive will be found lower on the scale.

Of course, we all have our momentary good and bad moments–those times we sank our dredges, we were ready to give it up altogether. But, when we found the big nugget last year, we felt totally on top of the world!

The question is, how do we approach our gold mining ventures most of the time? Are we willing to stick ourselves way out there to confront every possibility in order to prepare? Do we share and communicate with others in order to improve our chances of success and theirs? Do we try to do everything the right way in the first place? Are we willing to defend our industry when it is in trouble? When we are not enjoying immediate success, do we utilize all of our energy to create success? Or, do we use our energy to complain or justify our failure? Just how are we positioning ourselves around this activity of mining?

When it comes down to it, how well we do in gold mining on the long term always comes back down to how we are approaching the activity. We ARE responsible for how well we do. Isn’t this great?

Just how do you change the way that you are? You do it with personal discipline, by boosting yourself up to a higher level of responsibility.

There is more to success than hard physical work. Success breaks down to the above four categories. Knowing how to do it properly is one of them! If success is continually lacking, then something is definitely lacking in one or more of the four categories.

If, however, an operation is temporarily not recovering very much gold, it does not mean there is a management problem–or even a problem with the other three categories. By the nature of gold mining, there are times when we are not into gold deposits–but rather are looking for them.

If a person is blaming anyone other than himself for the long-term lack of success of his or her operation, there definitely is a problem with management!

But, it is Spring; there is magic in the air, and we all have renewed high expectations about the upcoming season. As a sobering thought, in the renewed excitement, some people seem to forget all of the pain and misery they were experiencing last year–only to recall it again once they get started. Spring cannot change the basic way you approach mining. Only you can do that. To experience the magic of success in any activity, failure and inability has to be overcome by positive energy and personal discipline. True magic cannot be obtained by forgetting failure or justifying it away.

So, if you want to experience excitement, and the true magic feeling of recovering valuable gold deposits continually, you must depend upon and improve your own skill, rather than depend on your luck. Your skill will improve in direct proportion to your correct basic approach to gold mining.

Spring is here, and it is time to work on the dredges. I cannot wait to get into the water! I know I’m going to have a great season! How about you?

 

 

By Ron Wendt

“I Remember Seeing The Miners Coming In With Bags Full Of Gold…”

 

Sluicing in AlaskaThe old man leaned against his shovel and wiped his brow as the hot interior Alaska sun beat down upon him. He was a veteran of the gold rush. He had missed too many boats and never quite made it back out of Alaska. It had been over sixty years since he had walked the streets of Seattle, where he first caught a boat to head north to the Klondike. It was the gold that kept him here, and his sluice box, shovel, and gold pan were an integral part of him.

He looked at me and never said a word. Even at my age in the early 1960’s, I could tell he was not having any fun. It was a tedious job for him. He shafted to bedrock during the winter and sluiced in the summer. As my father used to tell me, “He made enough gold to buy beans.” The old man was content with his life in the wilderness where he answered to no one; only the occasional camp robber or raven would land nearby, begging for a few scraps of food the miner had.

Even in the late 50’s, as a small boy, I remember seeing the miners coming in from the Fortymile River with bags of gold, begging for someone to buy it just so they could feed themselves. One miner had a cake pan full of nuggets he tried to peddle. He wanted $500 for the whole pan, but my father could only afford to buy a few choice nuggets from him at a cheap price.

Sluicing 2My first homemade sluice box was built from old photos, some advice (some poor and some good), a few aged pieces of plywood and two-by-fours, wooden slats for riffles and burlap to catch the gold. At sixteen, I had visions of gold, just like any other person would after reading Jack London’s books and other stories about the gold rush. Having been raised in the gold camps of the Circle Mining district in eastern Alaska, I had watched many miners, including my father, extract gold with sluices and gold pans.

Here I was in the Yentna River area near the Alaska Range, with a water-logged wooden sluice box, trying to make my first big strike. Believe me, there is nothing worse than trying to move around water-soaked wood! With the help of a more seasoned prospector, we located a bench of pay-dirt where a false bedrock of clay rose up out of Twin Creek. Through some trial and error, I figured out that the gold was in the clay. After shoveling tons of dirt and clay into my sluice, I soon discovered that I was not breaking up the clay enough and was losing quite a lot of gold with the tailings.

Between shoveling into the head, and raking rocks through the sluice, just as I watched that old man do years before, I was able to recover six ounces of gold for the two mosquito-infested, rain-soaked months that I worked this bench. Though it wasn’t a fortune, I didn’t care; I felt as happy as that old-timer probably did when he just got started years before. I have learned a lot since then, but I still value all of the early golden lessons taught to me by those old sourdoughs.

Eventually, I graduated to the wonderful world of aluminum. The aluminum sluice has been a great blessing to the modern day prospector. They are great for back-packing and throwing around in the back of the pickup. They don’t break; and if you learn to master them, they will reward you with great recovery results.

Some places in Alaska are pretty remote. Not always can one put a suction dredge in just anywhere. It is so much easier to walk into the hills with a four-foot, fifteen-pound sluice box, than hauling a 200-pound suction dredge over hummocks and through alders. Each piece of equipment has its place.

I have always recommended that if you are going to get into prospecting, start out small. Start with a gold pan, then sluice with pick & shovel, then eventually get into a dredge system. From there, who knows–maybe a D-8 will be your next tool!

I have found that if you are going for the gold, like most everything, unless you are pretty lucky, you will not strike it rich right off. Finding the high-grade gold deposits is something that gradually happens as you learn the right approach.

I have also found out that when new prospectors start off all gung-ho into this business, hauling in big equipment where there is not much gold, they usually lose interest real fast. After two or three outings, a few thousand dollars of investment and no return, they get discouraged and quit.

I suggest it is better to start small and learn the art of prospecting. Shoveling into portable sluice is an excellent, economical way to learn the basics of finding gold.

In the old days, the sluice boxes were usually 12-to-14 inches wide, pieced together in telescoping sections, with pole riffles. The boxes were set at an average grade of six inches to the twelve-foot box. Water was directed to the head of the sluice from a long flume or a canvas hose coming from a dam. As in today’s sluicing operations, the name of the game was production, shoveling the most pay-dirt into the sluice. With long lines of sluice boxes, the kind you see in the old photographs, miners would try to set up the sluices so there would be six feet open on either side of the boxes. The lighter material was shoveled in while the larger rocks were placed on bedrock and washed later on.

During those days, shoveling-duty varied with the nature of the gravel and bedrock, how far pay-dirt had to be lifted to the sluice from the excavation, and the person’s capability to work. Under ideal sluicing conditions, a shoveler could feed as much as 2 ½-to-10 cubic yards of gravel in 10 hours.

In 1905 on Anvil Creek near Nome, there was one elaborate set of sluice boxes set up on bedrock. Five strings of sluices were shoveled into 24 hours a day by 120 shovelers. They were able to process an average of 1,080 cubic yards of pay-dirt per day during this time.

The good thing about prospecting with a sluice box is that you can process a lot of material just using a good No.2 shovel and a sharp pick. A sluice is an excellent way to scout out good future prospects.

I have heard some pretty interesting stories about sluice boxes. One classic story I remember happened up on the Koyokuk River around 1914. A prospector made a big strike; but all he had was a gold pan, shovel and an ax. So he cut down a tree, split-out a four-foot piece, carving out a set of riffles along the bottom edge. Although this was indeed very crude, the prospector found enough gold in two days to party in San Francisco for four months!

When sluicing with a portable aluminum sluice, there are several key factors to be aware of:

1. Water-speed is critical to gold recovery. Some gold can be lost out the end if the water is too swift-flowing through the box. If the water-flow is too slow, the heavy rocks, black sand and/or garnets can clog the riffles and the gold can wash out. So it is critical to learn water-flow. In my own experience, water-flow in the sluice should be no more than three inches deep with a flow that will tumble golf ball-sized rocks out the end.

2. It is important to keep the sluice box raked out after one or two shovelfuls of pay-dirt are fed into the head of the box. Allowing too much material to pile up in the sluice can also cause erratic water flow in the sluice. This can cause a gold loss, too.

3. The sluice should be on a slight slope. Most streams have a natural slope as they flow along. But there are times when the sluice needs to be adjusted to increase water-flow, especially in wider, deeper water. Sometimes, water-flow can be increased through your sluice simply by raising up the head of the sluice; and, whenever needed, using rocks underneath and around the sluice to dirvert more water.

For under $200, a prospector can be outfitted with an aluminum sluice, gold pan, pick and shovel. The sluice is one of the handiest prospecting tools next to the gold pan.

 

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 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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