Homemade Gold Dredge

Written by daniel pearson
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Homemade Gold Dredge
Commercial dredgers remain in use today for large-scale mining operations. (Dredge on river image by Oleg Mitiukhin from Fotolia.com)

A gold dredge is a machine used to extract the much sought-after mineral from dirt, gravel, sand and other materials found in bodies of water. The first recorded use of a gold dredge came in the mid-1800s during the California Gold Rush. Commercial dredgers used buckets in a continuous, circular motion to pick up their bounty, making it difficult for individual prospectors to compete. Gold dredging resurfaced as a popular form of mining in the late 1990s, and now people around the world are making their own gold dredges with the dream of one day striking it rich.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Hacksaw
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Tin snips
  • Screwdriver
  • Small, lawnmower-type internal combustion engine
  • Water pump
  • Air compressor
  • Small electric power generator
  • 4 truck-tire inner-tubes
  • Sluice box
  • Commercial-style vacuum hose
  • 12-inch wide metal or aluminium sheet
  • Sledge hammer

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    Steps to Take for Building a Homemade Gold Dredge

  1. 1

    Plan to build a four- or five-inch dredge, which is the recommended size for a single-person dredging operation, according to the NevadaOutbackGems.com website, which is a vast source of information for everything you might want to know and learn about gold dredging. Anything larger than four or five inches typically results in user exhaustion, no matter how big, strong or young you may be, according to the website.

  2. 2

    Connect your flotation devices together, in this case the four truck-tire inner tubes, using a length of rope. Make sure the inner tubes are tied together tightly so they don't spread out once placed on the water; if the tubes should spread out it likely will result in your dredge-engine, air compressor and all-sinking to the bottom of the body of water where you are looking for gold.

  3. 3

    Place the metal or aluminium sheet across your flotation devices, creating a base so that you can rest your engine, your air compressor and the rest of your gear. Next, you'll need to make a sluice box to catch any gold nuggets you may find. You can find easy-to-understand instructions on how to build a sluice box at the ProspectingChannel.com website.

  4. 4

    Build the nozzle you'll use for sucking materials out of the water. This, too, is a relatively simply task, requiring a 10-inch piece of pipe (you'll want to use one that is similar to a commercial vacuum hose) to fit inside the dredging hose. If you're any good at welding, you could weld the nozzle onto the hose, but this is recommended only for experienced welders. Otherwise, take a sledge hammer and gently tap the nozzle until you form a cone on the tip. Slide it into place, and it's ready for use.

  5. 5

    Take your gold dredge to wherever it is you've staked your claim, and start looking for gold. Or, if you need assistance trying to figure out the best location in the US gold dredging, visit the goldfeverprospecting.com website. It provides information on prospecting for all 50 states; in fact, the website says the states "where major amounts of gold have been found" are (in alphabetical order): Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, according to the goldfeverprospecting.com website.

Tips and warnings

  • Borrowing measurements from commercial dredges, made by companies like Pro-line and Keene, can help you design your own plans for a smaller, single-person dredge.
  • Once you've designed a set of plans for the dredge you would like to build, and you're developed a specific "shopping list" of items you'll need, check your local scrapyard first before heading to The Home Depot for building materials. You'll most likely find the parts you need on the scrap heap and save yourself a good deal of money in the process.
  • It is crucial if you plan to use an air compressor for diving that you purchase one meant to produce breathable air---a majority of air compressors are designed to produce air for tools used in painting, construction, tire inflation, etc. These types of air compressors use oil lubrication, which is toxic to breathe.
  • Foot valves are often overlooked piece of a gold dredge (all dredge manufacturers supply them as an essential part), and you can ruin your pump in a short time sucking up pure sand without a foot valve. You can construct a foot valve easily with a piece of pipe, some heavy screen, a few tack welds and some bailing wire. For more information check out

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