Prospecting for gold is an enjoyable outdoor activity with the added incentive of a possible profit. You can get started with a simple gold pan, but if you find a good spot, you will probably want the ability to sift through larger amounts of material. Sluice boxes have been used by prospectors since the Gold Rush to process gold-bearing sand and gravel. While commercial ones are readily available, you can build a basic sluice box from simple materials.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Plywood at least 3 feet long, 8 to 18 inches wide
- 6 to 12-inch plywood strips to form sides
- 1 by 2 boards
- 1/2-inch square dowelling
- Miner's moss or furnace filter matting
- Rubber mat with ribbing
- Fasteners (glue, nails, screws)
- Woodworking tools
- Varnish or polyurethane finish
Cut a piece of plywood to form the base of your sluice box. It can be 8 to 18 inches wide and from 3 to 6 feet long. The plywood sides of the box should be 6 to 12 inches high; these should be braced with 1 by 2 boards along the outer edge of the box. Attach the sides and braces with glue and wood screws. Finish with varnish or polyurethane to waterproof the box.
Cut two 1/2-inch square dowels to be 8 to 12 inches shorter than the length of the box. Lay these along the inside edge of the box and measure the distance between them. Cut enough additional dowels of that length to build a ladder-like grid with the rungs about six inches apart. Glue the rungs to the sides of the grid and secure with finishing nails or small wood screws. Give this grid a coating of varnish or polyurethane to finish.
Use the grid as a template to cut the rubber matting to the same size. The ribs of the matting should run horizontally --- parallel to the rungs. Cut the miner's moss to the same size. Miner's moss is a loose matting designed for sluice boxes. It is available at gold mining supply retailers. Fibreglass furnace filter material with the cardboard frame removed can also be used.
Assemble your sluice box by laying down the rubber matting at one end of the box. Lay the miner's moss over the matting, then lay the grid over the moss. Secure it in place with wood screws through the top and bottom rungs, or, to more easily disassemble it, drill holes all the way through the grid and box and secure it in place with small machine bolts and wing nuts. The grid is removed after operating the sluice box to retrieve any gold dust caught in the miner's moss.
Operate your sluice box by placing it in a stream with the grid assembly pointing downstream, and the upper end raised about one or two inches per foot of length. There should be a good stream of water flowing through without excessive turbulence. Gradually shovel gravel onto the bare upper end of the box and let the water carry it down over the grid and out the other end.
Tips and warnings
- Always make sure you are not trespassing on private property before setting up your sluice box
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