To pan for gold, you need a gold pan and a sluice box. You use a gold pan, which is a metal or plastic pan you buy at a mining store, to swirl water slowly to separate gold from other heavy metal. A sluice box helps you work more dirt while panning for gold. Sluice boxes are made from a simple design that mimics how gold is trapped naturally in streams and rivers. Evenly spaced riffles inside the sluice box act as barriers to water flow and cause eddies. Heavy minerals mixed with gold drop into these eddies and stay behind the riffles. Buying a sluice box from a retail store can be expensive, but for much less you can build your own lightweight sluice box that you can pack easily to areas you are interested in prospecting.
Cut both seams on the side of your plastic pipe with your knife. Your pipe is now split in two. Set one half aside for a replacement part, and keep the other half for this project.
Use your skill saw or hand saw to cut your 2-by-4 to 4 feet in length.
Lay your 2-by-4 on a flat surface. Place your plastic pipe on top of the 2-by-4, making sure it is centered on the 2-by-4 with the inside of the pipe facing up. Your pipe now looks like a half pipe sitting on your 2-by-4. Drill your first screw ½ an inch from the edge of your pipe and 2-by-4. Continue drilling screws in the center of the pipe every 12 inches until you reach the bottom edge. Drill another screw a ½ inch from the edge of the pipe and 2-by-4.
Practice with your homemade sluice box at home before you take it out in the field. The basic rule of elevation for sluice boxes is 6 inches of elevation for every 12 inches of length of the sluice box. Notice that gold is caught in the riffles in the corrugated pipe while other lighter material is washed out the bottom.
Place the leftover heavy material mixed with gold from the sluice box into your gold pan. Put about an inch of water into your gold pan, and swirl it slowly in a counter-clockwise motion. Notice that the gold separates from the other heavy material that was caught in the riffles of your sluice box. Collect your gold out of the gold pan.
Things You'll Need
- 4 feet corrugated plastic pipe with outside diameter of 4 inches
- Wood 2-by-4
- Skill saw or hand saw
- 1-1/4-inch screws
- Gold pan
Shaun Juan worked in sales for 10 years before writing full time. He has published articles in Brighthub, Demand Studios, and eHow. He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in psychology in 2003.