How to use a Sluice Box

A sluice box is a commonly used piece of equipment used to recover gold. They are designed to be used in a stream or river and have been used all around the world for hundreds of years. There have certainly been improvements since the early days, but their overall concept remains unchanged. They are an excellent tool for the modern day gold prospector who is looking for a way to process more material.

There are a lot of sluice boxes on the market, and they will all find gold. The old timers didnít buy their sluice boxes, but actually made them themselves. It is a relatively simple project to build a sluice box that will find gold, but purchasing a modern design made of quality lightweight material will be more than worth the money because of the added benefit of portability. Just be sure to invest in a quality piece of equipment that can handle years of abuse, because they will definitely get worked hard. Cheap, poor quality equipment is never a good idea when gold mining.

Once you have selected a sluice box, you need to identify an area that has good flow of water and the potential to have some gold. Remember that it is called prospecting, so be prepared to move around and sample several different areas. Gold does not distribute itself evenly throughout a stream, so you have to search for it. You may want to just use your gold pan at first until you have located some gold, and only then set up your sluice box.

Setting up your sluice box will take a little trial and error if you have never done it before. What you are trying to do is find an area that has good flow that you can run through the box and over the riffles. By laying the sluice parallel to the flow of the water, you can pick various spots to set it in the stream to regulate the amount of water running through it. The ideal location will be fairly shallow with a good volume of water, which you can regulate by using big rocks to funnel the water over the riffles. Anchor the sluice using a few large rocks, and keep the bottom end of the box slightly lower than the upper end.

What you are trying to do is get the perfect amount of flow running through it, which will allow the heavier material to get caught in the riffles and carpet of the sluice, while at the same time allow the lighter materials to be discharged out of the back. If you have never donít this before, it may be difficult to set up just right, and you will find that your riffles are getting clogged with sediment. If this is happening, try increasing the speed of the water through the box, either by slightly raising the head of the box, or by adding a few rocks to the head end of the entrance to funnel a little more water through it.

With a bit of experimentation, you will get it figured out. Test it out by adding a small amount of gravels and watching how it works through your box. If it appears like the lighter stuff is getting kicked out the back and the heavier concentrates are being retained, itís time to start adding material.

At this point some gold prospectors shovel gravel directly into the head of the sluice. While this does work, your will get better results if you first classify the material that you run. By running the gravel through a coarse screen, you will remove the large rocks and debris. This larger material probably does not have any gold in it, so there is not reason to run it through the sluice. The second, and more important benefit of classifying material is that it will allow your sluice to run more efficiently. Big rocks and gravel rolling through the box and over the riffles has the potential of effecting the efficiency of the process, and may dislodge some gold that had settled into your riffles.

A New Resource for Gold Prospectors!


When you have a few buckets of classified material, add it slowly to the front of the sluice box. Doing this lowly is important, because adding too much material too quickly will overload the riffles, preventing your sluice from working effectively. If too much gravel is added to quickly, it is very easy for placer gold to go right through the box without being retained. Using a small garden trowel for this process may help you to slow down this process. Add a little bit of material and watch it work its way through the sluice. If everything still looks like it is working properly, then keep adding material.

At some point, you will want to extract the concentrates from your sluice. Remove the rocks that you have anchoring it, and carefully remove the sluice from the water. It is important to take care with this step, as all your hard work is retained in those riffles. While keeping the sluice box level, remove it from the water and place the bottom end into your cleanup bucket. Check the first few riffles for visible gold nuggets and pickers. If there are any small nuggets that are big enough to pick up, carefully remove them using a pair of tweezers and place it into a vial. Any coarser pieces of gold will most likely be in the first few inches of riffles. Take apart the sluice and remove the carpeting, being careful not to lose any of the concentrates. Wash the carpet out in a bucket until it has been thoroughly cleaned up, and rinse down the screen and any other parts of the box that may hold small pieces of gold. Once everything is cleaned up, you can reassemble your sluice and put it back in the water.

It is your choice to process the concentrates now, or to take them home for the final processing and removal of gold. Many gold prospectors choose to take their concentrates home, so they can spend their valuable time at the river digging as much gravel as they can. Then when they get home, they can do the final gold recovery using a gold pan or automatic panner.

It is as simple as that! Sluice boxes are excellent tool that every gold prospector should have in their arsenal. They have proven themselves as an efficient and effective gold recovery tool, and the modern designs are light weight and work better than ever before.

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