Custom Floatable Dredge

Last week Josh and I went with a mining claim owner to a remote location near Bagdad, AZ and were shown a beautiful place where the water flows over exposed bedrock all year round and the potential for gold might still exist. We prefer being near water most of the year because not only is it relaxing, but it makes finding gold easier. The location is a bit far from Phoenix, but its worth the drive.

At one place we drove up with our 4 wheeler onto a herd of burros and took some pictures. As we left, one of the burros chased after us. Maybe it was being playful, but we did not want to find out. We had so much fun driving around.

We wanted to use our 3 inch Keene dredge/highbanker combo in the creek, but it was too deep for it. We decided to make it float and test it out the following weekend. I did some research and found a compatible Keene flotation device for it, but it would cost about $900. I though that was ridiculously high. I took some time to figure out a more affordable design.

It took a few minutes to think of a simplistic design and several hours later (with a little bit of trial and error) it was completed.

For about $110, we had all the supplies needed to make something workable.

My sister had a sewing machine and knew how to use it which saved a lot of time. That was the hardest part of the design.

The nylon fabric provides exterior protection to the boat and it needed to be stitched on skin tight. Without that, the boat would have sunk from being jabbed many times.

After all the stitching the next goal was to make a frame for the highbanker to sit upon. That was the easy part. Its just four boards that stretched across to evenly distribute the weight.

Lastly we needed to mount the motor above the sluice box. It sits perfectly on the metal bar at the tip of the sluice box. I fastened a strip of foam padding across the bar to keep the two metals from clanging together during operation. The motor mount came with the motor and I simply attached a long board on both sides to be used as an additional platform that can be easily adjusted if needed.

Yesterday Josh and I drove out to the claim again and tested our newly created floatation contraption for our 3 inch Keene dredge/highbanker combo. It was a success and was very stable. The Honda motor created nearly no vibration and it was not top-heavy. It looks unstable, but I assure you it was very much the opposite. I shoved it around and could not easily tip it over if I had wanted.

The sluice box was extended by a long green plastic container and affixed with two small bolts. The bottom of the container was cut off with a utility knife. We found it at walmart for only a couple bucks.

When the dredge was in use use it added about 30 more pounds of weight. We estimated it was under 120 pounds in weight. The boat was rated for 370 pounds. We also needed to add two 2×6 boards under the wood platform to distribute the weight even more and bring the entire platform slightly forward. It was then perfectly stable and even.

Most of the tailings from the hopper dropped on the back of the boat and bounced off, but next time I would add a board to direct the tailing off the boat.

The angle of the sluice box is obviously low in these pictures, but it was raised to the correct level later when we started using it. That did not make it top heavy.

We took turns dredging with our snorkel and masks for about 4 hours until we got a little sunburned.

The water was fairly warm, the breeze was cool and it was a good day.

One response

  1. I’ve been researching gold prospecting for the past two years and your blog is extremely comprehensive and informative! My new favorite!
    Thanks so much!

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