How to Setup a Gold Sluice

How to Setup a Gold Sluice

So this is a typical sluice, they vary slightly in design but overall the same basic principles are at play. The point is gold is heavy, we’ve said that before but we can’t say it enough, gold is really, really, really heavy. So whenever it has a chance to, gold is going to drop faster than anything else in the creek. So when you have water running across here, you see this little ripple here, this is called a ripple. This is a upturn piece of metal that forces the water to go up, when it goes up there is a vacuum created right here. And when the water goes up it rolls around and gold tends to stuck underneath that ripple. These are expanded metal, so this is going to be a much smaller version of the exact same thing. Where gold is going to get caught behind each one of these little ripples. So water flows across here against this bump, the water goes up and gold drops out underneath. Then it comes back down and hits each one of these little ripples made of expanded metal and it drops in behind each one of these little corners. Then underneath that we have what is called miners moss, this is a rubberized piece of string that looks like moss and it forms together into a mat. When gold drops into that it gets trapped, the currents are not enough to pull it back out of there again and so it just continues to settle.

Underneath the miners moss you will have carpet and that carpet is going to catch even finer stuff that the miners moss would otherwise let slowly walk through, it drops down to the bottom and hit that carpet. Once it gets to the carpet it really never comes out. That is a good thing and a bad thing because ‘A’ it traps the gold, that’s the good thing the bad thing is once it has trapped the gold it’s a pain to get it out even in your own bucket when you want to clear it out at home. We will come to that in a minute. For right now that’s the basic understanding of the sluice. This up here is the assay mat, what that does is it shows you a sample of what you are catching right now. So when you have a handful of dirt right here that you think might have gold in it, this is a series of little U’s or V’s depending on the type of sluice that you have. And it’s going to trap the gold inside of these, now it’s not going to trap all the gold but it’s going to trap a percentage of it, maybe 10-50% depending on the type and shape of gold you have. So when you see up here that you have a little piece of gold you say “wow I’ve got gold” that means I also got some gold down there. The more you see the better the dirt you are working in it gives you a real time estimate of how much gold you are finding.

It’s not intended to catch most of your gold, it’s just a sample. So the whole thing about sluices and the whole thing I had to learn is how to set them up. You can find all sorts of answers on the internet but most of them don’t really tell you what you want to know which is; just what angle do I want to have and just what am I looking for to know when it’s actually working right. Because you don’t want to go too fast because if you are going too fast you will lose gold. If you go too slow it will take you forever and you won’t have any dirt running through there and so you will simply lose gold because you’re not processing enough material in a day. So, setting up a sluice can be easier and harder depending on where you are working. In a big wide river with that much drop it’s going to be real hard to run a sluice. Because you have to have a little bit of drop for the water to come in and go down otherwise it is not going to work at all. Whereas in a really small creek usually they have a lot of drop pretty quickly and so they are very easy to set a sluice up in but they don’t always have enough water to run it. So those are the things that we are going to cover now.

So the trickier thing about setting up a sluice is being angled right. The reason the angle is not just always one number like four inches for a four foot is because sometimes the river is flowing faster than others. And therefore the faster the river flows the fewer slopes you need. So right now we just had a rain last night and so we are having a pretty good flow through this river today. On other days when it’s really slow, where there is not much drop in a river you’re going to have a lot less push through the sluice and that lack of push is going to mean you’re not going to be circulating your gold and your dirt as much and so it’s not going to settle out as well. So here we have already built a dam, most rivers you are going to have to have a dam in them unless you already have a natural one like a rapids. I will show you that a little bit up river why I usually use up there. Right here this is a lot of my tailings that I have used and over there – and that kind of slows the water down and channels it over here so it all focuses here. It also raises the water level there about four or five inches from what it is down below the dam and both of those things are necessary to use the sluice in most environments. Unless you are actually working in a creek where you go down stream and you have a lot of drop.

So here, we have a metal dam, we will set the sluice in here. Now I have to build up rocks around it, if you have plenty of flow you don’t need to be obsessive about this. You just want to avoid major disturbances around the outside they are going to make (4:35 unclear) in here. Because those will mess up the way the gold is sorted as well. So you don’t want to bury your sluice, you don’t want to have the water all the way up to here, either on the top end or the bottom end. You want to have about an inch on top of your grading or you can go along the line of the grading you have down here on this piece of metal. Sometimes going on top of that or a little bit above that is about right. So if we have too much water in her it won’t evacuate enough and if you don’t have enough water in here it also won’t evacuate enough. And you want to have enough water overflowing so you can grab the dirt, pull it across these ripples, rotating as it goes so it can drop the gold out and get rid of that dirt as fast as it can without losing gold, that’s the goal. So instead of satisfactory it’s got a little bit too much water running through it but not enough to make any difference. There is a little bit of flexibility in this it doesn’t have to be perfect, you won’t really know how it’s going to run until you actually drop the scoop of dirt in which is what I am going to do now. This is a scoop of our classified dirt and you never want to wrong the big rocks through it without classifying it because those big rocks will come up here and sit in the wrong places to make weird (5:32 spelling) and you will lose gold that way.

So you always have to have your dirt classified, usually you want about a quarter of an inch to a half inch screen somewhere in that neighborhood depending on what kind of sluice you’ve got and how (5:41 unclear) do you want to run it. So you can dump it like this very slowly or you can dump the whole scoop all at once like that, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is you watch how the dirt goes across here and comes out. So you can see here how we’ve got a pile of dirt here, pile of dirt here and a little bit more down here. This is because we don’t have it set up right yet. If we had this set up right then in 45 seconds or so that has elapsed we would have already had all this dirt clear out of here except the little behind each one of the ripples. You notice how there is more dirt on one side than there is on the other, that means we need to tilt it up a little more like this to balance out the level. That way it’s going to come back this direction in the next scoop. The reason it’s not evacuating is either because we don’t have enough flow, we have too much water in here or because it’s not enough slope. I am going to try lowering the water level by moving it a little bit downstream and blocking up the top end a little bit. Now there is going to be less water coming in which means the whole water level will be less which means the current flowing across these ripples will actually be faster.

Now you would never put your finger in here ordinarily because it’s going to mess up the current but I’m going to do it to show you what I’m doing. Right here this pile of dirt is not getting out of here fast enough. So we need to keep moving this around and raising up the top end there; see how that acted different? Now all of a sudden we lost quite a bit of our dirt in here, that’s the junk that we want to lose. Now I’m going to try running another scoop through here and see how it runs. Come down here, washes out of here fast, that’s nice. It sits down here for a while; we are losing our dirt here. I would like to see it go a little bit faster but it’s already going here nicely, this is good. Now we have a little higher angle, let’s try building up our water level a little bit. Do that by blocking some dirt underneath the sluice then pour some more on top of it, that’s actually pretty good. You’ve seen some blue around here that’s actually miners’ moss; this blue is looking really nice. I like to see them all looking like this, this is a little bit heavy and this is good. I think that if we have it set up right now this will catch gold good and it will run through here quickly.

So dump it here, it clears out the assay mat, wait until you see blue in at least a couple of these things before you start running it again. You want to start running it again now because if you can’t see the ripples down there, then they are not working. You need to be able to see the ripples for them to do you any good, every one of these ripples has to be visible and some blue around it has to be visible or you are not going to be getting the maximum effect out of this sluice. Now I have caught some gold up here in my assay mat, so come over here and look at this. So here you can see right there a little spot of gold that got caught in my mat, that means I’m running stuff that has gold in it. And that means that as I’m running my (8:54 unclear) through here I’m going to be catching a lot more downstream. I know in this light of the camera it all looks like gold but trust me that piece is gold. So now I’m just going to sit here spread it back and forth like that as I go, so you get some on each side.

If your sluice is running a little bit slow I’ll put one scoop and you just do it as fast as you can do it and still keep everything cleared out. It doesn’t have to be perfectly clear but you need to be able to see that blue like I mentioned. I have dreams of inventing a self-feeding sluice one day where I can just set a bucket here and have it all suck out, however I haven’t got that perfected yet. But check back the website, I bet one of these days you will find one. Now if you do find large nuggets over half a gram or so, they are not going to be found down here very often. Usually I have to come right down here where this little depression is in the middle right before it goes up on the ramp and they are going to stop there. They might even camp out back here because as I mentioned before and will mention again gold is heavy. So ironically in trying to show a situation where the sluice didn’t work so well so I could show it here on camera, I actually made it work better than it was working before. Like I said this isn’t my sluice, I borrowed this from a friend. This sluice actually works better with less water.

So now we have the water level just at the top of that metal piece that holds the ripples together on the side and that seems to really work well. I put this top in almost out of the water and I’ve only got maybe half an inch of water coming in to it and it goes down here and every time it does it, it pulls the dirt through here nicely. So it cleans behind even the first ripple very well and that’s what you want. You want to see some blue behind these ripples every time after every scoop. Preferably about half that blue should be visible, so you notice how the dirt comes down here, it fills up initially and then it washes away. Now you can see half dirt, half blue ripple and as you clear out in a matter of 15 seconds maybe a little bit less if you have faster water or maybe a little bit more. But that should be about your average, if you run much slower than that you will be taking all day to run your material through here. And if you run this faster than that you are going to risk losing some of your material because the gold is going to be sucked right through here before it can have a chance to settle. So this is the only way you are ever going to know if the sluice is set up right, is how fast it clears and of course whether or not you catch gold in it. So watch this and try to make your sluice match that and then you know you got it pretty close to right.