Central Montana Prospectors
Central Montana Prospectors

Tools of the Trade

Antique Prospecting Pack...Can I Use It?

      The old, twisted leather ties had to be unfurled from the hand tooled leather pouch that held the pick hammer in the old canvas bag of Jesse Buff''s father's treasure. Some descendants aren't quite sure that they want to use such antiquity, but the tools still can serve a purpose, so why not?

     You get out the hammer, undo the collapsible shovel, and pull out your pan. Even if the pan doesn't have the modern-day ridges, apparently Jesse's dad used the rust to catch the gold. When you are taught how to pan in the rivers and streams of Montana as a young kid, you just don't care to be persnickety about the level of tools, one digs in and gets the gold, dust, or flour as the pursuit of excellence doesn't seem to matter when you are with familiar tools of the trade. 

     Antiques work if you want them to. It's just kind of fun to compare and walk down history lane for a moment. You can ditch the new or use it interchangeably if you want. There is always room for it all. 

Just What Do I Bring to Go Digging?

      That's the question asked when Nikci King was about to pack for the Sauerbier Ranch garnet dig. With a few suggestions, she continued on her own list and had so much she filled a tote with it all. You might say it was from soup to nuts.

       Amazon apparently has a great prospector's kit with about 7 inch circular sifters with mesh screens of varying sizes. The cute size of these sifters are nothing seen around these parts, but perfect for small time sifting. Gonna get some. 

     The magnets, piepettes, snuffer bottles, flashlights of all sizes, collapsable shovel, vials, and mini ziploc bags. The array was amazing, but the carrying in and out got difficult because your finds add to the weight. Hopefully next time she will find a mini cart to haul it all in. 

Going Mini

      With a quick trip up to Gold Fox, in Conrad, Montana, one can find new products on the counter of Kelly Fowler's workshop. They are the hottest selling items on the market. They fit in a backpack, have a waterproof battery pack and can last a long time in the woods for processing gravel both with this trommel and a mini high banker too.

      You can slap your money down, and wait to get your equipment shortly, but you get put on a list for when they go into full production. 

      These machines are the creation from the genius prospecting mind of an innovative developer who knows his stuff. His Little Monster was fabulous, but their two, new products are the best there is out on the market for ease, efficiency and design. Fabulous prospecting finds a notch below the gold nugget itself.

A Small But Invaluable Tool

     When Bruce of Blue Jewell Mine wanted to show hearing impaired Jean, a newbie to his mine, how to find sapphires in her washed and jigged bucket, he pulled out some metal tweezers so he could pick right out of the pile what she was after. If you don't have access to this handy tool, your clumsy fingers just dont' do the trick.

      One must be able to get to a fine point, grab and then pick up those beautiful stones and put them in your vial or bag. He might have had plastic, blue tweezers, but the pointy, metal ones work the best. Carrying them in your back pocket like a knife or screw driver is what gives you great access to sapphires in Montana.

     I think a person should say, "Don't leave home without them." They are probably more important than a bottle to put your finds in. They might be good for plucking hairs, but they are the best for picking the blue stones so valuable. 

A Very Important Tool in Separating Your Gold From the Black Sands

      Even though the video on using a magnet to find gold in a Colorado river showed the baking of the sorted down pile, it was noted recently that in order to be successful in doing this separation, one would have to subject the pile to both heat and then extreme cold in order to get the black sands out.

     The author only used the heat and got out the black sands with a magnet, maybe it would have been easier to use this idea by hitting your household tool of the oven for the shake up in temperature differences. Just an idea to experiment with.

Take the Challenge Test: To Sluice Freely or Not

     The USFS has a handout on recreational prospecting. On the front page it says people looking for gold can use a gold pan or small sluice anywhere on Forest Service land without a permit. 

      On the back of the same sheet it says the opposite on a chart; it says you need a Plan of Intent. Now, I am confused. One place it says no, you don't need anything, and on the back it says "Yes, you do need a permit! What is it folks? I get it; I get to pick which one I want to use since the USFS is not sure what it wants you to do. Check for yourself and keep a copy at https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5360587.pdf

With this Slick Bucket Gravel Gathering is Quick and Easy; A Genius Invented It

Some Variations on Jig Creations Used at Blaze N' Gems Sapphire Mine in Helena to Wash Down Gravel After Classifying

What do I do?

       So you have gravel. So you have a classifier, what do I do next? Well, depending upon where you got your gravel, you treat it differently. Do you remember where all your gravel came from? Do you have a system to remember? Do you label your buckets?

       When you bring home buckets from Utica and you are looking for yogo sapphires from the old mine tailings, you aren't actually panning for gold so ditch those supplies.  You would soak that gravel looking for shiny pieces of glass, not the gold nuggets, flour or dust.  No need to pan it out.

       Now, if my buckets held gravel from the middle of the stream in Rimini,  I would be looking for gold. Running it through the sluice of the Little Monster would just do the trick. Keeping track of your stash is the name of the game. 

Classifiers are necessary sometimes as in the case of finding smaller crystals after the bigger ones have been hacked out with a rock hammer. Andrew Luna shows how on a hill it works. Don't ditch yours thinking they are only for sapphires. 

On Site Experience of Trying Out Two Kinds of Prospecting Equipment: An Eye Opener in Modernizing Equipment

Gold Fox, Conrad, Montana is an Awesome Prospecting Manufacturer

Little Monster on the Shop Floor

     Over 5 years, Kelly Fowler, owner of Gold Fox, has developed a mean machine called the Little Monster. It's a perfect name for a portable machine to fit and adjust in rivers and streams in your search for gold. 

     Daily, many orders come in for this prized piece of equipment. The production shop room assembles many after stops at a wide variety of stations as all parts are created there in Conrad, Montana. 



Final Phase of Little Monster production

     After bending, cutting shaping, painting, assembling and various other descriptions, the Little Monster both Deluxe and standard get bath tested for functionality and perfection. When the stamp of approval is given, extremely secure packaging ships off this truly made in Montana product all over the world.

      Testing out equipment is an essential step in any manufacturing. Tried and true methods make this product priceless. 



Creating the Perfect Sluice Arrangement

      The magic that riffles make in snagging those golden nuggets is created right here at this station where 5-6 different kinds of rubber matting are selected and glued together.

      It only takes 30 sections of holding the pieces in place to secure these sections forever with Monster Glue. Everything can break around the seal before it the seal does.

      This is the strategic step in creating a functional Little Monster to catch your gold. The pads are not made there, but purchased from another company to add. Such functional beauty.

A video mentioned by Kelly Fowler, owner of Gold Fox, which he said went viral when posted. Just had to take a look and share.

A light weight tool for the rock hounder in you


     When a person carries this light weight, aluminum rock scooper, you can tread the trails and save wear and tear on your back. If you get tired of spending most of your time bent over at a 90 degree angle and your back is aching, this tool is a must to order. It is a favorite especially when going along the river's edge looking for agates.

      It comes in several lengths to accommodate the heighth of various users; one can't have a stick too long or too short or the helpfulness of the tool is dashed. The idea of the lightweigthness of this tool also helps on the body's wear and tear.

      It is accompanied with a hook on the bottom for easy digging to unearth your precious find. Mark Amundson, a disabled vet who has a rock shop in Great Falls has about worn out his tool and is in need of a new one because it has served as a cane as well. I just think this is a good tool to own. Gotta get me one to traverse the mountains and rivers of Montana.






Remote Sensing Device For Finding Sapphires & More Underground


Advantages and specifications of the Blackhawk Gr-100:

·   Surveys and scans land quickly

·   Tunes to selected search rapidly

·   Discovers depths of up to 30 meters

·   Scans Distances up to 1000 meters

More info here: Blackhawk GR-100 

Quick and Dirty Gold Panning: Advantages of Economical Sluicing

Fast, Fold & Go


             Some people might consider stocking up on big, expensive equipment when first considering the many aspects of prospecting, but there is an advantage to thinking small, compact and economical. The collapsible, transportable rain gutter might work very well in a creek bed to process your buckets of gravel and dirt quickly and efficiently.


            With the gutter sluice the ridges trap the heavy gold and flakes and give you a nice amount of concentrate to take home and pan in the convenience of your home. The ridges are deep enough to catch the heavies and the length is long enough to have sufficient time to trap your gold without the bulk and rigidity of the wide manufactured sluices.


            The adjustment of your mini, lightweight sluice is easily accomplished in the eater because of the plastic flexibility. And the same allows sluicing in the creek bed without being considered a commercial sluice. This min can handle large amounts of gravel quickly when you have a rushing creek at hand.

Try It, You Might Like It!!


           Not a lot Of money is invested in equipment and your vial can fill up just as quickly as with the bigger, more expensive sluices. This might work for you too if you wanted to try it as there wouldn’t be much investment lost. It’s worth a try.


            Taigen Pyne here filled about 10 buckets of gravel and processed them with the sluice in the Poorman’s Creek in Lincoln, Montana. Then there was only a small bucket of concentrate to take home to pan instead of hauling 10 buckets of gravel up a ridge to take home. The collapsible rain gutter sluice is a quick and easy way to pan for gold in any stream. It’s a streamlined way of gathering Montana gold.

Setting Up Rain Gutter Sluice

10 Buckets to 1 Concentrate

Test Panning Gutter Sluice Concentrate

Baby Enjoys Gutter Sluice

Larger Version of The UnderFlow Sluice

Equipment Ideas

Can Be Found in the most unusal places.

      If you are curious about prospecting equipment, just pick yourself up a Gold Prospectors magazine and see the advertisements in the back for the latest equipment for sale then make your own. Some of these items are very useful and new state of the arts get out there and shake it kind of equipment. Over the back end of pickup trucks chocked full of prospecting equipment in Zortman, Montana last year, prospectors shared their favorite tools which could be found right there on the back page. If you want to expose yourself, check it out. The Super Shaker got me; you will find useful items of interest as well.

Learning Opportunities with Prospecting Equipment


We do what we say we're going to do! Teaching the use of equipment.



Trommel Day, Aug. 28th, a Success!

     Visions of gold nuggets, gold flakes and dust along with shiny sapphires, and garnets were seen on the streets of Great Falls on Trommel Day where family, friends and prospective prospectors gathered to learn about the trommel, gold genie and pan for sapphires and garnets.

     Gravel was gathered from sites all over Montana and Wyoming and processed in the ancient Egyptian replica of the pyramid gradation of moving heavy rocks; the use of this reverse spiral produced shiny images in the gold pan beneath the opening. Many people got the opportunity to experience the process of extracting gold from the earth in the comforts of a yard in town. No one had to leave town to find gold. When  prospecting is brought to your front door it is a pleasure.

     Central Montana Prospectors takes the time to focuses on the educational opportunity for people to learn recreational prospecting with convenience andwithout a lot of expense. We thank Delbert Henry and Paxton Tutor for volunteering their time and knowledge to help us learn more.

     The elk burger, potato salad and baked beans with corn on the cob fed our hungry prospecting bellies while we worked. Once a girl elk roamed the mountains, but soon became sustenance for the hungry gold panning crew in Great Falls. We thank her but great cooks were on hand as well.


Having fun while learning recreational prospecting tools.


Eat Meat!!!


Prospecting Opportunities

     Delbert Henry with his gold cube and trommel educated a variety of people about the benefits of machinery in prospecting. Delbert also brought two other tools to demonstrate other means of extracting gold.

     One was a PVC pipe tube to run along the river crevices; it’s a homemade piece that you can carry with you to look in the river and streams of Montana. The other one was a plastic tub with a separate pump that pushed water through a tube into the rigged electrical outlet housing that pushed the lighter material out the housing with the water leaving the heavier gold to remain in the housing. Further details will follow on this webpage soon.

     Another part of recreational prospecting is the search for sapphires and garnets. Larger bags of sapphire gravel from Blaze N' Gems and smaller bags were available for people to purchase to pan. A variety of people were happy with learning how to search Montana earth to find gems. People went home with their pockets full of treasures they found from the Treasure State and Central Montana Prospectors Trommel Day activity.

      Many tried their hand at Paxton Tutor's gold genie he set up.


Hands On



Here are some common tools of the recreational prospecting trade. Some are necessary and some are not. The larger pieces are for the more advanced prospector with avarice, but the basic pieces with descriptions are here for your perusal.



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© Central Montana Prospectors Coalition, Site Created & Written By Alma Winberry