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Hard Rock Prospecting and Sampling

Recently, veteran hard rock prospector / sampler Dave Wiseman sent me his lode gold sampling instructions. They are reprinted here with his permission. Thanks Dave!


3 lb Hammer (Single Jack)                                       $3-10.

Prospecting Pick / Eastwing with bluegrip                 $35.

Two Metal gold pans, used or new (Rusty is o.k.)    $2-9 each.

Plastic Scrub brush                                                   $2 each.

Panning Tub - plastic or zinc wash tubs

1- Chisel Head hand steel     12" - 18"

1- Gad pointed steeel            12"- 18"

1- 2 1/2 foot chisel head or pointed steel about 7/8" - 1 1/8" thickness for drifting in.


When you find a good spot, a form stake can be used, such as cement form stakes sold at building supplies or hardware stores. Downside: They do not hold their sharpness long but can be set again on a grinder. Real mining steels are hard to come by, but at a big flea market it's possible to find one or more.


Sample bags - I use 50lb feed bags made of woven plastic which can be found at feed stores or from people with farms or ranches OR canvas coin bags. Save your old shoestrings to tie at the top.


Get a good backpack at an Army - Navy surplus store and a plastic rubberized pan to fit the pack to keep it's shape and do field sampling.

Mortar and pestle - medium sized OR get a 3 inch pipe with a capped bottom and a steel -  part of and axle will do to crush.



1. Find your veins in a known gold bearing area, say on a hillside, road cut, creekbed, flat ground, etc.

2. Knock out some quartz, clay, dirt into a pan or gallon plastic milk jug with bottom cut out.

3. Take samples from a few spots on each vein.

4. Do each vein separately and mark a tag as to know where it came from. Put all into sample bag.

5. Pans - One pan must have lot's of holes in it to act as a hopper (classifier). This can be done by drilling about 75-100 holes from inside to bottom, in ever smaller circles. Then file the bottom smooth.

6.  Having your hopper pan on top of the other metal pan, pour your samples in, (half a pan is plenty) dip in water. Take your brush and scrub all the mud and clay off the quartz and into the pan,    then  rub and rub the quartz clean for a very long time. Put the top hopper pan aside for awhile and rub and rub the finer stuff that fell through the holes into the bottom pan. Rub round and round for awhile, keeping an eye open for the yellow stuff. Pan normally, but slowly as quartz gold is very rough and has legs and will jump out of your pan. Pan all the way down, watching what you discard. If you find even a few colors take more samples from that vein. If any colors, especially rough ones check all the quartz in the hopper pan very carefully as there can and will be lots of hidden gold and tiny species under the clay. You can crush up the quartz and see if it shows (color). Some people do this before panning. I do it after finding color so as to not lose little specimens.

7.    If you've found color and sample the same spot again, break out one wall or the other enclosing the vein, either the footwall or hanging wall. Leave the better wall (more solid) and take more samples. If the gold keeps going in or down or up, follow it (following the lead). Of course electric Jackhammers or blasting would be a great help, but hand tools work fine, just slower. If your onto gold in a vein, think of paint thrown on a wall, ups and downs, valleys and flats and peaks (horizontal view). The gold goes in and out. Sometimes it disappears and comes back in after a few feet or maybe 20 ft or never.


The average Joe will not keep going.

Expense, time, efficiency, etc.

If you're finding more and more color and or rough little pieces and gold quartz species, then you can expect a pocket. Still, it doesn't always occur even in pocket country. There are some veins that carry only fines. In some areas and some mines, pockets follow one another when certain formations occur. Don't expect this to happen. Where the gold will make in area and formation doesn't mean it will be the same only a few feet away. It's a tough go and sometimes very rewarding for those who stick with it. The old timers were mostly looking to make a mine or sell it outright and low grade veins, often shallow, were left alone.

You may have to drift in or down, 5-15 feet and this takes many trips. You can pan or sample at home if you have the space.

1. Rubbing and brushing vigorously is very important. So is slow panning.

2. Persistence will eventually bring you that yellow stuff smiling back at you.

Good Luck,


Copyright © 2005-2012 Dave Wiseman
All Rights Reserved - do not use without written permission
and don't cut and paste if you do have permission. I didn't type it out and format it for you. ;-)