Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Few Words of Advice...

You've purchased your metal detector, installed the batteries, glanced quickly through the manual, and now you're ready to take it out for a spin.  You take a couple of swings through your back yard, get a signal, and begin to dig.  And dig.  And dig some more.  Frustrated and empty handed you fill in your hole and begin again.  Second signal...another hole, slightly larger than the first...and there it is - your first find.  Is it foil? or maybe a pull tab?  Or maybe signals are chiming so fast you don't know where to begin to dig.  Sound familiar?  Well, before you give up and relegate your detector to a dark corner of the closet, let me offer you a few words of advice.
  1. Learn your detector.  Read your manual carefully and familiarize yourself with every aspect of your machine from the control box to the coil.  Learn the sounds your detector makes by placing different objects, such as a coin, nail,  and piece of foil, one at a time beneath the coil.  Take note of the distinctive tone each item makes and its target ID on your screen.  Once you are ready to take your detector outside, take your time, move slowly, and listen to your detector.
  2. Dig everything.  The key to metal detecting is practice, patience, and persistence.  Very few detectorists hit gold...or anything else of value...on the very first signal.  Most likely you will dig a lot of trash before you unearth your first treasure.  But removing the trash is essential as oftentimes an iron or foil tone will hide the tones of a coin buried close by.
  3. Diggers and pinpointers:  Don't leave home without them.  There are several different brands and styles of diggers and pinpointers on the market, each with their own pros and cons.  Choose each for their comfort, ease of use, and personal preference as they are both invaluable tools and will assist you in the recovery of items from holes quickly and easily. 
  4. Join an online forum or a local club.  Forums and clubs are communities of friendly and supportive detectorists.  Here you will find like-minded hobbyists who are not only eager to offer tips and advice, but also to share in the stories, photos, and excitement of your finds.  They are also excellent resources for research into and identification of those finds.
  5. Respect your surroundings.  There is an code of ethics in the world of metal detecting.  You are a representative of a hobby that, unfortunately, has been viewed by some with negativity, and we will all be judged by how you act.  Respect private property and do not hunt without the owners permission.  Do not litter and remove all trash that is uncovered.  And most importantly, be as discreet as possible in your digging.  Never dig in a manner which will damage or destroy vegetation and always fill in all holes no matter how remote the location.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Go Green - Become a Detectorist!!

A question asked of me quite often, mostly from those people who don't quite "get" metal detecting, is, "Don't you ever get tired of digging trash?"  Truthfully?  Yes, at times it is very discouraging.  Nothing is so disappointing as thinking you are digging a coin only to pull out yet another aluminum can, bottle cap, or gum wrapper.  

When I first began metal detecting I was warned..."you have to remove the trash before you can uncover the treasures."  In my three years of metal detecting I have certainly removed a lot of trash from the ground.  Bags of trash, in fact.  Of course, it is tempting to pass over a signal that, mostly likely, is just another pull tab.  But as discouraging as it sometimes is, at the end of the day, to have a pouch full of trash, it is also satisfying to know that I am doing my part for the environment.  I like knowing that when I have detected a local park or playground, I am leaving the area somewhat cleaner - both above ground and below.  And yes, sometimes I am even rewarded with a few coins for my trouble.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

If Only These Finds Could Talk

Everyone who detects knows the thrill of unearthing an extra special find, a find that keeps you talking and wondering for days and weeks to come.  It is impossible to hold such a find in your hand and not ask yourself...Who held or wore this last?  What brought them to this spot?  How did they come to lose it?  How long has it been buried?  If only these finds could talk...what stories would they tell us?

At times, through doing research in books or on the internet, the answers to some of these questions can be found.  But oftentimes you find yourself guessing at romanticized truths based on what little information you can glean from an object.  Did the wedding band found beneath some bushes slip unnoticed from the finger of a careless gardener, or was it thrown to its present resting place in a fit of despair by a jilted lover?  Was the button from a civil war uniform torn off in the heat of battle or did it fall to the ground because of a soldiers unskilled work with needle and thread?

In our three years of detecting, my husband and I have pulled many finds from the ground which have given us cause to ponder.  Some have been historic, such as the George Washington Inaugural button my husband found at an old abandoned home site, and the British Naval button I discovered by a neighbors hidden pond.  Others have been oddities...old hotel keys found deep in the woods and a child's art medal unearthed beside an abandoned railroad.  Distinctive markings on each find made them easy to identify and just as easy to date.  But the answers to those questions left us asking more...who brought these treasures to such desolate locations? and did they mourn their loss?

But sometimes the finds will whisper just enough to allow us to track down an owner and learn the real story behind how they came to be buried.  Tracing a name engraved on the casing of a watch found in 3 inches of sand will lead us to a grateful, though somewhat sheepish owner, who will admit to shaking out a blanket at the beach before remembering their watch had been placed carefully upon it hours before....so it wouldn't get lost.

And one day, long after my husband and I are but distant memories, someone might venture into a cluttered attic, take down a long forgotten treasure chest from its place on a dusty shelf, and the questions will begin again.  What are these objects? Why were they placed in this box? Who did they belong to?  Oh, if only they could talk...what stories they might tell.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Welcome to the World of Metal Detecting

I have always been interested in metal detecting.  I had always wanted, but never got around to buying, a metal detector.  Naively, I dreamed of striking it rich by finding jewelry that had been lost by others, or caches of coin that had been buried in coffee cans at the base of some ancient tree.

Three years ago my children got together and bought me my first metal detector.  It wasn't fancy...didn't quite have all the bells and whistles...but I was in heaven.  I immediately went out into my back yard and started detecting, my head reeling with thoughts of gold and silver, and did I mention jewelry?

I walked three steps into my yard and was rewarded with a high ping.  The screen on my detector assured me it was only 2 inches deep...and within the silver range.  I dropped to my knees and began to dig.  I wasn't too careful with the hole I dug...dirt was flying everywhere in my excitement.  Two inches down my trowel scraped against something and I saw a slight silvery glint through the dirt.  I dug around it and pulled the object triumphantly from the ground...a soda can?  Not to be discouraged, I scrounged around for the dirt to refill the hole, placed the can into my "finds" pouch, and continued my walk across the yard.

An hour later my pouch was full...I had nails, another soda can, pieces of scrap metal from when our house was built, bits of tin foil, and more can tabs than I cared to count.  No gold, no silver...and certainly no jewelry.

My children laughed.  My husband was barely impressed.  Only slightly disheartened, I placed my detector on a shelf in the garage and vowed to "show them."  And two days later I did.  After getting on the computer, joining an online detecting forum, and devouring every bit of advice other members had to give about metal detectors, I took my detector out for another 'walk' through our yard.  And this time I struck pay dirt...a 1964 silver quarter.  I was hooked for good.  

And so began my foray into the world of metal detecting.

No, it's not a glamorous world.  No, you don't always find something.  But when you do it's a feeling like no other.  Sometimes it's something simple...modern day change dropped by an unsuspecting passerby.  Sometimes it's more exciting...a lost coin or piece of jewelry from a bygone era.

And the stories those older finds could tell....well, that's a story for another time.

Oh..by the way...my children are no longer laughing, and my husband now has a detector of his own.  And so is the world of metal detecting.