Metal Detecting Tools of the Trade.
By: Brian Atherton
Whether new to the hobby or a seasoned dirt fisher, the tools you use are as important as the machine itself.
The right equipment can make all the difference between a good day and a frustrating one. You don’t have to spend thousands or even hundreds of dollars to equip yourself. A pinpointer and a digging tool can be had for under 20.00 total.
In fact, my first digging tools were a surplus bayonet and a 15.00 pinpointer.
Let’s assume you’ve already gotten your machine and are ready to go detecting.
You don’t NEED a pinpointer, but let’s just say it’s a lot easier and cleaner than the “pick up a handful of dirt and wave it in front of the coil” method.
A pinpointer allows you to keep more soil in the plug (piece of dirt with the grass in it. This was covered in my previous article ‘how to properly dig a plug”) I prefer to use the White’s bullseye only because I trust the White’s name and use their detectors. There are other fine pinpointers out there, Garrett also makes a good one.
A good digging tool is also necessary. I recommend having a good folding shovel and a tool to cut sod with in grassy areas like yards and parks, where it’s good etiquette to leave no trace. The shovel can be used where appearance isn’t as important such as wooded areas.
I have used a Lesche digger for a few years now, and it is phenomenal. It is just sharp enough to cut sod and smaller roots and not the user’s hands, and it has a saw edge on one side for tougher roots.
I asked George Lesche why it is only serrated on one side and this was his answer; “Since most users are right handed, we serrated the side that would be pushed away from the user so as not to fling dirt or the tool into the user’s face and body.” Pretty smart if you ask me. His tools are also used by the military, which says a lot.
The price tag on a Lesche is around 40.00, if that’s a little steep for you, you can make your own like I did using a surplus bayonet. But remember to dull the blade or you may injure yourself.
As I started digging in more remote areas, (cache hunting and the like), I realized that a Lesche was just too much work for targets 10” or deeper. I shopped around and found a folding shovel. This one is made by Gerber and is of exceptional quality, it folds up easily and is lightweight.
This cost me around 40.00 as well, is made in the US like the Lesche, and is almost indestructible.
So, now that you have all of this equipment, where are you going to CARRY it? That’s where the detectorists’ tool belt comes in.
When I first started, I would put my pinpointer in one pocket, my digger in the other, and my finds in another. Not a very optimal way to detect.
Then I saw a tool belt at a local hardware store and bells went off. The tool belt cost me 15.00 and is worth every penny. I position it so the pouch is in front and it doesn’t interfere with my movement.
Search Coil Versatility
Much like tools, one search coil can’t possibly do everything. Some search coils will go deeper and cover more ground, but the trade off is just that, it covers MORE ground.
That means that if you have a good target, and a bad target 4” apart, you will get overlapping signals.
You can use a smaller coil to prevent this, however a smaller coil will only cover so much ground and not go as deep. And then there is the maneuverability problem. Sometimes you can’t get your coil in between trees or at the base of a structure.
Most machines come with a stock coil in the 9-10” range. This is a pretty good compromise, and will serve you well in most situations. I will use the White’s machines and coil sizes for an example here, but the same holds true for any good manufacturer’s product.
I use four coils, the 5.3” for trashy or tight quarters detecting, like between trees, the stock 9.5" coil for less trash, the Super 12 for low trash and maximum coverage, and the S.E.F 10×12 for high mineralization and greater depth.
To summarize, metal detecting isn’t just about the machine, it’s about the experience. And the more thought you put into your equipment, the more enjoyment you will get from it.