How To Build A Sluice Box

How Michael Davis built a recirculating sluice box for gold prospecting
It was easy. You can do it too 

My home-built recirculating sluice or highbankerOne of my many hobbies is recreational gold prospecting. I’ve been gold panning on my vacations for many years. It’s a lot of fun. It’s great exercise. I get to do it in really scenic locations. I have even found some gold. However, you aren’t likely to find a whole lot of gold by panning alone. To find a lot of gold, you have to pan a lot of dirt. Panning is not a good method for separating the gold from a lot of dirt. It takes too long and is far too much work. There are other methods besides panning to separate gold from dirt though. A sluice is a device that separates gold from dirt using the power of running water. It will process large amounts of material far more quickly and with less effort than is possible by panning alone. I decided that it was time to step up the amount of gold I recovered on my prospecting outings. I decided I wanted a sluice.As with most of my other equipment, (wind turbinesolar paneltelescopesjet engine, etc., etc.), I decided to try building one myself, rather than just buying one. The tinkering is half the fun after all. Also, you will get a much greater sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when you know it is YOUR home-built equipment that is doing such a good job, and not some store-bought first attempt at building a sluiceThis first attempt was a sort of proof of concept sluice. Just to make sure I could build something that actually separated gold from pay dirt. I didn’t put a whole lot of effort (or forethought) into it. I also didn’t spend a lot of money on it. I used scrap lumber from around my workshop. I used a 1 x 6 board 36 inches long for the base and 1 x 3’s for the sides. The only things I bought for it were 1/4 by 1/4 square dowels to use as riffles. I glued the riffles into it spaced 1 1/2 inches apart. It took only an afternoon to build, and most of that was just waiting for the glue to first attempt at building a sluiceAfter the glue was dry, I took it into the back yard and tried it out. I set the bottom of it in a gold pan to catch what washed through, blocked it up at what seemed like a good angle, and placed the garden hose at the top end to provide a flow of water. Then I started slowly pouring pay dirt in the top end. The first tests went quite well. The sluice actually captured most of the gold in the pay dirt. Panning out the material that washed through the sluice only revealed a couple of small flakes that slipped through. This was very encouraging. However, the mud bog I was making in the back yard with the hose running for long periods, while tinkering with the sluice, was very discouraging. I decided I needed to find a way to capture and reuse the water. So I decided to build a recirculating sluice.

my first attempt at building a sluiceI drew up a simple plan for a cradle that would sit on top of a plastic storage bin full of water. The cradle would hold the sluice and allow me to adjust the angle of tilt. Water would be pumped out of the bin to the top of the sluice. Water and debris would fall back into the bin at the bottom of the sluice. This would be great! I’d be able to use the sluice at home without turning the back yard into a mud hole. More importantly though, I’d be able to use it in the field where there was limited water available. I’d designed a recirculating highbanker. I couldn’t wait to build it. All I needed was a pump.

The bilge pump used to circulate the water through the sluiceAbout this time I saw an old bilge pump at a yard sale. The guy was asking $5 for it. I talked him down to $3. It looks pretty beat up, but it works great. I glued a PVC fitting on the outlet of the pump so I could attach a hose barb and a smaller hose than the pump was designed for. I went with 1 in. ID hose.

A DC motor to be used as a generator in a wind turbineI



built the cradle, again from scrap wood. I had to buy a piece of hose and a few PVC fittings. The spray bar at the top of the sluice is a short piece of PVC pipe with a lot of holes drilled in it. I used a valve to control the water flow. Again, not much effort, and not enough forethought went into it. I had it done in short order and set it up out back to test.

A closeup of the spray barA closeup of the spray bar with the water flowing.

At first, things went well. The bilge pump, powered by a couple of 12V batteries connected in parallel, pumped plenty of water. Pay dirt went into the top. Water and debris went into the tub at the bottom. Gold was getting trapped in the sluice. It was going great. I could see some areas where there was room for improvement. The sluice leaked a little. Also, a lot of water was splashing over the edge of the tub at the bottom of the sluice. I figured I could fix these problems with some caulking and a splash board on the cradle. Overall, I was very happy with how my recirculating sluice was working. That is until I was ready to try a cleanup and recover the gold trapped in it. The first huge problem with this design became apparent. I had planned on removing the sluice from the cradle, putting it into a 5-gallon bucket, and washing the material out of the riffles into the bucket. However, the cradle had been designed to be a tight fit on the sluice. Both the sluice and cradle had absorbed water and expanded. Now the two pieces were locked together in a death grip. They weren’t coming apart. Oops!

That first cleanup was a mess. I had to do it with the sluice and cradle locked together. I did eventually get them apart. However, There was no getting them back together again until after the wood had dried and shrank back to its original dimensions. This just wasn’t going to work. Time to build a new cradle.

The sluice in the 2nd cradleThe new cradle has plenty of clearance inside, so there will be no more problems with expanding waterlogged wood. I also incorporated a splash board to guide water back into the tub and prevent loss. This new cradle made the sluice much easier to use. Water loss was minimal and cleanups were easy.

Closeup of the splash board and bungee cordI have a large plastic tub I use for storing and carrying all my prospecting equipment. This is the tub I will be using in the field. I use a smaller tub for testing (that’s why there are two sets of notches in the cradle). But because the small tub is not a long as the bigger one, the sluice/cradle assembly is cantilevered too far out and tends to fall off. I used the weight of the batteries on the first cradle to keep it balanced on the tub. With the second cradle, I used a bungee cord to keep the cradle in place and moved the batteries away from the splashing water.

Here you can also see how the splash board guides the water back into the tub with almost no loss. The photo also shows a closeup of the hinge assembly that holds the sluice in the cradle.

The sluice in the 2nd cradleThis photo Shows the sluice after running for a while, processing concentrates from a drywashing operation in Arizona. Note how the black sand and other heavy minerals are staying trapped behind the riffles while the bulk of the material is getting washed through. The sluice is working pretty well. I tested the sluice by hand panning the waste material in the tub to see how much gold snuck through. This sluice does a really good job of trapping all but some of the very finest gold. So there is room for improvement.

The sluice in the 2nd cradleThis photo shows large pieces of gold in front of the first riffle. The biggest chunks of gold in the concentrates never make it past the first couple of riffles. The lower riffles aren’t trapping much at all. So I probably have too many riffles in this prototype sluice.

Cleaning the concentrates out of the sluiceTo do a cleanup, I first pick out any large pieces of gold that are stuck behind the first couple of riffles (see photo above). Next I unscrew the two hinge bolts that hold the sluice in the cradle and disconnect the water hose. Then I put the sluice into a 5-gallon bucket and pour water down it to wash the concentrates into the bucket. I generally dip water out of the plastic tub and gently pour it down the length of the sluice to get the concentrates out. I tried leaving the pump connected a couple of times and turning on the water flow, but the flow is too strong, and it tends to blow the concentrates all over the place. Then all I have to do is hand pan out the small amount of material in the bucket. This is a tremendous reduction in the amount of panning I have to do to get the gold out of the dirt. I’m loving it.

Cleaning the concentrates out of the sluiceHere is the results of panning out the concentrates after a cleanup. Look at all that gold!

This is awesome Article by Micheal Davis!  Please ready more on the link below he goes over how to make great improvements.

Read More! Appeared First Online By Michael Davis  HERE:

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Good Man! Good informational information for the newbies. Dig Deep! YankeeGoldProspect

Really I am very much appreciate your knowledge, I hope to know more about gold and diamonds, also mineral generally. I appreciate that effort thanks alot. Mustafa Ali Mohamed

Thanks for the great advice; the newbies out there really need stuff like this! aperfectcuremt

Great info and thanks for the education. Good luck on your search peace.... Jim Conkel

Really enjoyed your info ....very informative...thanks! MrChristau

Nice! I like that tip of not putting your tailings right on top of your gold pay-streak. That means you have to sample where the streak is. Great demo... Prospector Jess

I like the systematic way you go about finding the pay streak. tfa40729

This is the first I’ve seen of you. It looks like you have a systematic process and sound theory. Thanks. 39satcom

Brilliant based in south Australia and am now in the process of looking to start this as a hobby...ive been doing some research and in all honesty this is the first video ive seen which uses a common sense methodology to looking for gold. Well done on a brilliant, clear and informative... locolacapesa

You’re giving good advice that goes for a lot of other things. So thanks! jayhawk184

Very informative, thanks for sharing I will take a look at all of your other info, Colin Walker


Good video Marc....... So far, I've enjoyed it all. PayLoadJim

I’m with you I sample like crazy...sample sample you will find it some time. great tip thanks Marc! Calvin Goldmin

Thanks Marc.... Yes, your advice is very useful;especially to a 'new-bee'. David Tullos

Best advice marc said "It's all in your head, sample sample sample, don't stop" GalderIncarnate

Informative!! Janice Liddle

Great info and advice, thanks marc hope you strike big eventually :). I've just started panning here in Scotland. Maniel E

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