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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Old faithful metal detectors

Everyone has a favorite metal detector, one that they would never sell, or perhaps one they wish they had never sold. 
I must admit, I feel that way about my Minelab Sovereign and Minelab Excalibur. 
A year ago I made the difficult decision to move on from my Sovereign, mainly because my CTX 3030 is waterproof and even more versatile than my old faithful Sovereign. 
My wife says I talk about my Sovereign like she was an old super model I used to date lol! 
Although I have been tempted to buy another Sovereign, I just could not push the "Buy it now" button because of those two reasons I mentioned.
You may have noticed I still use my Excalibur and I cannot imagine not owning one, unless Minelab brings out another Excalibur in a newer form. 
I look at my CTX 3030 as an advanced discriminating tool, my Excalibur as a work horse , they both have their uses for beach and water hunting. 
One metal detector does not make the other obsolete, so I own and use both, along with a Minelab pulse induction metal detector. 
If you take a look at veteran beach or water hunter's, the one thing you will notice about them is they have used the same metal detector for a long time. 
Many veteran beach and water hunter's are known for finding stuff, and that tells you everything you need to know about their choice of metal detector. 
They are comfortable using them and it takes a special metal detector for them to move away from their old faithful metal detector, but eventually they have to.
It is just too difficult to get older metal detectors repaired, between obsolete parts and finding someone to work on them. 
Now that many metal detector companies are moving towards more versatile multi use metal detectors, 
do you move towards and embrace the new designs, or stay with your old faithful make or model? 
I obviously try new things, I believe you have to move with the times or get left behind. 
Earlier this month I was a guest speaker at a metal detecting event in Orlando Florida,  demonstrating some very versatile metal detectors aimed at the beginner, intermediate user.
The new metal detectors were a huge hit with the crowd, being lightweight and easy to use. 
There were several veteran beach hunters in the crowd and I got a chance to talk to a few of them. 
To my surprise they told me that although they still used their old faithful metal detectors, they had bought newer model metal detectors and were slowly moving on from metal detectors they had used for years. 
It was very reassuring to know I am not the only one who looks at my old faithful metal detector through rose tinted glasses. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Hidden beach access points

Sunday morning I checked out a place I often stop and let people cross the road to get to the beach, I know the timeshare resort across the street from this beach has a lot of Canadians staying there year round. 
I had to park down the road and walk to this spot, stepping onto the lower beach I had high hopes of finding jewelry because I saw a lot of rocks in the water.
Hard bottoms trap jewelry and coins, and the shallow waters opposite the beach entrance had plenty of both.
About two hours into the three hour hunt, I saw a flash of a ring falling out of the top of my scoop basket. 
I could see the ring laying on the rocks through the clear water, after picking it up I knew by the weight it was either white gold or platinum and the stones looked good. 
Plat 950 inside the band was a nice sight for a sunday morning water hunt with my Minelab Excalibur. 

All the coins in the area told me that the place does not get hit with a metal detector very often. 
The jewelry count was heavy on the silver side, no gold, but one good platinum ring. 
These are the kind of places you find and add to your site rotation list, assuming you have one. 
I did quite well hitting small beach entrances last year, less competition for jewelry and they can be searched and cleaned out fairly quickly. 
I do not get into expanding search areas at small sites, preferring to use hit and run tactics and hedge my jewelry hunting bets on hitting two or three small sites in my allotted metal detecting time. 
I usually go beach or water hunting for two or three hours, my strategy is to hit a site and hit it hard. 
Better to burn out then to fade away, I never did get into the whole having to hunt all day to find jewelry thing. 
If it is not happening after three hours, it usually is not going to happen when it comes to jewelry hunting. 
Everything you need to know about the jewelry hunt, you can pretty much guess during the first 10 minutes after starting metal detecting. 
That is why site selection is so important, select a site and have a good back up you can travel to quickly, just in case it all turns pear shaped. 
Find yourself a few small out of the way hidden honey holes, you may be surprised how much stuff you find where other people rarely search. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hail Mary finds

I have quite a few nice finds I refer to as "Hail Mary" finds, last minute digs that saved me from going home from the beach empty handed.
This "Bobby Dazzler" ring recovered several years ago on a tourist beach, put a smile on my face after spending the previous three hours going without a signal on a Treasure Coast beach.

I decided to swing by a beach that I had a 100% gold jewelry hunting success rate at, no matter how many times I went to this beach I always found at least one piece of gold jewelry.
The day I recovered the diamond ring pictured above, I found two pennies and the gold ring on the very last sweep as I headed off the beach for the long drive home.
This has happened on several occasions now, both on the beach and in the water so I make a point of always metal detecting as I walk off the beach.
Last year I found a really nice gold chain doing the same thing and this leads me to a very interesting point.
If you only water hunt or search the lower beach, you miss out on some pretty nice pieces of jewelry.
Easy finds for jewelry hunter's who are not so hung up on searching only one area of the beach.
Back in England, I always used to keep my metal detector on and not turn my metal detector off and raise my search coil until I was out of a field.
The same applies to searching your way onto the beach, it was around this time last year when I recovered one of my best diamond engagement rings of 2014.
I walked onto the beach, turned my metal detector on and was working my way down towards the water and I hear the sound of an 18K gold ring with three big ice cubes rattling around in the bottom of my scoop.
I know many wet sanders and water hunters wait until they get on the wet sand or in the water before turning on their metal detectors, but I have found far too many expensive pieces of jewelry heading to and away from intended search areas to be so predictable.
I used to put many hail mary jewelry finds down to luck, but the same thing often happened to me on deserted Treasure Coast shipwreck beaches, finding silver treasure coins well away from the water. 
Now I know better, these type of finds were recovered because I was still sweeping my search coil. 
Your not going to walk off a beach smiling if you always turn your detector on and off at the waters edge. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Modifying the Minelab Excalibur

I must have rattled a few cages with my previous blog about the Excalibur, judging from the responses from people who contacted me this weekend about their modified Excalibur's.
Like I mentioned in that previous blog, I like my Minelab Excalibur just the way it is but mounted differently.

The overwhelming response by the people who contacted me was that they preferred their Excalibur's modified with pinpoint switches and extra large search coils.
The majority of people told me they liked to search in the Pinpoint (all metals) search mode and the target depth of the extra large search coil. 
I did not get one person contacting me saying they put a smaller search coil on the Excalibur, which would probably be the way I would go if I was to modify an Excalibur with a 10-inch search coil.  
After trying several different things on my Excaliburs in the past, I bought a Minelab Sovereign that allowed me to change search coils or headphones at will. 
The Sovereign was not waterproof, but I chest mounted it in a bag and did quite well shallow water hunting in such different places as the Bahamas and the Great Lakes. 
Of course the Minelab CTX 3030 is now my go to swiss army knife of beach and water hunting units.
I found one of the drawbacks of only having an extra large search coil on my Excalibur all the time was poor target separation on trashy tourist beaches.
This was caused by multiple targets under the search coil, I was also not impressed with the extra large search coils lack of sensitivity to small targets. 
The previous common big search coil drawback can be overcome by using an ultra slow sweep speed. 
Another problem was chatter, or metal detector noise caused by using an extra large search coil in the water or on the lower beach in the splash zone.
An Excalibur with an extra large search coil was especially noisy during choppy surf conditions. 
I found myself having to turn the Sensitivity down to a point where the trade off in detection depth was not worth the hassle of using the much larger and heavier search coil around in the water and on the wet sand with waves breaking or rushing over the coil. 
Apart from adding extra large search coils,  many beach and water hunters like adding a pinpoint switch. 
Last I checked the Excalibur had a perfectly good Pinpoint / Disc knob, granted you had to stop and turn the knob but it does have one. 
The general consensus is that adding a pinpoint knob / button on or around a hand grip / handle allows you to change search modes faster and double check targets between the two search modes to help identify iron. 
I never found enough of a real difference in depth between the two search modes to warrant hunting in all metal with the Excal all the time, then stopping and rechecking targets.
Like I stated in the previous blog, why would you not want to use iron mask and target tones, two of the Excalibur's best features in the Discrimination search mode. 
I am not one of those beach or water hunters who assume every good target is deep and just out of range, so I do not need to hunt in all metal on every beach with a cartwheel size search coil. 
The opposite, I know the easiest targets to miss are the ones missed by spending all your time rechecking targets or digging junk your Excalibur identified correctly. 
Another mod that was popular in responses to the previous blog was installing custom headphones.
With the "I can now hear deep targets" being the common theme, I hear you on that one, pun intended. 
Again I have never been blown away by other headphones installed on the Excalibur, not enough to make me want to shell out for new headphones and pay to have them installed. 
I wonder how much the extra padding on custom headphones has to do with better audio?
Or even the combination of extra large search coil and custom headphones, as most people have several mods to their Excalibur done at the same time, dang my mail box is going to be full after that last though lol!
 In closing, I do see why people would want to modify their Excalibur's and it is for the very best reason, setting the Excalibur the way they like to have it and use it. 
I suppose that is why the Minelab Excalibur is such a popular waterproof metal detector for beach and water hunters, it can be modified to suit your hunting style or personal beach or water hunting preferences. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Modifying metal detectors

I see more and more beach and water hunters are now into modifying their metal detectors, adding inline connectors for search coils and headphones, pinpoint buttons etc.
Many beach or water hunters want to change their metal detectors into something different before they have had a chance to really learn how to use it or see the reason why they chose it in the first place. 
One of my favorite metal detectors, the Minelab Excalibur is often modded before understanding its best features. 

In my opinion, iron mask,  reliability and ease of use are the best features of the Minelab Excalibur at the beach. 
I like the Excalibur just the way it is, except for the S Shaft which I replace with a hip mount kit or balanced straight shaft.
That is as far as I go on modifications,  I prefer to mount the Excalibur a different way from the stock S Shaft. 
Here are a few of the best features and reasons why I like them, or at least prefer them over different options. 

Iron mask

When you buy one of the best waterproof discriminating metal detectors, it is usually because you like metal detecting for jewelry or coins at the beach, not corroding iron junk. You have got to love not digging all that annoying iron, especially on tourist beaches. 
If you have a limited amount of beach or water hunting time, it is nice to spend your time scooping good targets not farting around listening to or digging iron.  
My opinion, get to the good targets and allow the Excalibur to help you get to the good targets faster. 


The Excalibur is a work horse, if you keep it clean and store it well between uses.
It requires very little maintenance and it only has one part, the battery connection cap to screw on and screw off when you charge the battery. 
You could say that the battery cap is the only necessary weak link on the whole metal detector, but of course you need to charge the battery so it really is not fair to call it a weak link. 
If you add inline connectors to change search coils and headphones, you multiply the weak links three fold.  
I prefer to just look after keeping my battery cap nice and clean and remember to tighten it. 

Ease of use

A waterproof metal detector that can be shaft, hip or chest mounted, ease of use baby! 
This is my one and only go for the modification advice when it comes to the Excalibur.
The Excalibur is also a turn on and go metal detector, you cannot ask for any more than that from a waterproof metal detector. 
You can even set and forget your controls and use them all the time, if that is your cup of tea. 

Search coil and headphone selection

The Excalibur comes in two different models, the 10-inch version and the 8-inch version, large and a small search coil versions, whats not to like?  
The 10-inch search coil is perfect for covering ground, the 8-inch (7 1/4 really) search coil is perfect for target separation on trashy beaches. 
This is a good thing to think about when first choosing an Excalibur model. 
If you cannot find anything with the two different size Excalibur search coils, your highly unlikely to increase your finds by modifying the Excalibur so you can use other size search coils. 
Those clunky Koss headphones are tough and the headphone cable connection point on the control is sound. 
My headphones have been knocked off my head by waves, been bashed against rocks and hit the parking lot concrete far too many times to mention. 
If your are reading this Minelab, please ignore the last sentence when I do eventually send my Excalibur in for new headphones. 
I prefer my clunky and tough headphones over inline connected or screw cap connected custom headphones. 

In closing, never forget why you chose your metal detector before changing it into something else and perhaps taking away its best features. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The gold layer

When I am beach or water hunting in Florida, it may surprise you to know the number one metal I get excited about is lead. 
A few lead targets out of the same general area, may indicate you are detecting in what I like to refer to as the gold layer. 
If you start to pull up lead targets on the beach or in the water, there is a good chance sand has been removed from that area exposing targets that were previously out of metal detection range. 
On my last few weekends hunts I have found gold at several different beaches, but I also found a lot of old lead fishing sinkers.  
When you have to dig deep to recover lead fishing weights on the lower beach and in the water,  don't be surprised to see gold in your scoop. 
If you are a relic hunter, lead musket balls are a sign of good things to come from an old site. 
The lead musket balls in this photo came from a beach with an 1830s Seminole indian wars camp nearby. 

True to form, they were appetizers for the main course which turned out to be Seminole indian war gold. 
Beach or water hunting, you often only have a short window of opportunity to mine the gold layer. 
You have to understand the correlation between deep lead and deep gold, and be ready to take advantage of it. 
Not one of the gold layers I ran across at the sites I hunted the previous few weekends was within reach the following weekend so I moved on to similar beaches along the coastline.
I knew from experience finding productive spots on the beach and in the water further along the coast was possible. 
There is a heck of a lot more to being a consistent jewelry finder than just going to the same beach and pounding it every time. 
I never mention target reading skill's very often in my beach and water hunting books, but I will in my new book. 
The next time you stop to dig a deep target and see a lead fishing sinker in the bottom of your scoop, hope you find another one in the same area as you may have found the gold layer. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Searching beach parks and picnic areas

Yesterday I had a guest speaking gig at a metal detecting event in Orlando,  I had a good time and met some hardcore park and beach hunters. 
I always like to see what metal detectors other people are using and ask them why they use them. 
The majority of people on the organized hunts yesterday were using metal detectors they had used for a long time with small search coils.
Good thinking on their part because if you only have a short amount of time to recover as many targets as possible you want to use equipment you are familiar with. 
The hunt grounds yesterday reminded me of some of my favorite beach side parks and picnic areas, trashy but hiding goodies if you can pick your way through pull tabs, bottle caps and small pieces of corroding iron. 
Parks or picnic areas close to beaches are some of my favorite spots to winkle out old coins and jewelry. 
Even in Florida you can recover cool old coins and jewelry if you do your research, these silver mercury dimes came from a beach side park that has hotels across the street that were built in the 1930s and 1940s. 

Two things help to keep coins and jewelry hidden in beachside parks or picnic areas,  trash and large metal detector search coils. 
You would have to be very lucky using a 10, 11 or 12 inch search coil at these type of sites and recover good finds. 
You would greatly increase your chances of recovering good finds using a 5 or 6 inch search coil on trashy sites.
I once pulled up to a beachside park to detect and saw two people already detecting at the site,  both using 8 inch search coils. 
They moved away from the area after 30 minutes of stopping, investigating and scooping a few targets. 
I watched from a distance and moved into the area after they headed down the beach, I did not want to be seen metal detecting and possibly give the site away. 
My Minelab with iron mask had a 6 inch search coil and it was a non stop digging fest, I recovered a chunky gold wedding band near the beach shower and a small gold necklace. 
I know if it was not for the metal detector and search coil I too would have probably moved away from the area. 
Following up on a recent blog, sometimes the hardest targets to detect are shallow targets being masked by other targets.  
Trashy beach side parks are seldom searched because the masking trash targets do such a good job of hiding good targets.
Next time you see a beach side park or picnic area, think of how many people have used those areas, lost valuables and how many times you have ignored those areas walking onto the beach. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Shallow targets are often the hardest targets to detect.

The number one question I am always asked is how do you detect deep gold? followed by what metal detector or search coil is the best for detecting deep gold?
In my opinion, far too many beach and water hunters are obsessed with trying to recover deep targets. 
A better obsession would be trying to recover easy to detect shallow targets. 
I recovered all of these gold chains and bracelets (Without pendants) on beaches in south Florida, not one piece of this gold was deeper than 6 inches. 

In fact, I often use the side of my foot to scrape away sand after hearing a gold tone on a beach because it is probably going to be shallow. 
I give myself every chance to detect shallow gold when using a VLF metal detector by covering the ground slowly and sweeping my search coil slowly. 
The slower you cover the ground, the slower you sweep your search coil, the more chance you have of detecting both shallow and deep targets. 
If you cannot detect shallow gold, you have not got a snowball in hells chance of detecting deep gold. 
So my answer to finding deep gold is to put all your efforts into finding shallow gold. Correct your beach or water hunting technique, as speed kills your chances of finding gold jewelry at the beach.
The gold chains in the photo do not look like they are worth much, but they are just appetizers for the main course of ladies rings with expensive stones. 
The majority of my best jewelry finds were all found within the first 6 inches of sand, the level of sand that most beach and water hunters struggle to master. 
Target recovery speed is greatly increased by being a slow poke at the beach, you can detect good non ferrous (iron) targets resting close to ferrous targets better when your search coil passes slowly over both targets. 
Even just a fleeting low or high tone can alert you to a good target being partially masked by a bad target. 
As crazy as it sounds, the way to find deep gold is to master finding harder to detect shallow gold. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What happened to the gold chain?

Two years ago in April, I was admiring this heavy gold Mariners cross with diamonds laying in the bottom of my scoop.

Three hours later I was scratching my head wondering why I could not find the gold chain the superb two tone gold pendant was attached to.
Todays blog is to remind beach and water hunters to never walk away from any area you find a gold pendant, because you never know if a gold chain in the same area. 
Although I never recovered the gold chain this beauty came off, I know I gave myself every opportunity to find it.
There are three things you can do to give yourself a chance of recovering gold chains without pendants.
Stay in the area you found the pendant, use no discrimination and slow down your search.
The first thing I did after finding this gold pendant was look up at the beach for a marker, to help me locate the area if I had to leave and resume the search for the gold chain.
I then changed search modes, from using discrimination to searching in the all metals mode.
I scooped any target that made even a slight change in my threshold ( Back ground noise) because I know gold chains are very difficult to detect without pendants attached.
The last part of searching slowly I did not have to adjust to, as I always search sites slowly and methodically.
Every year I find several gold chains without pendants, but to be honest I am still waiting to discover a gold chain that I can say a gold pendant I recovered first was attached to. 
I believe that some gold pendants are a weak link and break off the gold chain at the pendant hanger, which is often too small for the size of the pendant. 
I find three or four times as many silver pendants, so Im pretty sure pendant hangers are the reason why so many pendants are lost off gold and silver chains. 
But that will not stop me from searching for gold chains any time I find a gold pendant, one day I am going to leave the beach looking like Mr T instead of Mr D. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Weekend beach or water hunting

Patience can be golden if you time your beach or water hunting correctly over a weekend.
Many beach and water hunters who search tourist beaches, blow their chances of finding gold by hunting too early. 
The whole point of searching a beach over a weekend is to take advantage of the higher than normal amount of people using the beach. 
I pride myself in having good timing, hitting the beach to maximize my chances of finding something good, especially over a long holiday weekend. 
In my opinion, the longer you put off going beach or water hunting over a weekend the better your chances of being successful. 
Over a weekend with good weather, using a metal detector at the beach is often a numbers game.
Searching on a Saturday morning is probably the worst time to go metal detecting, Sunday night is probably the best time to go metal detecting.  
 It stands to good reason you will have more chances of finding jewelry after two full crowded beach days, than searching just as the weekend is getting started. 
I checked out a few beach web cams before writing this blog, several local beaches in my area had multiple people metal detecting on the beach and in the water at high tide. 
No doubt, the majority of those beach and water hunters will be frustrated and go home empty handed. 
Just waiting until later on Saturday would have considerably increased their jewelry hunting chances at the beach. 
Searching at the end of a crowed beach day is obviously better than searching before anyone has had a chance to lay their towels on the sand. 
On heavily hunted beaches, the weekend can be the big equalizer for a weekend warrior competing against full time beach or water hunters in the same area. 
Believe me, I have used timing my beach hunts to reroute many a valuable piece of jewelry to my finds pouch for years. 
Beating the "Two hours before low tide" hunters to the punch and beating the "Same place same time" hunters to the jewelry.  Look at weekend treasure hunting as a marathon, not a sprint to the beach. 
This is one of my favorite Sunday afternoon finds, I wonder how many people combed the same beach with a metal detector the day before. 
One ounce gold coin ring with 40 rocks, as they say on Seinfeld yes they are real and spectacular! 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Keeping an eye on your favorite beach and water hunting sites

I checked out a site I intend to search this weekend on the beach webcam, it is one of my favorite full moon water hunting sites. 
This site is barely visible on the webcam, but I saw enough information on the north beach cam and the surf predictions to say I will probably score some gold or silver jewelry there when I go water hunting. 
Browsing beach cams is one of the best ways a weekend warrior can get an idea of the best site or sites to hit over the weekend. 
I have been on a pretty impressive run of luck this year, finding gold or platinum every time I have been beach or water hunting, I believe the last time I did not find a piece of gold or silver jewelry was in late 2014. 
That is not including the times I take a metal detector to the beach for testing purposes, yes I still take test targets and test all my metal detectors on a regular basis. 
Because my beach and water hunting time has been limited to weekends this year, I have relied on the beach cams and knowledge of my local beaches to maximize my chances of finding gold. 
I have also taken a few chances, hitting beaches I have never detected or rarely detected. 
In these type of situations you have to rely on your beach reading skills and equipment choices. 
If your beaches have no webcams, internet detecting forums and Facebook are good ways of seeing who is finding what and where. 
People love to post their finds and regular finds posters are not hard to track down. 
You can even tell where people are finding jewelry by the trash targets they post with their good stuff. 
If you know a serial finds poster in your area,  you can use their finds posts to help you narrow your site selection choices down.
The 1836 gold coin on the finds page on my website was found after reading a post on a detecting forum. 
I knew the unusual trash target posted along with a good find was often found at this one beach. 
That night and many more nights after work, I hit the beach under cover of darkness and made some incredible finds, thanks to a photo on a detecting forum. 
There are plenty of ways to keep an eye on your favorite beach and water hunting sites,  especially if you are a weekend warrior. 
I even found one nice ring this year after seeing a story on the local TV news about rip currents, I recognized the beach and hit the water with my metal detector where the unusual surf was filmed. 

Opportunity knocks for a beach or water hunter who knows where and when to search.