Tips on Building Your Own Gold Suction Dredge
Efficient but Costly
Gold suction dredges are one of the most efficient means of recovering placer gold from streambeds. Unfortunately, they can be extremely costly, frequently running into the thousands of dollars for models with larger intakes. In today's shaky economy, such a large expense may not be practical for many recreational or small-scale miners.
One alternative to the high cost of dredges today is building your own. Build your own suction dredge? Yes, you heard me correctly. Build your own.
Granted, this would not be a "do-it-yourself" (DIY) task for the faint of heart or those lacking a modicum of familiarity and dexterity with power tools and fabrication. And, there are still costs involved. But for those enterprising DIY types out there (and I am not one of them, sorry to say), a home-made suction dredge may be just what the gold mining doctor ordered to counter today's ever-rising equipment costs.
Here are a few tips:
Use Decent Materials
Even though you will be attempting to cut "cost corners" building your own gold suction dredge, you don't want to go overboard pinching pennies when it comes to materials and associated hardware. If you do, your dredge (no matter how well designed) will end up fragile or weak and totally unable to handle the hard gold recovery work it must perform for you.
Aside from this simple fact, imagine how embarrassed you'll be when you fire up your home-made dredge for the first time (beaming brightly with personal pride in your creation) and then watch it promptly shake itself to pieces as other miners look on in amusement. You'll never be able to return that spot again without eating lots of crow! So, make sure you purchase decent grade materials (new or used).
Research, Study, Plan, and Design
There is not a single gold mining or treasure hunting enterprise that won't benefit from good research. So before starting on your DIY dredge, do your research. Find out what configurations, materials, and applications will work best for you, not only in terms of construction, but long after when your suction dredge is actually being put to good use.
Next, study and study hard. Make a thorough examination of commercially manufactured dredges sold by well-known companies to see how they go about designing and constructing their products. The more you see other designs and applications, the more ideas you will have for building your own dredge and what modifications you'd like to make.
Plan ahead. Don't rush off to purchase supplies and construction materials, and then jump right into trying to build your unit. Take a deep breath, sit down, and think things through. Use a notebook to jot down ideas or questions and try to anticipate any problems that may arise during the design and construction of your dredge.
Finally, get a pencil, graph paper, ruler, eraser and any and all other measurement or drawing tools that will enable you to create an effective dredge design and set of plans to work from when you are ready to start building your unit. You may think you can carry all that salient information around in your head and still do a great job, and perhaps you can. But most people need some sort of structure to work from and I suspect you do too.
Questions to Ask Yourself
There are numerous questions to ask yourself before embarking on your grand DIY effort. The very first question that should come to mind is "how big do I want this puppy?" Are you planning on building a large dredge with a 6-inch intake or a little workhouse that uses a 2-inch intake? Or something in between?
Be realistic in answering these sorts of questions, because if you're planning on working small areas with little overburden and water depth, a 6-inch dredge may be a bit excessive (not considering the weight and portability factors). Conversely, don't build a 2 incher and expect to efficiently work areas with lots of overburden covering deep paystreaks. It ain't gonna happen my friend. Not in this lifetime anyway.
Another question to ask is "am I planning to dredge underwater?" If the answer is "yes," you'll need a "hookah" compressed air rig for your dredge and associated breathing and diving equipment. Needless to say, you'll need to include provisions for all these items in your research, design, plans, and budget. I think you get the picture.
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2008