Gold Panning Made Easy-The Right Tools

Gold Pan Development

With a little practice gold panning is easy as long as you don’t rush it. The tendency for most gold panners, myself included, is to get to the prize, the gold. The key to success is to let the gold settle in the pan and not wash it back into the creek.

As I mentioned before gold is 19 times heavier than water and will stay in the pan if your keep it under water and don’t slosh it back into the stream. EASY RIGHT! With a little practice and patience it will work like magic. There is some really fantastic gold panning tools on the market today that can make the experience much easier than the old metal pans the ’49ers used in California.

I’ll take a minute to explain the enhancements that have taken place since the 1849 Gold Rush. The original steel pans, still in use today, were quite literally pie pans made of steel. They had no ridges or “riffles” in them to help hold the gold while washing in the creek, therefore, much of the finer gold was washed out for someone else to find. Steel pans require a great deal more patience and finesse than the newer models.

Plastic Pans

Most plastic pans are made in a similar design as an old pie pan, however, the new pans are molded to have ridges built inside the pan to help keep the gold in. They come in a variety of sizes to fit the application and the hands that are using them. See picture below: The one to the back is a classifier (discussed below).

For the set above use the link below:

Modern pans come in a several colors such as black, blue, and green. These were chosen so gold could be seen more easily in the bottom. The ’49ers taught us this as they used to burn their steel pans in a camp fire which turned the steel a blueish color and made spotting gold much easier. It also burned off the oils and contaminants just like washing a new plastic pan does. Caution don’t try putting a plastic pan in a camp fire. Enough said!

The older plastic pans had a single set of ridges molded into them to help trap the gold. In the past few years pans showed up on the market with a number of variations in ripple design, size and quantity to enhance capture of gold particles. While some designs are more complex they are often a bit harder to master for the novice. As your enhance your skills with a simple pan design your may want to try some other designs. Pans are generally very inexpensive and are readily available on line. I have provided a link to one of my favorites here:  Gold Panning Supplies


A classifier is basically a sieve or screen that can be used to remove large material from a shovel or bucket full of dirt so your can more easily pan and find the finer or flour gold as it is referred to.

What you do with a classifier is shovel your specimen of dirt onto the screen that is on top of your pan or a bucket and shake it so the smaller stuff goes into the pan and the larger material stays on the screen. Make sure your examine the larger material before discarding as gems, crystals and yes your guessed it, larger gold nuggets may be in the screen.

Classifiers come in a variety of mesh sizes and can be used one on top of another in a bucket for better separation. Although not necessary, your may decide to use multiple classifiers for your convenience. The size I typically use at the creeks and rivers is 1/4″ that passes all material smaller than 1/4″. These can be made of all metal screen on a plastic frame, all metal or all plastic. Using the all plastic device in the field is ideal because it is not as likely to get a rip or hole in it like metal screens do. Plastic is also lighter and more durable with the younger ones using them. I can’t speak for all kids but once mine get near the creek, rocks, and water they get very creative with buckets, shovels, gold pans and yes, even classifiers.

2 thoughts on “Gold Panning Made Easy-The Right Tools”

  1. Thank you for explaining what a classifier is. I never would have guessed that it’s basically a sieve to help you sort through the dirt for gold. My nephew is really into trying new things and has been talking about trying gold prospecting. I’ll have to make sure he gets the proper equipment!

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