How to Start Metal Detecting
Metal detecting could be defined as the process of finding metal objects using an electronic device, but between you and me, I’m pretty sure that sounds pretty cold and anticlimactic. It fails to mention the beauty and the aesthetic parts of the hobby you will discover as you dig deeper.
There are of course different benefits that come with metal detecting, such as the social gathering of other enthusiasts and healthy exercise you get from going out but the most rewarding of course to all us, childlike or adults, is – TREASURE!
Now what is this treasure, well, it is whatever you want it to be, anything that is valuable to you, we have all heard that saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” If you love it and it gives you joy to find it then go ahead and look for it; it’s your treasure.
The need for treasure is something innate and born into us as humans; it has been our passion and obsession since the beginning of man. Even back then, in the beginning of everything, man has had a desire to own, to treasure, to protect and own something. Treasure has been the driving force behind his explorations and the choices we have made in the past, the choices to fight, to kill, and even risk his life for this desire.
Now when we say treasure, generally pirates and their loots come to mind. Metal detecting brings you closer to the reality of treasure than any other pastime hobby simply because of how valuable items can be, and how frequently they can be found with metal detectors.
Though, as you are about to discover, it is more than the financial gain. It is the thrill of the chase, the thought of finding and unearthing something, possibly not seen by any man for possible a millennium. And as you collect more and your collection grows over the years, you have satisfaction knowing that all of that is yours to sit and look at whenever you want while people go to museums to see similar things hidden behind glass panes.
So then, welcome to the coolest hobby, full of fascination and childlike wonder, that takes you down the ancient roads of history and time, showing you a million ways that man has used metals to make life easier. Some of your finds may bring financial gain, while others may add to the archaeological community and kick start the excavation of the century, and others might be a little more mundane. But they will all tell a story, a story of metals, used, bruised, misused, and loved.
How to use a metal detector?
So, you have finally gotten that metal detector, and you are ready to start looking, ready to explore for treasure. HOW do you do this, quickly and effectively?
Lucky for you, metal detecting isn’t hard, but as with everything, there is a correct and incorrect way to do this, and this is what I’m here to guide through, how to get your kit ready and get that ding of a signal.
Understand your metal detector and its settings
This, of course, sounds very obvious, but it is a very important factor. You have to learn and understand the settings and features on your device. Not all devices are the same, though they are alike. So the more you know about your device and get comfortable with its functions, the less you have to waste time, and the greater your chances of making a find.
The instruction manual is the best place to start. Study each setting and try them on your machine there at home until you have successfully grasped the way they work and can be manipulated. And also, don’t be ashamed to use guides like this one and YouTube videos.
As I said before, every metal detector is different, but some of the similar settings that can be found on all include:
- Detection mode – Most modern detectors usually come with this setting that lets you focus on a specific type of object. They usually come with settings like relics, jewelry, and other types of metal.
- Sensitivity – If the area you want to search has a lot of pipes or underground construction, it is best you lower the sensitivity: the higher your sensitivity, the more things you will find.
- Ground Balance – When searching, soil may contain certain amounts of metals, though little, they can trigger the metal detector. If you are looking for iron and the ground seems to be laden with it, just set the ground balance to ignore iron under a certain threshold.
- Discrimination – this setting tells your metal detector to ignore certain objects you are not interested in. you could set your device to ignore “iron” if you are in a place with a lot of trash.
It is a good idea to test your device before heading out for the real deal. I recommend that you get various types of metals, put them together in a collection, and burry them at varying depths. Once you have buried these materials, make sure you use your metal detector at different settings to pick out each item.
Test all the settings – sensitivity, discrimination, and detection – so you can see how the signal is affected and whether it detects accurately. We recommend tying the end of your jewelry to the end of a floss or rope, so you don’t lose it.
Other items you need for metal detecting
The metal detector is the most important tool in looking for treasure and metal detecting, but it’s definitely not the only thing you’ll need. You should have following in your basic kit:
- Headphones – You don’t need to get those big over the ear noise cancelation headphones. But they are the best choice of hearing a beep when you find a signal. Any basic headphone with volume control can get the job done.
- Gloves – A pair of durable gloves is needed; you’re going to be digging through mostly dirt, metal, and sand. Not a really good place to get your fragile skin without any protection.
- Coil covers – Assuming your device doesn’t come with a coil cover, consider buying one. They are cheap but can go a long way in protecting your device.
- Digging tools – Just like gloves, it paramount you get something that keeps your hands safe, and besides, how are you supposed to penetrate the soil. A small hand trowel can get the job done, or you could get a Lesche digger.
Note that whatever tool you’re buying, we advise that you get something of high quality. Using a cheap tool, for example, could break if it comes in contact with rock or hard soil. Or using low-quality gloves could result in them tearing if they come in contact with something sharp and cause injury, which kinda defeats the purpose of a glove.
On the flip side, do not spend too much on unnecessary tools that you could be saving money with or buying more quality essential tools with. There are an unlimited number of things you can get for metal detecting, and unless they are extremely needed, we recommend just sticking to the bare essentials. Things like: pouches, various scoops in different shapes and sizes
However, there is one vital exemption: a “pin pointer”
A pinpointer is a small and fairly low priced metal detector (probably around $25), which can help “pin point” an article after you’ve located a signal. After you’ve located a goal and dug a plug, the pin pointer gives a more exact position to enable you raise it up a lot quicker. But is there actually a need for a pin pointer? As a beginner, you may not really need a pin-pointer, but as you progress and get more into the hobby, it will be one of the first things you buy.
It isn’t uncommon for the device to save several minutes of time while you are digging and putting all the minutes together over the course of a session, it could save hours, which will make detecting more fun. Therefore, the less time it takes for you to dig up a find, the more signals you will have and the better your chances.
Where to metal detect
The best places to begin metal detecting has a lot of foot traffic because items are continuously added.
Some of the best locations to metal detect include:
- Public parks
- Private land
- Public Schools
- Land surrounding resorts
- Campsites or vehicle
It is paramount that you are allowed to metal detect on a location, detecting on land you are not allowed to could often result in fines for trespassing, and you could also be banned from locations – so make sure you do not trespass. Even National parks are restricted, and your device will be confiscated if you are caught by national park rangers.
To get permission from private land owners, you should always approach the landowner before you start hunting. Also, make sure you know the boundaries of the owner’s land because it is possible to go digging on someone else’s land.
If you are exploring on government-owned property, like parks and such, make sure you get written permission from the local government. Metal detecting is mostly almost banned in federal parks, so just know that you shouldn’t go there.
On the flip side, the majority of the beaches are fine for hunting. Exceptions to this would are, if the beach is a private one or is owned by the federal government – then metal detecting is definitely not allowed.
What Makes a Good Location for Metal Detecting?
Selecting the right location for a hunt could make the difference between the success of the hunt and its failure. It is important to research the best sites before you go – particularly if you intend to find historical objects.
Things to look for in a hunting spot
The best thing to do is to choose a location that hasn’t been searched on before or one that is constantly being replenished. You could always get lucky anywhere, but its best to increase your chances in some of the possible locations:
Private land – Though harder to obtain permission to search on, it is always nearly the best option when for metal detecting. It’s basically because private property is still fresh and possible has never been searched on before. This is a great place to begin finding rare objects.
Beaches – as stated before, beaches are great places to search for stuff like this, from jewels to old coins. People tend to be careless or loose objects, and you can a surprising range of treasure. They are constantly replenished because of their location, with storms constantly bringing in new things.
Active public locations – Fairgrounds, parks, and sports fields are places you will constantly have finds. Coins, jewelry, and other things can be found.
Ancient sites – Finding relics can be very challenging; you will need to be on your feet and spend more time looking for historical areas. They don’t need to be a very important place with major significance, but the land should have been used a very long time ago. A park or land that has been used a long time ago or ancient. Old maps from previous years are a great place to start, also look up google tools. Wherever you dig, make sure you fill it back; otherwise, you will not be allowed back on the land. Filling your plugs means you are respectful to the land and those before them.
Researching better searching grounds
The research required to locate the best hunting grounds are things I cannot put in this book as that would be a lot. But as a beginner, I recommend that you go to the normal locations for your first hunts. A few tips that will help you find the best places to hunt include:
- Google – The internet is a beautiful place, and your local areas may have websites that will help you find historical sites that were once active, which are great for hunting.
- History books – certain towns publish historical information about their history. Old maps are also great for finding areas that were once active and are important to history.
- Maps – Finding historical maps of ancient lands, local areas, or towns will greatly help in your search. Over the years, places change, a bare land can become a house. A great place to start looking is maps.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m going to say it again, do make sure you get permission to search on any land. In a lot of cases, it’s just as simple as asking the owner of the land. Though you may need to explain to them what you want to use their land for, and make sure to you assure the, you will leave the land just the way you found it.
Note that not everyone will say yes to your request, some may say no – and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. Just be honest with them and be friendly, and no matter the responses, don’t get disheartened.
Begin metal detecting
You have your detector; you have learned how to use it, you purchased your basic kit, and are allowed to hunt in a certain area.
Finally, it’s time to go hunting!
Master the right swing
The first thing to learn is how to “swing” your detector correctly. Here are a few tips to get started:
- Start off with the head just above ground level. It should not touch the earth but must be low enough to allow the signal to enter into the soil as deeply as possible.
- Place the detector two feet in front of you.
- Gradually sweep the detector in a semi-circle as you march forward. The detector should go out to about a foot from each side of you.
- Make sure you go straight ahead. This means that after you move, you won’t search the same area again.
- The key sentence you always hear about the swing is “low and slow.” Doing it right will take a certain amount of practice, but it will start feeling normal in the near future.
Digging a plug
When you hear your detector’s beep, then stop moving and move from a large swing to a small circle. It helps you to assess where the object is more accurately. You also might want to increase the sensitivity of the detector when locating the exact spot.
The next move is to dig a “plug”, which is better than digging a hole. An appropriate plug, therefore, prevents grassroots destruction.
This is how to dig one:
- Use your digging instrument to shape the horseshoe around the target spot. You don’t have to cut a circle full. Just Make sure that you cut the grassroots at least 3 “deep, even if the object is not as low as the bottom.
- Using the digger to turn the plug upside down and then use the uncut part as a hinge. Just next to the hole, put a small towel.
- Using a pinpointer to check whether the object is in the plug or still in the ground if you can’t see it.
- If you have to dig out, take out the soil, and put it on the towel in the object.
- Re-examine the hole to see if any objects are in the same place.
- Push the soil back into the hole, the put the plug back into its previous position. Do step on it severally to make sure it’s secured properly, and then brush down the grass to make sure it’s not matted.
Though it sounds extremely long and tedious, it becomes faster as you practice. It’s also very important that you leave the land in good condition; no one wants to walk in a park covered in holes.
Continue a systematic search
After you have found your first find, keep walking in a straight line. After you get to the end of the area, take two steps to the side and then go back the same way you came. This will create a small overlap that will make sure you don’t miss any valuables. Though there is nothing wrong with searching randomly, this pattern makes it more likely that you don’t miss anything.
Patience and persistence
A lot of people often imagine that people that hunt are always hunting for some hidden beep that automatically signals buried loot. This is most certainly not the case – most of your hunting will yield plenty of targets. Most of them will be junk, that’s the bad part, so you need to be patient. Patience is very importance in this hobby, it gets disheartening to keep searching in trash, but this is part of the hobby. Not everything you find will be will treasure, let’s be realistic here.
Discriminating trash is possible and can reduce the chance of false targets, but you may also miss awesome items with signals that are similar. For you to find the right settings, it takes trial and error over time.
One of the good things about metal detecting is being outdoors. We all get sick because of sitting on the couch watching TV or sitting in the office. That’s why it is a great idea to explore the local areas in your community that you would never have seen sitting indoors. Going outdoors also has some risks, especially if people assume you have something valuable.
Besides knowing potential hazardous fauna and wildlife, make sure that you are sensitive to what you say, particularly if you are searching on your own. If a stranger asks if anything positive is found, it is always better just to say, “No, today’s garbage!“ Be friendly, but also aware that it is difficult to prove that if you show your findings and someone calls them lost.
Be aware, too, that your detector is a valuable product. If someone asks how much it costs, it’s often better to lie and say it’s cheap one you bought used. The vast majority are either ignoring you or really curious about what you do, so don’t allow this section to put you off hunting. Be friendly and courteous – but also aware of the possible risks.