Monday, February 18, 2019

Finds Financed - A New Detector The Old Way

Back in the day, unlike nowadays, you did not just go out and buy a more advanced or newer machine just because you wanted one...although, I'll admit some did...but more didn't. It was a point of honor, back then, to find enough cash, silver, gold and jewels with the old machine to finance a new machine. You'd save all your clad, cash in all the precious metals, sell the jewelry, and count the proceeds. If you were almost there, price-wise, close to enough to purchase one of those shiny new Whites 6000Dj Coinmaster or a frog-green Garrett Groundhog, it was acceptable to sell your old machine to get to the price point.
My old Garrett American...finds paid the price!
What did you get for this? Bragging rights...bragging rights that would cost you friends, acquaintances, marriages, and party invites. But still. It was a beautiful thing. You lived for the moment someone (obviously, someone who didn't know you) would ask how much you paid for that amazing metal detector. "Well (short pause) I bought it with finds from my previous detector!!!" Eyes would widen, people would gasp, children would hide and dogs would bark. For a few seconds you would bask in the sunshine of admiration from newbies and old-timers. You were a master-hunter and here's the doggone crinkle-green paint sporting bright yellow instrument lettering and Bakelite knobs with toggle switches galore!

Nowadays, someone wants a newer machine, they look at a computer screen, pick the one they want and simply order it. The detector is on their porch the next day and on social media seconds later...for the "un-boxing?!?!?!"  Where is the honor in that? 

I got to go...just heard the United Parcel Service guy at my door!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Coil Cover Cleaning - Mystery Signals Revealed!

Far be it for me to tell you how to metal detect, treasure hunt, or any of the intermediary things involved, but there is something you ought to know about your coil; that little device way out on the business end of your machine. Especially if you are part of the group known in social media circles as the New-To-This-Great-Hobby! crowd. Now if you are not mad at me yet, like most everyone else is for one reason or another, you soon will be. No one likes to know the truth about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy (who I always thought was Joey Heatherton doing some part-time work!) but I need to tell you something.

I don't know how to break this to you, but coil-covers or skid-plates, as they are sometimes called, are not really necessary. As a matter of fact, they are usually a pain in the larger scheme of things! "But...but...but...what are you saying?" you stutter, sweating profusely and thinking about the cash you just spent on that skid-plate for the inverted barbecue-grill-sized coil you use for deep cache hunting. 

What I'm saying is the usual story is that they keep your coil from wearing out on the bottom...physically wearing out. But do they really? No, not really. I have coils I've used for more than 10 years without a coil-cover; detecting over sand, soil, rocks and debris. After a decade of hard use, barely a scratch appears on the bottom of the hard epoxy base of my search coil. The thin-thermoplastic coil cover's real talent, though, is collecting and holding salt-water, sand, dirt, clay, fertilizer, smelly cow manure, plant-debris and whatever else your coil has motored thru that day...or the previous day. A veritable toxic waste dump of mineralization has leaked into the base of your plastic skid plate. 

Stuff builds up in the coil cover without you realizing it...salt sand, name it
And that means false signals, trouble ground balancing the metal detector, and the general loss in depth and sensitivity of your expensive search coil. Searching over dry beach sand with a coil cover full of stagnant salt water or damp salty sand in the base confuses the liven dickens out of your detector ground balance circuits and can create havoc with a machine in all phases of the hunt. A lot of new people, who have no idea this is happening, and with only a few months or weeks in the hobby itself, can usually be found liberally bashing a metal detector brand on social media as a lousy machine, as if they were now an expert in metal detecting dynamics. Other newbies, unaware they are reading another inexperienced newbies opinion, can start a rumor mill that lasts for weeks, months or years, as misinformation is taken as gospel, reinforced by other un-knowledgeable comments by others. I've seen this happen at least twice in social media circles with all attempts at putting them straight come to naught.

If you absolutely are convinced that your thin thermoplastic coil covers do, without a doubt, keep those rock-hard epoxy coils of yours from being worn down like pencil erasers from hard use, then by all means, keep em' on your coil. However, do yourself a favor and after every hunt involving fine sand, water, salt-water, or mud, remove the skid-plate and thoroughly wash and dry the interior, and wash off the base of your coil, before putting it back in place. Better still, use the coil cover inverted on your coffee table and fill it with a nice party mix; peanuts, pretzels, almonds, cashews and the like. It would certainly be put to better use that way and I'd be likely to visit you a lot more after the hunt. Cheers!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Remember This - It May Save Your Life Out Detecting

Something you don't think about much while you are out metal detecting in Florida, with headphones on and a hum in your ear, poking along the river's edge for coins and artifacts, is death. Your death in particular. Good grief, Jim, what an unpleasant thing to say! I was so relaxed and enjoying...!!! Indeed you were...exactly the same state of mind you were in on your day off, out metal detecting the freshwater lakes, rivers and marshes of Florida. Something you have not noticed in your elevator-music world, however, is that a creature whose genus has existed for the last 65 million years has noticed you. The reminder comes with a screaming burning pain, as the last living member of the dinosaurs, the alligator, grabs your leg!

"I was going for the leg...dang!"  
You quickly pull out your iPhone and search for the "STOP GATOR!" app, through the blinding pain, which of course does not now and will never least on the iPhone 6 anyway. You've wasted precious seconds as the big lizard clamps his 3,000 pounds-per-square inch jaws even tighter on you leg and drags you backward toward the dark water and your gruesome, still pending, death. Gators historically kill you by drowning you then stuffing your lunchtime-goodness under an old log or embankment to get ripe. At this point, you are scared and in pain, maybe even going into shock, but we are talking about your life here; not a Patriots game on ESPN! It's the end of everything you know and are and ever will be...and don't forget those expensive metal detectors you recently've hardly read the manuals yet!!! You have, by now, miserably failed alligator basic training rule #1, and that is to RUN as soon as you spot an alligator coming out of the water toward you...don't stop to pick up your pin-pointer, or your digger...I mean RUN like the devil himself or your ex-wive's lawyer is behind you, and zig-zag a bit on the way out...for your children and your children's children sake RUN! 

Now, having been nabbed and in it's jaws, you need to get Rule #2 locked and loaded, which is to grab a rock, or the heel of the boot on you foot that is free, and slam the alligator as hard as possible on the nose...their snoot is rather sensitive, like a shark's, and a good hard slam may get it to open it's mouth and release you. Rule #3 is to get a stick or a finger into it's eye...blinding it is painful and again it might let you go. Since you ignored #1, run away, and while #2 and #3 didn't seem to work , Rule #4 is to poke your fingers into it's nostrils and cut off it's breathing. Alligators do most of their breathing through the nostrils and it is a distinct shock to them not to be able to draw a breath. It will need to open it's mouth to breath. At which point rule #1 comes back into play and you RUN!!! The last trick, fingers in it's nostrils was utilized by a 10-year old girl who was grabbed by a 17-foot alligator in Moss Park, Orlando, Florida in 2017. It let her go and she got away, Later in the hospital she said she had remembered an alligator trainer at GATORLAND had mentioned if they were ever attacked by an alligator, plugging it's nose was a good way to get it to let you go.

The main point, in addition to these techniques, is to not panic and NEVER stop fighting...kicking screaming jamming it's eyes, nostrils and nose may cause it to let you may be just too much trouble for it's lunch or dinner when a fish would do. My wife says if you'd like to see an example of what kind of fight you should put up, see the movie "Atomic Blonde," she says you'll figure it out.

Gator Fighting Video...a good "fighting" example anyway

Be safe, be aware and remember these techniques if the worst should happen...remember the Boy Scouts of America motto : Be prepared! It can and will save your life. Cheers!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Running a Metal Detecting Club - At The Helm

Well, my first blog of 2019, and it's about the Central Florida Metal Detecting Club, and the trials and tribulations of keeping it above water and on course. The CFMDC is the largest metal detecting club in the United States, and is thriving and growing. The club has been in operation for 46-years to date, having been established in the year 1972. Current club officers are President Carolyn Harwick, Vice-President Jim Fielding (yours truly), 2nd Vice President Marc Hoover, Club Secretary Michael McClure, and our new Club Treasurer Vickie Chilla. And along with the New Year, we are facing many new challenges, which we will tackle in the coming months, and most assuredly, the coming years. 
Former CFMDC President Alan James keeping the club in line
Our previous administration worked hard at keeping the club going, as Alan James, a veteran of the previous 8-years at the helm as club president, will attest. At club cookouts, it was always Alan unloading the 12-ton propane barbecue grill from the back of his truck. At the end of a club seeded hunt, while everyone was heading to their cars, it was always Alan wandering the now-deserted hunt fields pulling up marker-flags by the handful, keenly watched by alligators and wild boar from the woods. At our annual open-to-the-public Sunshine Silver & Relic Hunt, it was always Alan in his bright-orange safety vest, for the first 6-years, with a microphone in hand, orchestrating the hunt, prizes and awards like a metal-detecting virtuoso. Since the club board changed in January of 2018, Alan has been acting as an adviser to the board, filling us in on club workings, letting us know where the skeletons are buried. And where to bury the new ones.
Current CFMDC President Carolyn Harwick
Like most clubs, not much was written down relating to the actual operation, and we wanted to know and document as much as we could. One of Alan's most valuable skills was, and still is, "...not-getting-mad," at least not in public or during a meeting, despite occasional tomfoolery. We wanted to know how he manages that, but all he says is "I'm a contractor in real life." and smiles. The mystery continues. At any rate, we have a really great cadre of club volunteers, and almost 300 members, with about 110 to 120 members attended each meeting. We have been trying to initiate more member involvement, and keep it fun. I mean, the whole reason to have a club is to have FUN, right? Sometimes people need to be reminded of that...myself included!

CFMDC Vice President, me, giving a well-thought-out presentation in the field
Our former club president Alan James, besides having originally founded our annual club event, "The Sunshine Shootout and Relic Hunt" (we eventually had to remove "shootout" as part of the event name, given the current climate in the U.S. and inserted "silver" instead...our e-mails to each other would not go through with "shootout" anywhere in the title or text!)  almost 7 years ago, also created the popular "Tech Talks" back in 2014. Alan asked me to give a 10-minute talk each meeting about anything involving metal detecting. I talked and demonstrated electromagnetism, best metal detecting frequencies for silver or gold, the fact that metal detecting coils detect on both sides of the coil, how to tell if a target was in the ground vertically or horizontally, effects of mineralization while metal detecting, targeting skills, pinpointing skills, cleaning out the coil's skid-plate, digging a proper plug, concentric versus wide-scan (a.k.a. DD) coils and on and on and on for about 4-years. When I was appointed club VP in the beginning of 2018, I got way too busy to do the talks any more. However, we now have members giving interesting talks and presentations themselves. Sometimes I think we should have a sub-heading under the club's website banner that says "and public speaking," as many members who feared speaking in front of a group, could nowadays easily give seminars in front of a thousand people without batting an eye. Good stuff!

Example of a Tech Talk
One of the more contentious issues facing the club has always been the infamous "Finds Table" and how to handle this aspect of members who display their finds for judging by other members. One of the original issues, that went on literally for years, was how far away could you dig a find and still place it on the table for judging. What??? you say? What kind of issue it that? Well, a very real one, as some members spent time metal detecting in England and Europe and came back with 2,000 year-old Roman coins, bronze age artifacts, and hammered silver coins about 1,000 years old.

And the members loved it...ancient artifacts and coins were very popular and garnered a lot of votes. But storm clouds were brewing a few feet above the table. Certain members, who were very active hunters themselves, had a lot of local treasures on the finds table and most definitely were not amused. They wanted items from England or Europe banned from the finds table and declared ineligible. The discussion was tabled for a while (no pun intended) while a good deal of grumbling for and against bubbled among the members. Finally, Alan stood up during one meeting, many years ago, and said, in all seriousness (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Just a little announcement that we will no longer accept items on the 'Finds Table' found north of Lake Mary road, or east of Interstate I-95, or west of I-4, or south of State Road 434." You could have heard a pin drop. Finally, in the somewhat pregnant silence, Alan went on to quietly mention that maybe only items found a few miles farther in all cardinal directions would be better? Or maybe items only found in Florida? Or maybe only items found along the eastern seaboard of the United States? The point had finally been made.

The Elephant in the room was that we liked to see all member's finds, from everywhere! That is what the hobby is about...and what many new members find inspiration in...the coins and artifacts returned to the public domain from the very ground beneath our feet. Some examples better than what you would find in any museum, and a joy to view and marvel at. So when you finally decide to become a member of the Central Florida Metal Detecting Club, rest assured that no matter where you found it, you are welcome to proudly place your treasure on our finds table, and wait for the members to vote...good luck!

The Central Florida Metal Detecting Club   

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Metal Detecting Redux - Looking Back

Only a few days left of 2018 before we inexorably move into 2019 as we quickly approach the end of the second decade of the 21st Century. As I look back over the last 50 or so years of being in the metal detecting hobby, I realize the real riches I uncovered were not gold and silver, cash and relics, but friendships and comradeship with people from all walks of life. I've met many people I would never have met otherwise thru the articles I'd written, the events I attended and the clubs I'd belonged to. I've seen the good the bad and the ugly of this hobby from top to bottom, the newbies, the know-it-alls, the boasters, and the wannabes. One thing I've learned, though, is everyone has a dream, and treasure hunting fulfills that dream. And believe it or not, some are successful in finding that chest of gold, and while some are not, many finally realize that what they were really searching for was always theirs to begin with...good friends, a sense of adventure, and a grasp on the past.  Because in the end, all the amazing relics, artifacts, and numismatic specimens have one thing in common; they were touched by another human being at some point in the past, who lived a different and perhaps unimaginable life in a another time and place. When you examine a fresh-dug find in your hand, you erase all the miles and centuries and touch the hand of someone in the past. We humans are a despicable, good, horrible, caring, indifferent, friendly, idiotic, knowledgeable, warm, creative and trouble-making lot. But we are all in this together throughout time through our humanity and the touch of an ancient work of humanity is what links us all together and makes us remember. And that is the covalent bond that holds us all together in this hobby. Happy 2019!

Happy 2019 from Jim & Patti

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Metal Detecting - Please No Looting & Pillaging PR!

I'm trying to figure this out, and I'm not putting anyone or organization down, but looking for a reason. I'm trying to understand a practice that is pretty much rife throughout the metal detecting community; clubs, metal detecting distributors and the like. Given that metal detecting, in general, is looked upon by the general public as a negative activity, and even more so day by day, and frowned upon by many cities, counties and states here in the U.S., you'd think a bit of thought might be given to improving our hobbies image. And the first place I'd always thought a good first impression would go a long way to promoting our hobby would be the logo, symbol, or club patch of a metal detecting organization, and as we all know, you never get to make another first impression; one is all you get! And with that, as Rod Serling of the Twilight Zone used to say, "...for your consideration...the Jolly Roger!"

Now, there is a bit of history associated with this symbol, and it's fairly involved, but the point of it was to strike terror in the hearts of all that saw it. It basically means, pillage, plunder, murder and death...mostly. Now, pirates were actually more democratic than most navies of the world in the 18th and early 19th Centuries, but not to their victims. So why would you use the skull and crossbones in a logo or design to represent your metal detecting club, organization or product??? Especially given the general negative feeling of the public and authorities on the hobby???

Well, I think it began as a simple segue from the search for "treasure," which was usually the end product of piracy; gold and silver buried in the ground, or sea, waiting to be found by a treasure hunter. Somewhere along the line, treasure hunters and their ilk got sidetracked into confusing the line between treasure hunting and pillaging and plundering. Not a good thing when you need all the good PR you can get. 

Here in Florida, the Spanish fleet was returning to Spain in 1715 when a hurricane literally tore it apart off the central coast, spraying silver and gold coins all up and down the treasure beaches over three centuries ago. As a matter of fact, the Spanish built a few make-shift warehouses, just to the north of the Cape Canaveral  bight, to store the salvaged specie off the wrecked fleet before returning to Spain. Several pirates actually showed up off the Florida coast, and looted the recovered treasure and made off with a large portion of it...their skull and crossbones merrily flying from the mainmast. Do we really want to associate our hobby with THAT?

Poor PR don't end media has done a lot to promote making us detectorists look bad...I recently located a YouTube channel with the word "...Loot" in it, which embodies some of today's problems with the metal detecting image.  What exactly DOES loot mean?


  1. 1.
    goods, especially private property, taken from an enemy in war.
  1. 1.
    steal goods from (a place), typically during a war or riot.

So putting this word in the name of your metal detecting social media channel is probably not doing the hobby any favors. Additionally, there are many metal-detecting social media channels and metal detecting Facebook pages plastered with pirate images, with the name "...Pirates" in there somewhere. My point is, the pirate characters, skulls, and the piles of sparkling loot plastered all over the metal detecting world in logos, patches and whatnot is a sure sign we are headed for the detecting exit real soon. 

These images and names are the sort of things that makes the general public much easier to convince we are all bad...and must be regulated out of existence or outlawed everywhere here in the U.S.? Archaeologists just love metal detecting operators, organizations, clubs and individuals that shoot themselves, and the rest of us, in the foot with this sort of thing. I've mentioned this to a few acquaintances who thought the subject was pretty funny in itself, and was convinced I was splitting hairs. They may be right, but I've sadly watched this hobby, over the last half-century go from a quiet and interesting low-key hobby, to a rapacious free-for all with some practitioners who could care less about honesty, integrity, or the hobby itself anymore...literally becoming modern pirates themselves. And it is NOT everyone in the hobby...far from it! But I think despite the sometimes-shady underbelly of this pastime, there are more of us that care and want to see our beloved pastime grow and prosper. I think making a good impression is important in our word, deeds and image. And most of us try everyday to do just that. I'm off my soapbox now. Hope ya'll had a Merry Christmas, and will have a fantastically prosperous upcoming New Year!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Ruining A Public Beach For Metal Detecting

We have this thing in Florida called beach "renourishment" that the powers-that-be seem to think is required every four or five years to keep soft sand under a tourists chair. It's been happening for a long time, since at least 1968 or earlier, where a special contractor comes in with an offshore dredge to suck tons of sea-bottom sand into humongous, horribly rusted, iron pipes, and spray it like an over-pressured lawn sprinkler all over the local beach. 

This can build up the sand from literally sea-level to almost 12-feet deep along a 15-mile stretch of Central Florida east coast, and literally puts targets more than out of reach as to make recoveries of previous days non-existent. On top of THAT, comes 3 or 4 months of the biggest bulldozers CAT makes, roaring up and down the public beach, spewing diesel fumes and leaving deep, oil-soaked tracks in the sand. 

As if THAT was not enough, the huge iron pipes from the offshore dredge scatters thousands, no, millions, of 1/4-inch to 1-inch ferrous fragments over 15-miles of beach and shallow water. This literally makes the coastal area dang near impossible to hunt. After a week in the wet sand and shallow ocean water, the fragments quickly develop an iron "aura" around them as the increasing rust causes a "deep rusted iron" effect by making the target react like silver or any other conductive signal of various values, so you cannot tune or discriminate them out. Today while detecting an effected beach, I ran into a guy using a like-new Minelab Excalibur, who was a pretty experienced beach detectorist, but was an out-of-town tourist going a a cruise to the Caribbean for the Thanksgiving holiday. He was complaining about how difficult it was to metal detect the beach with all the metal fragments, everywhere. The powers-that-be here in Florida always overlook the economic impact that being stupid about beach policies can bring, with the previous panic brought about by Florida Governor Rick Scott signing a law that lets water-front homeowners block off sections of the previously regularly-used-by-the-public beach; putting the public on the back burner over beach-use for the 9th time. I like to think there is no animosity toward practitioners of the metal detecting hobby by state and county officials, but a short conversation with a county employee makes me think otherwise. A little over a year ago, in late 2017, I was enjoying my solitude, swinging my coil over the wet sand on Cocoa Beach, when one of those stinky, gasoline-powered carts showed up carrying a smiling County guy. He says to me, over the lawn-mower whine of his giant roller-skate, "Enjoy metal detecting while you got a week left before we cover this area with ten-feet of sand!" He waved evilly and departed in a cloud of powdered-sugar dust from the donut in his hand. I watched the guy vanish south down the beach, hoping a Great White would come bursting out of one of the rolling waves and yank the cart and passenger back to the depths, but apparently Great Whites are not as fond of powdered sugar as other monsters Godzilla, or maybe Rodan...or....
Today, less than a year later, pens of restless bulldozers, and stacks of rusty iron pipes litter this same beach again. Some beach regulars, mostly surfers and a few fishermen, were obviously angry and yelling at the people inside the  dredging "compound" about their very unwelcome presence. The process screws up beach detecting, literally muddies the water for months and ruins fishing even longer. I'm off my soap-box now.