The Sluice Box

A sluice box is a step beyond the gold pan in placer mining gold. They are quite simple in construction and are extremely effective. Although you can buy some pretty fancy looking sluice boxes from dealers there is a certain pleasure in building your own; especially one that works as well as a store-bought one.

The author built one by using up an 8” x 8' an inch thick piece of lumber with a few extras like a crossbar that was added about a foot from the upper and on the back of the sluice box that stuck out about a foot on either side for carrying. A strip of indoor/outdoor carpet that covered the bottom of the sluice box with some half-inch by 1 inch cleats they were nailed on top of the carpet.  A piece cut from an old conveyor belt works even better.   The handles made it really easy to carry.  The sluice was only 4 feet long so you could put it into a car trunk.

Taking gold out of a sluice box before 1902

In use the sluice box was set up in the bed of the stream with a couple of good-sized rocks placed at the ends of the handle to hold it down. It was placed in the stream so that its lower end was facing downstream and it was slightly tilted so that the upper end was about two inches higher than the lower end.

The stream gravels were shoveled into the upper end after being run through a classifier to remove the larger stones.  With a hose that was placed into the stream a ways above the sluice box water was played into the upper end of the sluice box, water from the hose washed the gravel down through the box.

The carpet was to catch any gold in the gravel that washed its way down through the box.  The cleats that were nailed down over the carpet held it in place and also acted as another means for catching that heavy gold and other heavies found in the stream gravel including diamonds and other gemstones.
You can work all day using this device and at the end of the day when you take it out of the stream you clean up the concentrate that is been trapped by the carpet and cleats. If you want you can pan the concentrate in a gold pan to recover the gold. You can also put the concentrate into a large wide mouth bottle and take it home where you can pan it out in your leisure.
A sluice box can be built as big as you like. They author once saw a sluice box at a commercial gold mining site that was 100 feet long about 6 feet wide and 4 feet high. The operator of the sluice box loaded the upper end with a front end loader and had a stream damned up at a higher level and carried the water down in a fire hose. He used the covers off catch basins to trap the gold that was removed at the end of the season. It looked like he had half the catch basins in Toronto at the bottom of his sluice box.

It was quite a sight at the end of the season when they removed the grids from the bottom of the sluice box. There was so much gold under the grids they had to shovel out with shovels. The tax man was there from the Yukon Territory to be sure they got their fair share of the tax money. I think everyone knows they are who witnessed the removal of the gold practically had their eyes popping out of their heads, it was some sight.