If you go to a large metal detecting Rally you will see hundreds of people with all different types of metal detectors, there will be a mix of complete beginners right through to very experienced detectorists, it is interesting to see the various techniques and the vast range of diverse metal detector machines. It is also interesting and sometimes frustrating to see some of the common mistakes people make and hopefully this article will help to avoid these.
- Moving too quickly
When we go out with our shiny new metal detectors, I think there’s a subconscious kind of push towards us moving quickly because we want to go out and find stuff so you are a little bit hastier than you would be if you’ve been doing it for a few years and you understand that you need to slow down as much as possible. I found that when I first started and realised, I wasn’t finding much stuff because I was moving too quickly. You must give that coil time to scan the ground beneath the ground, I think a lot of seasoned pros would agree with me.
Number two is kind of twinned with number one and not being patient enough mixed in at the same time, expecting too much too soon. This is largely a psychological game and if you expect to go out and find a hoard or treasure or a gold nugget immediately, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s a big mistake, the big psychological mistake to make. You should instead see the physical benefits of it in the first instance and then, the psychological. And then perhaps if you find anything on top of that then it’s a bonus.
The third one is like the first one, moving too quickly, another bad technique or ineffective technique is swinging the coil too high above the ground and missing targets that are just beneath you, loosing depth. Also, I would say adjust the length of your stem, if you crunch over too much, you’re going to get back pains and other muscle pains that is going to have a negative effect on your detecting and lessen your time being out detecting, so an efficient technique is important.
Using the correct equipment for metal detecting is important, however, there are also things you shouldn’t use, steel toe caps being one, going out in trainers on a muddy field is not good because you can do yourself some ankle damage. Gloves are also important for metal detecting people often forget to go out with gloves, it is very important to protect your hands from sharp objects etc.
Carry with you a good quality digging tool not a trowel from a garden centre!
- Digging into a Target
Digging into the target rather than just on the outside of the target is a common mistake I have seen many times and is easily avoided. When you have pinpointed the target and established the X axis, do not put their spade on that central point, instead move the spade out around 5- inches and dig around the central X axis. This way you stand a lot less chance of ruining what’s beneath your spade.
The next one is not getting metal detecting permission, in this country, particularly if you just go on land without permission, you can be in trouble. You can be in financial trouble, be taken to court and all sorts of things, but that’s kind of the least of your worries, being shot at by a farmer or having the dogs set on you by is not good. There are also many parts of the UK which are protected because of historical interest, it’s there to protect the archaeology and protect the heritage, because if you just take something off the field and take it out without being recorded the history is lost forever.
Getting permission, I know it’s not always easy It’s difficult at first, I understand I’ve been there, but it is necessary.
- Knowing your machine
This one is kind of self-explanatory, but a lot of people miss it, and that is not understanding your machine. Some people will buy a metal detector, watch a YouTube video and off they go.
You must read the instruction book, I would recommend watching a few YouTube videos, all the especially the tutorials, but in addition to that you can go further, you should set up a testbed with different targets at different depths, just dig a hole in the ground and you can put a coin at three inches and then you dig one at six inches with a different target, you then just keep going over and over with your metal detector and remember the signals. For example, on a silver hammered coin at five inches and see what your metal detector tells you, the same with a ring or any type of jewellery or any type of coin, and then just play with them and see what sounds and signals you get.
- Cleaning Finds
Many beginners take their finds home and try cleaning them, my advice when asked is “don’t”. I have seen too many good finds ruined by amateur attempts at cleaning. Whatever the find is you will certainly devalue it if you try cleaning it. People try to clean the patina off coins, and just rip them apart in the historical context. They should be left, it’s not only from a historical point of view it’s a value point of view as well collectors don’t want you to clean metal detector finds. A bronze coin can be ruined by just running it under tap water! The best thing is getting a soft toothbrush and very gently brush off any dirt and then leave it. There are some good books available about cleaning finds if you want to do it correctly.
- Ground Balance
I never ground balanced for a long time until I realised, I’m losing around 15% depth. It’s one of those things you should always do. I think there are some machines out there that do this automatically and many that can be manually balanced. If your machine can be ground balanced, you will increase your chances of finding good stuff if you take a few minutes to do the ground balancing.
Many detectorists go out in the summer in nice dry weather, however, the problem is the conductivity of items is better in wet and damp conditions, so it’s better to go out after heavy rain, it is better conditions, and you’ll notice that you’ll find more targets while the soil is damp. Your metal detector will ‘come alive’ in wet conditions as the target conductivity is much higher when it is wet and thus giving stronger signals.