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 in metal detecting people make, and hopefully, this article will help to avoid these.
Mistakes to avoid
Moving too quickly
When we go out with our shiny new metal detectors, I think there’s a subconscious push toward us moving quickly because we want to go out and find stuff. Hence, 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 I realized 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 many seasoned pros would agree with me.
Number two is twinned with number one and not being patient enough mixed in simultaneously, expecting too much too soon. This is largely a psychological game, and if you expect to go out and find a hoard of treasure or a gold nugget immediately, you will be disappointed. It’s a big mistake, a big psychological mistake to make. You should instead see the physical benefits of it in the first instance and then the psychological ones. And then perhaps if you find anything on top of that, it’s a bonus.
The third one is like the first one, moving too quickly; another bad or ineffective technique is swinging the coil too high above the ground and missing targets just beneath you, losing depth. Also, adjust the length of your stem; if you crunch over too much, you’ll get back pains and other muscle pains that will hurt 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; protecting your hands from sharp objects is very important.
Carry with you a good-quality digging tool, not a trowel from a garden center!
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 pinpointing the target and establishing the X axis, do not put their spade on that central point; instead, move it out around 5- inches and dig around the central X axis. This way, you have less chance of ruining what’s beneath your spade.
Metal Detecting Without Permission in the UK: Legal Consequences and Historical Implications
The next one is not getting metal detecting permission, and in this country, particularly if you go on land without permission, you can be in trouble. You can be in financial trouble, taken to court, and all sorts of things, but that’s the least of your worries; being shot at by a farmer or having the dogs set on you is not good. Many parts of the UK are protected because of historical interest, and it’s there to protect the archaeology and the heritage because if you 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; I understand I’ve been there, but it is necessary.
Knowing your machine
This one is self-explanatory, but many people miss it, which 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, especially the tutorials, but in addition to that, you can go further. You should set up a testbed with different targets at different depths, dig a hole in the ground you can put a coin at three inches, and then dig one at six inches with a different target; you then keep going over and over with your metal detector and remember the signals. For example, on a silver hammered coin at five inches, see what your metal detector tells you; the same with a ring or any jewelry, and then play with them and see what sounds and signals you get.
Many beginners take their finds home and try cleaning them; my advice is “don’t.” I have seen too many good finds ruined by amateur attempts at cleaning. Whatever the find is, you will devalue it if you try cleaning it. People try to clean the patina off coins and rip them apart in the historical context. They should be left; it’s not only from a historical point of view but also from a value point of view. 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 to get a soft toothbrush, gently brush off the dirt, and then leave it. Some good books are available about cleaning finds if you want to do it correctly.
I never ground-balanced for a long time until I realized I was 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 conditions, so it’s better to go out after heavy rain; it is better conditioned, 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 wet, thus giving stronger signals.