Solving the trash problem….You have a Test Garden now start a Trash Garden
The more that I listen to people talk about the problems that they are having I realize that it is mostly having to do with the hazards of trying to find the needle in the haystack or in other words a few good old coins in a heap of rusty nails. There are constant questions that never seem to stop and unending complaints about the signals that people get in these conditions.
I have always figured that it is easier to attack the problem instead of running from it or complaining about it and so I offer this bit of advise. Everyone has heard that they should start off learning by burying some coins in a “test bed” in the back yard to test their detectors. Most new detectorists need to learn how to discern the beep of a good coin but where do they go to hunt? To the trashy old park that is loaded with years of iron junk. They immediately turn around and start complaining about the detector. It is a misunderstanding to think that you can just start hunting and learn the most difficult techniques of recovery from the piles of rusty nails.
Even the best of the hunters and the best of the detectors may experience great difficulty with this so please don’t try to hunt like this until you know what you are doing. The problem with many detectors is that they are super sensitive and so the signal blasts through the ground hits the iron trash and bounces back to the coil masking the good signal of say, a coin under the nails. The problem can be caused by too much sensitivity and too large a coil. Having turned the sensitivity back some and using a small coil then the trick is to move very slow around the trash and listen intently for the sound of a good coin buried in the trash. Even this trick will help some but not all detectors. The discrimination capability especially for iron may be vastly different from one model to the next and you will find that one detector may excel in these areas.
To solve this problem I have an answer. People complain about this all the time but never do anything about it. If you have a detector that you want to test in iron trash how do you do it? Like most they wander around in the trashy park hoping that this machine will just happen to work better and they will find a good old coin. That is silly as they may cross ground and locate a great old coin that they never bothered to find before and think that they have solved their problem so what do they really do?
The answer may be a bit difficult, but I promise you that when you have set up your hazard test correctly you can test ANY detector, coil, or setting. You will KNOW beyond a shadow of doubt which detector is best, what coil is best, or which settings work best.
First select a plot of ground in your back yard or near your clubhouse and clear it of signals. I suggest about a four foot by six foot area. Having done this then remove the top 4 to 5 inches of soil. If you have no source of rusty nails then go to your hardware store and purchase a variety of nail sizes including many different kinds. Carefully take a sampling of the coins you wish to find in these areas and bury them different depths under the bed of nails. Remember you will put the soil back so don’t bury them too deep. Mark them with markers and take a photograph of them including yardsticks from the borders so you can relocate them later. You might want to include some pulltabs or bottlecaps too but make sure that you can locate them again by measurement to verify your targets. This cannot be overstated! I would use wood pegs at the corners and so you can tie a rope or string around the pegs to measure from.
Now for the fun, take the nails and scatter them all over the top of the coins and take some salt and sprinkle it all around the nails. This will insure that you will get rusty nails in the shortest time. You might even include a target like an iron bolt or nuts to see how they will react. Now place a few more coins around the nails and even try laying one or two on top of the nails so that they touch. Insure that you have all the measurements to find the coins by measurement from the sides in case you cannot detect them.
It is imperative to take good pictures of the plot. I would take a close-up of each square foot of test bed and label them. Then you will be able to go back when the ground is frozen or dry and hard and relocate every target without question to test new detectors, coils, or settings.
Cover the test bed with the soil and water it in. Repeat the watering process until it is soaked for a couple of times a week and after about six weeks you should begin to have a hazard bed where you can really test the detectors that you have or those of your friends until you understand just what you have to use and how to do it to hunt under those situations.
This test bed will provide useful information for everyone and your friends will come to respect the work that you have done and what you have learned. It would be a good idea to keep records of detectors tested, and coils and settings that you have used in the tests. Knowing what is buried under the nails will help you to understand what coins that you can recover and those that you cannot. If you are a relic hunter then you might want to use iron targets that are about the same size as buckles and other objects that you would like to recover.
Many of us have a long season where we cannot even dig in the frozen ground or hard packed dry clay. This will provide you with something to do in that season. In the middle of the frozen winter you can test another kind of detector in your test bed even though it is frozen solid. This will aid you to overcome your inexperience with these conditions and perhaps lead you to your very best finds!
Never assume that it is your machine when you try to locate targets in the iron trash but teach yourself how to recover the best finds among the trash and what to listen for. Most of all, you will learn that you can deal with the problem and resolve it. Victory over the most difficult problem usually just takes a little more work and hard thinking but it can be done. Having your test results repeated by another detectorist in the same test bed will authenticate your work and you can share your results with others where we can all benefit.
As an afterthought I just thought that this might be a great challenge for different hunters who constantly debate over the statements that their detector is superior in these conditions. One trip through the hazard test would prove a hunter and his detector against all competition or perhaps he could learn that maybe he didn’t have the only answer. This would be a great project for a treasure hunting club but you would have to test everyone and every detector the first time through as word would get around where the coins lay.