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The Prospector's Horn Spoon

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from the CDNC



Protpectlns for Gold In Judge Hunt's


Judge Hunt's Court-room was turned into an impromptu mining camp yesterday and a showing of the color found. Some time ago A. T. Brittoa brought suit in the Superior Court to recover $10,000 from W. C. Childs. According to the allegations of the complaint, Childs purchased a half interest in the Valentine mine, Amador county, for $60,000, and paid thereon $20,000 in two payments of $10,000 each, agreeing to cay the remaining $40,000 out of the two thirds yield in the mine. After working the mine for a while, Childs shut down on the work, on the ground that the ore extracted from the mine was not paying. Dnring the hearing of the case yescerday an old miner, Andrew J. Field, was called as an expert to test the value of crushed ore taken from a drift in the mine. In the presence of the Court, counsel and spectators the miner placed a handful of the pulverized rock in a " horn spoon " and proceeded to wash it out in a basin of water in a corner of the Court-room. After a process of filling the spoon with water, shaking and turning off the water for a time in the orthodox style of placer pan mining, the residue was submitted to Judge Hunt for examination. It was found to contain a " color " of gold, which the expert said would yield $15 of gold to a ton. The process of testing with a horn spoon is common among prospectors, but was somewhat of a novelty in a Court. The spoon is made from the horn of a beef, about nine inches long and four inches wide and shaped not unlike a wide Indian canoe. The horn is split and when heated is moulded into the desired form.

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Is it like using a cone where you shake/vibrate it around and then dump off everything except the bottom inch or so and then put that bottom portion into a pan to look for color? Or is there a different method to it?


Another low-water sampling technique is to take a plastic bottle and fill it with a bit of your sample and then some water and then do a "washing machine" technique and then without flipping the gravel over, look at the bottom of the bottle to see if you see any color. Gold needs to be of a sufficient size though. Might work dry like dry panning too, dunno.

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Nothing magic about them - sort of a very primitive panning device. They were used extensively by the very first miners in 1848 in California because no one yet had much in the way of a gold pan. Pans took a while to be made and brought in. Cow horn was easily available in 1848, so spoon shaped devices were made. Spoons made of aluminum are still used in Africa - where gold pans are still not really common. In Africa they use them both wet and dry (dry is done by blowing away the lighter stuff). All sorts of devices can be used to wash light materials from heavy in a way similar to a gold pan. Much of the world uses the cone shaped beata, in Asia they use a tray shaped flat thing as a pan.


The two photos show 1. a simple bent piece of sheet steel used as a pan.

and 2. An African guy using one of the aluminum spoons mentioned in the article.



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I have a small horn spoon I carry with me all the time when I am out prospecting. The one I have used for years is about half the size of the one in the second pic. Since I can carry it in my pocket, I don't have to dig it out of my pack. It can dig things out of tight places. Because the size is small, washing out fines is easy and very quick. Basically, all you have to do is sweep away everything down close to bedrock. Then scrape out gaps with the spoon. You can wash it with less than half a cup of water. When I find a little color, I get out a bigger pan. It's not rocket science. HAHAHA



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