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YIKES! Don't you people have anything better to do than play with gold pans? 

Ever been in a prospecting shop, standing in front of the gold pans, and wonder which one you should be using for what? Keene pan, Garrett Supersluice, Garrett gold pan, Proline, green, blue, pink, orange, 12", 14", 20", or? Cone shaped batea, metal gold pans, plastic gold pans, copper, round, rectangular, small rocker shaped?  Every year I see at least two new models of gold pans come out, and every year the person or company behind the gold pan tells you that it is the "best gold pan to come along".  And, it probably is, for the type of gold panning it is meant to do and the area it was produced to work in. I am VERY skeptical about them since the ground I work is as heavy with black sand as there is.  The stuff is not only plentiful it is fine. It's a true test for any pan you want to try as the small particles of gold are very hard to get to settle through them. So, we will attempt to sort them out for you.  Other areas will have different results for the same pan, and a panners' ability will give different results as well.

Now, where to start? I think, with the gold pans that were used during the gold rush in the U.S..  The old timers used metal pans, then, and some of them were approaching 30 inches in diameter.  That's a BIG pan! The first time I saw one, I thought it was a joke!  Who could manipulate a pan that big and heavy for any length of time?  Someone did.  We still use the smaller 12 to 14 inch steel pans in competitions, and some people still prefer the steel gold pans to the newer plastic gold pans.  They can rust pretty badly, which helps trap the gold in them more easily than if they were smooth.  They can be used for any part of the panning process, and do a pretty good job if you pay special attention to your panning angle, speed of the water, and not allow the black sands to leave the crease.  You will probably lose more fine gold with them as they do not have the newer riffling systems that trap fine gold better.  The best gold pan style for quick classification of material is still the steel batea.  Originally made of wood, the coned shape classifies material to the bottom of the pan lightening fast.  Its' one draw back is that you will need another pan to separate your gold from the black sand, as the batea classifies everything into the bottom of the cone, where it is hard to get out unless it is of a larger size.  Once the panner has finished with the panning, the batea is inverted on the ground and the black "button" is scraped off with some of the sand and put into a bucket for later separation.  Now, you CAN separate with the batea, but it involves dribbling water on to the bottom of the cone and out to get the black sand off of the gold.  A tedious process, but necessary in the World competition of nations where you can use only one pan.  And even then, batea users beat about 90% of the field, finding pretty small gold.

With the innovation of plastics, gold pans became bigger and lighter without losing anything in the pans' ability to do its job.  In fact, they became more efficient, after the plastics' slick patina is scrubbed off.  The plastic becomes rough, like the rust in the steel pan, but the gold is easier to see against the different colors of the plastic pans than in the rust of the metal pan. Since the plastic is lighter you can manipulate a much larger pan more easily, thus classifying and stratifying much more material at a time.  The bigger 14 to 20 inch pans work very well for most of your panning needs.  They can be used for stream panning and some cleanup work, depending on the curvature of the bottom.

Let's start with the flat bottomed models.  If you want to own only one pan that will do all the jobs a pan does, the Keene gold pan is still one of the best all around pan for all types of panning and different black sand concentrations in the stream. With its larger gravel capacity and FLAT wide bottom you can do your panning and separation with the same pan, and its raised riffle system traps fine gold very well.  If you are dry panning, the Garrett green gold pan works best, and is still a pretty good pan for wet if your are in an area where there isn't much black sand. It's narrow bottom imitates the batea, which is the fastest gravel classification pan style around.  The Garrett is better for separating gold out than the batea, but still has the same problem in heavy volumes of black sand.  There are also several smaller pans that are considered finishing pans that can also be used in the stream for testing, but for finishing a wide flat bottom is always best.  The color you use is up to you.  Some like blue better than green, and black can make it harder to separate the black sand from the gold.  I have recently (May 13, 2006) seen a Proline pan with a flat bottom, so this version now belongs here with the flat bottomed pans.  It's multi width riffling system makes it a very good gold catcher as well as a quick separator with its' wide bottom.

Then there are the crown-bottomed pans.  They have the advantage of fast gravel classification and a wide bottom.  The Garrett Super Sluice has been around for a number of years, and has proven to be a very good pan for most panning needs.  It is a VERY large pan and can be pretty heavy when filled with material.  The very large indented riffles in its' side capture black sand and gravel very well, along with the gold, and is a favorite with many panners.  Be prepared for the large amounts of sand, black and otherwise, that will be trapped in the large grooves.  Prolines' pan, which also has indented grooves beginning at the bottom, creates a small gravity type trap, and is smaller like the Keene.  It is a favorite with many panners and keeps gold well with its multi width riffles.  Both of these pans have a nice wide bottom for fanning your material out, but the problem with the crowned bottoms is that they tend to send all of the material around the crease, and that can make it hard to separate the fine gold from the black sand, and makes it difficult to jump the gold to the top when you tap.

How about a rectangular pan?  Does it work?  Yes.  However we have found it to be difficult to use consistently for a long time.  As a specialty pan it does a good job, but we find we fill it with dirt and use another pan more often than we stay with the rectangular one.  The oddest pan we have seen was one that came from Japan during a world competition in Coloma, Ca. It resembled a small wooden sluice without riffles and was rocked back and forth at a slant in the water.  It was efficient, but not as fast as many of the other types of pans.  That said, the Grizzly Pan is also a rectangular shape and it DOES work, if you do the proper screening.  If you are doing a lot of panning, screening to the recommended size is very time consuming, and if you are in a large gold area, you could throw off the larger pieces unless you also go through the screened material.  In a heavy black sand area, like ours, processing more than one or two pans makes it difficult to remove the black stopper in the bottom of the pan.  You would probably need to take all of the cons home and process them there if you end up with a lot of black sand.  Removing the stopper is not always easy, and replacing it correctly is needed to insure you keep your gold in the bottom.  The smallish size is easy to manipulate and the action is also easy to master.  If you are looking for a pan that can process material well, and don't mind screening to a small enough size, the Grizzly is a good pan to use.

The new Trinity Bowl has been used by us and reviewed here previously. However it is highly controversial among panners as to effectiveness and our past opinions have been scrutinized to the point that we have decided it would be prudent to let you make up your own mind.

If you have a pan that you would like to know about, e-mail us at hookedongold@gmail.com and we will give it a test, or let you know what we think if we have already used it.

Copyright 2006-2013. Shirley Weilnau  All Rights Reserved