Today:23 June, 2024

How to use a metal detector

Metal detecting can be a great hobby if you love the thrill of exploring and finding treasure. Moreover, if you have kids, you can introduce them to the mysterious world of searching the earth and have tons of fun together. However, in order to start with this hobby, you should get familiar with the basics and learn how to use a metal detector. And, our friend, that’s what we’ll be doing in this article. We will help you prepare for your first trip to finding the coins, jewelry, and other things that the earth has been hiding for quite some time. Are you ready? Great! Let’s get started.

How does a metal detector work?

As you probably already know, a metal detector is a device used for detecting buried metal objects. It can be used for finding coins, relics, lost jewelry, and even gold nuggets, depending on what type of metal detector you have. Sure, this sounds cool, but what is even cooler is learning how this device works. Since we believe that a good foundation is essential for success, we’d like to start off by explaining the parts of a metal detector.

Even though not all metal detectors look the same, and some offer more features than others do, in most cases their foundation is built the same. Meaning, their parts perform similar functions. That said, let’s take a look at what are the four components of a metal detector.

How does a metal detector work

  • Shaft – Well, just by the name of it, you can already guess what the shaft is – it’s the body of the metal detector. Most metal detectors have adjustable shafts so that more people can use the same product. And of course, adjusting the height to your needs maximizes comfort and experience.
  • Stabilizer – Another part that contributes to comfort is the stabilizer. As its name implies, this part provides stability to the metal detector, which is something you will appreciate on the field.
  • Control Box –It consists of a battery, device controls, microprocessor, readout, and speakers.
  • Coil – The coil is the bottom part of a detector. The coil(s) allow the device to detect metals.

Now that we’ve talked about the basic components of a metal detector, we can now see how this device works.

The battery is located at the top of the detector. It starts the transmitter circuit. The transmitter circuit sends electricity through the cable to the coil. Electricity flows through the coil, thereby creating a magnetic field around it. When the detector is found above a metal object, the magnetic field will penetrate through that object. The magnetic field then produces an electric current flow inside that metal object. Under the influence of a magnetic field, electricity flows around the receiver coil back into the receiver circuit, emitting a beep to notify you that you have found something.

These three technologies can be found in metal detectors designed for hobbyists

Very low frequency (VLF)

This is an affordable type of metal detector technology. These metal detectors have two coils and they can distinguish between different types of metals. They are extremely accurate and sensitive.

Most VLF metal detectors are equipped with a TR discriminator mode. This mode is able to discriminate between non-ferrous and ferrous (iron-containing) substances. This mode saves you from digging up tins and bottle tops thinking that you may found something valuable.

  • Non-ferrous – Gold, copper, lead, zinc, silver, and nickel.
  • Ferrous – iron, tin, bottle tops, and foil-coated wrappers

Pulse induction (PI)

Pulse induction technology is better at detecting metal objects buried deeper in the ground. Most metal detectors with this technology use only one coil. Whereas this type of metal detectors is extremely accurate, it can have difficulty distinguishing between the types of metals it has found. It’s also more expensive than VLF metal detectors.

Beat Frequency Oscillator (BFO)

The simplest and most affordable of the three, this type of metal detector is perfect for beginners. However, it is considered less reliable and accurate than the other two types, when it comes to finding precious metals.

How deep do metal detectors penetrate?

Well, there is no precise answer to this question. How deep a metal detector will penetrate into the ground depends on various factors, such as:

  • The size, shape, and, of course, type of the metal object
  • How the metal object is buried – objects buried flat are easier to find than those buried with their ends facing downward.
  • How old the object is – things buried years ago are likely to have corroded, which makes them harder to find.
  • The nature of the soil or sand you are searching

In general, metal detectors work at a max depth of 20–50cm (8–20inches).

What metals are not detected by metal detectors?

Metal detectors can detect all metals, such as iron, copper, brass, nickel, lead, aluminum, tin, gold, silver, and bronze. General-purpose metal detectors can find jewelry, coins, relics, lots of bottle caps, nails, and other metal objects. As mentioned, VLF metal detectors have a “Discrimination” mode, which enables them to distinguish between different metal targets. The competency of the metal detector that a person is using certainly plays a big role in finding metal objects. But, so it does the soil or sand quality the person is searching and the position, shape, size, type, and age of the metal object – factors that also affect how deep the metal detectors will go.

How to use a metal detector

How do metal detectors work

Using a metal detector sounds really simple, doesn’t it? You turn the device on, move it slowly over the area you want to search. Then you keep sweeping the coil back and forth over that area. When you passed it over a metal object, you hear a beep. Good metal detectors feature displays that identify the type of metal it has detected and let you know how deep in the ground the target object is located. Then, you need to get your hands dirty and find that metal object.

Well, if you’ve already had the opportunity to use a metal detector, then you know it takes practice and effort to perfect the art of metal detection. So, here are some metal detecting tips that will help you have a good start.

1. Sweeping – master the basics

Sweeping is the first step you need to work on if you want to find treasure. You’d want to sweep steady and in control. Use a metal detector slowly and keep it close to the ground. The search coil should be low (but not touching the ground) so that the signals can go deep into the ground.

2. Play with objects​

Practice makes it perfect. Before starting the actual search on the site, it might be a good idea to test your device and see how it performs with various metals. Bury a coin, nail, or even tin, and then see if your metal detector can detect them.

​3. Hear out

When testing a metal detector, pay attention to the beep sounds to get familiar with them and get ready for true searching once on the field.

4. Be systematic

While on a search site, it may seem like you won’t have enough time to search everything. So, it’s easy to get anxious and start sweeping around like a maniac. But, don’t get carried away. As always, the focus is on what you need. Meaning, focus on one area at a time and be patient.  If your metal detector is detecting an object, narrow the search area to 2 square feet around where you heard the signal. Finally, once you’ve found your spot, you can use the coin probe to find the treasure easily.

Keep on digging

As we said, metal detecting is a great hobby, though it takes a lot of patience. The best advice we can give to you is to lower your expectations. Most of the time you’ll find coins and junk, or even nothing at all. But, this doesn’t mean you should give up. It just means you should be patient and keep exploring. And remember why you’re doing it – this can also help to keep you motivated.

Good luck!

Joseph is the founder and Chief Editor of "Indoor To Outdoor". He is an entrepreneur with experience in sales of household products. He also travels a lot, takes pictures and loves to ride a bike.

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