Gold Pan – Prepare your gold pan for its first use
How to cure a gold pan: There are several different types of gold pans, all made from different materials. Originally, gold pans were made of steel or copper; this of course refers to the modern gold pan. Perhaps ancient man used bronze, stone, or copper. These were metals that they were familiar with. There is little evidence on exactly how ancient man procured gold. In this article I will outline a few methods of curing the pans so as to increase the recovery of fine gold particles.
The steel pan which was popular in the 1800, which was actually utilized much earlier perhaps even as early as the 16th century, needed to be cured as to enhance the fine gold recovery. Often the pans were oiled in order to keep them from rusting, this often was done during manufacturing. Oiling a pan will cause the fine gold to float out of the pan. This floating is a result of the surface tension created at the surface by the thin layer of oil. Often an area contained mostly fine or flour gold, so having your payday float away was cause for concern. Often the old miners would take the steel pan and heat it up over a fire of hardwood (if possible) to burn off the oils that were present. Pine could actually introduce oils, but if heated up red hot and quenched in water, would serve the same purpose. Soon the miners were using copper pans as well, and the same problem occurred. By heating them up and burning off the oils the same result. Miners also soon learned that by then coating the pan with quicksilver or mercury, as it is known today, they could capture all of the flour gold with very little effort. They didn’t know the harmful effects of mercury in those days. I am sure many a miner succumbed to the effects of Mercury poisoning. This occurred as a result of both coming into physical contact with the mercury as well as inhaling the fumes when they burned off the mercury from the gold that it captured. Mercury will adhere to gold due to the fact that mercury can have two electron valence states +1 or +2, so it readily accepts covalent mercury to mercury bond and can form oxide, halide, and sulfide bonds with other elements. Gold has an additional valence electron (negative charge) so a strong bond with mercury will occur. This bond can only be broken by either chemical means or by the addition of heat (called decomposition reactions), which changes its oxidation state. Mercury should be treated with extreme caution, so don’t try this at home kids. That brings us to the modern plastic, (or cross linked long chain carbons), gold pans. These pans are quite nice to use. Their relative light weight and innovative design is a vast improvement over steel or copper. Most of these pans are produced by injection molding equipment. The manufacturer will use either oil based or Teflon sprays to aid in removing the pan from its mold. This forms a layer on the pan that can be hard to remove, there is a way to do this easily. I start by taking some rubbing alcohol and a paper towel, cleaning the pan inside and out. I then boil some water and add a surfactant (dish soap). This mixture is poured into the pan and swirled around then dumped out. That should leave your pan ready to use. I will also use some surfactant in the panning tub until the pan is broke in from the mechanical action of the material affecting the surface of the pan. There you have it, by using some common sense and a small amount of effort you can recover more of the fine flour gold from your favorite prospecting site. Just remember that a new pan will most likely have some sort of residue left on it from the manufacturing process and should not be ignored. As a final thought, to those who love to prospect, keep our right to use the lands intact by respecting the land and support those who lobby to keep our rights intact. Happy prospecting!