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How I made a wooden shark tooth/fossil sifter!


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Meganeura

So, in speaking to @digit, I was convinced to make a wooden sifter to replace my current PVC pipe one, and in doing so, make a guide on how! So first things first - I followed Ken’a tips and his post here from years ago: 

 

 

So the materials: 

- 4 pieces of 1”x3”x20” lumber. I went with pine, cause it was cheap and on sale and very straight.

- Wood glue

- Screws. I used 12 #8 round headed screws.

- Drill for the screws 

- Heavy Duty staple gun + staples

- Hammer

- Wire Cutter

- 1/4” Mesh, enough to cover about 20 squared inches

- Zip/Cable/Wire ties - at least 12, probably going to want long ones, I picked up a pack of 36” ones.

- Pool noodles - enough to fit around 4 sides of the sifter. 
 

So, I have currently ordered, a 4” thick, completely solid pool noodle on its way to me, but since it’ll most likely be here after Sunday when I plan on using my sifter next, I’m using normal pool noodles for now. We’ll see if they manage to keep the sifter up for now.

 

So to start, I got my wood:

4A58877F-A795-4591-B5DE-E372F3C05223.thumb.jpeg.fa930ff5b2399e53ff3033c4519be0a7.jpeg

 

Took 2 pieces, drilled 3 holes within the top inch of the board going right through. I then lined this up with the side of the other piece, and used a pen to mark off where the holes were. I then drilled about a half inch into the other piece of wood.

 

Next I smeared wood glue onto the area of the wood that would be touching, and then drilled the screws into all 3 holes:

DFD86F15-BBB6-4B8D-AEA7-770F5D27A113.thumb.jpeg.18bc2974074bb9e67b996ad24f17714f.jpeg

 

So it looked like this:

2972415A-2E02-46C7-9531-73BAC8EAD4E0.thumb.jpeg.c0b00ef54161f63427f5bdc0d68e9647.jpeg

 

I repeated that for the other sides, forming a box:

5D7AE94B-CA76-4733-99A9-62B348E4CAF1.thumb.jpeg.3425ec7671bab2dc3fc1fc43a75c3153.jpeg

 

Next, I grabbed the stapler and the wire mesh, and stapled along the frame to secure the mesh:

BAC8E9DD-A06F-4F86-A841-C86EB8BDCD25.thumb.jpeg.e7bffe74ef8b959abfa609f8549bed10.jpeg

 

Hammering the staples down to keep them in place and make sure the edges are smoother:

F733F2B7-738E-49B9-9D46-AB61ABA5C636.thumb.jpeg.703f0cce5bf4d5c687b3d8186c501c86.jpeg
 

Once the mesh was completely on:

7AB0D7DC-0922-412F-804E-1B5C0496082D.thumb.jpeg.50f410787b057b62270bd49e78e0c20a.jpeg

 

I then used the wire cutters to trim the excess mesh:

59AF8AA2-DDAE-4455-98FE-71B110C83C99.thumb.jpeg.2d11e254b2631608fdbc511b388bb700.jpeg

 

Next, I cut the pool noodles to size around the frame, realizing I didn’t have quite enough pool noodle, and then zip tied them with my smaller zip ties that barely fit:

6D105DCF-7366-4AAD-9E93-948E50DA5A0C.thumb.jpeg.6afc18f72d78a64f7d78e03092120f16.jpeg
 

I then used parachute cord and a carabiner to finish it off.

 

The reason for using smaller pool noodles and zip ties is, as I mentioned, that I have the 4” thick, solid pool noodle coming. Being 4” thick, it’ll require the 36” zip ties I bought. It’s also 72” long, which means I can either do 18”/side of pool noodle, or I can do 20”, 20”, and then take another 20” section, cut it in half length-wise, and use each half-pipe shape on the 2 other sides, which is what I currently plan on doing. This’ll give me a good amount of buoyancy while also providing me handles. I’ll update this post when I’ve got the bigger pool noodle, and then again once I’ve tested it out!

 

Hope everyone’s enjoyed this, and hopefully it’s clear enough to guide people through making their own. Feel free to leave questions if anyone has any!

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Looking forward to seeing photos of the new sifter in action (hope you score some nice fossils to break in the sifter). ;)

 

Thanks for the post. Hopefully, it will encourage some others to make their own sifting screens and start finding some fossils.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Meganeura
2 minutes ago, digit said:

Looking forward to seeing photos of the new sifter in action (hope you score some nice fossils to break in the sifter). ;)

 

Thanks for the post. Hopefully, it will encourage some others to make their own sifting screens and start finding some fossils.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

Sunday will be her maiden voyage, so I'll update here and make a trip post! Assuming I find good enough fossils anyway!

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Assuming you use a longer handle shovel to dig up the gravel to fill the sifter, here's a tip.

 

A sifting screen can get rather heavy when filled with a goodly amount of gravel. I've seen people bend over while sorting through the gravel or hold the near edge of the sifter on their stomach while gripping it from the far edge. I've even seen people resort to flipping it over and putting the gravel on the bottom of the screen so the pool noodles hold it above the water level so they can easily see it to pick through. I've found that if you plant the shovel firmly in the hole you are digging and after sifting out the sand and finer gravel you can shake the remaining gravel into a pile along the far edge of the sifting screen and prop the far edge of the sifting screen onto the end of the shovel handle. This will support the back side of the sifting screen and you can hold the near edge with a single hand at a comfortable height. You can then use your free hand to pull the gravel a bit at a time toward the near edge of the sifter so you can look through it all a little at a time. By using the shovel handle as a rest for the sifting screen it takes most of the weight off and you can sort through the gravel standing up right without having to bend over at all. This becomes vitally important after more than a few minutes on the river--your back with thank you! :oO::)

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Meganeura
3 minutes ago, digit said:

Assuming you use a longer handle shovel to dig up the gravel to fill the sifter, here's a tip.

 

A sifting screen can get rather heavy when filled with a goodly amount of gravel. I've seen people bend over while sorting through the gravel or hold the near edge of the sifter on their stomach while gripping it from the far edge. I've even seen people resort to flipping it over and putting the gravel on the bottom of the screen so the pool noodles hold it above the water level so they can easily see it to pick through. I've found that if you plant the shovel firmly in the hole you are digging and after sifting out the sand and finer gravel you can shake the remaining gravel into a pile along the far edge of the sifting screen and prop the far edge of the sifting screen onto the end of the shovel handle. This will support the back side of the sifting screen and you can hold the near edge with a single hand at a comfortable height. You can then use your free hand to pull the gravel a bit at a time toward the near edge of the sifter so you can look through it all a little at a time. By using the shovel handle as a rest for the sifting screen it takes most of the weight off and you can sort through the gravel standing up right without having to bend over at all. This becomes vitally important after more than a few minutes on the river--your back with thank you! :oO::)

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

Can confirm this! My wife quickly figured this out on our first ever outing - it took me another 2 trips before I followed along and realized how much more easy it was on my back. It'll probably come in waaaaaay more help this time as well considering the wood makes the sifter decently heavier!

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6 minutes ago, Meganeura said:

Can confirm this! My wife quickly figured this out on our first ever outing - it took me another 2 trips before I followed along and realized how much more easy it was on my back

And this is why we'll refer to her in future as "your better half". ;)

 

I've always got some issue with my back and so this method didn't take long to surface as the only way I'd be able to fossil hunt for a whole day in the river.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Meganeura
1 minute ago, digit said:

And this is why we'll refer to her in future as "your better half". ;)

 

I've always got some issue with my back and so this method didn't take long to surface as the only way I'd be able to fossil hunt for a whole day in the river.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

Bold of you to assume I don't already ;)

I don't have back issues currently, but it made it sooooo much easier. Now my only issue is my arms cramping after 5 hours or so. 

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NIce work.  What is the advantage of wood over PVC?

 

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Meganeura
1 minute ago, jpc said:

NIce work.  What is the advantage of wood over PVC?

 

Thank you! I'm not sure about other people's sifters, but my PVC sifter gets overloaded quite easily, and also would bend/twist some. I've heard the wood ones can hold more material, and are just in general much more solid.

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2 hours ago, jpc said:

What is the advantage of wood over PVC?

I've only used wood sifting screens--likely a legacy of Mark Renz who taught me the ropes back in 2007. I've seen PVC screens which look to be simple to construct but the attachment of wire mesh to the bottom cannot be done with staples as is possible with wooden frames. The mesh tends to have to be held in place with lots of cable ties. The PVC tubing tends to be fairly small--3/4" or 1" diameter which makes the sifting screens rather shallow in build. Using 1"x3" lumber makes for a deeper screen and one that it is easy to staple the wire mesh to (as seen so nicely in the images above).

 

So, I'm in no position to properly speak to the advantages of one over the other having only used one style. I find the wooden frame works well and I've had screens in use for over a decade now and they still carry on with their intended purpose.

 

We've had a few posts showing construction of fossil hunting gear and this is a great addition to the archive of information stored here on the forum. I don't see this tool being of much use out on the ranches in Wyoming while hunting for baculites or dinosaur bones in the great dry hunting grounds that I have fond memories of searching but they work remarkably well for separating phosphatic gravel from the finer sand. I hope some other members learn a bit from this post and are motivated to make some hunting gear that will help them tease some nice fossils from the rivers and creeks in Florida.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Meganeura

Update from today having now used it in the River! It works with the smaller pool noodles totally fine. I’m still planning on replacing them with the bigger noodles - the extra buoyancy and having handles will nice to have. I’ll update once I get the bigger noodles again!

 

Sifter in action:

685054B0-4815-4991-AADD-C931F3585A5B.thumb.jpeg.f3dc1af62bcd5789c93cc4447c398ef4.jpeg

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Looking good. Seems like a good current in the creek but the level seems nice and low. When it is that low it is fun to explore and see if you can find any deeper pockets that might accumulate fossils. The only disadvantage to very shallow water is the bending over to shake the sifter--ouch!

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Meganeura
4 minutes ago, digit said:

Looking good. Seems like a good current in the creek but the level seems nice and low. When it is that low it is fun to explore and see if you can find any deeper pockets that might accumulate fossils. The only disadvantage to very shallow water is the bending over to shake the sifter--ouch!

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

Yeah the water level was incredible today. I figure even a foot higher and it would still be easily low enough to hunt effectively. Going to scout out some places myself on the weekend though - since besides the whale ear bone i found (And a single piece of meg enamel) I didn't find anything of note. All the gravel is under the sand it seems.

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1 minute ago, Meganeura said:

All the gravel is under the sand it seems.

And that's when a good probe is invaluable. ;)

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Meganeura
Just now, digit said:

And that's when a good probe is invaluable. ;)

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

Indeed, which is why I'm stopping tomorrow after work at home depot to pick up what I need! 

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Meganeura
Posted (edited)

Picked up the stuff for a probe today AND my big pool noodles came - so first off the sifter update:

1665C3BC-AAEB-4F20-A653-3CE9FADA9E1A.thumb.jpeg.594559f8f89b476e77d22e1e2dfca109.jpeg
 

used the big 32” cable ties for the full noodle, and then took a 20” section of the noodle, cut it in half, and shaved off the edges (poorly) and stuck those on the sides for handles and for more buoyancy. 

Edited by Meganeura
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Meganeura

And now for the probe. Epoxy didn’t work quite so well so I used hot glue, lol. 
 

This was done by cutting a fibreglass driveway marker in half, drilling a hole into the bottom of a wavy PVC pipe, and then using epoxy and hot glue to secure the fibreglass rod into the pvc pipe. It still kinda jiggles, and I may eventually just end up using the fibreglass rod itself, but we’ll see!

 

55D84ED7-A63E-4D8D-81B2-D490D73C4C04.thumb.jpeg.882a1fc3331bbf88b3686423caf70a13.jpeg302EE1BE-DF9E-4D6B-B7A2-8EBA4905D62A.thumb.jpeg.2806e0a2bc08dccc3ddf6bde9163afca.jpeg4088F5A3-2B1C-4B9D-8896-2A669B528078.thumb.jpeg.0a74657e97fb33272675c10558fe861c.jpegAFC33A6C-1CC7-4F25-BA47-02B3A052D2CC.thumb.jpeg.3fa3f8bb81f98f11ea2aea058b5a00be.jpeg

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Nimravis

The prob came out real nice.

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Meganeura
3 minutes ago, Nimravis said:

The prob came out real nice.

Yeah it did! I ended up wrapping some parachute cord around the handle/rod section to keep it a bit more stable, and it seems to be quite solid! We'll see how well it works on saturday!

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IsaacTheFossilMan

Man, it is SO on my bucket list to visit PR someday!

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Meganeura
1 minute ago, IsaacTheFossilMan said:

Man, it is SO on my bucket list to visit PR someday!

Hopefully you have more luck than I have so far :BigSmile:

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IsaacTheFossilMan
On 7/11/2022 at 10:14 PM, Meganeura said:

And now for the probe. Epoxy didn’t work quite so well so I used hot glue, lol. 
 

This was done by cutting a fibreglass driveway marker in half, drilling a hole into the bottom of a wavy PVC pipe, and then using epoxy and hot glue to secure the fibreglass rod into the pvc pipe. It still kinda jiggles, and I may eventually just end up using the fibreglass rod itself, but we’ll see!

 

55D84ED7-A63E-4D8D-81B2-D490D73C4C04.thumb.jpeg.882a1fc3331bbf88b3686423caf70a13.jpeg302EE1BE-DF9E-4D6B-B7A2-8EBA4905D62A.thumb.jpeg.2806e0a2bc08dccc3ddf6bde9163afca.jpeg4088F5A3-2B1C-4B9D-8896-2A669B528078.thumb.jpeg.0a74657e97fb33272675c10558fe861c.jpegAFC33A6C-1CC7-4F25-BA47-02B3A052D2CC.thumb.jpeg.3fa3f8bb81f98f11ea2aea058b5a00be.jpeg

You could probably make this more secure by setting the rod all the way through the handle, so there are two holes. the insides of the handle could then be filled with glue or something similar to secure it - and cutting the top of the rod off so it doesn't prod ya!

 

Unless, of course, you can drill a hole reliably in the fibreglass rod, then drilling a hole like this and putting a pin in (excuse my bad diagram!) would be better:

image.png.8ef1eab3b523be233bffe045c58aa4e1.png

 

Edited by IsaacTheFossilMan
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IsaacTheFossilMan
4 minutes ago, Meganeura said:

Hopefully you have more luck than I have so far :BigSmile:

 

Somehow I doubt it... :unsure:

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Meganeura
12 minutes ago, IsaacTheFossilMan said:

You could probably make this more secure by setting the rod all the way through the handle, so there are two holes. the insides of the handle could then be filled with glue or something similar to secure it - and cutting the top of the rod off so it doesn't prod ya!

 

Unless, of course, you can drill a hole reliably in the fibreglass rod, then drilling a hole like this and putting a pin in (excuse my bad diagram!) would be better:

image.png.8ef1eab3b523be233bffe045c58aa4e1.png

 

Totally agree that would work - but i actually think it's secure enough as is! We'll see for sure tomorrow when I test it out. But just in pushing, the only part that seems unstable is the fibreglass rod itself - it bends a little. Which is totally fine anyway!. I may end up eventually switching to a piece of rebar though. And of course I plan on adding a piece of pool noodle so it floats if it falls over!

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Meganeura
13 minutes ago, IsaacTheFossilMan said:

 

Somehow I doubt it... :unsure:

Hopefully I learn where my own spots are soon enough and can just show you them :BigSmile:

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