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How I made a wooden shark tooth/fossil sifter!


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IsaacTheFossilMan
15 minutes ago, Meganeura said:

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

 

It's a date! :D

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Meganeura
Just now, IsaacTheFossilMan said:

 

It's a date! :D

You have yourself a deal. ;)

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marcltetreault

Hi guys, I was reading though your posts and have a couple of questions if I may…….

what do you think would be the ideal depth of a sifter and ideal size?   I would like to make one also.  A wire basket from the dollar store only takes you so far.  :headscratch:

 

Another one for you…. What is the Probe for exactly? I mean what Information or you looking for in its use and how do you go about using it.  
Thanks so much! 

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Meganeura
2 minutes ago, marcltetreault said:

Hi guys, I was reading though your posts and have a couple of questions if I may…….

what do you think would be the ideal depth of a sifter and ideal size?   I would like to make one also.  A wire basket from the dollar store only takes you so far.  :headscratch:

 

Another one for you…. What is the Probe for exactly? I mean what Information or you looking for in its use and how do you go about using it.  
Thanks so much! 

Hey! So I made my wooden sifter to be 20"x20" approximately - I think this was slightly too big honestly, and I'd recommend between 14-16" for the size. My PVC pipe sifter is 15"x15" and I think the size works wonderfully. Honestly might make a 15x15 wooden one at some point before fossil season kicks back up again here in Florida in October. 

As far as depth goes - the 1"x3" wood works wonders for preventing gravel/rocks from spilling over the sides, which was a problem with the PVC pipe sifter.

As for the probe - areas of the rivers/creeks routinely have sand covering them - the probe is there to tell you if there's gravel under the sand (or clay or rock!) within a certain depth. You really just stick it into the sand. If it goes in easily, you know it's just more sand. If you feel the... "Crunch" that signifies gravel, that's a pretty good indicator of a good place to dig. Mine, like @digit's is 2', so I know that if I don't feel gravel with the probe by the time it's mostly in the ground, there's really no point digging as I won't be finding gravel for at least 2', and digging deeper than that under water which has a current is exceedingly difficult. Then if it hits rock I usually check in a couple places around that spot, to determine if it's a single large rock, or limestone. If it's limestone I can't exactly dig into that, so I stay away. Finally, if I stick the probe in and see that it's got some clay on it, I know to stay away cause clay is usually an indicator for little to no gravel, and thus little to no fossils.

Hope this helps and answers any questions you have!

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marcltetreault

Thank you so much! It was a big help.  

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18 minutes ago, Meganeura said:

Hey! So I made my wooden sifter to be 20"x20" approximately - I think this was slightly too big honestly, and I'd recommend between 14-16" for the size. My PVC pipe sifter is 15"x15" and I think the size works wonderfully. Honestly might make a 15x15 wooden one at some point before fossil season kicks back up again here in Florida in October. 

I buy my 1x 3 lumber in 8 foot sections (96") and saw it into 5 pieces 16" long. I made up an umber of sifting screens for a big group I took out some years back. I had calculated that 4 pieces of lumber would then make exactly 5 sifting screens. When I screw the pieces of wood together I arrange them to attach to the other pieces to keep the overall shape square:

Square.png

35 minutes ago, Meganeura said:

As for the probe - areas of the rivers/creeks routinely have sand covering them - the probe is there to tell you if there's gravel under the sand (or clay or rock!) within a certain depth. You really just stick it into the sand. If it goes in easily, you know it's just more sand. If you feel the... "Crunch" that signifies gravel, that's a pretty good indicator of a good place to dig. Mine, like @digit's is 2',

 

As mentioned I use the lightweight fiberglass rods with reflective tape on one end available at big box home improvement stores. They are used to mark driveways and such along dark unlit country roads. I really cannot see the point of using one to mark the corner of a driveway in a well lit suburban neighborhood as indicated in the demonstration photo. If you can't find your driveway without this reflector Mr. Magoo, you should turn in your driver's license. :P

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Magoo

 

Rod.jpg

 

The fiberglass rods start out at 48" length which I found to be just a bit to ungainly to handle in a canoe or while walking along the riverbed probing for hidden gravel. I cut mine down to 36" taking off the top part with the reflective tape and leaving the tapered pointed end at the bottom. This made for an acceptably comfortable height. I think cutting it down to 24" might make it a bit too stubby but then I'm a little bit taller than most. ;) When I made mine with the curved PVC condensate trap. The tightly curved one is often difficult to find but the more sloping running trap is often more available. Either should work well and the decision is up to the person constructing the handle.

 

61hckZVQ73L._AC_SL1500_.jpg   streamline_488-007_article_1366804039647_en_normal.jpg

 

I capped both ends of the handle with PVC end caps. When I made mine I drilled a hole into the lowest part of the "handle" in the middle to accommodate the fiberglass rod. To secure it to the handle I capped one end of the condensate trap with one of the end caps and (with the rod inserted into the handle) filled the inside from the other end with epoxy glue before adding the final end cap. This made for a very secure attachment of the rod to the handle but it also reduced any chance of buoyancy for the probe. More than once I have used the probe pushed into the sand to secure the sifting screen in the flowing river by looping the parachute cord lanyard on the sifting screen over the probe's handle. This makes for easy single person sifting when your hunting partner is unavailable (or grabbing a snack in the canoe). When the river is flowing fast, the current has (more than once) been strong enough to pull the probe out of the bottom due to the extra resistance of the sifting attached sifting screen. At least the white handle helps in trying to locate the submerged probe in several feet of murky river water. I've often thought of remaking a new probe with a hollow handle to see if that provides enough buoyancy to keep it afloat. This may, however, lighten a probe dislodged from the bottom just enough to allow it to be pushed downstream in the current so maybe a heavy probe is not the worst thing. :P

 

Thanks again for the new topic on constructing sifting gear--I hope it will prove informative to others contemplating making similar gear before next the next fossil hunting season.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Meganeura
1 minute ago, digit said:

I buy my 1x 3 lumber in 8 foot sections (96") and saw it into 5 pieces 16" long. I made up an umber of sifting screens for a big group I took out some years back. I had calculated that 4 pieces of lumber would then make exactly 5 sifting screens. When I screw the pieces of wood together I arrange them to attach to the other pieces to keep the overall shape square:

Square.png

 

As mentioned I use the lightweight fiberglass rods with reflective tape on one end available at big box home improvement stores. They are used to mark driveways and such along dark unlit country roads. I really cannot see the point of using one to mark the corner of a driveway in a well lit suburban neighborhood as indicated in the demonstration photo. If you can't find your driveway without this reflector Mr. Magoo, you should turn in your driver's license. :P

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Magoo

 

Rod.jpg

 

The fiberglass rods start out at 48" length which I found to be just a bit to ungainly to handle in a canoe or while walking along the riverbed probing for hidden gravel. I cut mine down to 36" taking off the top part with the reflective tape and leaving the tapered pointed end at the bottom. This made for an acceptably comfortable height. I think cutting it down to 24" might make it a bit too stubby but then I'm a little bit taller than most. ;) When I made mine with the curved PVC condensate trap. The tightly curved one is often difficult to find but the more sloping running trap is often more available. Either should work well and the decision is up to the person constructing the handle.

 

61hckZVQ73L._AC_SL1500_.jpg   streamline_488-007_article_1366804039647_en_normal.jpg

 

I capped both ends of the handle with PVC end caps. When I made mine I drilled a hole into the lowest part of the "handle" in the middle to accommodate the fiberglass rod. To secure it to the handle I capped one end of the condensate trap with one of the end caps and (with the rod inserted into the handle) filled the inside from the other end with epoxy glue before adding the final end cap. This made for a very secure attachment of the rod to the handle but it also reduced any chance of buoyancy for the probe. More than once I have used the probe pushed into the sand to secure the sifting screen in the flowing river by looping the parachute cord lanyard on the sifting screen over the probe's handle. This makes for easy single person sifting when your hunting partner is unavailable (or grabbing a snack in the canoe). When the river is flowing fast, the current has (more than once) been strong enough to pull the probe out of the bottom due to the extra resistance of the sifting attached sifting screen. At least the white handle helps in trying to locate the submerged probe in several feet of murky river water. I've often thought of remaking a new probe with a hollow handle to see if that provides enough buoyancy to keep it afloat. This may, however, lighten a probe dislodged from the bottom just enough to allow it to be pushed downstream in the current so maybe a heavy probe is not the worst thing. :P

 

Thanks again for the new topic on constructing sifting gear--I hope it will prove informative to others contemplating making similar gear before next the next fossil hunting season.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

Oh I should add on that a hollow handle DOES in fact make it float - mine came out of the ground this past weekend and I noticed it was gone maybe 40 seconds after it had "left" - luckily I didn't have to chase it far downstream. My personal recommendation, and what I'm planning on doing at some point - is to a) weight it down so it's heavy - the epoxy-filled handle would work quite well, and my caps aren't glued on so I can still do this if needed - and then tie a small piece of colorful pool noodle on a string to the probe. This way if it sinks, you have the pool noodle to see the location - however it won't be light enough to take it downstream!

As for the sifter - mine ended up being a rectangular shape since I completely forgot that I could do the shape @digit did. And I also bought the 8' piece of wood - and just cut it in 4. 

Other possible gear I may invest in at some point would include something like 3 stakes in a triangle attached by wood, as a means of resting the sifter on to search through easier. Using the shovel only works so well when the area you're digging is shallow. Other possibility is making a second "screen" that's really just 4 pieces of wood with pool noodles on it that would serve to elevate the sifter out of the water. Shovel into sifter as normal - shake it to remove the sand/small gravel - and then place on the floaty so it's elevated above the water. 

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marcltetreault

Does anyone ever tether items to themselves to prevent loss and littering or is that dangerous? 

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Meganeura
Just now, marcltetreault said:

Does anyone ever tether items to themselves to prevent loss and littering or is that dangerous? 

Oh we absolutely do - in my pictures, as well as @digit's description - you can see we have/mention the parachute cord and I have the carabiner. I clip the carabiner of my sifter to the pocket of my bathing suit, at just the right length so I can shovel onto it without needing to walk/move. 

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Fossildude19
1 hour ago, marcltetreault said:

Hi guys, I was reading though your posts and have a couple of questions if I may…….

what do you think would be the ideal depth of a sifter and ideal size?   I would like to make one also.  A wire basket from the dollar store only takes you so far.  :headscratch:

 

 Keep in mind, the creeks in New Jersey have some sort of limit on sifter and shovel size that can be used.

 

As far as tethering items to yourself, you can.

Just be aware that the creeks can rise very quickly if a pop up thunder storm hits.  :unsure: 

 


 

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Meganeura
1 minute ago, Fossildude19 said:

 

 Keep in mind, the creeks in New Jersey have some sort of limit on sifter and shovel size that can be used.

 

As far as tethering items to yourself, you can.

Just be aware that the creeks can rise very quickly if a pop up thunder storm hits.  :unsure: 

 


 

Is the limit to regulate commercialized fossil hunting? prevent people from bringing giant diggers and sifters in?

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Fossildude19

Not sure of the reasoning, just that it is posted on the signs near Big Brook.

From HERE:

 

BigBrookRules.JPG

 

 

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Meganeura
Just now, Fossildude19 said:

Not sure of the reasoning, just that it is posted on the signs near Big Brook.

From HERE:

 

BigBrookRules.JPG

 

 

That's really good to know if I'm ever in NJ then! Thank you!

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2 minutes ago, Meganeura said:

Oh I should add on that a hollow handle DOES in fact make it float - mine came out of the ground this past weekend and I noticed it was gone maybe 40 seconds after it had "left" - luckily I didn't have to chase it far downstream.

Thanks for the field reporting--I think I'll stay with a heavy solid handle that is not buoyant. Easier to feel around with my foot to recover a sunken probe than to have to hop in my canoe and give chase. :P

 

5 minutes ago, Meganeura said:

Other possible gear I may invest in at some point would include something like 3 stakes in a triangle attached by wood, as a means of resting the sifter on to search through easier. Using the shovel only works so well when the area you're digging is shallow. Other possibility is making a second "screen" that's really just 4 pieces of wood with pool noodles on it that would serve to elevate the sifter out of the water. Shovel into sifter as normal - shake it to remove the sand/small gravel - and then place on the floaty so it's elevated above the water. 

I've had good results planting my shovel securely in the spot I'm digging and using the top of the shovel's handle to support the back edge of the (heavy) sifting screen full of gravel and (with luck) spectacular fossils. Here's a few images of my gear in use which will hopefully by illustrative.

 

Sifting screen held in place by looping the sifter's lanyard cord around the handle of the probe pushed securely into the river bed. This allows for solo hunting. Note the white handle is still somewhat visible beneath the surface in the second photo.

 

P3186695.jpg    P6081316.jpg

 

Resting the back edge of the sifting screen on the shovel's handle has worked for me in a variety of depths. The only problem I've had is in areas where there is only a small amount of gravel over hard bottom where the shovel won't penetrate far enough to allow it to be planted securely.

 

P5062352.jpg  P4230011.jpg  P4300035.jpg

 

You'll notice me wearing another indispensable piece of fossil hunting gear--my "goody belt" aka canvas tool apron. These may be purchased from the usual home improvement stores for just a couple of dollars and easily allow fossils to be tucked away quickly and securely. Special finds still get walked back to the canoe for safe keeping but I can quickly stash shark teeth and other smaller finds in the pockets of this apron quicker than digging out a zip-top bag from a pocket or fiddling with plastic containers.

15936808.jpg51K-hdIfMzL.jpg

With a little luck (and some prospecting and perseverance) you just might find some nice treasures turning up in your sifting screen. :)

 

P4301231.jpg  P4301234.jpg  P4301236.jpg

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Meganeura
2 minutes ago, digit said:

Thanks for the field reporting--I think I'll stay with a heavy solid handle that is not buoyant. Easier to feel around with my foot to recover a sunken probe than to have to hop in my canoe and give chase. :P

 

I've had good results planting my shovel securely in the spot I'm digging and using the top of the shovel's handle to support the back edge of the (heavy) sifting screen full of gravel and (with luck) spectacular fossils. Here's a few images of my gear in use which will hopefully by illustrative.

 

Sifting screen held in place by looping the sifter's lanyard cord around the handle of the probe pushed securely into the river bed. This allows for solo hunting. Note the white handle is still somewhat visible beneath the surface in the second photo.

 

P3186695.jpg    P6081316.jpg

 

Resting the back edge of the sifting screen on the shovel's handle has worked for me in a variety of depths. The only problem I've had is in areas where there is only a small amount of gravel over hard bottom where the shovel won't penetrate far enough to allow it to be planted securely.

 

P5062352.jpg  P4230011.jpg  P4300035.jpg

 

You'll notice me wearing another indispensable piece of fossil hunting gear--my "goody belt" aka canvas tool apron. These may be purchased from the usual home improvement stores for just a couple of dollars and easily allow fossils to be tucked away quickly and securely. Special finds still get walked back to the canoe for safe keeping but I can quickly stash shark teeth and other smaller finds in the pockets of this apron quicker than digging out a zip-top bag from a pocket or fiddling with plastic containers.

15936808.jpg51K-hdIfMzL.jpg

With a little luck (and some prospecting and perseverance) you just might find some nice treasures turning up in your sifting screen. :)

 

P4301231.jpg  P4301234.jpg  P4301236.jpg

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

The shovel as a resting place doesn't work quite so well for me sometimes - I'm only 5'5", so the 50" shovel, even in a 1' deep hole, will result in the sifter being nearly up at my neck which isn't ideal. However that really only is an issue in shallow areas, like the creek I've been hunting lately. Back in the peace where it's deeper it isn't too much of an issue.

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I do know that a shovel handle that is not too deep in a hole will be a bit high when I'm picking through the screen with my wife who is 5'2". Unfortunately, the shorter half-height shovels (usually with a looped handle grip) are often too short and require bending over while pick through the screen which will do my back in before I even tire from shoveling. Hopefully, the suggestions here in this topic will provide a variety of ideas for those looking to optimize their hunting technique. I have seen folks bring out wooden folding stands that they open up and set their sifting screens on while they pick through the contents. I've usually seen them drag their full screens back to the shallows at the edge of the river where they have this setup. I've even spotted folks (possibly with ever weaker backs than mine) bring folding chairs and grab a seat on the bank while picking through a screen supported on one of these folding stands. They often use very large sifting screens 24x24 or larger to make it worth the effort of dragging it back to the edge of the river and having a seat while picking through the screen.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Meganeura
1 minute ago, digit said:

I do know that a shovel handle that is not too deep in a hole will be a bit high when I'm picking through the screen with my wife who is 5'2". Unfortunately, the shorter half-height shovels (usually with a looped handle grip) are often too short and require bending over while pick through the screen which will do my back in before I even tire from shoveling. Hopefully, the suggestions here in this topic will provide a variety of ideas for those looking to optimize their hunting technique. I have seen folks bring out wooden folding stands that they open up and set their sifting screens on while they pick through the contents. I've usually seen them drag their full screens back to the shallows at the edge of the river where they have this setup. I've even spotted folks (possibly with ever weaker backs than mine) bring folding chairs and grab a seat on the bank while picking through a screen supported on one of these folding stands. They often use very large sifting screens 24x24 or larger to make it worth the effort of dragging it back to the edge of the river and having a seat while picking through the screen.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

I will say I find it worse on my arms more than my back to be honest - but i've got quite the strong back from working out, so that doesn't surprise me. What I could do is put a hook like you'd use for a picture on the top of my shovel handle, and then a small loop on my sifter, to hang it off the edge. That'll probably work quite well and will be adjustable too!

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I'd kinda be afraid of a picture hook screwed into the top of my shovel--I'd likely catch myself on that and ruin my day out on the river. Another thought along those lines that might work would be a larger more blunt hook that could be screwed to the side near the top of the shovel handle. It could be used to quickly loop a lanyard cord around and wouldn't be too sharp to catch you when shoveling. My only worry would be that it might get in the way when shoveling so you'd want to determine where you grip the shovel when digging and place the hook somewhere else on the handle. You'd probably also want to attach this to the back of the handle so that when you planted the shovel in the river bed it would be facing you to facilitate easy looping.

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

 

Wide-open-coat-hooks-vintage-metal-Clothes-wall-Hanger-door-hook-for-hat-hanging.jpg

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Meganeura
Just now, digit said:

I'd kinda be afraid of a picture hook screwed into the top of my shovel--I'd likely catch myself on that and ruin my day out on the river. Another thought along those lines that might work would be a larger more blunt hook that could be screwed to the side near the top of the shovel handle. It could be used to quickly loop a lanyard cord around and wouldn't be too sharp to catch you when shoveling. My only worry would be that it might get in the way when shoveling so you'd want to determine where you grip the shovel when digging and place the hook somewhere else on the handle. You'd probably also want to attach this to the back of the handle so that when you planted the shovel in the river bed it would be facing you to facilitate easy looping.

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

 

Wide-open-coat-hooks-vintage-metal-Clothes-wall-Hanger-door-hook-for-hat-hanging.jpg

This was exactly what I was picturing - a picture hook is definitely too sharp. I think the best question is how feasible it would be to drill one of these into a fiberglass handle.

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Securely held by someone or clamped into a vice with a sharp drill bit could work. I'd drill a pilot hole half the diameter of the screws you would use to secure it and then use some non-rusting screws to firmly attach the hook to the handle.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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  • 4 weeks later...
Bobo Greybeard
On 7/15/2022 at 7:37 AM, Meganeura said:

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!

Aother idea might be to use a piece of "All-Thread" instead of the fiberglass rod.  Then you could acually , if you hold your mouth right, use some nuts on the inside of the pvc pipe to help secure the "rod" to the PVC.   Then use Gorilla Glue to close off the two holes in the pvc used to attach the rod.  Get some pvc glue.  Glue one cap on , then fill the pipe with

sand. Glue the other cap on.  The addition of the sand would give the handle a more uniform weight, as well as giving you a little extra to help push it down through the gravel.   

 

In keeping everything transparent,  I have never made one of these.  The idea just came to me as I was reading about the issues that you had with it.  The reason for the use of Gorilla Glue, instead of hot glue is the help it have a better seal.  I build jug lines for Cat fishing out of pvc all the time and use an eye bolt in a pvc cap to attach the line to it.  Since my jug lines are "weighted" to let you know when you have had a fish strike the bait,  I have to waterproof the inside of the pvc used so the weight can slide from one side to the other.

 

I hope this makes sense,

 

Bobo

 

ps 

     Awesome thread.  Thank you both for starting it and posting to it.

 

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Bobo Greybeard
On 7/20/2022 at 11:12 AM, Meganeura said:

I will say I find it worse on my arms more than my back to be honest - but i've got quite the strong back from working out, so that doesn't surprise me. What I could do is put a hook like you'd use for a picture on the top of my shovel handle, and then a small loop on my sifter, to hang it off the edge. That'll probably work quite well and will be adjustable too!

What are your thoughts of having something like this screwed to the side of the shifter.  You might have to cut the pool noodle in half and trim, due to "building out " a mounting space on the side of the shifter.  I used one of these for years when remodeling to hold my cordless drill on.  When not in use, just fold it flat.   Just an idea.

 

drill hook.jpg

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1 hour ago, Bobo Greybeard said:

What are your thoughts of having something like this screwed to the side of the shifter.  You might have to cut the pool noodle in half and trim, due to "building out " a mounting space on the side of the shifter.  I used one of these for years when remodeling to hold my cordless drill on.  When not in use, just fold it flat.   Just an idea.

 

drill hook.jpg

Problem there is where would you be hooking it to?

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