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Beginner tools help!


Udderly Abducted

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Udderly Abducted

Hi everyone,

 

I’m a beginner, and I need some help buying some tools. I have settled on Estwing since I have always been a fan of their hammers and it seems that you all are fans too.

 

I need help on deciding if I should get a hammer with a pick or chisel end. I think I’m leaning towards the 22oz pick ended one. I noticed that Estwing makes this hammer in two lengths. Should I get the 13” or 16”?

 

What about their pick ax? Do I need this right now?

 

I also need help choosing some chisels. I don’t know what sizes I should get.

 

Also, what size of sledge should I start with?

 

Any other suggestions?

 

Here’s a link to Estwing’s geological hammers: https://www.estwing.com/collections/geological

 

Thanks!

Edited by Udderly Abducted
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Folks here will be able to give you great advice based on tons of experience. However, it occurs to me the most relevant issue for you will be - Where you will hunt? For what? What matrix? Those factors might best be addressed by a fossil enthusiast from your locale. If none shows up on the Forum, your local gem/mineral society may be your best source of info. You don't want to invest in a lot of equipment not suited for your particular circumstance. Good luck, have fun.

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Basically, it depends on what kind of fossil hunting you are doing.

Are you looking for microfossils on dry land? Splitting loose shale or limestone for invertebrates?

Digging for fossils in cliffs or rock outcrops?  Are you looking in rivers, creeks, beaches, or waterways for shark teeth and other vertebrates? 

 

For rock splitting, Chisels, rock hammer, 3# sledge hammer, pry bars. These can vary, depending on what kind of rock you are working with. 

Shales and mudstones generally split fairly easily. 

Limestones and dolostones can be much harder, and split erratically. 

 

I find that for most hunts, I use an Estwing rock hammer, chisel and pick ended. 

A few chisels. A prybar. A small 2 or 3 # sledge.

 

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Get a couple of wide mason type chisels at your favorite big box store. Not the ones from your tool box. Those are for metal. The masons chisels are broader and thinner. Also, no shame in getting the ones with the rubber grip/protector on them. You'll miss eventually and be glad you did. Also a crack hammer (short handled sledge hammer)  I also have a bricklayers hammer which has a broad, flat, side. But i use it exclusively to scrape away rock and soil, not to hit anything with.  Start with just the basics (hammer, chisels, and prybar) and add as you need.  You'll wear yourself out taking weight you dont need :)

 

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Get the 13" pick end. You can always use it with chisels if you need one. I really like my slightly heavier Estwing E6-24PC that has a wider head that makes it easier to hit your target (and not your finger) and break heavier rocks. The extra weight means that you can sometimes leave your crack hammer at home. https://www.amazon.com/Estwing-Rock-Pick-Geological-Reduction/dp/B00DT0OZS6

 

Hold off on a pick for now. Throughout the US on all BLM and Forest Service land you are not allowed to use a full sized pick per the law.

 

416toC%2B5XcL.jpg

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1 hour ago, Fossildude19 said:

Rock hammer, pick ended. 

A 3 # sledge and a long chisel.

This is my arsenal I carry in my pack. Although, your dig areas may require some others.

I pretty much have hard sandstone and small pebble conglomerate where I dig.

Rarely do I encounter shales.

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I encounter some pretty hard limestone around where I hunt. I have literally spent 3 hours trying to extract an ammonite. I’ve spent considerable time on other extractions too. Thankfully I’m getting much more proficient and skilled at it than I was in the beginning. My strategies and tactics have improved too 

My recommendations if you will be hunting where the rock is hard is a 4 pound little sledge hammer and a set of chisels with hand guards. Hand guards are a must if using the sledgehammer. It’s so easy to miss and hit your hand when you’re swinging that hard. You can find them reasonable inexpensive at Harbor Freight if you have them there.

https://www.amazon.com/Hand-Guarded-Chisel-Set-Pieces/dp/B00AM1Z0EI?crid=39CBW1XRJA11V&keywords=mason+chisel+set+hand+guard&qid=1536546180&sprefix=chisel+set+hand+gu&sr=8-1-fkmrnull&ref=mp_s_a_1_fkmrnull_1

I never use the 3 inch wide chisel.

Something with a sharp point does a better job at splitting the stone I extract from. The small chisels are for finer detail work. There are stone chisels, but they’re quite small with not much of a head from what I’ve seen. I use cheap wood chisels. They get chipped and bunged up. I just smooth them back out with a file.

 

If the fossils you hunt tend to be fragile or break in the field I highly recommend a thin prep of cyanoacrylate. I’m not sure what everyone else’s opinion is on using it, but it bonds hard and fast in about 10 seconds.

Maybe less. Whatever you do don’t glue it to your skin! It is pretty ugly when you do. It can become a serious and painful issue. Like you have to literally rip or cut your skin to get free. Been there, done that. It’s very painful. Thankfully I had acetone and poured it over my fingers a few times and got them far enough apart to use a knife to cut the glue between them. It is funny now, but it was not funny at the time. I’d been using it for years and never glued myself until maybe a week ago.

This I what I use. We also used it in Wyoming on the digs I’ve been to to stabilize dino bones.

Bob Smith 103 Insta-Cure 2oz Super Thin https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001NI4JWI/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_CFDLBbSCS2XGK

 

I can’t tell you how many times something has broken in the field. I think I’ll glue it when I get back home and I either lose it or can’t remember where the piece went. The glue can stabilize stuff too to prevent it from breaking during extraction.

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I am usually dealing with pretty hard limestone. When I am, for smaller hand tools I use a B3-4LB 4 lb Estwing crack hammer, a 1 in x 12 in FATMAX Cold Chisel which you can also likely get at your local Home Depot or Lowe’s, a smaller Estwing 12" x 3/4" chisel, an Estwing E6-24PC hand pick, and an Estwing E6-22BLC brick masons hammer. 

 

Many times I am having to crack open large chunks of hard limestone that I either excavated myself or found on a septic tank/construction rock pile. I use a Truper 30930 10 lb sledge for slamming large chunks until they crack, which usually happens only after 1 or 2 blows. 

 

For a pry bar, the best that I have been able to find are Wizard Wrecking Bars made by the Fulton Corporation in Fulton, Illinois. They work very well for pretty much all your prying needs, from prying large rocks off of a pile or from a natural exposure. They come in 3 sizes, of which I got the largest at 48”. I have used it on chunks of around 200 lbs and it works great, and it would surely handle more than that. 

 

For the E6-24PC, E6-22BLC, and the B3-4LB, I use the Estwing No. 23 sheath, the Estwing No. 24 sheath, and the Gfeller Crack Hammer Holster respectively. They work quite well. 

 

If I am working with shale, I use most of the same tools, except instead of the 1” chisel I use a 3” head for splitting with the bedding plane. 

 

If you are trying to dislodge a huge chunk of rock, using multiple chisels could be quite useful, as seen in this picture from here

 

F05EEF06-B40E-42D0-863F-A17CEA55CA73.jpeg.08c76c82e9225f5e3c83091bd32dc0d8.jpeg

 

Of course, as everyone else as said, your tool needs will depend upon what kind of rock you are dealing with. Try to find a Paleontological/Geological society in your area. I have been attending the Dallas Paleontological Society meetings since last year and have learned so much from knowledgeable people at the meetings that are used to the local geology. You will learn a lot more from people familiar with what you are dealing with. 

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Udderly Abducted

Thanks for all the help!

 

I live in eastern Oklahoma near the Arkansas river. There are several quarries nearby and I know that one of them is limestone. I’m thinking about starting near a creek bed or some bluffs on a ridge.

 

I talked to the owner of Geo-Tools.com and I think I have decided on these tools to start with:

 

Estwing E6-22BLC Mason Hammer

Estwing B3-3LB Crack Hammer

10 x 1-1/4 x 1/8” Chisel (Double Bevel)

 

Here’s a link to the chisel: http://www.geo-tools.com/custom-thin-rock-splitting-chisels

 

He thought that a chisel hammer would be better than a pick hammer for my location. Of course, he’s not familiar where I live, so he was just going off of what I was telling him. I see that a couple of you are from around Dallas, so you all would have a better idea of what I need.

 

I haven’t ordered anything yet since I’m still thinking about your suggestions. Does the above sound good? Or should I go with something different? The chisel doesn’t have a hand guard, so that might be a problem...

 

I really appreciate all the responses. Lots of good information!

Edited by Udderly Abducted
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Udderly Abducted

I also want to add that if I go north or south that there are a lot of rocky hills. I don’t know what kind of rock they are. The eastern part of Oklahoma is more like Arkansas rather than the plains.

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What?! You have hills in Oklahoma?

Do they measure the elevation on a yardstick? :rofl:

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Udderly Abducted
12 hours ago, caldigger said:

What?! You have hills in Oklahoma?

Do they measure the elevation on a yardstick? :rofl:

Yup! It’s always changing thanks to the ant hills!

 

Welp, I hate paralysis by analysis, so I decided to order what I listed above. I can always get other tools as I get more experience. I will probably get some glue like mentioned earlier.

 

Thanks for all the help!

Edited by Udderly Abducted
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  • 2 years later...
On 9/9/2018 at 7:58 PM, DPS Ammonite said:

Get the 13" pick end. You can always use it with chisels if you need one. I really like my slightly heavier Estwing E6-24PC that has a wider head that makes it easier to hit your target (and not your finger) and break heavier rocks. The extra weight means that you can sometimes leave your crack hammer at home. https://www.amazon.com/Estwing-Rock-Pick-Geological-Reduction/dp/B00DT0OZS6

 

Hold off on a pick for now. Throughout the US on all BLM and Forest Service land you are not allowed to use a full sized pick per the law.

 

416toC%2B5XcL.jpg

What is considered a full sized pick? I was thinking of buying one but do not want to break the law if I will be on BLM land. Thank you inadvance!

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A full sized pick is defined by handle size. Anything bigger than a geology hammer with a pick end and a handle of 1 1/2 to 2 feet long may be considered illegal. The long handled picks miners swing over their head and use cannot be used on public lands without special permission.

Edited by DPS Ammonite
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safety glasses and protective gloves and velcro closed knee pads. How far will you be from your vehicle, a pail to carry small tools or a ruck sack like for balls and bats. Some do well with sturdy tool bags, and I have found used tools at thrift stores and flea markets. A first aide kit and note book and maybe a GPS to record location and return later and a compass. To crack geodes I use a 8 or 12 lbs double head hammer or a black smiths hammer all bought used. 

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14 hours ago, DPS Ammonite said:

A full sized pick is defined by handle size. Anything bigger than a geology hammer with a pick end and a handle of 1 1/2 to 2 feet long may be considered illegal. The long handled picks miners swing over their head and use cannot be used on public lands without special permission.

Commonly known as a "pick axe" or "railroad pick"...same goes for Collins and Mattock type implements.

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10 minutes ago, LabRatKing said:

Commonly known as a "pick axe" or "railroad pick"...same goes for Collins and Mattock type implements.

The US Forest Service prohibits use of “full-sized” tools for fossil collecting.

https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=7b7796f0ea8fbf9aa22cf76da4fb5d09&mc=true&node=pt36.2.291&rgn=div5#se36.2.291_15

 

“Non-powered hand tools mean small tools that do not use or are not operated by a motor, engine, or other power source. These tools are limited to small tools that can be easily carried by hand such as geologic hammers, trowels, or sieves, but not large tools such as full-sized shovels or pick axes.“

 

I have not been able to find current rules that govern tool size for BLM land. Therefore, go by more restrictive USFS rules.

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While the following are not tools, mosquito, tick, and chigger spray are a necessary item when crawling around the mountains in AR. I have a bucket that I carry my tools to the site and I use it to bring the rocks or fossils out, carefully wrapped in old towels. With my pick and chisel, I include a small handheld claw rake and shovel and I also carry a knife in case I am confronted by a snake. And since I am too short to drive our truck (I should have never let him buy a vehicle without me), my son, daughter, or husband always tag alone so they are sort of like necessary for hunting. Well it’s not that I cannot drive it because I can but I cannot get in and out without help and when I drive, everyone says that I almost hit stuff. The front is way bigger than it needs to be so I may come close to trees or signs but never other cars or trucks. I stop when I am turning so they can get out of my way. My husband thinks we only go on paved roads. Man is he out of touch from reality.  Mountains, creek beds, and shale piles are rarely ever on paved roads. 

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speaking of snakes how about a snake bite kit if poisonous type are in your area. and for Bee stings, I read and have tried gel type toothpaste.  It does help if not allergic. Liquid bandage, not sure mine went. I have a very short folding SOG camp or survival shovel with a bag, maybe 12 inches extended. Is that against the rules? or the short Army surplus type shovel where blade folds over?  

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8 hours ago, DPS Ammonite said:

The US Forest Service prohibits use of “full-sized” tools for fossil collecting.

https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=7b7796f0ea8fbf9aa22cf76da4fb5d09&mc=true&node=pt36.2.291&rgn=div5#se36.2.291_15

 

“Non-powered hand tools mean small tools that do not use or are not operated by a motor, engine, or other power source. These tools are limited to small tools that can be easily carried by hand such as geologic hammers, trowels, or sieves, but not large tools such as full-sized shovels or pick axes.“

 

I have not been able to find current rules that govern tool size for BLM land. Therefore, go by more restrictive USFS rules.

Actually, that’s the exact wording BLM uses too! 
 

I should clarify, I was just adding the common names for the tools to can’t use as “pick” can mean different things.

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On 12/8/2020 at 3:38 PM, Bob Saunders said:

speaking of snakes how about a snake bite kit if poisonous type are in your area. and for Bee stings, I read and have tried gel type toothpaste.  It does help if not allergic. Liquid bandage, not sure mine went. I have a very short folding SOG camp or survival shovel with a bag, maybe 12 inches extended. Is that against the rules? or the short Army surplus type shovel where blade folds over?  

As someone who does a lot of work with snakes, snake bite kits are worthless in real life! The venom absorbs into the flesh all but immediately. Just avoid them. They have no desire to eat you.

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46 minutes ago, Sjfriend said:

As someone who does a lot of work with snakes, snake bite kits are worthless in real life! The venom absorbs into the flesh all but immediately. Just avoid them. They have no desire to eat you.

Remember the song by Johnny Cash, help I'm being swallowed by a Boa constrictor?  Long but on the radio a lot. I think I have Saunders snake bite kit some where.  

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7 hours ago, Sjfriend said:

As someone who does a lot of work with snakes, snake bite kits are worthless in real life! The venom absorbs into the flesh all but immediately. Just avoid them. They have no desire to eat you.

Agreed. A snake bite kit is just as effective as standing in traffic and handing out 20$ bills to strangers.

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On 12/8/2020 at 6:38 PM, Bob Saunders said:

speaking of snakes how about a snake bite kit if poisonous type are in your area. and for Bee stings, I read and have tried gel type toothpaste.  It does help if not allergic. Liquid bandage, not sure mine went. I have a very short folding SOG camp or survival shovel with a bag, maybe 12 inches extended. Is that against the rules? or the short Army surplus type shovel where blade folds over?  

Best way to deal with snakes is a good pair of snake boots or guards, and to slow down and pay attention. A hiking stick is helpful to sweep a little in front of you (like a blind persons cane) to give the snake a bit of warning.

 

As someone that has been bitten three times and envenomated twice, I can tell you everything you think you know about snakebite is a myth. (which is why I wear 400$ snake boots when out in snake country these days)

 

 To answer questions: Snakebite kits are a scam. In the US, if out in the backcountry, it is a good idea to find out which hospitals /doctor's offices/urgent cares in the area have CroFab in stock BEFORE you head out. No, rattlers don't always rattle before they strike. With the advent of CroFab, the need to identify the snake is a waste of time (unless you are in coral snake country...)

 Best defense to make some noise, slow down and know what to look for. All snakebites are the human's fault, not the snake's.

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Michigan only has one, the  Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus) MICHIGAN'S ONLY VENOMOUS SNAKE

I exeted a trout stream once and a black snake was on the path. I touched with the tip of my rod. It sounded like  it hissed at me and slithered away. 

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