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F.. We have now arrived at Iron Nails and Rusty Tin ... What to Use and What to Do?confused smiley

May 14, 2021 02:37AM avatar
Well, here we are. Our stroll out of the urban environment has ended up here, in an old ghost town that is very brushy, has scattered debris and fallen-down structures, and a glance all around us we see an abundance of Iron Nails and Rusty Tin. The two biggest challenges for any detectorist to deal with. We are ow faced with two search decisions and those are What to Use and What to Do to improve our odds for success. No doubt, our personal opinions will enter in, as well as the personal detector choices we've already made.


And we are going to see some likes and dislikes when it comes to tackling a lot of Iron in a small area. OregonGregg, for example, likes 'Red'. He had a Red Chevy pick-up, and back in '15 for our first couple of WTHO's he had an 'original' Red Makro Racer. While he generally likes 'Red' he also had a couple of Minelab Vanquishes, both the 440 and 540, which were also Red. The configuration was fine, the balance and feel was fine, but they are gone because, for Gregg and the ghost towns he practically lives in the past eight years, the performance wasn't. Not compared with the other detectors he used to use or currently uses as his 'What-to-Use'

Then there are those who have trimmed their main-use detector team to mainly two models, like UtahRich, who has a Minelab Equinox 800 and XP Deus. Two modern and currently-produced detectors that have a lot of adjustment functions, and he has a good search coil selection for those devices. They are both good detectors, and Rich has patiently put in the time and effort to learn them which is very important. He knows their strengths and their weaknesses for different types of site applications, and I am rather confident that while he might use his Equinox 800 in a ghost town, the Deus is probably going to be his primary choice when he prepares to tangle with the dense ferrous trash.

I have my own favorites, and in my case they have all proven their ability to work well in Iron Nails. My 10 kHz Tesoro's have been providing me with a lot of terrific success in those types of locations for 38 years now, and they keep a round 6" Concentric coil attached. My 12 kHz Nokta / Makro Simplex + keeps its smallest-available 5X9½ DD mounted full time, and that mid-size coil has also passed-the-test when it comes to both sample comparisons as well as in-the-field use. My 19 kHz Nokta Relic, which only uses a 5" DD coil, is my go-to unit when I face those nasty challenges. And my Garrett Apex devices give me the option of both Simultaneous Multi-Frequency or Selectable-Frequency where I can use 5, 10, 15 or 20 kHz. Additionally, my main-use mid-size 'Ripper' DD coil does well in a lot of Iron Nails, and if I want something smaller than it's 5X8 size, I grab another Apex with a NEL 5" DD coil, and it also provides me very good performance in Iron junk.

In my case, any of my detectors can be grabbed to use in the Iron infested ghost towns I enjoy hunting, or other similar old-use places that are challenging due to the ferrous debris. In addition to my chosen detectors in my 'What-to-Use' group, all of them reflect my preference in search coil selections as well: 6" Concentric on a Tesoro. Small 5" DD on a Relic or Apex, or mid-size 'Ripper' 5X8 DD on a Garrett Apex or 5X9½ DD on a Nokta / Makro Simplex +. No bigger-size coils in my working outfit when I am not searching wide-open and sparse-target areas. There is a time and place for a lot of 'standard' to 'larger-size' search coils, but those really nasty, frustrating ferrous-challenged sites are not the right place.

Deciding 'What-to-Use' means you need to know your detector. Have you read your Owner Manual completely? Cover-to-cover? If not, now would be the time to do so, and if you have more than one detector, you ought to read more than one manual because even though some things might be similar, they might not function the same. The way different manufactures make their detectors can often seem a little confusing. For example, let's look, again, at Ground Balance. Some models do not have operator adjustment because it is internally preset. Some might have an automated GB where you bob the coil a few times over metal-free ground to establish a GB. Then there are those that feature manual GB.

I prefer to have a detector that allows me, the operator, to control the GB setting for both a Threshold-based All Metal mode as well as a motion-based Discriminate mode. Not all detectors do. Next, I like to have an automated GB to help deal with challenging ground mineral conditions. My least favorite, for an all-purpose detector, is a factory preset GB that can not be adjusted.

Be aware, also, that not all detectors function in a way we might call 'normal.' Again, referring to Ground Balance. If you have a Fisher F-75 or F-19, or a Teknetics T2+ or Omega 8000 or G2+, or maybe a White's MXT Pro or MX-5 or MX-7, an XP ORX or Garrett AT Max or Apex, or almost any other make or model with a visual numeric display for the Ground Balance, you'll notice the following experience:

Ground Balance over some lower-mineralized, mellow ground and let's say you get a reading of '57', then you step over a few feet where the ground is highly mineralized with a lot of iron-oxide black sand composite and re-balance. Now you might end up with a GB read-out of let's say '79'. That larger number or increase in the number, suggests you are now over more mineralized ground and had to increase the GB adjustment.

If you balanced over the first patch of dirt, then held the coil about 6" above the second, more mineralized patch of dirt and, in an All Metal mode, lowered the coil to about 1", the Threshold would decrease or go silent because you were approaching more mineralized ground. To properly GB you would Increase / '+' the GB control until you adjusted for the more mineralized dirt.

If you were GB'ed over the first low-mineral patch and moved to the higher-mineralized ground, held the coil at about 1" and had a Threshold audio, then raised the coil away from the ground, you would hear an increase in the audio, and that suggested your GB was too negative for the bad ground, so you would increase / '+' the GB setting to GB. That means increase the ground phase numeric red-out to a larger number.

But when I got a Minelab X-Terra 50 and then X-Terra 70 years back, I noticed they did things 'backwards,' and the current X-Terra 705 is the same. Here is a cut-and-paste from their Owner Manual for manually adjusting the GB:

If the detector makes a sound when the coil goes down,
increase the Ground Balance setting using +.

Backwards thinking! If the detector makes a sound when the coil is LOWERED towards the ground, that indicates the GB is already too-positive and you should DECREASE the GB setting. In other words, adjust to a lower or smaller number. But Minelab has you use the '+' adjustment to increase the number, get larger, to adjust for a lower GB setting. The opposite of what almost every other detector does.

If the detector makes a sound when the coil goes up,
decrease the Ground Balance setting using -.

Again, the opposite of 'normal'. If a detector makes a sound when the coil goes up, or is lifted away from the ground, that's an indication the GB is too negative and you would normally need to INCREASE the GB setting, or adjust for a larger number. But they tell you to use the '-' adjustment which reduces to a smaller or lower number in order to get a more positive GB setting. eye popping smiley

I can't tell you how many times I have had e-mails or calls or in-person contact with people using a Minelab X-Terra who had a lot of noisy behavior or impaired performance because they just didn't understand the reverse-thinking. They had a bad GB setting because they also used, or had used, other brands and models and knew the area had very mineralized ground, so they naturally Increased the GB setting to a higher or larger number. Normal for most detectors, but wrong for the X-Terra series as you need a smaller number to increase the GB and go more positive.

Spend ample time to get to know your detectors, each of them, well. And get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each search coil you'll use on each detector. Make some 'test' samples as well as take the detector & coil afield into some more challenging conditions. It's a learning curve so be prepared to do just that. .... Learn.


Things get pretty simple about now because there are some basic rules to absorb and remember compared to all that city-life detecting most folks do. Here are the simple reminders or encouragement of 'What-to-Do' .... or maybe Not-Do:

1.. Take the best detector and coil you have for tackling dense Iron debris.

2.. Consider taking a 2nd or even 3rd detector and coil(s) as 'back-up' or to work any area that is less of a challenge.

3.. Use the least amount of Discrimination you can tolerate. I prefer to set mine, if possible, to just barely accept Iron Nails, or to just barley reject Iron Nails.

4.. Search the area slowly & methodically, and try to avoid fast search coil sweeps. I suggest not using broad, side-to-side sweeps, but instead try to limit the left-to-right and right-to-left coil coverage to anywhere from 24" to 30", perhaps 36" or so in open areas. There are times I'm only going ±18"-20" on a sweep length,when very littered or in dense brush.. That helps you maintain a better, slower sweep-sped, and be more efficient at overlapping each sweep.

5.. Take your time. Be very patient, cover an area completely rather than be in a rush to scurry about everywhere.

6.. Investigate those 'iffy' responses, especially the sort-of-good hits you will get in and around the challenging debris.

7.. If your detector has visual Target ID you can use it or not, but I wouldn't give it more than a quick glance, and never rely on it to be anywhere close to 'accurate' as there are usually too many offending pieces of ferrous and non-ferrous metals scattered about that will partially mask or degrade a good-target response.

8.. Rely mainly on the Audio response, and that includes checking out the iffy or questionable hits. Never count on a multi-tone model to produce the proper Tone ID for a specific non-ferrous target because there can often be masking. That includes target masking caused by the unseen metal objects you might have Discriminated.

9.. Before setting out on any detecting adventure, especially if it is a multi-day jaunt, make sure you include all your recovery gear, extra batteries, and charging cables and adapters as needed for any rechargeable equipment. (Detectors, Headphones, Pinpointers.)

10.. By far, the majority of all the good targets, be them coins, trade tokens, jewelry, buttons, buckles, etc., etc., in most of the ghost towns, homesteads, dance hall, school or church sites, pioneer and military encampments and other old-use sites that I have been hunting since 1969 are located anywhere from on the surface or just slightly below, down to a depth of maybe ±4". Anything over 4" and down to 7" or so are few and far between unless there has been substantial activity to / of the ground, or erosion, to contribute to more ground build-up.

11.. There are some other pieces of equipment you might consider in addition to a detector and coils. Batteries not required, either. Those include things like a rake or a good magnet. I have toted a small-size leaf rake, with stiff plastic tines, for a couple of decade now. It has been very useful in my tot-lot success. It has also been a useful tool for surface-clearing of areas I grid in my Relic Hunting as well. Example is to clean an area as best a possible right next to where you want to grid. Once you are satisfied it is clean, rake the surface area of a grid, maybe 8'X12', into that pre-checked area. That will remove a lot of Iron Nails, Rusty Tin, and other ferrous and non-ferrous debris as well as twigs, branches and other non-metal stuff. That will help eliminate some of the target-masking trash.

A good magnet can also be handy just to help rid an area of the Iron junk, which is the more important form of debris to get out of any area you want to detect. The material can be raked off to the side of a gridded area, but it might also be handy to have a 5-Gal. plastic bucket and a good pair of gloves along for surface-cleaning. Rusty Tin and other material can be sharp so caution ought to be used when removing the 'attractive' ferrous debris from the magnet, then put it in a bucket. That makes it easy to remove from a site.

12.. And now, the most difficult to virtually impossible thing to accomplish in 'What to Do' is this - - - Make some ferrous 'Test Samples'. I only know of ONE 'Test Sample' and it is unique to itself but authentic, and that is my Nail Board Performance Test. Hunting urban locations I have encountered Iron Nails in sidewalk repair, demolition sites, around new construction on old-use property, in long-vacant lots, and many other places. We all have. But hunting the very challenging ghost towns since May of '69 occasionally, and then very avidly since July of '83, I have frequently found small coins in all sorts of orientations to one or more Iron Nails

Quite a few times the targets, good and bad, were right there exposed or partially exposed on the surface. Other times they were just barely out-of-sight but still on, or close to, the same plane. I was always too bust searching and finding stuff, but afterwards I'd reflect on that day's adventure and appreciate what I learned from each good-target encounter and the challenges near it. I'd wish I had a good copy of some of them just to duplicate that experience and use it to check and compare other detectors and coils. That opportunity came my way on a May, Memorial Day Weekend in 1994 when searching the ghost town of Frisco Utah.

I was evaluating a newer detector model and was slowly making my way along with that unit, one of my own detectors for comparison, and had a clipboard along also for note-taking about that detector. I had just worked my way uphill to where the school used to be, only to see an impressive amount of unexciting Iron Nails scattered about, most in rather close positions. I looked around for a clean area to adjust the Ground Balance and there, about two feet in front of me, I spotted a round disk-shaped object surrounded by 4 Iron Nails of different sizes. PERFECT! I now had an actual in-the-field encounter to check out, and with the clipboard and notepaper I was able to make an impression of the exact positions of the coin, an Indian Head Cent, and the four Iron Nails.

With that exact positioning, and being able to pick up those same nails of different sizes ... and the Indian Head Cent ... I was later able to lay them out on a piece of cardboard, exactly, and fasten them in position. I made a circle in the exact position of the Indian Head Cent so I could sweep a detector & coil over the Iron Nails alone and listen to any audio response or note if they were Discriminated out with some models at their minimum Disc. setting. Then I could place an Indian Head Cent, or modern Zinc Cent of similar size and conductivity, in the same orientation to the Iron Nails.

For those who have not seen how my NBPT looks, here is a link: [www.ahrps.org]

The overall size of this 'board' is not to scale, but the Iron Nails and Coin positions are very close to proper. It's simply so you can see the orientation of the four Nails, their different lengths, and where the Indian Head Cent was in relationship to the Nails. It was in the circled #1 spot. After the impression was made, I did place the Indian Head Cent close to the bigger Nail on the left, in the circled #2 position, just to sweep across the Coin and Nail using the same sweep routes but with the coin under the center-axis of the coil for a 'direct sweep'. Even more challenges for most detectors with that simple change. Educational.

Trying to copy the photo might result in an errant size and orientation, plus a piece of paper-copy can easily get torn or wet and ruined. I was often asked about a copy of my NBPT so over a dozen years ago I got with a sign maker who made an exact duplicate of the proper orientation of the Nails and Coin positions, then I prepared the finished 'boards' to make a 'kit' with four Iron Nails and plastic zip-ties to fasten the nails in their proper positions. I drilled small holes on both sides of the Nails for the zip-ties to go through and around, I've been selling those NBPT 'kits' ever since and will have to track down a sign maker here in Texas to make more as I am getting low.

Here is where 'Test Samples' or even in-the-field encounters can be helpful because you can use that opportunity to sweep your detector's coil across the Coin from several locations and learn how well your outfit and settings are going to help you in a challenging Iron and good-target encounter. Just remember this: NO encounter you make afield is going to be exactly duplicated again soon, if ever, but there will be a lot of very close situations to deal with. The problems we face in those types of older sites are simply innumerable.

Yes, the NBPT is all on the same plane. But that is exactly how it was when encountered in a natural setting, thus it makes it a very valid 'Test'. I do have a 3-D 'Test' set-up, exacting, with the Coin 1" above or 1" below the four Iron nails, and that's 'educational' as well to see how many detectors still do not do well in the more favorable orientation. But in it's natural placement, I use the NB to evaluate any and all detectors and coils I get my hands on.

You will note the four marked sweep directions: E-W being '1', N-S' being '2', and '3' and '4' being the diagonal directions. The 4 routes are swept both directions making 8 possible good hits on the Indian Head Cent. For ME, the cut-off requirement for a detector & coil to be useful for serious Relic Hunting in dense Iron Nails is 7-out-of-8. If it is anything less, then it is not a detector and coil I want to put my trust in when hunting in and about a lot of Nails. And since my long-trusted analog circuitry, non-display and single-tone Tesoro models using a 6" Concentric coil can easily hit 8-out-of-8, then I am not too excited about any of the 'modern' detectors we have had for a decade or more if they can not do, at the minimum, 7 or 8-out-of-8 possible.

The benefit of the NB test is that it is consistent. I can use it any where at any time with any detector and coil, and anyone who has one of the exact copies on my NB can do the same. Some manufacturers had or have one of my NBPT 'kits', to include White's, Nokta / Makro and Garrett., and several folks who do on-line videos, like Keith Southern, also have one.

As I said, however, it is impossible to make up a test piece unless it is an actual encounter like mine, but you can completely alter the results as well. Take my NB for example. Remove one nail and things can change. Swap the nails around to change the size and orientation and the results can change. Pick only 1 Nail and rotate it around a 360° axis where it is, just 1° at a time, and in the end things can change several times.

In short, nothing is 'perfect' and each in-the-field encounter can, and will, present different challenges for any detector make or model with different coils. Because of that, ans since my NB is a 'real thing', it at least allows me, or YOU, to determine how well our current detector(s) perform and set some standards we want to use for current or future detector & coil selections. Determine our own 'minimum standard' of acceptance.

The NB is useful because it lets us see how much of a challenge ferrous targets can be when it comes to partial or complete good-target masking; the struggles some circuitry designs have for recovering from the negative impact of the Iron Nail on the EMF and the detector's signal processing and recovery; and how the different sweep routes can alter a visual Target ID and also degrade the audio Tone ID, making a desired Coin produce a lower visual and audio read-out. All due to the influence and challenges of those lowly Iron Nails.

Are you tired of reading about Iron Nails? Okay, were's done! No more Iron Nail testing and discussions! .. smiling bouncing smiley

We are going to move on to Rusty Tin. ... sad smiley

That's right, the sheet metal type trash we find that can be in a flattened shape, such as part of a Tin Roof, or Tin Can, or they can be slightly curved like shards from a decaying round-shaped can that had peaches or something else in it. Those shards will generally end up being rather flat by the time we encounter them ... and I am certain you'll come across a few full-size or only partially decayed 'tin' type metal objects and know what you have to deal with.

The big pieces are easy to spot and can be 'toe-scuffed' out-of-the-way to detect where they were. But that's only now-and-then. long periods of time have taken their toll on a lot of the ferrous / Iron cast-asides and they have been deteriorating, falling apart, and in time have left behind a lot of scattered-about smaller to medium-sized chunks of Rusty Tin for us to deal with.

Most of the time the Rusty Tin we come across is going to be pieces from something bigger, and it is those small to medium Tin 'shards' from decaying objects that are either right there on top of the ground to just below or to maybe a couple of inches and out-of-sight that present our biggest problem because most of the time we can't see them. Sometimes Rusty Tin can be troubling and produce a higher audio tone or a numeric VDI response much like those blasted Bottle Caps, and that's a good thing.

What!eye popping smiley ... How can that be a 'good thing' to see and hear?

If we are using a detector that features visual and / or audio Target ID, then by hearing the presence of the often-abundant and just out-of-sight Rusty Tin, we can take it on and 'classify' it. How? Rusty Tin is some of that Man-Made and Man-Shaped junk-metal, much the same as the crimp-on Bottle Cap, so as described in an earlier post I made, we just make use of the 'Edge-Pass Rejection' technique and that can help 'classify' it as a probable junk ferrous target.thumbs up As I have mentioned, I've been using 'EPR' going way back to the '70s, but it has become even more useful with all these modern digitally-designed detectors that feature numeric VDI displays and Tone ID audio.

Knowing Rusty Tin might be present, and in many cases having the knowledge and detector ability to properly 'classify' it, is really a good thing. We can slowly work around that annoying known ferrous debris and listen for any nearby good target that was partially masked. thumbs up
However, not all Rusty Tin is going to be seen or heard,thumbs down ... and there-in lies the bigger problem we face.sad smiley

It might create a brief 'tick' or 'click' in the audio or it might be completely rejected based on the Discrimination setting, so while WE might not know it is present, the Rusty Tin knows the detector's EMF is present and it will have a negative effect on any good, 'normal' performance. That's right, seen or hard or not seen or heard makes no difference, necessarily, to the detector's electronics and the circuitry still has to deal with the enhanced EMF and the effects the Iron debris creates with regard to signal processing and a detector's recovery speed, etc.

That's one of the reasons why it can be helpful to search any Iron-based Relic Hunting site slowly & methodically. You'll be employing a slower sweep to help work in and around the Rusty Tin and other Iron litter better than if you were wandering through with a willy-nilly faster coil sweep. That type of hunt is what helps folks miss some good targets, leaving them behind for others to find on a future hunt ....using the proper or best search techniques.

Stated above was a suggestion to make up your own 'tests' to learn what to expect and how your detector & coil can handle different challenges of ferrous targets. I planned to post some examples of a 'test' or two but have been dealing with computer problems. I hope to post them in a day or so. In the mean-time, especially for those who are planning to start some Relic Hunting this year and will face more Iron than they might have imagined, you might consider contacting me to purchase a NBPT 'kit' for a genuine example of one Iron Nail encounter, or you could wander around some location close to you in search of some examples of Rusty Tin.

Lay some sample pieces out without using any coin or non-ferrous target so you can sweep over the ferrous-sample you make. Listen to your detector and learn what it is doing and telling you. Try more than one detector or more than one search coil and adjust your Discrimination level to see what happens in the way of audio or visual responses. Then, position a Coin in the mix of trash and run the same detectors and coils over it using a direct-sweep with the center-axis of the coil, from different directions. Consider it a worthwhile learning experience then go from there.

Photos to come soon.


"Your EYES ... the only 100% accurate form of Discrimination!"

Stinkwater Wells Trading Post
Metal Detector Evaluations and Product Reviews
I'm now located in Clyde, Texas
monte@ahrps.org ... or ... monte@stinkwaterwells.com
Detector Outfit: A selection of my favorite makes and models, with the best coils mounted, for the tasks I'll take on.
Apex .. FORS CoRe .. FORS Relic .. Bandido II µMAX .. Silver Sabre µMAX
Pinpointers: Pulse-Dive Pointer and AT Pro-Pointer .. Headphones: 'Hornet' & 'Wasp' .. MS-3 Z-Lynk ..
*** All working well today to make memories for tomorrow. ***

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/18/2021 04:01AM by Monte.
Subject Author Views Posted

Now we are going to take a stroll out of the urban trash.

Monte 287 May 06, 2021 10:46AM

F.. We have now arrived at Iron Nails and Rusty Tin ... What to Use and What to Do?confused smiley

Monte 104 May 14, 2021 02:37AM

E.. Problem Common Trash; so-called 'False Signals'; Useful Search Techniques.

Monte 123 May 11, 2021 06:26AM

D.... The next major advancement: VLF-Disc. and Motion-Discrimination.

Monte 102 May 09, 2021 09:22AM

C.. And then came the Discriminators, and VLF's and VLF/TR-Disc.

Monte 80 May 07, 2021 06:27PM

B.. Just what was a "Metal / Mineral Locator" I spoke about?

Monte 88 May 07, 2021 10:03AM

A.. First, let's follow the path that leads us into various Iron / Ferrous debris.

Monte 158 May 07, 2021 05:08AM

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