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Shown:  Two different styles of folding camp shovel, a 3-prong garden scratcher, and a folding saw good for cutting through matted growth and stubborn roots.

A 3-pronged cultivating fork can be very handy for turning up the first few inches on the surface.  The raking action tends to select out the bigger stones for you to examine, leaving the smaller material easier to sift. 

If you prefer standing, a long-handled potato rake also works well.

To dig deeper, a folding camp-shovel is handy.  It packs small, and the best models come with a serrated edge for cutting through roots if needed.

Tools for Digging

Screening for Gems

Especially in lithium-enriched pegmatites, where even small pieces of gem material can be valuable, many rockhounds use a screening apparatus.  Experienced diggers often contrive their own, with graduated mesh sizes, but the sifter pictured to the right is readily available.


From Top to Bottom:  2 lb. Pick-Hammer, 25” Rock Pick, Awl (for probing crevices), 16 lb. Sledgehammer, 3 lb. Crack Hammer, and a couple of Chisels – all tempered specifically for use on Rock.

Tools for Breaking Rock


A pick-hammer is the tool most associated with prospecting. Its flat end works well for a quick trim of a promising specimen while still in the mine, and the pointy end is more for extending your reach – neither safe nor effective for breaking rock.

 Sledgehammer weights can range from 2 to 30 pounds.  Sometimes the way to find what has been overlooked by previous collectors is to see what’s inside a likely looking boulder.  Along with a good set of chisels you should able to dismantle most any large rock.


Handy to Have Along

To better see what you’re looking at, whether it’s a ledge or boulder you’re deciding whether to tackle, or a dirt-covered specimen you’re deciding whether to bring home, a repurposed spray bottle filled with water, a scrubber or old toothbrush, and a whisk broom will help.  Not all mines will have access to rinse water.

Tips for Transport

You’ll need a way to pack in your tools and tote out your rocks.  Pictured is an ice-fishing pack-basket, but any sturdy backpack will work just fine.  Many rockhounds also use 5-gallon buckets – even better tricked out with tool pouches and a seat, and where the mine road is smooth enough, even a garden cart.  Bring newspaper to wrap your specimens in so they arrive home undamaged, and smaller pieces are safer in an empty prescription bottle


The Right Tools for the Right Job 

There are many differences in the mineralogy, history and status of the mine tailings from one quarry to another.  Start out with the most basic tools, and as you attend field trips and see them in use by your fellow rockhounds, you will get a better idea of which will work best for you and your digging style.

Our brief summaries of frequently visited mines on our club’s schedule, which follow, will contain suggestions about which tools are your best options for the conditions you will find in each location.

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