If you are intrigued with gold and the pursuit of it, the 3-in-1 Super Sluice Combo may be just the equipment you have been looking for.
Designed and built by Howard Schmidt, who is probably best known for the Schmidt Gold Trap dredge (tested in the February 1994 issue of Lost Treasure), the 3-in-1 is distributed by Gold N Gem Grubbin of Cleveland, Ga.
As its name implies, the 3-in-1 is really a lightweight gold retrieval system that is three pieces of equipment in one: a sluice, a highbanker and a 3-inch dredge. This unit is so new that it went through significant changes even during the field testing.
What makes this new equipment different from similar equipment is the unique design of the sluice portion of the system. Like most sluices, this one is made of sturdy aluminum. However, instead of the usual riffle-carpet design commonly found on sluices, the 3-in-1 has a gold trap located under the center of the sluice.
This gold recovery chamber consists of a slot extending across the width of the sluice which opens to an aluminum box welded to the bottom of the sluice. This box serves as the gold trap and works on the principle that heavier materials like gold will fall and remain in the box until retrieved. Lighter materials will be pushed over the trap by the water flow.
Removing an expansion plug located in the bottom of the box and washing the contents of the gold trap into a pan by pouring water over the surface of the sluice accomplish retrieval of gold. Under normal conditions, the trap doesnt have to be emptied more than once or twice a day.
The 3-in-1 Combo has other sturdy, well-designed aluminum components including a header box, legs and leg stands. There is also a fiberglass tub called the Marlex flotation device which holds the 31/2 horsepower Briggs and Stratton engine and pump assembly when used as a dredge. A 5 horsepower engine is optional.
When dredging, the Marlex flotation device holding the motor and pump ride in one large inner tube and the sluice mounts on another. Both large innertubes are included as are the bungee cords required to hold components on the tubes.
Dredging is accomplished by pulling material through the 3-inch suction hose, a 3-inch PVC suction tube and a similarly sized discharge tube. The three 1-inch hoses provided are connected to the larger suction tube assembly. The water pressure through the 1-inch hoses by the pump assembly provides the suction on the larger 3-inch hose. A 1/2-inch hose and a trap manifold are used to provide an agitation action in the gold collection chamber. Other smaller components in the system include a spray bar, a pump manifold and other PVC piping and hose clamps.
Because there are several components involved, I made a visual inspection of all the components to make sure everything I needed was there. Also, I took time to read the limited amount of material included.
I am glad I did, since I had made a basic assumption that the motor came supplied with oil. I was wrong. The process of filling the motor with oil was simple enough but failure to do so could have easily resulted in a major problem.
To simplify final assembly in the field, I pre-assembled parts of the system at home. This included mounting the motor-pump assembly in the Marvel flotation tub. The suction tube for the pump was also assembled but not installed. The various hose clamps were slid on the appropriate hoses and snugged down so they wouldnt slide off. To be safe, I purchased a couple of clamps to carry as spares.
I also picked up two 5-gallon plastic buckets which served as tool and part carriers while transporting equipment to the field and carriers of water and material when at the site.
The system is relatively compact. I was able to pack the entire unit easily in the back of my Explorer or in the back of my Bronco II by folding down part of the back seat.
Testing the 3-in-1 Super Sluice required several trips about 90 miles from my home to the central mountains of Colorado where the equipment was operated at an altitude of 10,000 feet.
Assembly and use in the field was reasonably quick and easy regardless of which of the three modes used. The list of tools necessary was a pair of pliers, a 1/2-inch wrench, a screwdriver and a couple of nut drivers to tighten the various clamps. A compact portable air compressor was also carried to inflate the inner tube portions of the flotation system.
Normally, a person would use the 3-in-1 Super Sluice Combo as a dredge or a highbanker. However, there are places where only sluices or pans can be used. In such cases, the Schmidt-designed sluice provided can be used satisfactorily by itself.
Testing of the sluice was simple. First I found a suitable location to place the sluice, wedged the sluice in place with rocks and shoveled material into the header of the sluice. At the end of this portion of the field test, I had far more gold than I could retrieve in the same amount of time of panning at the same site.
The next portion of the system to be tested was highbanking. For those of you who may not be familiar with this term, highbanking is the procedure of processing nearby dirt located a distance from a water source. Highbanking eliminates the need to haul the soil back to a sluice system.
Assembly of the 3-in-1 Combo as a highbanker was easy. All that was necessary was to position and attach the legs on the sluice with the pins supplied, attach the header box and water manifold, couple the 1-inch hoses supplied to provide a greater distance from the creek and start the motor which was located at a creek. Almost immediately I had more than an adequate supply of water to wash the material I shoveled onto the header.
The highbanking portion of the testing proved a little more successful, this time producing some small but pretty gold pickers. To verify the sluices ability to trap gold, I mounted a different brand of sluice behind the one being tested. Upon completion, both sluices were examined. Some very small pieces had evaded the Schmidt sluice but not many.
Because the 3-in-1 has been advertised that it will retrieve rings and coins, I dropped some coins into the dirt being shoveled into the header during the highbanking testing. At the end of the trial, the coins were retrieved from the gold trap, proving what the manufacturer said was true.
Next, it was time to test the dredge portion, the portion most likely to be used on a regular basis. For those of you not familiar with dredging, it can be equated to sucking or vacuuming the bottom of a stream or river.
Again, assembly was quick and easy, and in little time I was creating a large hole in the bottom of the river. The suction action of the dredge was very impressive. The flow of material was consistent and heavy unless a large rock wedged in the tube. When this happened, I had to shut down and remove the rock. To make removal easier, I carried a piece of 1/4-inch rod with me that I used to pry loose the wedged rock.
The recommended procedure to minimize this problem is to place your hand near or in front of the suction tube to keep rocks from causing such problems, but there are times and places where both hands are needed to guide the tube. As a quick fix to alleviate this problem, I purchased a 3-inch PVC coupling, drilled holes on opposite sides near one end and strung a strong piece of wire through them. A long bolt could have been used as well.
The results of the dredging didnt produce enough gold to retire, but there was enough found to keep the desire going. There were some small but nice pieces of gold and many extremely small pieces. I am sure more time and a wider selection of areas would have produced more gold but the objective was to see how the equipment worked in the least amount of time.
As a gold retrieval system, I found the 3-in-1 Super Sluice is a well-designed system that is simple to assemble and use and, because of its lightweight and compact design, relatively easy to transport. All of these features are a real plus for a 3-inch dredge system.
Although the 31/2 horsepower engine worked adequately throughout the test, one might seriously consider the optional 5 horsepower system, especially when working at high altitudes.
The price of the complete 3-in-1 Super Sluice Combo is $1,294. It can be purchased without the pump and motor for $899. If only the sluice is desired, this can be purchased for $240. For more information about the 3-in-1 Super Sluice Combo, any of its components or other gold dredging equipment, contact Gold N Gem Grubbin, 75 Gold Nugget Lane, Cleveland, Ga. 30528; phone (706) 865-5454. The number to order equipment is (800) 942-4436.