Lost a ring? Engagement, Wedding, Anniversary or Sentimental ring? Thinking about trying to use a metal detector to find it?
I lost my wedding ring and rented a metal detector to help me find it. Several months later, after hearing the story of my success finding the ring, my uncle asked me to come over and look for his wedding ring. It had been lost 10 or so years ago during the construction of a small retaining wall under a deck at his home.
After my initial 4 day ordeal looking for my own ring I was a little apprehensive about the prospect of finding his ring, but at least it wasn't under water like mine had been, plus he had a pretty good idea of where it should be. So, he rented a metal detector, coincidentally the same one I had used to find mine, and on a nice Sunday morning I went over to start digging. We broke out the shovels, a wheel barrel, a bucket and coffee.
He showed me the area, about 20 square feet, and we considered that it could be at a depth of up to a foot or two near the front. I took off my own ring and placed it on the ground to get a feel for what a good strong hit should sound like on the metal detectors speaker and then I started working the area.
In less than 5 minutes I got a good strong hit and sure enough, there was his ring! We spent more time pulling out the tools than we actually spent looking for the ring. After 10 years in the dirt his ring was back on his finger and I was now 2 for 2 finding lost wedding rings.
So, with all that in mind, here are my beginner's tips for finding a lost ring with a metal detector.
One good metal detector. Nothing super-fancy, but it should have the discriminator settings to set for rings and not coins. Set for rings, they are much more sensitive to heavier metals like gold.
A good plastic trowel (small shovel). Plastic ones are better for this job since they won't interfere with the metal detector.
A decent plastic bucket, without a metal handle. Again, no metal to interfere with the detector.
A gold ring and a few coins. - I know this may sound silly, but when you read my techniques section it will make more sense.
Shoes WITHOUT steel toes or steel shanks. If you wear steel toed work shoes or boots, they will interfere with the metal detector.
First, make sure that you can search the area. If it is a park you are usually allowed to do it if you don't damage the grass. That means that just like on the golf course, you need to put your divots (bits of grass you pull up) back. If the location is on private property, make sure that you have the owner's permission to enter and search.
If this is your first time using a metal detector, ask for some assistance from the shop where you rent or buy it and/or read the manual. If you are looking for a ring, make sure that you set the 'discriminator' to the 'ring' setting. This will help you avoid getting lots of false signals from small bits of metal like old gum wrappers.
Find a nice little practice area where you can move the detector around without getting a bunch of beeps. This may mean clearing some stuff away, or you may get lucky and find a clear spot right away. Just give yourself a few square feet that you can pass the detector over without finding anything.
Train your ear. Take a gold ring and place it on the ground, then place a penny on the ground about 3 feet away from the ring. Pass the detector over both of them and listen to the difference in the beep. If the detector is properly set, you should hear a much stronger beep from the ring than you do from the penny. Do this for awhile. You really want to get a good feeling for the difference between a solid 'hit' and just a small beep.
Once you start actually searching, work in an orderly pattern. Pick out the area you want to search and work in a methodical way. There are many different patterns you could use. One method that seemed to work for me was to do the border first, all the way around and then work left to right, front to back. However, the exact pattern isn't as important as the fact that you use one. You need to know that when you've covered an area you have really covered it.
If you hit a beep and you feel it's worth digging, move the detector around side to side and front to back until you have a pretty good idea exactly where the target is. Digital detectors (which I haven't used) will have a little indicator screen that will help you narrow in on it. Once you've decided to dig, use your plastic trowel and bring up a small area. Put the dirt and grass into your bucket and then check the area again. This will help make sure that you got the item. Don't start sifting through the bucket until you're sure you have gotten the target out of the ground.
After you are sure that the target is out of the ground, use the detector on the bucket and see if the target shows up in there. If it does, then you know you got it and something is in there. Search the bucket until you find it and the bucket reads clean (no beeps) from the detector. If it wasn't what you were looking for, get it out of the way. Don't just throw that little piece of foil or penny back into your search area (I learned this the hard way when I spent 5 minutes to find the target I had just spent 5 minutes to find and then tossed in my search area).
After you have dealt with each individual target, you must put the dirt and sod back! Don't leave the park or yard looking like a mine field! It is up to you not to destroy or deface property.
Keep working the search area until you have covered the entire area. From time to time, set your test ring and a penny on the ground and re-tune your ear to hear the difference.
If you aren't successful, can't find a rental shop, or just don't want to deal with it, there are people who do this as a side job / hobby. Expect to pay $50 to $100 to have someone search for a couple of hours. They are skilled at this and may have a better chance of finding the object that a novice.
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