Dowsing for detectorists PART 1: THE L-ROD

The Penrith Hoard in the British Museum Copyright 2010 Ealdgyth and reused under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unportedlicense

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Hamlet 1:5

I would imagine that all detectorists have an interest in improving the quality and quantity of their finds. Yet very few make use of a free technology that can bring spectacular results when employed alongside a metal detector. Dowsing probably hasn’t caught on with detectorists because of common beliefs that either it doesn’t work or it is impractical. My own experiences, however, have convinced me that dowsing does work and that it can be very easily put to practical use.

Many years ago, having long had a casual interest in the so-called paranormal, I decided to give dowsing a try and bought a pair of L-rods. The instructions claimed that it was necessary to rest one end of each rod in the palm of each hand while supporting the rod loosely between the thumb and forefinger. I found this terribly uncomfortable; couldn’t get them to work and didn’t have a clue what to do with them if I did get them to work. I gave up on the idea of being able to dowse myself, and discarded the rods. There were two important points that I later learned from this experience:

  1. I had unwittingly fallen foul of one of the basic rules of dowsing – you need to be relaxed and comfortable with what you are doing.
  2. The fact that nobody really knows how dowsing works, tends to attract those with fanciful ideas on how you should or shouldn’t dowse; there are no strict rules, you just dowse as you want.

Sometime later, I asked accomplished dowser Jimmy Longton to dowse a map for me. (See post: To the Manor Drawn, February 22 2015). In addition to dowsing the map, Jimmy tried very hard to encourage me to learn his craft. I was still very sceptical, even though the British Society of Dowsers claim that: “Most of us can develop the art by practice and perseverance”. When Jimmy told me of his find of a hoard of Viking silver brooches, I could see the improvements that dowsing might bring to my own finds. There appeared to be a more convincing alternative, however, the Long Range Locator. I bought an Electroscope and learned to use it with good results.

About a year later, following a discussion on dowsing, my mother-in-law announced that she would like a pair of dowsing rods for her birthday. I thought she deserved a little more than two remodelled coat hangers so I splashed out on a pair of commercial rods. On her birthday she handed me the rods and asked me to show her how to use them. “They don’t work for me” I explained, “But this is what you are supposed to do …” With that, I threw a pound coin on the lawn in front of me and proceeded to walk towards it, rods in dowsing mode. To my surprise the rods crossed as I walked over the coin. Intrigued by my new-found ability, I experimented with L-rods and discovered that they responded to buried metal in much the same way as the Electroscope. I can only conclude that by using the Electroscope I had actually taught myself to dowse.

There is no need to spend several hundreds of pounds just to learn to dowse. Jimmy Longton kindly allowed me to reproduce his rod design and dowsing work-out, so you can learn for nothing! If you already have a pair of L-rods, you can use them, if you like, or you can make excellent rods as follows:

You will need 22 in. (56 cm) of round metal bar (brass is considered best) of diameter 1/16 in. (1.5 mm) to 3/16 in. (5mm) to make each rod. Unless you have easy access to round bar, I suggest you use two wire coat hangers (N.B. Measurements and angles do not need to be too precise to make a working rod):

  1. Invert the first hanger and measure 14 in. (36 cm.) from one side, along the horizontal bar then mark and cut through with a pair of pliers or a junior hacksaw, measure 22 in. (56 cm.) back from the first cut and make a second cut. Discard the hooked portion. (Fig. 1).
  2. Smooth the cut ends with a file or emery cloth.
  3. Using a pair of pliers or a vice, first straighten and then bend the shorter arm back to an angle of 135 degrees (Fig. 2).
  4. Measure 7 in. (18 cm.) along the shorter arm, from its end and bend this portion back until horizontal (Fig. 3), then turn the last 5.5 in. (14 cm.) up at right angles. Finally, turn the last 0.5 in. (1 cm.) of the upright inwards, at right angles (fig 4.).
  5. Lay the rod on a level surface and adjust it until it lies reasonably flat.
  6. Make a second rod from the other coat hanger.

Health warning: The rods are perfectly harmless when used as described. If you wish to use them to play Conan the Barbarian, Robin Hood, Ivanhoe or act out any other fantasy, don’t blame me if you puncture your eyeball or any other part of your body. I would suggest that children using the rods should be supervised by a responsible adult. The rods can be made extra safe by folding their tips back on themselves, wrapping their tips with insulating tape or applying a blob of resin such as Araldite.

Take the short arm of a rod in each hand so that the long arm is on the opposite side to your thumbs. Clench your fists around them loosely and turn your wrists so that your thumbs are uppermost. Tuck your elbows into your body and keep your upper arms in line with your body. Hold your forearms straight out in front of you, the width of your body apart and at whatever angle necessary to keep the rods reasonably parallel to the ground. The rods should now be pointing forward like extensions of your forearms. You may need to adjust your grip so that the rods are just free to move but not sloppy. When you are happy with holding the rods we can move on to the exercises:

1. Hold the rods in the normal dowsing position as just described. Ask the rods to turn left. (You have to treat them like pets; talk to them nicely at first but if they don’t do as they are told, shout at them – it works, honest!) After they have moved, restart the rods pointing forward. The easy way to get the rods to point forward is to drop your forearms so that the rods point to the ground then raise your forearms back to the horizontal. Ask the rods to turn right. Restart. Ask the rods to cross. The rods will cross on your chest. Practice until the rods move easily.

2. Place a coin on the floor then take a few paces back from it. Hold your rods in the normal dowsing position and walk slowly toward the coin saying, (out loud, preferably): “I am looking for a coin”. The rods will either cross as you pass immediately over the coin or within a few paces past the coin. Keep practising until the rods cross at the coin.

3. Place a copper coin, a silver coin and a brass coin some distance apart on the ground. Hold your rods in the normal dowsing position and walk slowly toward the coin saying: “I am looking for a copper coin”. The rods will cross as you pass over the copper coin but not the other two. Repeat the exercise with the silver coin and then the brass. Keep practising until you can differentiate between various metals.

4. Stand sideways to a distant building or other large object that you know the location of and ask the rods to show you where it is. Give the full name of the place, i.e. “Show me St. James’ Church”. Clear you mind of everything else and concentrate. Once you get this to work, try standing with your back to the “target” (as dowsers tend to call objects they are trying to find) and see what happens.

5. When you have succeeded with exercise 4, take your rods to the gate of a field, which is available to you for searching. Hold the rods as normal and ask: “are there any coins buried in this field?” The rods will cross if there are. Ask the rods to point to the nearest coin, then walk slowly in the direction indicated by the rods, turning, as necessary, to keep the rods pointing straight out in front of you. On reaching the coin the rods will cross. If you want to search for other objects as well as coins, ask the rods to find treasure.

Keep practising. Once you can obtain a response from the rods in all these exercises, you are basically ready to do anything. Even if you can’t do it all at first, you should find that the rods will produce some useful results in the field and you will improve with time. You may have noticed that in exercise 5 you reached your first buried coin but how do you recover it, bearing in mind that you have no hands free to carry anything? Hopefully you will have brought someone else along who can, at least, carry your metal detector and extraction tool, if not do the detecting and digging for you. If you are the independent sort, you don’t need to have a partner, it’s very easy to both dowse and recover targets by yourself. I’ll show you how next time.

First published in The Searcher /November 1997

Categories: Uncategorized

Pinpoint Probes

Following on from a previous blog, I am pleased to report that the repair I carried out on my Garrett Pro-pointer has worked and the probe is back in service. There are some YouTube videos which show you how to fix the fairly common falsing problem, which is caused by some bare wires shorting out. So if your probe starts falsing, just search on YouTube for ‘Garrett Pro-pointer repair’.

I picked up this Gold Hunter electronic pinpoint probe as a giveaway when I bought a new Detech Gold Catcher metal detector. It came with pouch and lanyard and you can buy them new, shopping around, for £30 or so, which is good value for money. As my Garrett Pro-pointer was playing up at the time, I put it to use and found it very good on inland sites. Both the sound level and sensitivity are good and the second button allows you to have vibration alone or sound and vibration. It is slightly slower switching on and off than the Garrett, which you may not think is important but the faster you can get your find out of the ground, the more finds you will make. The only real downside I found with this pointer was on the wet beach where it falses so much I found it unusable. But if you are only detecting inland sites and dry beaches, then this probe is great value for money.

Search for pinpointers on Ebay: (affiliate link)

Categories: Uncategorized

Revising the definition of treasure in the Treasure Act 1996 and revising the related codes of practice

Hoard of Iron Age gold Staters

The UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which is ultimately responsible for the Treasure Act and Code of Practice, has produced a consultation document outlining proposed changes.  While much of the proposals are little more than housekeeping there are some material changes that are of some concern.

At present, treasure is defined, under the Act, as any object other than a coin, at least 300 years old when found, which has a metallic content, of which at least 10% by weight is gold or silver. And all coins that contain at least 10% by weight of gold or silver that come from the same find consisting of at least two coins, at least 300 years old. And all coins that contain less than 10% by weight gold or silver that come from the same find consisting of at least ten coins at least 300 years old. And any associated objects (e.g. a pot or other container), except unworked natural objects, found in the same place as treasure objects. And any objects or coin hoards less than 300 years old, made substantially of gold and silver that have been deliberately hidden with the intention of recovery and for which the owner is unknown. From 1 January 2003 the definition of treasure was extended on prehistoric (i.e. up to the end of the Iron Age) finds to include all multiple artifacts, made of any metal, found together and single artifacts deliberately containing any quantity of precious metal.

It is now proposed to add:

  • Any found object over 200 years old with a value over £10,000
  • All single gold coins dated between 43 and 1344
  • Two or more base metal objects of Roman date believed to have been intentionally buried together

There is also a proposal to impose a legal duty on the acquirer of a possible treasure find to report it and to impose a presumption that acquired treasure finds were found after the Treasure Act.

This is fraught with difficulties. Under the Treasure Act rewards are split equally between finder and landowner (unless there is a different agreement in place) so will private acquirers report potential treasure if they stand to lose half its value if it is declared treasure? Potential treasure items were being found for 25 years before the Treasure Act, so assuming half of today’s find rate, that amounts to some 12,000 exempt treasures somewhere, many probably in inherited collections. The presumption of found since the Treasure Act seems contrary to English Law – innocent until proven guilty. Does the acquirer take the seller’s word for when the item was found? It is often impossible to PROVE when and where an item was found. Surely it is up to the State to prove it was found after the Treasure Act. The findspot is held up to be vitally important but in these cases, it is likely to be erroneous or completely lacking, so what is the point?

Categories: Uncategorized

Pinpoint Probes

Garrett Pro-Pointer

An extremely useful metal detecting accessory is an electronic pinpoint probe; a hand-held miniature metal detector, identifying all metal by audio and vibrating. This gadget helps identify the exact position of the find in and out of the ground so you can not only avoid damaging your find but speed up find extraction considerably. Probes have other uses too. You can check the surface for shallow finds before you dig, which is especially useful when searching sensitive areas like lawns or when searching for a recent loss – you usually only need to check the shallow signals. Probes with a limited range, perhaps no more than an inch on a coin-sized object, have been around for a long time but a few years back Garrett brought out the Pro-Pointer which has a greater range and a larger price tag but is so much better at pinpointing than the old style probes. I bought a Garrett Pro-pointer when they were first available in the UK and have had 10 years of reliable service out of it but recently it started sounding-off (falsing) for no apparent reason, even with a new battery, which made me think it had come to the end of its working life.  I had a look around to see what was available and it seems almost every metal detector manufacturer now makes these probes in many colors. But the cost of some of them is bordering on the ridiculous – you could easily buy a good, brand new, entry level metal detector for the price! There are quite a few tests on YouTube and one thing that struck me was that the Chinese had got in on the act and they have a probe available at less than twenty pounds or twenty-five dollars, which includes holster, lanyard and shipping! The model in question is called a GP-Pointer and it tested quite well on YouTube so I thought I would give it a try. It is almost identical to the Garrett in appearance. Switching on takes about 3 seconds; whereas Garrett is instant. The GP is not quite as sensitive, nor as loud, nor vibrates so strongly as the Garrett. I didn’t find any of this to be a problem even when wearing headphones but I do have good hearing and did not need to wear thick gloves at the time. It may be difficult to use in a noisy environment and by anyone with poor hearing but for its price, I found it a great tool for the money.


As a footnote, I did a Google search for ‘repair Garrett Pro-pointer’ and found some YouTube videos which show you how to fix the fairly common falsing problem. I have taken the advice and had a go at repairing mine. So far so good, it still works but I have yet to field test it.

Categories: Editorial, Metal Detecting, Metal Detecting Finds, Treasure Hunting

Diamond Orbs

In The Successful Treasure Hunter’s Secret Manual, I looked at thermal and electrical conductivity as a possible explanation as to why some metals produce stronger auras than others. What I discovered through experimentation is that different metals produce different auras and fortunately precious metals produce the strongest auras. In other words a smaller amount of gold or silver will produce an aura than is the case with base metals. This stuff is so cutting edge that I’m afraid I don’t know all the answers. I do recall that when I was doing a lot of beach treasure hunting in the summer evenings, when the crowds had left, that coins coming out of the sand were always quite hot to the touch. The mechanism is presumably emission of infrared radiation selectively absorbed by metals from the sun although it could just as likely be metallic interference with the earth’s magnetic field. It doesn’t matter too much, as it is results in finds that we’re after, not a degree in physics. A useful way of comparing metals seems to be thermal and electrical conductivity, I must stress these may not be the only factors or even the correct factors that determine aura strength but they do tie in quite nicely with my observations.

Silver has a thermal conductivity of 420 Watts per metre-Kelvin and an electrical conductivity of 62,000,000 Siemens per metre. Pure copper has a thermal conductivity of 370 W/mk and an electrical conductivity of 59,500,000 S/m. Gold has a thermal conductivity of 315 W/mk and an electrical conductivity of 45,000,000 S/m. Pure copper has conductivities in between gold and silver, however copper is normally found alloyed with zinc or tin forming brass or bronze respectively, which have much lower conductivities, typically a thermal conductivity of 125 W/mk and an electrical conductivity of 15,000,000 S/m. Soil, sand and water have thermal and electrical conductivities around 1 W/mk / S/m or less. Diamond, interestingly has the highest thermal conductivity of any known substance at 1000 W/mk but such an extremely low electrical conductivity it can be considered to be an insulator. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford a large heap of diamonds to test whether they produced auras but I said it might be something worth looking out for. I was sent the photo from a reliable source who claims it is a diamond aura. I must say it is a very unusual aura photo and I haven’t seen anything quite like it before. I would like to see a photo of the diamonds though, which might be available in due course.

Categories: Orbs, Treasure Auras, Treasure Hunting

Round Pounds

The new 12-sided £1 coin became legal tender on 28 March 2017. The round £1 coin lost its legal tender status at midnight on 15 October 2017. There are still 169 million out there, which have not been returned to the mint. I am sure we will be finding them with our metal detectors for many years to come, but from what I have heard and read a lot of detectorists think they are now worthless. NOT TRUE!

Until further notice most UK High Street Banks will exchange round pounds for account holders at full face value. Some will exchange them over the counter; others will want them deposited into accounts. The Post Office has arrangements with most UK High Street Banks, as well as its own bank, and will also accept round pounds for deposit into a bank account.

There are currency exchange companies who will exchange withdrawn coins. One is currently paying 85% face for round pound coins and 75% face for withdrawn British decimal and pre-decimal coins.  Bear in mind that pre-decimal copper (bronze) and brass coins are worth more than their face value in scrap. One old penny, weighing 9.45 grams, is now worth about 3p. In contrast the nickel-brass round pound weighs 8.75 gram and would be worth slightly less than 3p as scrap. Nevertheless that is an option if the coin is mutilated and not acceptable elsewhere.

Further details of profitably disposing of withdrawn and foreign coin finds will be found in Treasure Hunting for Profit.

Categories: Editorial, Metal Detecting, Metal Detecting Finds, Treasure Hunting

Piggyback cameras

Paul, from Australia, told me (and sent photos) of how he had mounted an Olympus D-360L camera onto the Canon 350d and can now take accurately pointed photos using the Olympus camera’s view finder. This idea is working very well, also the Olympus is very useful being able to take a normal photo of the target area at the same time as the photo being taken by the Canon. You can actually see the area clearly that you were looking at which is rarely the case with the Cannon infrared image. Ideally you would hope to get the small orb auras, without a filter, on the Olympus to confirm the auras on the Canon although there is a small snag here in that the Canon seems to work best in the early afternoon while the Olympus seems to prefer low light conditions at dawn or dusk, like the Polaroid. Nevertheless it is a good idea worth pursuing and having a normal image in tandem with the IR image is useful, although that could be achieved with any compact, with a viewfinder, similarly mounted. Bear in mind that the lens on the Olympus is offset so the Olympus needs to be skewed slightly to capture the same view as the Canon. Stand mounting the set-up would be preferable.

Phot-R 1/4″-20 Aluminium Dual Nuts Tripod Mount Screw to Flash Digital Camera Hot Shoe Adapter
This is the adapter I used in the set up, they come with one or two nuts; although I prefer the two nut version as it holds everything more securely. The Canon’s pop-up flash is deactivated by fitting the mount, in case anyone was wondering.

Categories: Gold, Orbs, Treasure Auras, Treasure Hunting, X-Factor

Treasure Hunting for Profit: With and Without a Metal Detector


If your dreams of finding treasure result in next to nothing, then this book is for you. David Villanueva draws on his 40 plus years experience to show you how and where to find, and profit from, many types of lost or hidden valuables in Britain, all year round. Treasure hunting is one of the few hobbies that can actually cost you nothing to take part but potentially bring you a fortune. Terry Herbert, the finder of the Staffordshire Saxon hoard received over 1.5 million pounds for basically a few hours enjoyable work with an old metal detector he bought for pocket change. But money is not the only reward; this fascinating pursuit breathes life into history and archaeology and offers healthy exercise to boot.

This book shows you how and where in Britain you can profitably:

  • Use a metal detector
  • Beachcomb for lost valuables
  • Find Gold, Minerals, Gemstones & Meteorites
  • Search for Fossils
  • Hunt for treasure in innumerable places

If you dream of finding buried treasure, improving your finds rate or exploring new avenues for fun and profit… You can get the E-book and printed book from the SHOP at (Also available on Amazon, ebay, Smashwords and other online and offline retailers).

Please note: Most of the locations and contacts given in the book are based in the UK so if you live outside of the UK and are not planning a treasure hunting trip to Britain, then you will need to do some local research to get the best out of the book. Nevertheless I hope you all enjoy it and I always appreciate feedback– good bad or indifferent – it helps me be a better writer.

Categories: Gold, Metal Detecting, Metal Detecting Finds, Treasure Hunting

Finding Personal Losses

Photo by Thomas Quine (Lady’s Rolex) [CC BY 2.0  (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Swale Search and Recovery Metal Detecting Club I chair, offers a free search and recovery service for personal items, tractor parts, buried drain covers and the like. The most unlikely item I have been asked to find was a cricket pitch! I did suggest at the time it was a big green area with wickets but the groundsman explained they had spent a large amount of money having the pitch excavated, refilled with special bedding and laid with Cumberland turf. As grass only comes in one colour, the groundsman had marked each corner with a large bolt driven vertically into the ground, with the head visible at ground level to distinguish the pitch from the surrounding grass. Of course, with the passage of time the bolts had sunk and were no longer visible. The groundsman had a good idea where one corner of the pitch was and I located the marker bolt within a few minutes searching; after that it was very easy to measure to the next corner, locate the bolt and so on.

But I digress. A few weeks ago I had a call from a young lady who had lost her gold Rolex watch; a 21st birthday present from her mother. She was convinced that she had lost it at a barbeque she attended the previous evening, so I met her there to make a search. The grassed areas were short and the gravel areas had no real depth to them so it didn’t look as if it could have been buried and was nowhere to be seen on the surface. I spent an hour detecting and looking around in every nook and cranny, in bushes and under features all to no avail. I asked her when and where she was when she realised the watch was missing and was told it was back at her home after the barbecue. I suggested she had a good look round at home. Start at the point where it was discovered missing and try and retrace steps from there back to the point when you were sure you had the watch. Where were you and what were you doing immediately before you found the watch missing? And before that? And before that? The lady later found her watch at home by the dishwasher!

I had a similar experience with my partner, Helen, a few weeks earlier. We were shopping and had just left B&Q, a hardware store, when Helen announced that she had lost one of her gold earrings. (Why do women wear expensive jewelry when they go shopping?) I must have lost it getting out of the car, she said. We went back to the car and it wasn’t there. “It must be at home then.” She said. If it turned out not to be at home, we would have lost all opportunity to find it so I said: “Let’s go back into B&Q.”

“No, no, it’ll be at home and we’ve got to get the groceries.” “OK, you start on the groceries and I’ll go and look in B&Q.” I said. I had only just walked through the door of B&Q and I could see gold glinting at me on the floor in front of me, fortunately it hadn’t been stood on or run over by a cart, so Helen got her earring back. As I said before, start where you realise the item is missing and work back from there.

Categories: Editorial, Metal Detecting | Tags:

Airplane Hunting

Bristol Beaufighter firing rockets

As Chairman of The Swale Search and Recovery (metal detecting) Club I was approached recently by an up-and-coming air museum to help look for wreckage of a WWII Bristol Beaufighter that had crashed on a local muddy foreshore during a training exercise. It was believed, or hoped, that there was a substantial amount of wreckage remaining although little had been seen above ground for some considerable time.

For the initial search I organised a party of half a dozen metal detectorists to search the area, at low tide, around where the plane was thought to have crashed, which the museum assistant marked with a clump of stakes. While plenty of spent ammunition was found, not one single piece related to the plane emerged, although the tide had not been as low as we would have liked.

For the second search, at a predicted lower tide, I took my aura camera and long lens instead of a metal detector and let the others carry on metal detecting while I stood at the marker stakes and proceeded to photograph the exposed foreshore piece by piece in a one hundred and eighty degree arc around the stakes. On dry land I could have linked the camera to a laptop and analysed the photos on the spot, but out on a tidal foreshore, it would not be a good idea so I just used the camera and would analyse the photos at home later. Although there were a few permanent seamarks to help frame the photos, it was mainly guesswork where I was pointing the camera as featureless foreshore and open sea all looks the same. With the benefit of hindsight I could have used a compass and obtained a bearing for each photo. An assistant to use the compass to line me up for the photo and to note the readings would be a great help. Again the detectorists found only spent ammunition and nothing that could be specifically related to the plane.

I downloaded the photos at home and enhanced them with Arcsoft Photostudio. I was pleased to see that there were areas showing an orange aura (top photo) as well as areas showing no aura (bottom photo). I assumed I had taken photos fairly evenly around the arc and nominally assigned compass points to the aura photos. That gave me one search area approx North to Nor’-Nor’-East and another due South.

Armed with this information I organised another search, although the detecting party had now reduced to three only. Two of us went searching to the North and one to the South. We did not know how far away the targets were but guessed they would be less than 200 yards (or metres) as that was the optimum range I had been able to pick up a large target in the past. It would be possible to walk in the direction of the auras with the camera, particularly if there were compass bearings, and to re-photograph them at say ten-yard or metre intervals, which could be measured by pacing or a surveyors tape. Of course this would require another at-home analysis session to determine at which point the aura image is lost and determine that the target would lie between there and the previous ten-yard point where the image was captured. A further session on the site would be required to make the final location and recovery. Nevertheless we had some results. The South searching detectorist recovered a part of the plane’s ammunition box, meanwhile the two of us searching northwards discovered a 60lb rocket each, part of the plane’s arsenal. I also recovered a small piece of aircraft battery. So by using aura photography, we had actually started finding what we were looking for as well as defining where to look on future searches.

Part of ammunition box

One of the rockets recovered in two parts (dummy warhead at bottom) and minus fins

A Beaufighter being armed with rockets

Categories: Metal Detecting, Metal Detecting Finds, Treasure Auras, Treasure Hunting, X-Factor

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