Being successful in the hobby of metal detecting is all about being able to adjust to situations and adapt your techniques for various types of locations. What if I told you that there are a few steps that you can take to set yourself up for success so that you can go onto playgrounds and find targets other lesser skilled detectorists have missed?
Before we go on, I want to say something that is obvious, and that is, targets can be found ‘anywhere’ on a playground, but the goal of this article is to teach you how to find targets in areas that most detectorists shy away from, because they don’t know the techniques that I’m about to share with you.
Pre-Hunt Recon and Observation
If it’s possible, before your hunt at the playground, go to the park and walk around while you observe where parents tend to sit, and where the playground equipment is that kids use the most, or that they hang upside down from or climb on. It’s not an absolute must, but this type of recon can help you figure out where to focus your efforts when you get there. Even if you walk onto a playground for the first time, these tips will help you maximize your time and recover more keepers per hour.
Use Proper Equipment
When detecting playgrounds you will want to use a metal detector with a fast processor that is equipped with either a sniper coil, or a small DD coil. The smaller coil will allow you to get closer to metal objects with less interference.
Using a metal detector with a fast processor speed is essential to your detector being able to quickly sound off on multiple metal targets that are situated close together, also known as recovery speed, this ability makes it possible for the detector to sound off on a target, reset quickly and then detect another target very quickly.
Identify Known Metal
Most playground equipment and park benches these days are constructed with metal supports and that metal tends to give metal detectors problems due to interference. In addition to using a small coil on your metal detector, there are a couple of techniques that you can use to counter the additional interference from known metals.
First you will want to purposely wave your detectors coil over the metal support post while listening to the tone and making a mental note of how the known metal sounds.
While you are swinging next to or under the metal supports, you will hear the tone of the known metal. It will be loud and annoying, but that’s okay… at least we know what to expect when hearing that.
But, what we are really listening for in This instance is any variance to the known metal’s tone. So, if you swing over the known metal and hear a loud, dull high-tone that is fairly consistent, BUT while swinging your coil next to the metal upright you hear an interruption to that tone, say a softer high tone mixed in with the known-tone, then that could be an indicator that some other type of target is down there. We’re listening for tones mixed with another tone. Does that make sense?
The other technique that you can use, as the diagram above shows, is to tilt your coil back towards you about 45 degrees when swinging close to metal. The idea is to use the tip of your detection field similar to a pinpointer.
The scenarios and techniques I just described aren’t just theories, they are proven tactics that I used one day when I found a silver ring on an old volleyball court where a buddy had detected several times previously.
Silver ‘Love Knot’ ring found right next to metal upright of old volleyball court.
The technique of observing the tone of the ‘known metal’ can also be used when detecting under and next to park benches. When detecting under park benches, you want to turn your sensitivity down in an effort to get less interference from the metal bench seat while you swing under it. Again, you are listening to the tone of the metal upright, and then listening for any type of change in the tone, or a mixed tone that may indicate a metal target under the park bench.
Likewise, your pinpointer is a great tool for a quick scan under park benches and playground equipment. Find the shady spots where kids get under the playground equipment to play, they tend to not only lose things under the equipment, but they also tend to bury things and forget where they were. Swing sets are places older kids use and climb on and are also good places to detect under and around.
This image illustrates several high traffic target zones and paths that you should pay extra attention to.
Use ‘Some’ Discrimination
When detecting a playground I like to use ‘some discrimination’ and by that I mean, I usually run just enough discrimination to either silence or make the tones of nails and small iron break up. Basically, I’ll set my discrimination where foil targets and up are detected, and audible. Then, on the playground mulch I will dig everything that is not discriminated out.
Sure, you’re going to dig a bunch of junk targets this way, but on a playground you are looking for lost jewelry and other items that can come in all over the scale.
My first gold ring that I ever found was a foil tone. I had been digging pieces of foil all over the park that day, and thought I was about to dig even more foil when out popped a small 10K diamond ring!
Just another foil signal turned out to actually be a gold ring, so that should give you some incentive to go ahead and dig those foil tones, especially on playgrounds. Because gold is usually mixed with other alloys, the tone and target ID numbers of gold rings will vary greatly.
I’ve dug gold rings that sounded like foil, and gold rings that sounded like a penny. You never really know what gold or other targets will sound like, so especially when metal detecting on playgrounds, be sure to dig everything and miss nothing.
Image Credits: R.Williams