Tools of the Trade
Tools of the Trade
So you want to go out and do some rockhounding. How do you do it? What kinds of things should I carry with me? When it comes to the tools of the trade, it is a pretty short list. But having these things along with you will make your hunt that much more fun!
Three Basic Tools
When I go out in the field, I try to have three basic tools with me. Probably the most important is what is called a crack hammer.It looks like a mini-sledge hammer. I use it to break up the larger rocks. It can require a lot of force to break some of these rocks, and shards of rock can go flying off in all directions. So, in addition, it is always a good idea to wear protective glasses of some sort to protect your eyes when you are using the hammer. I also like to include another hammer that has a flatter edge on one end of it. It allows me to break softer rock, without as much damage. In addition, it allows me to easily split shale.
Believe it or not, tools of the trade also include a large five-gallon pickle bucket. You can find these at hardware stores. I leave this bucket in the back of the car, ready for a stop at any good collecting spot.
The third indispensable tool that I take with me is a guide from the Roadside Geology series. These are available for many of the states. These guides are very evolutionary in how they interpret the rocks. But the geologists who wrote these books do a good job of mapping out where the rocks are located.
There are a few other things you might want to have ready to make your collecting a bit easier and profitable. The first would be a small backpack with lots of pockets to hold my hammers, a small notebook and pencil or permanent marker, my field glasses, and a small bottle of acid. I use this to test the calcium content of a rock.
Notebook and Marker
So, why the notebook and permanent marker? When I am out collecting, I may end up at several different spots. And I don’t usually identify what I am finding right then and there. How am I going to keep it all straight as to where I found them?
When I find something that I want to collect, I tear out a small piece of paper from my notebook, and write on the paper the location that I found it, and put it in the bucket with those samples. When I am done, the bucket might have several pieces of paper in it. Having a piece of paper with each group of rocks will help me to keep all the samples straight. I don’t usually try to identify my samples when I am in the field, but it is very important to note where they came from. I use a dark permanent marker to make my notes. Why a marker? There is nothing more frustrating than to make notes in the field with an ink pen, only to have my notes ruined because the paper got wet either from rain, or moisture in the bucket, and the ink ran. You could also use a pencil.
I also mentioned that I take along a small bottle of acid. This helps me to identify if a rock has calcium carbonate in it. This, then, helps me to identify the geology environment of the area. It could help me to know if the environment is marine or not. I use muriatic acid. You can purchase this at a local hardware store. It is a good idea to keep the acid in a bottle that is in a sealable plastic baggie. And while you are at it, put a few extra of these baggies in your backpack for things you might want to keep separate or dry.
And field glasses! They help me to get the lay of the land or to view things in the distance, especially mountains. It can help me to know if the mountains are sedimentary or some other type of formation.
I mentioned that you might like to have the Roadside Guides with you. A field guide would also be a good thing to have along, especially if you are new to all this. I have a couple of guides that could be a big help to you. They are Rock Identification Field Guide, and Fossil Identification Field Guide. These are especially good for kids who have gotten frustrated with traditional field guides that are too complicated, or have pictures in them of things they will likely never find in a gravel pit or stream bed. You can order both of these books at Northwest Treasures.
I hope these ideas have helped you! Happy Rockhounding!