Dahlke has just released the 2.5" mini mid-jet in black. That's just way too cool, especially when you consider the probability of spotting a yellow dredge versus a black dredge.
The new Dahlke 2.5" mini mid-jet in black
With the upcoming dredging season it was time to pick up a prospecting dredge and find new ground, but what type? Erich Lessing, who now is the sole manufacturer of Dahlke dredges bought the rights to manufacture and build the dredges with one stipulation. He couldn't change from the original Dahlke design except for general cosmetics. I called Erich and ordered a 2.5" for my summer prospecting and within a week received the new dredge.
I consider the 2.5" the ultimate prospecting dredge. I've used several different designs and had never tried a Dahlke, but I like the riffle design and the integrated sluice box as part of the float. If you're prospecting simplicity is an important feature, less bolts means less tools and I can assemble the entire dredge, or disassemble in less than 5 minutes using a single wrench.
Not all gold is in the big rivers, there's lots of really good areas in the smaller creeks, gulches and ravines and this is where I planned to try out my new machine. With the low water levels this past summer it made getting anything bigger into a small creek a real challenge and I needed something to run on some pretty skinny water.
Portability is the main thing I need in a little dredge. If I'm prospecting I'm moving - a lot. I wanted something with enough power to reach a couple of feet in the water, move enough rock to do a good sample and run on very little water or gas. I found all these features in the Dahlke, and more.
The pump is 75gph and the Honda 50 easily powered the pump even at half throttle. This is the same pump used on 2" dredges so I was surprised to see how much water that engine could push with a bigger pump. I'm not an engineer to I don't know whether the mid-jet inductor has anything to do with it, it's a bit strange to look at, but it certainly was pushing all the water I needed. It takes a little getting used to, but it sure makes it easy to hook up your hoses.
The Dahlke mini is a flare jet, but the innovative design hides that from you. The flare is integral to the floatation system which also contains the sluice, all you add is the riffle bars which are held in place by cotter pins.
I made a few modifications to the factory shipped dredge, and you'll probably make some mods as well. The first thing I did was tie off those cotter pins with some wire as they kept dropping in the river. I replaced the tie downs with eye bolts so I could lash backpack straps to it and carry the float like a pack and I played around with putting a classifier in the header box, but got mixed results. I'm still working on that.
The engine is mounted on a sliding frame which allows you to adjust the angle of the sluice by moving the engine forward or back. Two thumb screws attach the engine mount to the frame. The hoses are quick connect so no tools are required to set up with the exception of a screwdriver to attach your foot valve. I intend to modify the engine frame mount to make it an "L" bracket. This will allow more tolerance in putting the engine on, it's a small thing, but I like the thought of just dropping it on and tightening the thumb screws versus sliding it on. Hey, it's a few seconds and if you're not tinkering with a dredge in your spare time what else are you going to do?
The power jet is attached by simply sliding it in then giving it a quarter turn, again no tools required. That's nice.
I found this little dredge to have all the power I needed to do some sampling and actually punched some pretty nice holes with it. One hole I ended up about belly deep and had no problem moving gravel from that deep. The capability of the little Honda really surprised me.
If you plan on doing some prospecting this summer you may want to consider a prosecting dredge such as the Dahlke. You can't beat the portability of it. It's a great way to sample your claims so you can decide if you want to bring in a bigger dredge.
This is also a great "starter" dredge for those who want to try out dredging, don't want to drop a lot of money but want something capable enough to do some gold hunting in the rivers. Whatever you choose, just get out there and start an engine this summer.
If you want to check out a video some folks in South Carolina made of the Dahlke 2.5" check out this video.