Gold Mining Cradle

A gold mining cradle is used for sifting through dirt to get to the gold, if there is any, during mining. A cradle is made up of a box that is up to a meter in width and two meters in length. It has handles that allow it to be rocked back and forth, like a cradle, to sift through dirt. The smaller dirt particles fall through the sieve and onto the ground below, while the remaining larger particles of gold stay above the sieve.

The process is helped along by adding some water to the dirt to wash it through. If there is little water available then dry cradles are used. This is quite an old process and needs four men to operate it effectively but it is still quite useful to get through large amounts of dirt very quickly.

When gold rushes occurred, one man could wash through one or two tons of dirt per day. If this method gave him about three percent per pan, then he would have earned only about $6 each day. Naturally, people looked for ways to overcome such measly earnings for such hard work. The most popular solution was the use of the cradle, also called a rocker box.

Four men are required to work this piece of equipment as effectively as possible. One man digs the dirt from the ground, another carries it and puts it into the cradle, the third man starts rocking the cradle back and forth and the last man puts water into the sieve to help the dirt flow through quicker.

There is a grate above the cradle that keeps big stones from entering it. The rocking motion that is created, along with the flow of water, washes off the earth and gravel. All that is left is gold combined with fine, heavy black sand. When these were first used each of the four men could earn around $25 each day.

The main areas in which the cradle is used are those with small gold deposits and with very little water. The cradle is a primitive piece of mining equipment and has a much smaller capacity than a sluice box. But it is still preferred by some because it requires much less water than a sluice box, it is cheaper and it saves a large portion of coarse gold. It is still used in many districts by experienced miners and those who mine for recreation as well.

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