What is a metal detector?

What is a Metal Detector?

I could not write a blog on metal detecting without having the obligatory article on what is a metal detector. Even though this is basic information it’s useful for those who are new to the metal detecting hobby. The simplest explanation being that a metal detector is an electronic device for locating metal object buried in the ground. A very simple explanation, but correct, none the less correct.

The electronics within the metal detector supply the search head of the metal detector with a signal that allows it to produce an electromagnetic field around the metal detector search head. This electromagnetic field is modified by near-by objects. Objects like dry rock etc do not alter the electromagnetic field, but metals in the ground will.

This effect on the electromagnetic field produces a corresponding change in the note from the attached speaker in the electronics and this change in sound tells you that the coil has detected a metal object.

That’s it in a nut shell and this is the basic principle on how metal detectors work. With leaps in technology the audio signal that results in the field coming into contact with a metal object is also delivered to the user with a multitude of other information. This allows the detectorist to make an informed judgement on if the signal is good to dig or not.
(personally, when beach metal detecting, my Minelad Explorer XS is used in all metal mode and a I dig EVERYTHING and take a look at my beach metal detecting tips pages for more info)

Using this basic principle and building on it, there are many types of metal detectors in use today. They rangeĀ  from security metal detectors that are used at airports, shopping centers and entrances to important buildings, military uses employed for the detection of explosive devices and uses in the construction industry.

It’s the hobby based metal detectors that we will focus on but even those are varied in appearance and functionality.

Essentially, the hobby based metal detector consists of an arm rest / handle just above a control box that is attached to a long adjustable stem with the metal detector coil situated at the end of the stem.

This basic set up is the same for many of the hobby metal detecting machines on the market, no matter how much you pay for your detector. There the similarities start to widen as the the many brands of detector vary greatly, as does the specification and functionality of the metal detector and what it’s capable to handle. I say ‘handle’ as ground conditions vary greatly wherever you go and the metal detector can be greatly effected by this.

As technology advances, so has the leaps in technology used in metal detectors appearing on the market. Various metal detectors now have LCD control boxes that deliver and increasing amount of information to the user. Information that on some metal detectors can include the depth, discriminate against such metals as iron and combat against harsh ground conditions that would normally cause havoc with lesser metal detectors.

Like many hobbies, there are an endless number of metal detecting tools and accessories you can chose from, all at an ever varied price range. The metal detectors themselves, no matter how expensive, are all based on the same principle but make sure that your detector is suitable for you and has the functionality and specifications to handle the terrain you intend to use it on.

There will be plenty of metal detector reviews, tips, finds and more to follow, but I hope this information answers the question of, what is a metal detector?