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What to Bring - For the Beginner

First thing -
For those collecting for the very first time, you want to know what equipment to bring. The tools for collecting minerals are simple and inexpensive. But make sure you bring the correct type of tools.

The first tool you will need is information. Invest in a paperback book about minerals and do a little reading. For under $20, a book you can use forever is “Rocks and Minerals,” a Peterson Field Guide, by Frederick H. Pough. Any decent book store or library will have this. You will be collecting at pegmatite (peg • ma • tight) quarries. Read about the basic pegmatite minerals you will encounter: quartz, feldspars, muscovite mica, beryl and tourmaline. Also in this book, under each mineral name is a category called “Environment”. When this says pegmatites, read about the mineral. You may encounter many of these minerals in Maine.
A Crack Hammer: Do not use a nail or a ballpeen hammer. You need a "crack hammer". It is a 2-3 pound small sledge hammer, with a short handle (6-10 inches long). They run about $10-$30. You do not need a mineral prospecting hammer (ex: Estwing brand). They can not be used with a chisel and are not heavy enough to break open a rock. They are only used to chip rocks for geological sampling.
Cold Chisel: The second tool you will need is a flat blade cold chisel. Make sure it is hardened on both ends. Get one at least 3/4 inch wide, but no more then 1 inch. Used with the crack hammer, it will cut away material to expose a specimen, break open a rock carefully or work in solid rock. Do not buy specialty chisels (wide blades, bull point, star chisel, etc.).
Glasses: Eye protection is a must when using a crack hammer, especially for children who want to pound with the hammer - they love doing so.
Magnifier: A small magnifier is handy. The best are known as a loupe and have a magnification of 5-10 power. They cost between $10-$30. Any magnifier will work on your first collecting trip, so don't buy one until you know you will collect minerals again.
Container: The only other necessary equipment is something to carry your tools and mineral specimens in. A pail or backpack work just find. Add some small containers, zip lock bags, newspaper or paper towels to wrap delicate specimens in and you are ready to go. And don't forget the band aids, first aid kit and field toiletries.
Extras: Additional tools which can come in handy are an ice pick or an old screwdriver, other chisels (down to 1/4 inch), small pry bars, small garden hand tools work for some people, an old toothbrush, whisk broom or brush. Small sifting screens work well on the dumps, especially when used with water. A shovel of any size is useful, as is a larger 6-8 pound sledge hammer. And don't forget a water bottle for drinking water!
Vehicle: You will be driving to all locations. Some sites are easily approached in a street car, but a few quarries are on difficult roads. The best vehicle for these trips is a four-wheel drive vehicle. Street cars with front-wheel drive will also work, but it is still a matter of ground clearance. Two-wheel drive trucks are okay. If you do not have the use of such vehicles, other avenues are open to you and we will get you there. Often our customers will carpool. As a precautionary tip, make sure you bring emergency supplies and equipment for your vehicles (i.e. water, oil, tools, come-a-long and chain(s), shovel, etc.) and that your gas tank is always full.

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Last Updated: January 31, 2010
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