Why Every Farmer Needs A Metal Detector

A metal detector isn't just for treasure hunters. The tool can save farmers a lot of time and effort when nuts, screws, washers, etc. go missing in the grass.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Last summer, I was making an adjustment to the height of a hay rake. It was supposed to be a simple and straightforward task.

All I had to do was loosen the nut and washer on the end of a long bolt. This would loosen the tension on a spring and raise the height of the tines.

But while I was making the adjustment … ping! The nut popped off, and the washer—with the force of the spring behind it—happily shot to freedom. It careened across the yard and slipped unseen into the grass.

The Problem

Maybe you’re one of those lucky farmers who has never dropped a washer, nut, nail, screw, shear pin, etc. into the grass. Well, let me assure you finding these tiny items is easier said than done.

Even mowed grass can swallow bits of metal with remarkable ease. Once the item works its way into the grass and thatch, it’s almost as good as gone.

Read about four mower types for keeping a tidy yard.

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You can know for a fact you dropped a nut into a 6-inch area. And you might still struggle to locate it.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t approximate the washer’s landing site with anywhere near such precision. Since I didn’t see how far the washer had flown, or where it had landed, the expanse of yard to search was formidable in scope.

Fortunately, I had the right tool to locate the washer. I walked back to the garage and brought back my metal detector. In less than a minute, the metal detector let out a beep of triumph! It had found steel, and sure enough, there was the washer.

A Handy Device

This little story illustrates how handy a metal detector can be to farmers. Instead of spending an hour scouring the yard on my hands and knees, or digging through boxes of spare parts looking for a replacement washer, I found the missing piece with hardly any effort at all.

While metal detectors vary widely in terms of capabilities and price, their basic concept is universal. A typical metal detector is a handheld, battery-powered unit with a rounded head at the end. This uses coils of wire to generate and detect magnetic fields.

Using a metal detector is simple—you just walk around while sweeping the head back and forth above the ground. When the machine detects metal, it will produce an audible beep to let you know.

If you’re hunting for buried treasure, the more advanced features of metal detectors might come in handy. They can differentiate between different types of metal and attempt to gauge the depth at which it’s buried.

But for farmers looking for lost pieces of machinery, these features aren’t as important as simply detecting the metal in the first place.

Of course, for history buffs, a high-quality metal detector can become a fun hobby tool for uncovering farm relics from the past. Stroll through an old farm with a metal detector and you might uncover horseshoes, nails, bits of broken machinery and maybe even coins or tools. Once you get started, you won’t want to stop.

Have fun searching!

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