Obliq Museum: Korg Triton Restoration

I have been wanting a Korg Triton synthesizer since they were released in 1999.  At that time I had a Korg Trinity which we used heavily, as you may have heard in our Multicast tracks.  The Triton has a built in sampler and expansion available for MOSS functionality (Korg Prophecy engine), which I’m now on the market for! 

I found a Triton on Craigslist but it had some issues.  The price was right so I went ahead and took the challenge of hopefully being able to find the issue and then fix it.  I know that Triton parts are getting hard to find since it was discontinued.  It has the two memory cards and also the EXB-PCM04 Dance Extreme expansion board.  So an awesome setup once I get it fixed!

More restoration stories can be found here

Korg Triton

Korg Triton as it was when I brought it home, you can see the issue with the one “E” key

Korg Triton Power

Here is the sketchy power. The whole assembly was broken and the power button was gone.

The person I bought it from was a vet and this synth had seen the desert and likely many other places upon this earth!  It likely brought joy to many, so the karma is good!  The plastic buttons and modulation joystick assembly were all heavily discolored, likely due to sitting in intense sunlight for a long period of time. There is no way to fix the plastic discoloration issue without replacing all those pieces, which would be very expensive (if you could find the parts) and given that is cosmetic I’m not overly concerned.  Part of the character of buying a used synthesizer!

Here were the problems that I diagnosed that needed fixed:

  1. Power assembly was completely broken, but still worked
  2. E Key was broken
  3. Something in the I/O boards were broken causing the touchscreen to now work properly
  4. Several screws were missing and/or were not seated properly (cosmetic)

The big issue was the touchscreen issue.  You couldn’t choose the drop-down menu (upper right) which rendered the synth very unusable.  Upon troubleshooting this I found that it was a slider issue.  The likely culprit was the Value slider.  I found a replacement slider online but I wasn’t sure it was just the slider.  I cleaned the slider but it still didn’t work, so I assumed it was the slider but I wanted to find a replacement of the 2085 control board if possible.

I found all the parts for the power assembly new at Keyboard Kountry (check them out, they have a great stock of replacement parts for Tritons and other keyboards).  I also bought a replacement set of screws since some were missing and others were slightly stripped.  Nice that they offered this!  They also had the “E” key for a great price.

The 2085 board was a different story…there were no boards available on the internet that I could find, except one I found in Austria on eBay.  I’ve had mixed results buying used parts on eBay in the past, but the seller had a good feedback rating and said it was 100% working, so I took a chance and purchased the board.  It took 2 weeks to arrive.

Here are the boards after I removed them. The upper right is the jack board, the upper center is the 2085 human interface board and the lower tray holds the CPUs.

The keyboard assembly, the bottom (with floppy drive attached) and main control board still attached to the chassis.

Reference photos showing the headphone jack connection (there are two small sockets on the jack board that are the same, so I wanted to be sure to remember what went where)

Reference photo showing the wiring of the jacks and wiring harnesses

Triton motherboard wiring

Reference photo of the main motherboard wiring

The parts came in within a couple of weeks, and I started to do the repair and reassembly work.  The power assembly was simple, two screws and a simple plug into the power supply PCB.  That took 5 minutes and now works like a charm!

Triton Power Supply Assembly

Power assembly showing the jack into the PCB. Simple replacement; nice to find a full assembly with button at Keyboard Kountry!

Triton Power

Power looks much better and is safe!

To replace the broken key, you have to remove the keyboard assembly entirely, which is a bit of effort!  At the top of the keys there is a plastic clip that sits along the entire assembly. Sliding this off, you now have room to slide the key upwards and it will pop right out. Putting the new key in is the same, in reverse.  Then re-position the clip and you’re good to go!  

Replacing Keys

Most keyboards are similar to this, there is a plastic “clip” that sits on the back edge of the keyboard assembly, removing this provides a small amount of space that allows enough room to slide the keys back and they will pop out

Triton broken key

This shows the broken key from the back, the plastic guides should be showing like the other white keys; those were busted off and the key needed replaced

Broken vs New "E" Key

If you are missing a key entirely, you MUST make sure you get that metal insert–this replacement key didn’t come with one so I got lucky that I already had it!  Without this metal piece the key will not work properly. If you are replacing the key like I am, you transfer this metal to the new key. Notice the broken plastic guides that render the key useless

The most difficult part of the reassembly was the wiring.  I noted this and added some tape with reference letters to help me remember where the harnesses attached to.  Note that the wiring is “just long enough” to reach its destinations, so that also helps with reassembly, as does the different amounts of wires in the sockets/jacks–only a couple were the same size and coupled with the wire length being exact it made it easier to know what went where.  But given there are a lot of wiring, reference shots and labeling as you disassemble are always a good idea!  

Headphone Jack

There are two small audio connectors on this jack board. I highlighted here (in red) the headphones jack that runs to the front, lower left, of the unit.

Now the Korg Triton is fully functional!  Awesome!  The sounds are killer and I’m just starting to play with the synthesis engine!  The unit was pretty dirty so i scrubbed it down and was able to pull off some of the grime; but unfortunately there are many scratches that are more than skin deep and again that is the “character” you get when buying synthesizers second hand!  

Overall this restoration project consumed about 8 hours of time and parts cost a little over $100.  Parts are getting difficult to find, however, and so even if the synth isn’t “vintage” it may still be a difficult restoration project…note to self!  I got lucky on this one that I was able to procure all the parts immediately without having to put together repetitive web searches like I’ve done for other classic synthesizers in the past!

Here are some great resources for the Korg Triton:

 

Locating Devils Head claims

I led a field trip with the Lake George Gem and Mineral Club to Devils Head today. Given that there were a lot of cars we parked in a popular area, one which has several claims surrounding it.  Part of the responsibility of rockhounding is to know where claims are located and not to mineral trespass, so I put together a google terrain map with these claims on it so we were sure to understand where the claims were so we dug elsewhere.  Many folks asked me how I did this, so I decided to detail the process here.

First off, it is important for anyone Rockhounding to understand the rules.  Here are useful information links for Mining Claims and Rockhounding in the state of Colorado.

As you read above, part of staking a mining claim is to produce a Certificate Of Location (COL) and file with both the County Recorder’s office and the BLM.  Part of this document is to record exactly where the claim is located, most of the time this includes a map that you can see the exact corner posts and perimeter.  These documents are public record, and you can research and request copies of them for a small fee (or free as I will demonstrate) from either the BLM or the County of record.  The BLM manages all mining claims on public land, so you will want to use their research tools to determine the status of any claim.  Note that the LR2000 online website may not contain the latest and greatest information; so getting your information direct from the BLM is the best source.

I like to create a prospecting map so I know the vicinity of where these claims corner posts are (or should be, sometimes the claim owner does not have them marked).  To do this is a 3-step process.  Luckily Douglas County has their records available to search online, so you can get this information from the privacy of your own home–but most counties are not that advanced with their software yet.

  1. Research which claims are active, this requires knowing the Meridian, Township, Range and Section where you are looking.  Review this blog posting for more information on using the LR2000 online web application.  For the popular Devils Head area “Virgin Bath”, this is
    1. Meridian:  6th Principal
    2. Township:  9S
    3. Range:  69W
    4. Section 21
  2. Once you have the claim owners information from LR2000, you can locate the COLs from the Douglas County Recorder’s website
  3. On this website, click on Documents and read and accept their rules. You will need to have a valid account, which is free, to view documents online; so you should go through the registration process.
  4. Choose Location Certificates as the document type and put in a reasonable date range.DouglasCountyRecords_LocationCerts
  5. From the search results, you can review or even download the COLs from this site.  To review, just click on the row, or add to the review list with the +.

LocationCerts_Example

6.  Within each document there is a map, you may need to refer to a topo map to know the Township/Range/Section, but from here you can see the claim boundaries.

7.  Print these out, or combine into a single “rough” prospecting map using Google Maps.

8.  When out prospecting you can use these maps to get the vicinity of the corner posts so you can find them and ensure you are digging on non-claimed areas.

Hope this was helpful.  Happy prospecting!

 

Prospecting Tips and Hints

Last year I published an article How to Find Crystals that detailed some of the techniques I use and general prospecting tips, hoping to give several tips and hints to aid in expediting the learning curve of digging crystals.  I’ve gotten some great feedback from that article and appreciate all the comments.

tn_OneTwoPocket-00643

One of the things I tried to cover in that blog posting was what to look for on the surface and how to know if you are in a good spot and should continue digging, or bury the hole and continue the prospecting elsewhere.  I knew it would be difficult to share that experience, as I’m still learning myself and it’s one of those things you can read about all day long but you don’t “get it” until you actually can see and experience how it is done.  The pictures and text in that article were helpful I feel; but it still left me with questions after reading it–knowing that I had a plan for this year’s prospecting trips…

That blog posting was just the first of many postings I plan to do sharing what I’ve figured out on finding pegmatite crystals.  I was able to get out digging late this spring and my goal was to take some video while I was on the hunt, hopefully showing what I look for on the surface and what I look for as I follow the pegmatite trail to the crystals (assuming I find crystals, which many times I don’t)!  This video hopefully will provide some tips and hints of what works for me in the toughest part of the process, the initial prospecting and test holes.

Unfortunately due to leaving the camera in the sun too long, the pocket extraction video was corrupt, but the good stuff from a prospecting perspective was saved showing progress as I was hunting for the pocket.  You’ll see that demonstrated in the video below.

I would love your feedback, questions and suggestions.  I plan to do other videos showing different techniques.

The small crystal pocket I eventually hit I’m calling the OneTwo.  It was mainly Microcline crystals, most were Carlsbad twinned!  On these, once cleaned up, opposite faces had a blue tint of Amazonite to them; not as deep of green color as you find elsewhere in the region, but still really nice and a lot of fun.  The smokey quartz I found all had secondary coatings of a darker colored quartz which will be very difficult to remove.

Amazonite

Interesting cluster of Amazonite / Microcline joined at a ~45 degree angle.

Amazonite Carsbad Twin

Carlsbad twinned Amazonite (light blue) with a small amount of cleavelandite sprays.

Carlsbad Amazonite

Nice little pair of Carlsbad twinned Amazonite with a bit of cleavelandite.

tn_OneTwoPocket-00668

These are the largest crystals from the pocket, each about 3.5 inches tall. They had to be repaired as they came out in 3 pieces, the cap to the larger crystal was cleaved off and the two crystals had been separated and were found about a foot from each other in the pocket.

smokey quartz

Smoky Quartz showing the secondary quartz growth. These have been soaked in a heated chemical bath for several weeks and look at lot better than they originally did; but this is as far as I will clean them as the quartz underneath is not worth the effort.

tn_OneTwoPocket-00679

Some of the nicer twinned amazonites from the OneTwo pocket.

Smoky Quartz

Examples of the coated smoky quartz from the OneTwo. The larger crystals are nearly 3 inches long.  There were mostly microcline crystals in the pocket; which is opposite of what I typically find in the region.

How to Find Crystals Using Different Types of Prospecting Techniques

I often get asked “How do you find crystals you have posted?”.  Which techniques to use is a very subjective question, but certainly there are standard ways of prospecting for pegmatite crystals here in Colorado.  I will try to cover some of the techniques I use in this blog post.

UPDATE:  I have posted another blog post showing examples of these techniques here.

It has taken me years of prospecting, tons of reading, and networking with other prospectors and rock clubs to figure out what I’ve learned to find crystals so far, so I’m hoping that if you are new to this hobby this article can help expedite the learning curve and take away some frustration…i.e. not coming home empty handed as often!  Note that I sometimes STILL come home with nothing to show (and I keep even the littlest crystals)…I think of it like fishing, sometimes the fish simply aren’t biting.  My other hope is that folks having successful techniques can share their wisdom so I and others can continue to learn (the comments on this article is a great place, hint hint !!!).
Note I am self-taught and have no formal geology schooling or experience, so my descriptions in this article may be scientifically inaccurate; the goal of this article is not to explain the science as much as for tips to helping you learn to find crystals!  Of course the science is helpful and very interesting, if you have anything to share or correct (or have further questions), please leave comments, I would love to hear your techniques, opinions and knowledge on the subject!

That's how you find crystals!

Hitting a crystal pocket gives you a tremendous high! This was my first crystal pocket!

How to Find Crystals

There are three standard ways I prospect when searching for crystals; I may use only one way on any given day, or may use all three:

  1. Searching the tailing piles of other digs
  2. Finding float and following it
  3. Digging in the source pegmatite

Prospecting Tailing Piles

When I’m prospecting I always check out old and new digs.  There are several reasons for this–to learn what the other prospector was into when (presumably) they find crystals themselves, to perhaps continue where the previous prospector didn’t go, and to search through their tailings to ensure the weather didn’t reveal something that was missed or discarded!

How to find crystals, this time a mt antero phenakite and aquamarine

Mount Antero double terminated Phenakite my son found laying on the surface, would have been great to have more of that aquamarine attached!

If the prospector was into a pocket or seam of crystals, they may have had mud or iron coatings on the crystals so the prospector tossed aside because they couldn’t see the sides or simply missed it…it happens, I’ve gone back to my digs before and found incredible crystals that I somehow missed!  After a good rain or season of snow Mother Nature may help to reveal crystals that were left behind!  This is the easiest form of prospecting.  I also find that some prospectors are not interested in “boring” or imperfect crystals; another person’s trash may be my treasure!  I have found many great crystals by searching the tailings of previous digs!

Tips include

  • to find crystals it helps moving around the pile to get a reflection of sunlight from a flat shiny surface of a crystal…you should train your eyes to focus on any flat sided rock
  • getting down closer to the ground for a different perspective; I find many crystals this way that I missed standing up
  • look for color, some crystals are coated with iron-based minerals and may look rusty
  • poking around the sides of the hole to see if the prior prospector left part of the pocket
  • looking for float from the pocket (talked about further below)
  • dig through the tailings to see if other crystals are slightly buried

Finally there is a lot to learn from studying what others were into.  This is how I’ve done much of my learning.  What did the rocks they were pulling out look like (note to self, keep an eye out for these signs in my holes)?  Are there other digs along the hillside along the same “zone” that I should also check out?  What did the other person see that kept them digging?  The bigger the prospector’s hole the more likely they found something good (otherwise that is a lot of effort for nothing), so explore those big holes/trenches for sure!

Milky Quartz and Fluorite, crystals i find in the dumps

This Milky Quartz and Fluorite plate was found discarded by the original miner on the dumps, cleaned up it is awesome, good enough for me!  Just wish I could find the other material which made this trash in comparison!

Fluorite Crystals I find looking through tailings

These Fluorites were covered in pocket mud and then again in dirt. Always examine “dirt balls” !!! Needs some more cleaning, but examples of what you can find in the dumps.  Fluorite and other crystals are heavier than other rocks, so pay attention to the weight of the rocks you are extracting!

Prospecting Float

First of all, what is float?  It took me a while to get my head around this concept.  My definition of float is simply any rocks or crystals that have weathered out of their original location — in other words Mother Nature has moved them via some process over time.

What could have moved the crystals?  Glaciers, wind, rain, etc.  Glacial movement is pretty easy to spot on the crystals, because they are broken, cleaved and/or have rounded corners like they’ve been in a rock tumbler.  These crystals have been potentially moved long distances and there may be no correlation in where the crystals are located to where they originated from–in other words they may be randomly displaced and you may not find other related crystals around them.  However I have found several times that pockets were moved (relatively) together by glaciers and there are concentrations of crystals that are completely worn in a somewhat small of an area.

Float Quartz Crystals

Float coated smoky and milky quartz crystals found in a 10 foot diameter area about 6 inches under the ground.  The left smoky is ~10 cm.

Wind and water (and ancient glaciers too) are common forces that move crystals from their original location in the seams/pockets they were grown in.  Over the hundreds of millions of years (or perhaps just thousands, or even last month’s torrential rains?) the land has been eroded and the original locations of the crystals may have been partially or completely eroded away.  If on a hill, the crystals are likely displaced downhill as they are eroded out of their original pocket.  If on a flat area, crystals can disperse radially away from the pocket (which may at one time long ago been above you).

One misconception that I originally had about float was that the crystals would be laying atop the ground easy for the prospector to see.  It took me a while to realize that float can be (and often is) buried.  The layer of topsoil / organic matter is a recent addition to the ground (decomposed plants, trees, etc) in the perspective of geologic time.  Most often I’ve discovered float that is buried in the boundary between the top soil and the granite gravel layers which can be visible or buried many feet deep.  Note that with the hundred plus years of prospecting occurring in popular areas, it is very unlikely you’ll find crystals on the surface; but there is still plenty of float to be discovered!

Now that we’ve reviewed what float is in theory, how does one utilize this float concept to actually find crystals?  When I find good signs on the ground I dig test holes (more about what are good signs in a minute).  I try to dig deep enough so I’m at (or below) the boundary layer between the topsoil/organic matter and the gravel–the steeper the hills the likely this layer will be more shallow.  I will also dig about a foot or sometimes two deeper to see if what I’m seeing at the surface continues in situ underground–signs of a pegmatite outcropping.

As I continue to explore the source of the float, I will dig an area of several feet in diameter, left and right, up and downhill.  If I continue to find signs, then I will follow those signs in whatever direction they lead me, which typically trends uphill.  The hope is that this investigation leads you to the originating crystal pocket or seam still in the pegmatite rock!

If there are no signs on the surface but the area in general looks or “feels” good, or if I’m feeling lucky, I dig test holes in best-guess locations and if I find nothing interesting within a 2-3 foot diameter, I move on to another spot.

I have also seen videos of folks using dowsing rods–the concept is they loosely hold L shaped rods in each hand and as they walk over an area with a crystal the rods will move. I keep thinking I should try this but I have no experience nor have done any research on this technique yet.  Chime up in the comments if you’ve had success with this method!

Following Float when prospecting

A float dig. I was following signs up the hill (probably 10 feet here) digging only about 3-7 inches deep.  Notice the pile of dirt on the right, this makes it ultra fast to fill in the hole once I’m done…literally 2 minutes.  I often backfill the hole as I’m following the float.  Notice the rocks on the surface above my digging, these are what you want to see, but in this case they are likely from another dig up the hill as they are not partially buried like Mother Nature would do.

What are good signs to follow?  What do you look for on the surface to start digging there? How long do you follow the trail of good signs when they are not panning out?  Well, that IS the trick, these are all the million dollar questions of prospecting!  I’m still perfecting this myself and likely will be forever, but for now my answer is many things.  Here is where joining up with a Crystal Club or digging with other prospectors is very helpful.  I have found that even though I’ve read a ton on the topic and talked to many experienced prospectors, I didn’t really “get it” until I’ve gone and and moved some rock and dirt–experienced it; sometimes it even takes many times before what I’ve read or been told clicks.  That said, however, I’ll try to give you some tips and rules of thumb based on what I look for.

You are looking for the following, above and/or below the surface as float or in situ:

  • Anything with flat sides.  Train your eyes to see flat surfaces; having flat surfaces means there was enough room for the rocks to start to crystalize which is evidence of a crack, seam or pocket in the host rock.  Finding flat sided rocks is integral in the hunt for crystals.
  • Quartz.  Pegmatites are partially composed of quartz, so you are looking for chunks of quartz either by themselves or mixed with Microcline / Feldspar.
  • Microcline.  Like quartz above, microcline or amazonite is a good sign.
  • Graphic Granite.  Granite by definition is composed of small crystals of quartz and feldspar. Pegmatite is when the crystal sizes get to a certain size.  Graphic granite / pegmatite is where these crystals get bigger TOGETHER.  Often in just one rock sample you’ll see the crystal size increase from one side to the other!  (see image below).  This sometimes means you are getting closer to where the crystals can grow better (i.e. a pocket).
  • Combinations of above.  This means that all the right ingredients of a pegmatite seam are floating out of somewhere.
  • Crystals.  If you’re finding whole crystals or multiple sides, well, you’re there! Congratulations!
Example of graphic granite

Here are some good examples of graphic granite from one of my digs. Notice the quartz crystals getting bigger in size and consistent through the rocks.  Click the image for a larger picture with more detail.

Good signs when prospecting

These pieces of quartz are great signs with many sides–but none are totally faceted which tells me they came out of massive granite.  Also notice the microcline.  Follow these!

Good signs when prospecting

Example of a good mix of quartz on feldspar, almost (but not quite) starting to look like a plate of quartz crystals. The upper quartz has a several flat sides! This chunk definitely kept me on the hunt!

One other technique I use digging float uphill is when pulling out quartz or microcline chunks I leave them on top of my tailings pile close to the spot I found them.  If I’m not finding the source of the float or lose track of the good signs (or when I take a water break), then I’ll often step back, take a break and review what I’m finding from a distance (which is possible because I left my findings consistently in sight on top of the tailings). This technique will let me analyze my current prospecting situation from a different perspective. While analyzing the rocks as I have dug up the hill, I will also analyze the surrounding hillside for clues like other digs, surface rock, contour, etc. Sometimes I get overzealous in my digging and forget this simple step-back-and-analyze step which can be really helpful in minimizing the search for the source of the float!

Another way to find crystals using the “float technique” is to start at someone else’s dig and start to explore around (if a flat area) and downhill of that prospect/hole.  It’s likely that there is float around or below that pocket that someone else has done all the hard work and located for you!  Many times the crystals are really nice and have just rolled down the hill a little bit!!!  The original prospector was only interested in the pocket material and left all the easy float finding to someone else!  I’ve found some really nice crystals using this technique!

Prospecting Pegmatites

Of course, the best place to dig is in crystal pockets.  This is where the crystals will likely be the best quality and most plentiful (but not always, ask any experienced prospector and they will tell you stories of hours/days of work in fabulous looking pockets with junk, crushed or no crystals).  Whether you happen upon a seam or pocket in the pegmatite using float prospecting techniques, or you find the peg right away and dive in, this is the goal of prospecting–to hit the mother lode!

First, a little bit of theory from what I have discovered in the field and also from reading and talking to other prospectors.  I think of pegmatites as basically a lava flow of harder rock that when forming had the right (and larger) concentrations of minerals we are searching for.  Because it is a flow, it often will be long and extend across or into the hillside and will often be somewhat straight.  This is helpful to know as you often can follow the pegmatite as it trends in a somewhat straight direction across the hillside.

If the conditions were right at that instant of time millions and millions of years ago, you have highly mineralized fluid that was flowing through the cracks in the rocks.  If there was room in the host rock’s cracks then it would give the fluid a chance to crystalize in that “open space” in the rocks. Because we’re talking about an extended “flow”, the pegmatite can open up (i.e. crystals!), then pinch out, and follow that pattern again and again along faults or cracks over its length.  You sometimes see this play out when following the pegmatite getting pocket after pocket along the length of the peg!  This is something to remember as a previous prospector may have found a great pocket but didn’t finish it or follow it as it opened up into even a larger pocket along the length of the original flow!

The great Blue Cap Productions video on Rhodochrosite at the Sweet Home Mine in Alma Colorado details that pockets were often found at the intersection of faults.  I have found this to be true in some cases with pegmatites pockets I’ve found, as two pegmatites intersected there was a pocket.  Additionally, Joe Dorris of Glacial Peak Mining has documented that when the pegs bend they often form pockets (which were eddies during the liquid phase?).   This is also something I’ve experienced and definitely keep an eye out for.

Pegmatite is currently often surrounded by gravel or dirt.  Over geologic time, the surrounding rock may have decomposed into gravel while the harder, more mineralized material is still in place.  So once you are upon the pegmatite you’ll likely know its boundaries by gravel. Knowing this, I don’t spend much time when digging test holes if there is just gravel, but if there are chunks of peg, quartz or microcline then I continue as I may be digging into a pegmatite; and if I was into the peg and then enter into just gravel, I change my direction as I likely have found a border of the peg.  When finding bigger chunks of rock, ensure they are pegmatite and not just solid granite.  You won’t find many crystals if you are not in the pegmatite!

Note that have seen instances where all the surrounding rock is completely gone leaving just a trail of crystals in the gravel or dirt!  So again none of these techniques is absolute each and every time!

I categorize the peg in a couple of ways, as described above (chunks) and also as solid masses (this digging takes the most effort). Sometimes I get into a peg that is still holding together as more massive rock and there is a seam sandwiched between top and bottom plates of granite.  In that seam, especially when it has the opportunity to widen, I sometimes find small pockets of crystals.  Following these openings the trail of crystals sometimes dives deeper; and that is where things can get interesting as you may be into a pocket.  Note that these chunks of pegmatite can be quite large and heavy, requiring pry bars and even chisels and hand sledge hammers to extract, so ensure you are employing safe leverage and lifting techniques (a hurt back doesn’t allow one to dig for many crystals) and always wear eye protection!  In these cases I follow the peg in all directions as the crack/seam may be rather long and wide but not very thick, but eventually it could widen and form a pocket.  Here is a video example of this (these are HD video, so change the resolution if you have the bandwidth!).

So these are the techniques that I am currently using to find crystals.  I am fairly successful in finding some crystals, but finding the great crystals or pockets is still somewhat elusive to me!  My thought is it’s all about moving dirt and rock to maximize the chance of getting lucky. Comparing it to the lottery, you have to play to win! Regardless, employing these techniques has brought me success and hopefully will aid in your success too!  As stated before, I would love to hear your techniques and ideas in the comments or by emailing me; I’m looking for any ways to improve!

Here are some videos showing me finding crystals out of a pegmatite pockets or seams. Pay attention to what is surrounding the areas with crystals as that is what you will be targeting when you dig!  Additionally, I have accumulated a playlist of people extracting crystals from around the world, you’ll want to check it out!

For more articles on my prospecting adventures click here.

You should also check out the other blogs I follow with great information about prospecting in Colorado:

Wish you good fortune as you find crystals!

Digitizing Records

I purchased a Tascam handheld recorder about a month ago so I can record my live sets, environmental recordings, and for digitizing records for listening to in the car.  The model is DR-40e.  The E is the “enhanced” processor feature according to the Guitar Center rep I talked to on the phone; although there is no real documentation of what this really benefits me anywhere on the net that I can find, and the rep was clueless.  It was a good deal, and it is a stellar recorder so far from my limited usage of it.  Good battery life so far, although I bought the power supply for it to save on batteries!

The Tascam DR-40e is my new recorder. So far I really like it; I've recorded records, a couple of live sets, and some environmental sounds with the built in microphones. Sound great!

The Tascam DR-40e is my new recorder. So far I really like it; I’ve recorded 25 records, a couple of live sets, and some environmental sounds with the built in microphones. Sounds great!

I pulled a random assortment of new and old records and have been listening to them in their entirety while recording them.  This has been a really fun process.  My card had accumulated 25 records so I figured it was time to dump the WAV files onto my computer and process them for digital listening.

Collage of the records I digitized this round.

Collage of the records I digitized this September and October.

Here is my workflow that so far is working pretty well…

  1. Record the vinyl onto the Tascam DR-40E recorder
  2. Pull the WAV files over to my computer
  3. In Sony’s Sound Forge software, load the file and normalize it once (to peak value, so no compression occurs) to get good levels.  I go in and mark the beginning and end of each track; delete the unwanted sections
  4. In Sound Forge, once the tracks’ beginning and ending points are marked, I simply double click inside of that region and it is selected.  I then <CTRL><V> (cut) and <CTRL><E> (paste to new).
  5. Now that I have the track isolated, a scan it for any pops or clicks and take care of those if necessary.
  6. I then normalize to peak values again.  This will give me the hottest possible sound.
  7. I save in a folder with a standard filename.  The folder name is Artist – Title – Catalog Number – Year.  The filename is Track Number – Song Title.  These go in a wavs subfolder.  I get the proper filenames and catalog numbers and images from Discogs.com.
  8. I delete the original sound file and go to the next one.
  9. Once I have all the albums edited, I can go in and create MP3s for lossy listening; I typically use MP3s for portable devices to save space and given there is a significant amount of ambient noise in “portal environments”, so lossy isn’t that big of deal.
  10. I drag the WAV files into CD-EX, a great ripping and encoding software using the LAME encoder.  Old school but it works great.
  11. I then drag the MP3s into MP3Tag, I like this program for consistently tagging MP3s.  I select the entire album, use the auto-convert feature to snag the track number and song title, I add the Artist, Album and Year manually (using copy/paste form Discogs if there are special characters).  I then drag the cover art into the program and save the files.
  12. I end up with lossless WAV files (someday I may convert to FLAC, but right now I don’t care about space for lossless) and MP3 files with consistent tagging.

All of this does take a while, of course the recording of the records is real-time; and then I processed 25 records (mostly EPs) in about 3 hours.  Not too bad.  Now that I have the Tascam DR-40e figured out and a process refined, I’m going to pick some of my favorite records that I have never seen digitized files and continue the process!

Here is the first round of 25 records using this new workflow…

Here is the list of records that I digitized. Gonna start listening to them in the car tomorrow!

Photographing the Blood Red Super Moon

Man I just love the sound of that (the Blood Moon), kinda gothic and fitting around fall as Halloween approaches! During this orbit, the full eclipse was at a nice time where most folks could enjoy it; which is awesome because everyone should enjoy these celestial events, IMHO! My kids finally got to see it due to the early time. Here is the blood red super moon!

Entering eclipse

Assuming no cloud cover and available where I live, I always watch these eclipse events and usually pull the camera out and photograph them. In the recent past events I noted having trouble dialing in the setting for photographing the event, especially getting the blood red part in focus and alternatively the bright partial moon in focus. My goal this time, other than enjoying the entire event, was to dial in the settings and process so next time I can focus on some more creative elements of photography and not so much of the technical stuff.

Entering eclipse

Moon entering eclipse

Because I tend to forget stuff that I don’t use often, I figured I’d document my findings which would at least serve me for future events. As a bonus, hopefully this is helpful to others that want to photograph these type of events and maybe haven’t known how to do it. Finally, I’m hoping that someone with much more experience and skills than I could also chime in and provide some suggestions for my next attempt!

Exiting full eclipse

As the moon was starting to come out of full eclipse

A couple of quick tips I use whenever doing low-light photography:

Tripod. I most always use a tripod in low light. I configure such that I don’t have to bend over or position myself around the legs, simple ergonomics! I put the “V” on the legs spread so I’m in the middle of it (hmmm…); and extend the height so I don’t have to bend over or stand on my tip-toes. You need the tripod as you can’t hold the camera still enough to capture the low light and stay in focus.

Supermoon - long exposure

Blurry due to too long of exposure

Focus. This is still one of the harder parts for me because focusing all the way out with the camera lens is never going to give sharp focus. Focus depends on the temperature and other environmental factors. I tend to use auto-focus if I have a light source far away, and then I turn off auto-focus and fine tune from there using my eye in the viewfinder, and then taking pictures and reviewing the zoomed digital screen. Many times I don’t have a big enough bright source so it is just trial and error.

Image Stabilization. Turn that bad-boy off. There is a slight vibration when in use that will give you less focus. Image Stabilization isn’t needed for tripod work so it always gets turned off.

Remote trigger. This is a wired remote that allows me to trigger the shutter (and lock it, if doing time lapse) without touching the camera or tripod setup. I recommend these so you don’t have to touch the camera when taking the picture at all; which more often than not causes some blur in my photos. This has a really small adapter so do this in the light (cell phone flashlight apps are good for this).

Super moon total eclipse

Total blood moon eclipse

Now to the camera’s configuration. With low-light situations, especially a lunar eclipse which lacks light by definition, you want to capture as much light as possible, in the shortest amount of time possible. A problem is we’re on a moving object (yes, the earth is rotating) and so open exposure will result in blurred photos if open too long. My rule of thumb for stars (when shooting meteorites) is 8 seconds max. When shooting severe weather (clouds and such) in low light it is about 4 seconds max. For the moon in crisp focus since there is tremendous detail, I’m shooting for the smallest exposure possible. Below is a picture when the exposure is too long, notice the stars starting to trail and the moon being blurry.

I always shoot in Manual Mode. Note that this mode isn’t available only just DSLRs, my daughter’s trusty (and inexpensive) point and shoot Canon also has a manual mode and tripod mount and can take great low-light photos! There are three standard adjustments that all are interrelated that I work with (note these are my layman definitions, for more scientific and precise information, you should check out other sources):

a) Shutter speed governs how long is the shutter open and letting light in.
b) Aperture or f-stop is how big does the shutter open up, letting in more (or less) light while the shutter is open.
c) ISO is how fast the “film speed” is, which in DSLR terms how quickly the light is absorbed onto the photograph.
d) This is not configurable, but the lens speed is how much light your lens can let through quickly, or how expensive is your glass. Rule of thumb, the more expensive, the quicker!

Because I have too many hobbies I’m limited to what I can spend, so a fast (expensive) lens is not an option for me at this time, so I get a slow lens and have to work with the other configurable factors. A faster lens will let more light in by default allowing more optimal camera configurations.

Back to my goal, I need to let in as much light as possible in the shortest amount of time, so I typically go with the lowest f-stop setting my lens allows and I adjust the exposure and ISO.

Because I want to let the earth move as little as possible while the shutter is open, my goal is as fast shutter speed as possible.

Because I want crisp and sharp pictures, I need to balance with the lowest ISO setting possible (higher ISO absorbs more light which is great, but also absorbs noise “pixelating” your picture). Here is a pretty noisy photo taking with a very high ISO (3200), you can see the graininess in the moon. Are those dots around the moon stars or noise? I believe stars but noise looks basically the same!

Fully Eclipsed Super Moon

Supermoon fully eclipsed, a little grainy due to higher ISO

There are really two phases to the moon eclipse, when it is partially eclipsed with the sun’s reflected light and our shadow on the surface; and when it is fully eclipsed and very dim. As the moon is entering/exiting the eclipsed state, I often want to get the blood red part in focus but also the bright reflective part in focus too.

red moon

Starting to come out of full eclipse, slower shutter speed

half eclipsed

About half way eclipsed

I was able to dial it in last night such that I could make one adjustment and capture both of my goals as it was entering/exiting the eclipsed phase. I am using a Canon EOS T2i with Canon 70-300mm 1:4-5.6 lens. My f-stop was 5.6 at 300mm and my ISO was mainly 800 or 1600. I would switch between 1/4 second for the blood red perspective and 1/1000 second (or even faster as it got less eclipsed) for the bright perspective. Simply switching the shutter speed back and forth I was able to capture both perspectives of the eclipse!

light bulb moon

Reminds me of a light bulb, faster shutter speed gathering both red and lit eclipsed moon

almost done with eclipse

Nearly done with the eclipse

What a fun night, and wonderful celestial event! Next up, October 8, 2015 the Draconids meteorite shower, and then October 21-22 is the Orionids! Can’t wait!

Digging float quartz crystals

Was able to break away from work so I took a vacation day and went up to Devil’s Head digging this last Friday.  Been rough to get up there this year due to a busy schedule, but it was nice to be back out in the forest again.

I had a plan for this day–which I had been pondering upon over the last month while planning this trip.  First thing I wanted to prospect an area that I remember looking promising a couple of years ago and if that didn’t pan out I wanted to dig some float on a very old dig I found that seemed pretty productive to the original prospector.  If I got skunked with both parts of the plan I had a third option that was within a mile.

I stopped several times during my prospecting and checked out what looked to be good ground in many places.  There was peg showing on the surface–both quartz, feldspar and combos–but the quartz was very striated, fractured and had no flat faces at all.  I found many places along this steep hillside with the same situation, even though there was a lot of “good looking” signs on the surface.  I ended up finding one rough point about the diameter of a nickel in one spot, but nothing otherwise.  The hill was *very* steep and after nearly 4 hours I got tired of all the climbing and precarious hiking so I decided to give up on that area.

Stash of crystals I brought home from today's "float dig"

Stash of crystals I brought home from today’s “float dig”, all rinsed with water, none cleaned in chemical yet.

My second stop was about 1/2 mile away and was a old dig that someone obviously had success with as they had excavated a trench about 50 foot in length as they followed the pegmatite dike across the hillside.  I could tell the dig was really old because the trench had naturally filled in most of the way and was looking pretty filled in.  I believe this is why the Forest Service is okay with leaving holes unreclaimed as over time they naturally fill back in, although I still believe to fill in my holes as it takes a long time for nature to do it; and holes are simply an eyesore in our forest and potentially dangerous to animals!

My goal at this location was to see if I could find float or perpendicular seams coming out of the peg with some nice sized crystals (given the dig was fairly large). In other spots I have found my best crystals not in or under the pegmatite dike but rather coming out perpendicular to it in many spots in smaller peg seams. I also figured as I got into the old diggings I could possible see what the person was into–I always like to analyze others’ digs as this is a primary way I learn!

I started digging about 4-6 feet downhill of the old trench about 2-4 feet wide and a couple of feet deep.  It was hard to tell if I was just digging in tailings or actual virgin ground below the trench, but soon I started finding crystal parts which narrowed my focus.  Quickly I zoned in upon a small seam with microcline and smoky quartz crystals.  Some were nice and I kept them; but most were only partially euhedral which was a sign of a smaller, tighter seam–even though some of the crystal parts were 5-7 inches long!

The crystals were organized to make me think this was not float (i.e. eroded crystals that eroded and rolled downhill from the pocket) as evidence of microcline and crystals next to each other and some red stained dirt.  They definitely were in loose dirt and not harder rock.  I followed this seam at a angle of about 30 degrees from straight downhill (I was on a very steep hill) for about 25-30 feet until it disappeared.  The further downhill I went the smaller the crystals shards were, the less smoky in color and less frequent.  The last 20 feet or so didn’t have anything worth keeping.

A nice euhedral microcline (right), microcline with mica, triple quartz cluster and double terminated smoky quartz

A nice euhedral microcline (right), microcline with mica, triple quartz cluster and double terminated smoky quartz were some of the nicer finds of the day.

As I made my way into the old trench from below I started hitting larger masses of pegmatite (like three feet deep), this was the original peg that the prospector followed across the hillside.  The digger left many crystals along the bottom of that seam and had obviously found a crack in the peg that had crystals, which is where I often also find my crystals.  The unfortunate thing was that the digger obviously used metal tools in this seam and most of the crystals he left attached to the bottom of that seam were damaged on their points.  Obviously the digger was finding nice crystals because they didn’t care about the nice 2-3 inch ones they were damaging all along the bottom of the small pocket/seam.  Moral of that story, don’t use metal tools in your pockets and take your time, unless you don’t care about the “little guys”!

Nice sized crystals with damage due to carelessness of the previous digger using metal tools in the pocket.

Nice sized crystals with damage due to carelessness of the previous digger using metal tools in the pocket.  You can guage the size by the soda can ring on the old table.

I dug until the sun was setting (beautiful sunset) and it started to sprinkle, since I had a heck of a hike (about a mile with some steep hills) back to the car I didn’t want to wait and have it get dark.  As always, had a blast being out in the forest prospecting and was able to prove that–whether it is float or a perpendicular seam–there are sometimes crystals left behind by other prospectors and available if you put in the work from previous digs.  This is definitely easier than prospecting good ground signs and striking into virgin ground, which likely will improve the chances of finding crystals quickly?

Smoky Quartz

Interesting growth pattern on this smoky quartz

Obliq Museum: Roland HS-60 (Juno 106)

I purchased a Roland HS-60 Synthesizer a little while ago and am currently integrating it into my home studio.  One thing I noticed was the front panel interface is the EXACT same as the Roland Juno 106 (it is the same synthesizer after all) and there was no way to mute the internal speakers based on the front or back panel controls.

Roland HS-60 Synthesizer

I ended up reading the manual and buried in there was the answer.  Seems like this could have been a little more obvious, but now that I know you have to plug in a cable to the headphone jack to turn off the speakers I am good to go.

Turn off Roland HS-60 Internal Speakers

From the Roland HS-60 Manual, here is the trick to turning off the internal speakers. Note that the Juno 106 does not have this speaker option.

Read more about the HS-60 from my original posting.  The original owner’s manual is located here.

Rockhound’s Guide to Identifying Federal Mining Claims

Federal Mining Claims are granted to US Citizens for the purpose of extracting the minerals for commercial gain.  Rockhounding does not require a mining claim, however Rockhounds cannot mineral trespass on active mining claims.

The BLM’s Guide to Rockhounding is helpful for defining the general rules and responsibilities for Rockhounding.  The BLM’s Guide to Mining Claims defines the claim owner’s responsibility to clearly mark their claim so that Rockhounds have the ability to know where they can dig.  As part of maintaining a claim, the claim owner has to agree to erect corner posts/markings on the claim site:

The undersigned testifies all monuments required by law were erected upon the subject claim(s), and all notices required by law were posted on the subject claim(s) or copies thereof were in place, and at said date, each corner monument bore or contained markings sufficient to appropriately designate the corner of the claim to which it pertains and the name of the claim(s).

Note that a mining claim only grants mineral rights to the claim owner, it still is public land and unless there are dangers (which will be clearly marked) citizens still can use our land.

In my prospecting I have seen several types of markings for Federal Mining Claims.  As a rockhound I appreciate when the claim owner posts documentation on each of the corner posts with GPS coordinates so I can quickly identify the claim boundaries in my GPS unit.  I appreciate when on the road into the claim or near pits/digs there is an obvious posting on a tree stating that the area is claimed.  I’ve seen center/side posts erected which is helpful too!  The easier the claim owner makes it to let the Rockhound know where the claim is the easier it is to not have accidents.

Corner post including paperwork on this federal mining claim

Corner post including paperwork on this federal mining claim

That said, I know that many times claim markers are tampered with, sometimes completely removed.  I have talked with many claim owners that have to deal with marking their claims over and over again because the markers are removed or vandalized.  Thus, I have learned how to do a little extra research before I head out to help me know when there are claims in the area that I will be prospecting.

When prospecting an area I always look for claim markers and signs, and if I find a place I want to get serious about digging I typically pull off the pack and take a walk around looking for corner posts in one direction.  A little internet research ahead of time will also help in knowing how much hiking I want to do to ensure I’m not on a claim.

The BLM provides Federal Mining Claim information online for free at LR 2000 website. If you look at the BLM Mining Claim packet, and their online help, they recommend to use the Pub MC (Mining Claim) Geo Report.  This report requires that you know a little bit about the area you want to search, specifically the MTR or Meridian Township Range, the Administration State, and the Case Disposition (Active, Closed, etc).  So as an example, I will show how I would identify active claims at one of my favorite areas in Colorado, Devils Head.

For this example, I already know the Administration State (Colorado) and Case Disposition (Active), but I need to find the MTR(s) that I want to research.  I do this by visiting another BLM site GeoCommunicator.  From the menu on the left side of the webpage I choose Interactive Maps and then All Layers.  A map displays allowing me to drill into the area I am interested in.  I then use the toolbar to choose the Identify option.

After zooming in, I choose the Identify icon in the toolbar

After zooming in, I choose the Identify icon in the toolbar

Then I click on the map to identify the Township where I’m interested in.  You can click the checkbox in the information box and it will outline the entire township visually.

Clicking somewhere on the map places the marker, then I check the Township box to show the township where you are researching federal mining claims

Clicking somewhere on the map places the marker, then I check the Township box to show the township where you are researching federal mining claims

I then repeat for as many townships as I want to research in the LR2000 database.

I continue to identify spots and check its Township until I have all the areas I want to research for federal mining claims

I continue to identify spots and check its Township until I have all the areas I want to research for federal mining claims

 Now I have 6 townships that I want to research identified.  The format is (for example the lower left):

  • State:  CO
  • Meridian:  06
  • Township:  10 South
  • Range:  69 West

Now I can enter the required fields in the Pub MC Geo Report on the LR 2000 website. The first thing I do on the LR2000 Reporting website is to select the criteria I want to use.  Obviously you don’t get a choice with State and Case Disposition, but for the other required field I choose MTR (Meridian, Township & Range) and then click the Select Criteria button.

I choose the MTR option for reporting, which is the most general requirement for researching federal mining claims database

I choose the MTR option for reporting, which is the most general requirement for researching federal mining claims database

Click the Set button to set each of the criteria.  For the MTR, you use the drop-down to select Meridian (06 – 6th PM) and then enter your Township (plus direction from the list) and Range (plus the direction from the list) and click the Add to MTR List button.  Do this for each of the MTRs you want to research, in my case I chose all six I found on the GeoCommunicator site.  NOTE, if you want to select multiple dispositions (for example, active and closed, hold the CTRL key and click all the options you want).

Select the state (CO) and disposition (ACTIVE) and then use the tool to add the MTRs

Select the state (CO) and disposition (ACTIVE) and then use the tool to add the MTRs

Now it is time to run the report by clicking the Run Report button.  I have noticed you may have to click it again if the pop-up window does not show up.  NOTE that this site uses pop-ups, so ensure that your pop-up blocker doesn’t suppress the report output window!!!  You will see a pop up with all your selected criteria and then another window will appear with all the claims in the area.

Ensure all values are uppercase, and click ok to run the report against the BLM's Oracle/Hyperion database.

Ensure all values are uppercase, and click ok to run the report against the BLM’s Oracle/Hyperion database.

The output doesn’t tell you the GPS coordinates of the claim, but it will tell you the Section and Subdivision along with the claim’s details including MTRS, name, serial number and information about the claim holder.  If you refer back to the GeoCommunicator website, the identify information “window” will let you drill into detailed information that will say what Section (the ‘S’ in MTRS) your identified point is in.

Pressing the Identify link (highlighted) will take you to more detail on this location.

Pressing the Identify link (highlighted) will take you to more detail on this location.

Click on the PLSS tab to see the section (the 'S' in MTRS) that your location is on.

Click on the PLSS tab to see the section (the ‘S’ in MTRS) that your location is on, in this example section is 029.  You will see this in the LR2000 database (if recorded) to know if your location on the map is in the same section as the claim.

As far as I have found, this is as detailed as you can get, but it will get you in the ballpark of where the claim(s) exists; and then you can visit the area in person and identify the claim by the corner posts that should clearly identify the claim name and which corner post you are looking at.

Please comment if you have other useful ways to identify federal mining claims.  Happy Rockhounding!