Impromptu Metal Detector Built From The Junk Bin

Have you ever found yourself suddenly in need of finding a small metal object hidden in the woods? No? Well, neither have we. But we can’t say the same thing for [zaphod], who’s family was hoping to settle a dispute by finding the surveyor stakes that marked the corners of their property. It was a perfect job for a metal detector, but since they didn’t own one, a serviceable unit had to be assembled from literal garbage.

To start with, [zaphod] had to research how a metal detector actually works. After reviewing the pros and cons of various approaches, the decision was made to go with a beat frequency oscillator (BFO) circuit. It’s not the greatest design, it might even be the worst, but it could be built with the parts on hand and sometimes that’s all that matters. After packing a 2N3904 transistor, an LM386 amplifier, and every Hackaday reader’s favorite chip the 555 timer into an enclosure along with some of their closest friends, it was time to build the rest of the metal detector.

Look ma, no MCU!

The sensor coil was made by salvaging the wire from an old fluorescent lamp ballast and winding it around the lid of a bucket 27 times. This was mounted to the end of a broom handle with some angle pieces made from PVC sheet material, being careful not to use any metal fasteners that would throw off the detector. With the handle of an old drill in the middle to hold onto, the metal detector was complete and actually looked the part.

So did [zaphod] save the day by finding the surveyor stakes and reconnoitering the family’s plot? Unfortunately, no. It wasn’t a technical failure though; the metal detector did appear to work, although it took a pretty sizable object to set it off. The real problem was that, after looking more closely into it, the surveyors only put down one stake unless they are specifically instructed otherwise. Since they already knew where that one was…

If your homemade metal detector can’t find something that was never there, did it really fail? Just a little something to meditate on. In any event, when even the cheapest smart bulb is packing a microcontroller powerful enough to emulate early home computers, we’re always happy to see somebody keep the old ways alive with a handful of ICs.

A Smart DIY Metal Detector

If you ever thought about becoming a treasure hunter this simple DIY metal detector by [mircemk] may be a nice project to start with.

The design is based on an opensource metal detector called Smart Hunter. This Very Low Frequency (VLF) metal detector uses transmitter and receiver coils in so-called Double-D geometry. The transmitter coil is driven by a signal generator module that operates at its resonant frequency of 4.74 kHz.

The resulting oscillating magnetic field will induce eddy currents in a nearby metal object that in turn induce a signal in the receiver coil. This signal is then fed into the microphone port of a smartphone and analyzed by a custom metal detector app. [mircemk] also included an audio amplifier and small speaker into the device.

The detector turned out to be quite sensitive and can detect a coin at up to 25 cm distance and larger metal objects even up to 1 m. Modern metal detectors can also distinguish between different types of metal by analyzing the phase shift of the detected signal which might be some way to improve the design.

Video after the break.

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An ATtiny Metal Detector

A metal detector used to be an entirely analogue instrument, an oscillator whose frequency changed with the inductance of its sense coil when a piece of metal approached. [Łukasz Podkalicki] shows us a more sophisticated machine, but with judicious use of an ATtiny 13 it is not a complex one.

A pulsed induction metal detector induces a current spike in its search coil, and times the decay of the resulting oscillation. The coil is part of a resonant circuit with a capacitor, and any metal in its field will change its resonant frequency. In [Łukasz]’s design the ATtiny13 fires a pulse at his coil using a MOSFET, and the voltages at the coil are sensed by an analogue pin through an appropriate clamp circuit. His software does the timing, and sounds a buzzer upon metal detection. It’s a deliciously simple implementation, and while as he shows us in the video below the break its relatively small coil is more suited to detecting coins or wires behind the drywall than locating lost hoards, there is probably ample scope for further experimentation.

This isn’t the first project from [Łukasz] that has found its way into these pages, his history with the ATtiny13 goes back a few years.

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DIY Metal Detector

Looking for a light project to teach young hackers some very basic electronics? Here’s a quick and easy weekend project, a simple metal detector!

We all know 555 timers are very useful and pop up in a wide range of projects, but did you know a metal detector is one of them? [vonPongrac] stumbled upon this handy guide, a free eBook on 50 555 Circuits, which contains many cool project ideas, including a simple metal detector circuit. It’s a very basic concept that uses a coil of copper wire as a home-made choke — when metal or a magnet comes near the coil, it varies the output frequency, and the 555 timer in turn, varies the output sound, alerting you of the presence of something metal nearby.

After the break there’s a video of it during its testing phases. If you don’t have a 555 on hand (tisk tisk) but still want to have some treasure hunting fun you can also build one based on an Arduino.

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