DIY Metal Detector Gives You The Mettle To Find Some Medals

Hurricane season is rapidly approaching those of us who live in the northern hemisphere. While that does come with a good deal of stress for any homeowners who live in the potential paths of storms it also comes with some opportunities for treasure hunting. Storms tend to wash up all kinds of things from the sea, and if you are equipped with this DIY metal detector you could be unearthing all kinds of interesting tchotchkes from the depths this year.

The metal detector comes to us from [mircemk] who is known for building simple yet effective metal detectors. Unlike his previous builds, this one uses only a single integrated circuit, the TL804 operational amplifier. It also works on the principle of beat-balance which is an amalgamation of two unique methods of detecting metal.  When the wire coils detect a piece of metal in the ground, the information is fed to an earpiece through an audio jack which rounds out this straightforward build.

[mircemk] reports that this metal detector can detect small objects like coins up to 15 cm deep, and larger metal objects up to 50 cm. Of course, to build this you will also need the support components, wire, and time to tune the circuit. All things considered, though it’s a great entryway into the hobby.

Want to learn more about metal detecting? Check out this similar-looking build which works on the induction balance principle.

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Treasure Hunting With A Handful Of Common Components

Sometimes simpler is better — when you don’t need the the computational power of an onboard microcontroller, it’s often best to rely on a simple circuit to get the job done. With cheap Raspberry Pis and ESP32s all over the place, it can be easy to forget that many simpler projects can be completed without a single line of code (and with the ongoing chip shortage, it may be more important now than ever to remember that).

[mircemk] had the right idea when he built his simple induction-balance metal detector. It uses a couple of 555 timers, transistors, and passives to sense the presence of metallic objects via a coil of wire. He was able to detect a coin up to 15 cm away, and larger objects at 60cm — not bad for a pile of components you probably have in your bench’s spare parts drawer right now! The detector selectivity can be tuned by a couple of potentiometers, and in true metal detector fashion, it has a buzzer to loudly blare at you once it’s found something (along with a LED, in case the buzzer gets too annoying).

All in all, this metal detector looks like a terribly fun project — one perfectly suited to beginners and more seasoned hackers alike. It serves as a great reminder that not every project needs WiFi or an OLED display to be useful, but don’t let that stop you from overdoing things! If touchscreens are more your speed, [mircemk] has got you covered with a smartphone-integrated version as well.

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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.

Arduino Finds Treasure

A beach is always a relaxing summer vacation destination, a great place to hang out with a drink and a book or take a swim in the ocean. For those who need a more active beach-going activity with an electronics twist, though, metal detecting is always a popular choice too. And, of course, with an Arduino and some know-how it’s possible to build a metal detector that has every feature you could want from even a commercial offering.

This build comes to us from [mircemk] who built this metal detector around an Arduino Nano and uses a method called induction balance detection to find metal. Similar to how radar works, one coil sends out a signal and the other listens for reflections back from metal objects underground. Building the coils and determining their resonant frequency is the most important part of this build, and once that is figured out the rest of the system can be refined and hidden treasure can easily be unearthed.

One of the more interesting features of this build is its ability to discriminate between ferrous and non-ferrous metals, and it can detect large metal objects at distances of more than 50 cm. There are improvements to come as well, since [mircemk] plans to increase power to the transmission coil which would improve the range of the device. For some of [mircemk]’s other metal detectors, be sure to check out this one which uses a smartphone to help in the metal detection process.

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Arduino And Wire Detects Metal

Our old math teacher famously said, “You have to take what you know and use it find what you don’t know.” The same holds true for a lot of microcontroller designs including [rgco’s] clever metal detector that uses very little other than an Arduino. The principle of operation is simple. An Arduino can measure time, a coil and a resistor will create a delay proportional to the circuit values, and metal around the coil will change the coil’s inductance. As the inductance changes, so does the delay and, thus, the Arduino can sense metal, as you can see in the video below.

The simple principle is also simple in practice. Besides the Arduino and the coil, there’s a single resistor. You want a small coil since larger coils won’t detect smaller objects. If you don’t want to wind your own coil, [rgco] suggests using a roll of hookup wire as long as the resistance is under 10 ohms.

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Precision Metal Detector Finds Needles In Haystacks

Full-size metal detectors are great for narrowing down a region to start digging through. But what if you had a smaller metal detector that could pinpoint the location? Then you could spend far less time digging and way more time sweeping for metal.

Metal detectors work because of the way metal behaves around electromagnetic fields. [mircemk] reused the ferrite core from an old MW radio to build the antenna coils. When metal objects are close enough, the induced electromagnetism changes the frequency, and the Arduino blinks an LED and beeps a buzzer in time with the new frequency.

[mircemk]’s handheld metal detector is quite sensitive, especially to smaller objects. As you can see in the demo video after the break, it can sense coins from about 4cm away, larger objects like lids from about 7 cm, and tiny things like needles from a few millimeters away. There’s also an LED for treasure hunting in low light.

Don’t want to pinpoint a bunch of useless junk? Build in some phase detection to help you discriminate.

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A Lawnmower That Looks Where You’re Going

As a kid, one of the stories my dad told me was about mowing a fairly large field of grass on the farm with a gas-powered push mower. One day, some sort of farm tool was left in the field and the old industrial mower shredded it, sending a large piece of sharp metal hurtling toward his leg. Luckily for my dad, the large plastic wheel managed to stop the piece of metal, destroying the wheel. My grandfather was frustrated that he needed to repair the lawnmower but was grateful that my dad still had both feet attached.

Of course, this story was used as a lesson for me not to gripe about having to mow the lawn when it was my turn, but there was also the lesson that lawnmowers can be dangerous. [DuctTape Mechanic] took it upon himself to see if he could prevent that sort of accident altogether and has created an automatic safety shutdown mechanism for his family lawnmower. (Video embedded below.)

This uses an inductive sensor that can detect metal before it gets sucked into the mower itself. The sensor trips a relay which forcibly shuts the mower down by grounding the ignition coil. While it doesn’t physically stop the blade like other safety mechanisms, it does prevent a situation from escalating by turning off power to the blade as soon as possible. Getting to the ignition coil wasn’t easy as it required getting deep into the engine itself, but now [DuctTape Mechanic] has a mower that could be expanded further with things such as with a capacitive sensor or more smarts to determine if it is detecting underground or above ground metal.

Someday we’ll have robotic mowers, but until then, we laud the efforts of hackers out there trying to make the world a little safer.

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