*Rusty and in a Sorry State

In a previous post I looked at the detectorists’ database, the UKDFD. The item I revisited was a pen or fruit knife found in Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire.  Another good example of a find telling us a lot about our social history. *‘Rusty and in a Sorry State’ doesn’t refer to me!

The picture below show a clean knife, but it was rusty and in a sorry state when rescued. Should have taken a ‘clod shot’ or video, but it wasn’t the fashion then. We were primarily metal detectorists with enough to lug around without a mountain of movie gear. In retrospect I regret not taking a ‘before’ shot showing its condition before cleaning.

Mrs John worked wonders with her diligent restoration and conservation skills so it now looks in almost pristine condition. Some details were easy to record. For example, it has a mother-of-pearl handle with two ‘stainless steel’ blades made by Fisher in Sheffield. But I was intrigued by the letters or meaningless word, IBAISAIC . What could it mean? Finding out proved to be a little more difficult.

I searched Mr Google with few positive results and it wasn’t until I proudly (well, I was a rookie swinger at that time) showed my find on a detecting forum that all was explained . . . by a former vacuum cleaner repair man! He told me that knives of this type were given by Hoover salesmen as gifts to retailers in the late 1930’s. This information has been confirmed by the manufacturer who told me to ‘take care of it because it’s a collector’s item.’ I’ve seen one for sale on eBay at £40 – £60.

The original presentation box. Found on Etsy UK.
Continue reading “IBAISAIC”

A Ringside Cliffhanger

A Clifton Gorge Ringside Cliffhanger

“Raf’s whole being was shaking, not because of a fear of heights, but for what he was about to do.”

The world stood still as Raphael watched the box containing an engagement ring careering down the side of the cliff. “You can imagine how I felt,” he said, “pretty wretched.”

That Saturday morning Raf Woolf and his girlfriend Amy Colson had set off to climb the Avon Gorge in Bristol, the best city crag in the world. Raf is a romantic. Halfway up the cliff he had intended tying a ribbon around a platinum and diamond engagement ring and hanging it up so Amy could find it … but it didn’t quite work out like that! In mitigation an embarrassed Raf told me that it had been a “pretty scary climb”, and getting rather late in the day.

When they reaching the top they made themselves safe, Raf tying himself to a tree. He was happy and elated; now was the moment! He reached in a pocket for the ring-box lovingly wrapped with that ribbon and began to open it. Somewhat graphically, he described the action as “unfurling a toilet roll.”

Trembling Hands

Raf’s whole being was shaking, not because of a fear of heights, but for what he was about to do. Alas, the small box slipped from his trembling hands, rolled down the hill and disappeared over the cliff. Desperately he donned a head torch and abseiled down, frantically searching for the errant ring.

Above him, Amy could see what was happening, but couldn’t really understand what was going on. “What are you doing?” she screamed. Raf shouted back the first thing that came into his head … that he’d dropped the car keys.

Despite frantic efforts in the near darkness, it was proving to be a hopeless task. “To hell with it. Now was the moment. I went back up, sorted the ropes and sheepishly said to Amy that I had a confession to make. When I told her my intentions and then losing the ring, she sobbed. Will you marry me anyway? I asked, which made her cry even more, and a little noisily, but she managed to say yes!”

Picture © David Talbot

Raf and Amy decided to return early the next morning and retrace their route up the cliff. Raf said, “Quite frankly, as we abseiled down the Gorge, I didn’t hold out much hope in locating the ring. Half way down, and after about two hours searching I DID find the empty box.”

In the meantime Amy’s dad, Bill Colson, was trying to contact help via the Internet. What followed admirably showed what could be achieved with cooperation between detectorists. Via a convoluted route involving Ken Watson, a helpful member of Cardiff Scan Club, Bill found just the man!

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Einstein quotes abound online. The only problem is he never said most of them. Recently, Ivanka Trump was mocked on Twitter for an Einstein misquote she made four years ago . “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.” A relative of Al’s family confirmed that he’d never said the quote and suggested she purchase The Ultimate Quotable Einstein book. Ivanka never responded to the correction.


When I started the hobby I made lots of mistakes from which I learned, and thus became a more efficient detectorist. For instance, I bet many of you have also turned over the soil many times looking for that elusive artefact or coin? The signal is definitely there, yet it appears to be everywhere. Omnipotent.

And then you realise that you have forgotten to remove your wedding ring or are still wearing your wristwatch. Doh! Won’t make that error again and yet we invariably do! However, I’ve stopped ‘detecting’ the eyelets or steel toe caps in my boots, so I have learned. If this is still happening to you, constantly plagued with the phantom beep, I can only suggest there must be something wrong with your technique and how you sweep the coil – or your fingers are still full of bling and you haven’t realised. 

Don’t have that problem with the wedding band any more. After the incident mentioned I got into the habit of removing the ring and threading it onto the lace of my trainer for safety, before donning my wellies. With hindsight, not one of my better ideas! If there happens to be anyone reading this who is proficient with a metal detector and willing to hunt for a ring somewhere in East Sussex I’d be very grateful. The only problem is I’m not sure where it could be. The upside is that due to absence of any outward sign of heart-rending sorrow or any attempt to find it (Brighton and the Sussex Downs is a large area) Mrs. John still isn’t speaking to me. Every cloud has a silver lining, so maybe that was a good day’s detecting after all! Only joking, he hastily added. 

Continue reading “A DETECTING LESSON . . .”

Is Metal Detecting a Sport?

In 2016 or thereabouts Garrett started advertising ‘treasure hunting’ as a sport. They still are. At the time this fact dismayed many English detectorists who regarded their metal detecting as a hobby. What do YOU think?

It’s a well known fact that to take part in any sport you need skill and ability. Here’s just a few examples. They are not all mine, but  have been inspired by, borrowed, and adapted, by an entertaining piece I once read by Maurice Darling in an old detecting magazine. 

Sporting Skills


Snooker – using a straight stick to knock a coloured ball into a hole, even after smoking endless cigarettes and consuming copious amounts of beer during the game. (It used to be like that!) You gain points by causing your opponent to foul.

Pool – same as snooker, except that you use a smaller stick and fewer balls. Beer is readily at hand. I had a friend who was an expert at this game of pocket billiards – as the game is also known in America.

Darts – darts has long been a bone of contention in the debate around what constitutes a sport, with some seeing it as the ultimate pub game.

Rugby – rugby is a free-flowing game that features a combination of strength, speed and strategy to move a ball into the opponents’ territory. Rugby is a full-contact sport. Be prepared to donate a pint of blood every two weeks.

Fishing – the challenge here is to find and catch a fish. Having accomplished that, you then throw the critter back. Actually, the only skill you need here is to stay awake and not fall in the water.

Football – you attempt to put a ball into the back of the other team’s net. If you do this then the only other skill you need is to be able to run the length of the pitch and give all your team mates a kiss after skidding along on both knees. Practice pulling your shirt over your head as you fall to the ground.

Detectorists are capable of all the sports above with few problems, but wielding and understanding a metal detector is far more demanding. 

Continue reading “Is Metal Detecting a Sport?”