Picture of Guide to Beach Combing
I know it seems simple, you go to the beach, look for shiny things, put them in your pocket, then continue on your merry way. You could do it that way, but if you follow my Guide to Beach Combing, you will get the most out of your experience.

*These are all my own photos.
*This Instructable was improved thanks to suggestions from other members of Instructables.com

Step 1: Gear

Picture of Gear
You will need:

Proper foot wear
Flip flops will suffice, but I wear my felt bottomed scuba booties because they provide excellent protection against sharp objects, plus they grip slippery surfaces.

I try to take two bags with me. One plastic shopping bag and one canvas bag. You'll see the reasoning behind this later.

Sun Screen or protective clothing
Just do it. It won't kill you to wear it. It could kill you to not. This holds true even if you don't live in the tropics or sub-tropics.

Camera (optional)
It needs to have a neck strap or fit in your pocket. You don't want to drop it while you're bending over to pick up your treasures.

Metal Detector (optional)
JulianP23 months ago

best tip I have from years of beach combing is focus your efforts on the strandline . . . . .marking left by the high water mark of ordinary tidal action . .. . and is typically composed of the majority of debris left by high tide

lynn.hixson.56 months ago

A few years ago, I saw on television where a couple had used sea glass to tile their snack bar. It was beautiful!

zombie1012 years ago
Sea glass Is very abundant in the outer banks of North Carolina, especially topsail island.
KatieAnne3 years ago
Some people like to 'throw back' the living creatures they find. PLEASE DON'T!!Doing so can dislodge the tennant and kill them. If you want to put them back in the water that is fine, just be gentle. walk them in as far as you can and set them down gently. Thank you!
glorybe7 years ago
There are people with metal detectors as well as other devices and techniques that earn quite a living on beaches. Hard core beach hunters can take in $30,000 per year or more on average. Rest assured there are very, very few people who will talk about this and books will be of limited use as well.
glorybe, Please fill me in. Why won't beachcombers talk about it? Income tax? And why won't the books be helpful? I am a serious scavenger at heart. I don't limit myself to the beach, but like you, when I am at the beach - I go for the beach glass. I don't have as many opportunities as I would like to do any scavenging anywhere, but I love it. Have you seen that show on cable? "Cash & Treasures"? There are organizations and places where you can go to 'comb' for the items left by early settlers, pioneers, that kind of thing. Sounds like a blast. But anyway what's the story with the secrecy of the combers? Thanks. Ann PS - I am very jealous that you live on Okinowa. I lived in the Philippines for three years when I was a teenager and loved it. It really was paradise. When I see things on TV about Corregidor and the action there during WW ll, I wish I have been more mindful of the treasures to be found on those beaches and in those tunnels. I don't mean live ordinance, but artifacts from the American soldiers who had been there. It is probably more restricted now, but when we used to go to the Corregidor in the early 70s, we had complete freedom to wander the island.
Heh, competition. You don't want to increase the number of people in your area that are beachcombers. if anyone is profiting from finding stuff it's kinda like getting something for nothing, and when you come upon a benefit like that it's best not to let others know.
Like this.^^ Went to Malta (a small country between Italy and Afrika) many yrs ago and found much sea glass. ^^ And your pics made me wish travelling to the beach and especially to Japan again.
Awesome Instructable! Bringing a metal detector could also be great help. You took amazing photos, and that fish looks really sparkly! And the last image... sea glass. What's that? I don't think I've heard of that.
Very Keri (author)  GorillazMiko7 years ago
Thanks!! The metal detector idea popped in my head about as soon as I clicked "publish". I figured I would get some good suggestions in my comments, so I'll add that to the instructable later.

Sea Glass (also known as Beach Glass) is the result of a piece of broken glass being tumbled in the ocean for many years (50 to a 100 to be precise). The sand, salt and motion of the sea grind it down until the edges become smooth like a river stone and the whole piece has a frosted look. I think it's awesome. People make all kinds of things out sea glass, but jewelry is one of my favorites. I would make my own, but I don't have a diamond drill bit.

Here's some more info on Sea Glass http://seaglassassociation.org/
You can also go to Etsy.com and do a search for people' s beautiful sea glass creations.
You can get a diamond drill bit at McMaster Carr for about $60. They also have diamond files, and generally deliver next day
Very Keri (author)  Lintballoon7 years ago
I ordered some online a few days ago, but I only paid 20 bucks (plus shipping) for a set of a few different sizes. I needed some very small ones for jewelry making, which may be why they were so cheap. They're from a reputable company, so we'll see how good they are when I get them.
If you ask your dentist he might give you his used diamond bits for nothing - they get through quite a few and most are still OK. And if the idea of using a drill that's been through someone's teeth doesn't appeal, ask him for the address of his supplier because they are actually quite cheap. Also they are real professional quality. I once got some pricey diamond burrs which were sold in a DIY store for use with high speed mini-drills, and I wore out three trying to trim a bathroom tile.
That's exciting! Good luck, post some pictures of your designs (or link if you are doing Esty)
Etsy I mean
Very Keri (author)  Lintballoon7 years ago
Thanks! That was the plan! I opened an Etsy shop about 2 weeks ago, but there's nothing in it yet...guess I should have planned that out a little better :P
That is so awesome!
I want to get some sea glass. :-(
It only takes about a week to make in a rock tumbler. If you can't drill it, you might want to consider wire wrapping or epoxy to glue a fitting onto it.
if you plan to sell any "seaglass" you made, it must be identified as imitation. believe it or not there is a seaglass association, and they will black list anyone they find selling rocktumbled glass as genuine sea glass.
Blacklist me from what?  It's an organization that doesn't have any legal backing to it (unlike, say, claiming something is 'native american')?
Very Keri (author)  jtobako5 years ago
I agree with you jtobako about the blacklisting thing, especially if you're not a member. The scenario that thecrimsonmaster is describing is fraud. I wouldn't be worried about the sea glass association, I would be worried about the legal aspect. It is doubtful that you'd get into much trouble if you're a small time seller, but it is still illegal and punishable if you get caught. You weren't suggesting anyone does that anyway, just that you could make your own if you wanted to.
It's only fraud if you specifically state that it is natural and it isn't (or the other way around), not for using the term 'sea glass' unless someone can point to a law that requires differentiating (for example, hallmarking laws, which require marking how much precious metal is in a sold piece and who made it or documenting when a piece of ivory was originally taken-pre '72 to be legal if I remember right).
For top quality seaglass it needs a minimum of 30 years and waves that are a foot high and can travel for 25 kilometers straight. those are ideal conditions, so small lakes would need a lot longer time(closer to the 50 - 100 you said). i've found quite a bit of sea glass around lake ontario, and as for jewlery, you could do wire wrap jewlery, really easy to learn. 
Very Keri (author)  thecrimsonmaster5 years ago
It's been quite a while since I wrote this Instructable. At the time, I was dabbling in jewelry making, and now I have a quite a collection. I don't specialize in beach glass jewelry, but I have made a few pieces. I'm very aware of the wire wrapping technique most people use, and it is beautiful, but it's really not my aesthetic. I allow myself to drill one tiny hole so I can attach the glass to my jewelry.  Here is one of my recent creations. I don't usually work with brass, I prefer Sterling Silver, but I felt that this one looked better with an antique look.
ikeike405 years ago
over here in florida we have one of the best spots but beacause of the bp oil spill it will be ruined soon.
its a pity about losing all that oil though...
yeah its a loss of oil and wildlife
Bluemini5 years ago
I like to beach comb the Spaceballs way...
Bump, Lol
bump, bump
you just made my day :) thank you
I've found lots of 'seaglass' in Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay in Lake Huron. I've found some rarer colours like cobalt fairly often. It's much nicer to beachcomb in Florida though ;).
Very Keri (author)  jellyfishattack7 years ago
Where are you beach combing in Florida? I never find anything, lol! I have to go out when it's raining or blazing hot to find things, otherwise the tourists have already snatched it up. I even drive as far away from the ocean front hotels as I can. I did get lucky and find an itty bitty piece of cobalt the last time I was home, it made my day! :)
Sanibel FL is known for shells. Your Okinawan beach pic closeup of all the shell frags is very typical of southwest Florida, too. Only on Sanibel and Captiva Islands you might be standing on banks of whole shells, with almost no coral sand visible. Of course, they have sandy and mucky beaches too. In fact, the mud flats and tide pools are also rich with interesting things to photograph or collect. There are plenty of beaches in FL where you can find shells, coral bits, driftwood, feathers, and lost metal bits. I keep track of specific kinds of things and where I found them. I look at USGS quad maps for coastal anomalies that might be good for combing. Mermaids tears or beach glass is seen most often where there are beach picnickers as opposed to beach bathers and surfers. So near fishing spots, bridge abutments, inlets, etc. Rougher surf and jetties will grind that glass to nothing. Also really cool to beach comb adjacent to dredging sites. Maybe not right away, but in the same few weeks you'll find stuff washed ashore that reward your interest. Fossils, too. Good luck, everyone!
Hey, I've been to Sanibel! its really nice and its a treat to be in an ocean beach. in Ontario we only get lake beaches (and lots of them)
i do it in destin, BIG tourist city you would be quite supried what vacationers leave behind found a twenty dollar bill more than once not to mention 4 "tobacco" pipes in one sitting (was right after spring break)
Very Keri (author)  zleebme6 years ago
Destin! My husband and I are trying to get stationed in Ft. Walton beach when we finish our tour in Okinawa. :D I'll have to take your word for it, however, since I'm really only familiar with the south eastern coast.
not any more :( stupid BP ruining the beaches....
Ceiling cat5 years ago
I did this on in Galveston Island, TX after the hurricane hit there and I found tons of shells, a whole glass bottle/w cap, and an oxygen tank. I wanted to keep it but my dad wouldn't let me. He thought it might be dangerous.
Nice photo
cool fish :)
Dragonothe5 years ago
I was stationed in Japan (NAS Atsugi) and me and my friends would load up my big florescent green van and spend the weekend at a tiny park about 6 hours up the coast. We would find all kinds of things! The first thing we did would be to de-trash the beach. The park rangers would watch us and then thank us by taking the trash away. We found sea glass, floating glass balls, even found some rings and necklaces. We went because it was peaceful and quiet and a great place to recharge and finding the jewelry wasn't bad either!
There is a Glass Beach in northern California that is beachcomber's paradise.
Where is this?????!!!!! I would love to go!
Do a Google search for ; "Glass Beach near Fort Bragg, CA" 'blueberrychicken' Which I was closer. :] PS; some more images here; http://www.flickr.com/photos/matthigh/2104820030/
It's in the town of Fort Bragg. You have to walk a ways to get there, but it's worth it.
Very Keri (author)  Ricardo Furioso5 years ago
That is insane! There is a small beach in Okinawa where I can go during the winter and get a whole trash bag of glass at one time, but the glass still isn't as concentrated there as it is in these photos.
mrownsalot5 years ago
I have a metal detector. It costed me fifteen bucks on some market. (I dont even know why i bought it) The next day i tried it out in an old quarry and foud three pickaxes, two regular axes around eight  drills, a wheel and a 100-meter metal wire. And the best thing?
I sold it for 20 bucks.

(Note: i was allowed to search in the quarry)
SteamKit7 years ago
I like this! Makes me wish I lived near the beach, but alas, I live in a landlocked frying pan of a state. What sort of fish is that? Shame it's dead. So pretty...
Be free! Move away from there and find your watery bliss!
No lakes near you? Lakes can give a lot of the same treasures. Although I suppose not everyone lives in Minnesota like me ;-) - In case your wondering about this comment, MN is known as the land of 10,000 lakes. We actually have about 13,000 lakes. I think FL has 17,000 though, but they don't count because they live by the ocean so they have enough water already. -
Very Keri (author)  bmlbytes7 years ago
Florida also has the 3rd largest lake in the country (Lake Okeechobee). Woo Hoo! 3rd! :P
Woah slow down now. I think you forgot that the great lakes are a part of the US too. The largest lakes (by surface area) are, Superior (in MN and biggest in the world), Huron, Michigan, Erie, Ontario, Okeechobee, Great Salt, and Champlain. And I correct myself, according to lakehomes.com there are 16,093 lakes in Minnesota
How big does it have to be to be considered a lake? I admit that I have never stayed in Minnesota, only passed through on my way back from Orlando to Wichita (really weird routing), but flying over Minnesota, I saw plenty of water, but mostly in fairly small "puddles," closer to pond size than lake size. Am I missing something? Or is it just because I'm used to scaling landscapes from thirty times lower?
if you ever drive through MN you will see that every few miles there is a street sign that says Lake xxx. There certainly are a lot of lakes in MN. Because of the number of lakes there are some things about Minnesota that are different from many other states. For example, almost everyone has a boat of some kind, mainly fishing boats. People also drive their cars and trucks out on the lake and set up little houses on the lake in the winter. They drill holes in the ice and go ice fishing, something that southern states could never do. As for the definition of a lake (from the Brittish Columbia government website): A static body of water greater than 2 m in depth and greater than 1 ha in size, or a licensed reservoir.
Oh and to give you an idea as to how many lakes there are in MN, here is a map of a city and its surrounding areas. Detroit Lakes is a medium sized city with some small suburbs (the smaller cities in the map).


Most MN maps only show the larger lakes, you have to zoom in to see the smaller lakes.
And a sattelite image of MN (notice there are not many lakes in Southern MN)<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://geology.com/satellite/minnesota-satellite-image.jpg">http://geology.com/satellite/minnesota-satellite-image.jpg</a><br/>
Very Keri (author)  CameronSS7 years ago
I have no idea if there is an exact rule of measure to tell the two apart, but I would consider a body of water that is big enough to have waves and a high and low tide a lake. I would call it a pond if the water is very still and if I can walk around it in less than 20 minutes. I'm sure most of what you saw from the air over Minnesota were smaller lakes.
Very Keri (author)  bmlbytes7 years ago
I only counted Lake Michigan as far as the great lakes were concerned because its the only one that's entirely in the U.S. Lemme get back with you on my faulty lake counting, I haven't been feeling well. I can barely read as it is. I actually responded to this earlier and then deleted it because what I wrote made no sense. lol. I hope I don't look at this again in a few days and think the same thing. :P
No lakes big enough to find anything I'd want to keep. The biggest off the top of my head is a muddy pond beside a swamp, that's like 15 feet deep at best. Still, this oughta be good if I vacation sometime soon!
Very Keri (author)  SteamKit7 years ago
Wow, that is a shame! I have no idea what kind of fish it was. I do know that it was about 4 inches long and a bright shiny blue.
mrbob10007 years ago
I found a cheap lighter one time, but i was only about 12 then so i didnt pick it up (parents would immediately steal it from me) i also have a metal detector, i found some empty beer cans, botle caps (later to become chunks of art) i also found wire. its fun to do these things when at the beach.
when i was twelve i had three boxes of kitchen matches, three boxes of strike anywhere matches, 17 dollar store lighters, 4 utility lighters, 26 boxes of waterproof matches, a refillable flexible utility lighter, 2 bic lighters, a homemade refillable butane lighter, and a zippo. and your parents wouldn't let you keep a cheap lighter? thats pretty tough, considering it was free on the ground.
Very Keri (author)  PyroManiac967 years ago
from someone named "PyroManiac" this is a little unsettling. :P
if you get to know me, you will find that i am much more unsettling. I BURN ARMY MEN XD (they burnt me first)
thats what everyone says!!
Evesneon6 years ago
the sea glass looks pretty :]
Solderguy7 years ago
You could probably taxidermy a dead starfish if you find one.
w00ty327 years ago
even cooler then sea glass, is the naturalglas from after a thunder storm. the lighting hits the sand, and heats it up until it it almost like molten glass, then cools.
Heywasup7 years ago
Can u use a metal detector to find, coins or metal carried in by the tide?
reeding7 years ago
alexander clam bell?!?! ooooooooohhhh!
Very Keri (author)  reeding7 years ago
Is that from Sponge Bob? I'm trying to place it...
Pyrowuzzup7 years ago
A few years back i lived in Chicago and we would find some neat stuff on the beaches of lake michigan. Sure you'd find the occasional crack pipe, but some of those could be quite pretty too. My moms thing was to find blue beach glass. Apparently it's the rarest kind.
Very Keri (author)  Pyrowuzzup7 years ago
Here's a poster I found on etsy.com, it's a guide for colors and rarity. I know it's relative to where you live what you'll find, but this chart represents what's out there globally. I have one piece of orange and one piece of red, both of which are super tiny. I also have like 2 amber and maybe 3 pieces of cobalt and then an abundance of the other colors below cobalt on the chart.

wow shes gonna love that. thanks for the link.
That was a nice instructable... something happy and it involves leaving your computer and desk...

I used to live by the sea about half a mile round the coast was the beach but I found amazing things in the old disused pier/dock that used to have a swimming pool aswell. The best of the finds had to be:
  • A keg (now my seat)
  • The majority of a cypress tree trunk
  • A really old lighter
  • An assortment of shotgun shells
  • A massive skull, some kind of bovine animal...
I found loads of stuff but the biggest and best stuff always came just after a storm, mostly it had to be pulled out of the water, there was a rocky outcrop just in front of the sea wall that was close to where everything passed, pulling a half full keg or a tree trunk out of the sea isn't easy...

It's good that you mentioned the dangers involved, we were pretty foolhardy about rough weather and went out on the old pier for some wave riding every time it got rough, that is until my wee brother nearly fell in then five minutes later I got hit by a wave that sent me most of the way across the little dock bit.

What have been your best or favourite finds?
Very Keri (author)  killerjackalope7 years ago
Thank You! That is too funny that you found a keg! My favorite thing to find is the sea glass. Here on Okinawa, you also find sea pottery, which is really neat too. I love how different things wash up on different beaces. There is one beach in particular where I go to find bits of tumbled Corona (the beer) bottles. I love finding things with the label still on them. I have a huge stash of broken sand dollars, which I got in my native Florida in 2004 after a bout of nasty hurricanes. I'm going to incorporate them into an art project some day. Then there's my photos. I have some wonderful ones that aren't posted on this site because they're for sale on another site.
I have a few really interesting bits of pottery, the bottom of something small marked 1895, don't have a clue what it was though... I have some really strange things, a can of coke with a sell by date of 1995, it actually tasted ok... No I don't have any idea what possesed me to drink sea coke. It's amazing how big a difference there is between where things wash up, because of the way the old pier and other stuff worked out along the coast I only had to walk a few hundred yards to find things of each 'type' like from other beaches, the things seem to be self sorted by size and what they're made from. It's wierd what really turns up though, I have seen an engine block appear in the dock bit of that pier after a storm, I never understood that one, aircraft propellers, anything over six foot long and made of wood tended to stay washed up for long enough to get the good stuff. It's funny that you have a beach for corona bottles, then again there was a spot that collected about 15-30 Bic lighters a month, most of them whole aswell, a couple dried out and worked. It's such a shame I don't live there now, I'm really in the mood for a wee beach comb/rock climb. I got tonnes of stuff because barely anybody could get to the best bits of it.
You drank the expired Coke that was in the sea? Gross. But pop never really expires, it just goes flat.
nah it wasn't falt just not that tasty, it was ok just not nice...
There's a golf club near me that is partly beside a cliff by the sea, and there's one hole where you have to hit the ball over a kind of gulf, from one clifftop to the other. Needless to say many people miss so the locals kids used to climb down and get all the balls then sell them to local shops for 50 cents each. I'm not sure if they still do it, but I know the occasional golf ball washes up on other beaches up or down the coast a bit.
Yeah there's one like that on a bit of the coast I go mountain biking on, it's actually quite dangerous, I nearly fell of a cliff when my front wheel slid from hitting a golf ball, the rocks below have hundreds of ball and the go along the coast to a beach not far away, in summer you can get them, winters not a great idea due to our colder climate, that and it's a north facing coast so definitely not a good idea when coupled with the stena line speed ferry which causes a massive wave to come a little while after it's passed. yeah I used to live backing on to a golf course aswell, selling golf balls was a good way to earn pocketmoney. yes I've lived everywhere.
Very Keri (author)  killerjackalope7 years ago
"a can of coke with a sell by date of 1995, it actually tasted ok... " ahahahahaha!!
Not flat and it definitely wasn't 'right' but it was ok, just about...
marc927 years ago
Great Instructable! Very detailed and your photos are excellent; they look like the work of a professional photographer. (+1)
Very Keri (author)  marc927 years ago
Thank you!
Doctor What7 years ago
Yay! Something to do that is fun, and helps the environment all at the same time!!!
Notbob7 years ago
too bad i dont live near the coast, other wise i might try this. p.s- a metal detector is an amazingly helpful device. +1