Hard to believe this pristine beach has tons of iron in the sand ! !

Gold Beach in Oregon had a lot more Iron in the sand 20 years ago.

This instructable shows you how to separate and collect the Gold Beach Iron using a simple Magnet.

Step 1:


Picture of TOOL YOU NEED

Harbor Freight sells a magnetic pick-up and drop tool for under $10 dollars.

A dry soda bottle makes a convenient container for holding the iron fillings.

Step 3: PULLING Iron From 'Gold Beach'

Picture of PULLING  Iron  From  'Gold Beach'
See the  Magnet action being performed to separate Iron from Sand ..

Step 4: Seperation of IRON From Sand

Picture of Seperation of IRON  From Sand
Trowel and slide the  magnetic head  through dry loose sand and let it collect everything it can hold..
  • Drop the bundle of Sand and Iron on a flat rock  see picture 1 & 2
  • Pick the Iron out of the Sand on the first rock  see picture 3
  • Drop the Iron and sand on a second flat rock   see picture 4
  • Pick the Iron out of the sand on the second rock  see picture 5
  • Drop the Iron and tiny bit of sand on the third flat rock   see picture 6
  • Take the IRON filings and place them in a collection bottle  see video

Step 5: IRON in a Bottle

Picture of IRON in a Bottle

Here I removed 200 g of filings from the bottle, in order to demonstrate the magnetic attraction.

Step 6: Where Does Ocean Iron Come From ?

Picture of Where Does Ocean Iron Come From ?

Iron is found in sand all over this world some sites like Gold-Beach Oregon have a lot
and some almost non at all..
NASA estimates forty metric tons of dust some of them Iron, pepper this planet each day.

You can find Iron in national Forrests, on sandy paths or your own back yard.

There are other theories and religious texts that espouse different reasoning..
I cannot tell which is the actual but the Iron is here for those who want it..

Step 7: IRON FUN

Picture of IRON  FUN

When Iron filings and Magnets get near each other
there is a strong mutual attraction.

Here are some Fun suspensions using an old lamp clamp and two magnets
in addition to the collected Iron sand filings.


Horsehockey (author)2012-08-20

A great Instructable!! Really amazing the ammount of quality knowledge in the original and also the comments. Almost like taking a short course in physics, chemistry, and electronics!! When panning for gold the old timers used Mercury to collect the specks of Gold. Gold would stick to the mercury but not the sand. I have a device that I picked up at my deceased cousins home, that he used to vaporize the mercury and condense it back for re-use. Evidently the gold would be in the bottom of the tightly sealed metal container. You have written an outstanding article. Really hope you write some more like this one.

iceng (author)Horsehockey2012-08-20

Thanks for your comment :-)


Sorsor_7 (author)2016-07-18

You know, black sand (iron) is where gold is found...

iceng (author)Sorsor_72016-07-18

Alas, my electronic Al magnet does not grab the tiny Au particles.

The Manic Puppeteer (author)2015-04-26

The "iron" is actually magnetite sand, a magnetic iron ore usually known as lodestone. In my opinion, this actually makes it much more interesting (i.e. dangerous)! Magnetite is the most potent oxide for the creation of thermite powder, which is a mixture of magnetite, metal powder, and any fuel. When burning, the temperature can exceed 2760° C, and is extremely useful for melting things such as titanium.

Looked up Ti as a week paramagnetic element but doubt my coke bottle contains any titanium because I just went and used that same NIB magnet but could not pick up a titanium weld rod There was NO feeble lift attempt..

Well, the only real way to find out is to forge it, or to use x-ray spectroscopy; titanium in this form is an alloy with the magnetite, so it is much more magnetic. However, I think most beaches have a relatively low titanium content, the ones near San Francisco (particularly Ocean Beach) are unusually high. Interestingly enough, byproducts of this reaction include garnet, sapphire, and maybe fluorite, due to the chemical composition of the impurities. Theo Gray of and Popular Science's Gray Matter has extensive documentation on this subject. I actually may be writing a scientific paper on it sometime, it's quite interesting.

Incidentally, some of the magnetite (such as beaches near my place of residence, San Francisco) contains titanium to begin with, and all that is required is fuel to extract copious quantities of fairly pure titanium. I've found that the Exploratorium (also in San Francisco) occasionally will host events for members where people can collect and burn thermite to forge titanium. It's quite fun, when not exceedingly dangerous!

Should the Exploratorium do that again to your knowledge Please let me know so I can join in order to see.

Apparently they're having an event on May 16th, though it seems to be focusing on the magnetic properties of the ore as opposed to the explosive. Still quite fun! The Exploratorium is great.

aws1 (author)2012-09-03

I never realised ironsand was so widespread. Check out the beach shown here: No need for a magnet here - just dig it up with your hand. Just don't try walking on it in bare feet on a sunny day!

The black sand on this beach is titanomagnetite and it is the titanium content that makes it impractical to reduce in a conventional arc furnace. Due to this problem our local steel mill is the only one in the world to manufacture iron and steel using ironsand as the primary raw material. The unique process is outliined here for those interested:

iceng (author)aws12013-06-01

Thanks for the reference.

Another thing about your beautiful land that I like and respect,  is ;
NZ refuses harbor rights to nuclear powered war ships.


finton (author)aws12013-06-01

Ha! You beat me to it by a few months aws1. I was going to mention Piha Beach in West Auckland, NZ, that was so black when we were kids (40 years ago) you literally burned your feet if you stood on it for more than a few seconds. We had to race down from the dunes as far as we could, dig rapidly into the cooler sand and let our feet cool off before making another rapid dash to the next digging spot or the surf. The iron sand used to wash up the coast from the mouth of the Waikato River, but with all the iron sand extraction by Glenbrook, Piha is now just another brown sand beach - makes it more usable I suppose!

iceng (author)finton2013-06-01

Aaah, Good memories running barefoot on beach sands.

ianmcmill (author)2013-05-09

Wow this is awesome. I definitly have to try this !!

iceng (author)ianmcmill2013-05-09

Not all beaches have iron in quantity..
Do you reside near a coastal area ?

Thanks for the pointer to laser glasses !


Erasmo123 (author)2012-08-12

Very nice idea! Had no clue there was so many iron on the beach.

Perhaps a funnel would make the loading easier?

iceng (author)Erasmo1232012-08-12

I agree.....
But who brings a funnel on holiday or holiweek.


camelsamba (author)iceng2012-08-27

Who brings a magnetic collection device on holiday? Seems if one thinks that far ahead, the same person could take a funnel... :^)

iceng (author)camelsamba2012-08-27

Ha ha, when I plan for a trip and bring a Geiger counter, all my electronics,
and grand children who thinks of a funnel :-)


Erasmo123 (author)iceng2012-08-12

You could cut open a bottle, you should be able to find a few of those on the beach.

iceng (author)Erasmo1232012-08-12

Actually did try that.......

Now imagine me holding my iPhone, the magnetic pickup tool and
a half bottle funnel but no tape to hold them secure together at the time.

All the while the collection bottle is secured in a depth of the sand there
is a pic of that..

Anyway there is enough Iron in the beach to collect a bottle full in an
afternoon just using the scrape method of placing filings in a small hole :-)


zacker (author)iceng2012-08-20

what do you do with the iron you collect? use it for casting or something?

iceng (author)zacker2012-08-20

A future ible will look into smelting an object....


kbs2244 (author)2012-08-19

Those of us that make metal chips often put a paper towel over the magnet before picking up the chips.
It just makes it easier to get them off the magnet.

And as a BTW the fact that iron is everywhere is why it replaced bronze.
The truning point is when they learned to make a fire hot enough to work it.

The steps from stone to copper to bronze to iron were steps in heat production.

aristide202 (author)kbs22442012-08-25

In ancient Egypt there wasn't enough wood for massive charcoal production so they hadn't iron neither

iceng (author)kbs22442012-08-20

Great insight into fire.


aristide202 (author)2012-08-15

As a general facti iron in this case indicates magnetite and related minerals. When sand has a great concentration of iron is what is called black sand . Iron is heavier than quartz which is the usual prevaling compoanent of most sands.Gold is heavier than magnetite. If you find any kind of iron accumulation or black sand such as layers thet could be possible gold contaiining area . Gold and iron accumulate when quartz is washed away or left back by wuater streams. In this case you'll need somekind of gold pan and some practice. I have made a gold pan from a black PVC antifreeze jug. You'll more easily see yellow golld in a black or blue background . Obviously gold is not atracted by magnets bur magnetite sand is .. A magnet may help to check for iron concentraton . In elder times in europe n black sand was a side producct in gold panning and used in drieing ink in Europe and of course as paan iron ore.

koroliov (author)aristide2022012-08-15

Not always black colour is indicative of higher iron content. As an example, black sands in Hawaii are known to contain much less or almost no iron/magnetite at all in comparison with ordinary sand box sand. A good article on magnetite extraction from sand is here, from Popular Science.

aristide202 (author)koroliov2012-08-25

You are completely right, volcanic black sands are lighter and different and black color of sand in this case is deeper , like kina ink I mean . I think it is mostly volcanic glass . Magnetite black sand seems to me to be a little more gray than a volcanic sand. Usually magnetite is associated with other magnetic minerals, some of them arent' black. Anyway a magnet will check out any doubt on the composition of sand and presence of heavy iron minerals. For a demonstration of ,heavy , gold associated presence you have to pan the sand unless there are nuggets.... May be there may be presence of non magnetic but heavy garnet which is dark red. Best is using a ferrite magnet (easily provided from many electric engines, loudspeakers ecc) wich is much more rust resistant and cheaper than neodiìmium magnets ( you find them in old discarted PC hard disks for free). If you're going to use a neodimium magnet I think you'd better paint it . I always used ferrite magnets for that purpose, they are not so strong but strength of neodimium magnets may be even incredibly excessive to manage.

iceng (author)koroliov2012-08-16

Killer reference, wel worth reading :¬)


iceng (author)aristide2022012-08-16

Very interesting, most compounds of iron like the oxide are not as
magneticly inclined, as any one who has tried to pull iron out of
a PCB copper etch replacement solution rather then pumping
the ferric chloride around.

I would be most interested in a description of the chemical
composition of magnetite and its related minerals..


Wazzupdoc (author)iceng2012-08-19

Check the CRC Hanbook of Chemistry and Physics (tm). I wouldn't be without it as a reference in my library. I donated a copy to my town's library. Check there. The Merck Index (tm) is also useful.

iceng (author)Wazzupdoc2012-08-19

Lets see my CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (tm). is in the basement
or the attic before understanding comes....


marcintosh (author)aristide2022012-08-19

as an aside, there is no shortage of gold, it's everywhere. Gold is even located in seawater. The issue then is to collect enough of it at a reasonable expenditure of time, money and, effort.

just so you know

capt.tagon (author)2012-08-20

I've been using magnets to extract magnetite from sediment ever since I was in grade school. Cow magnets, black sand and a sheet of paper are a great play toy for learning about magnetic fields.

Southern Oregon is an odd region whose mountains were raised from the sea floor and twisted 90 degrees from their original orientation. Curry County upriver to the east of Grants Pass and south to the Smith River is made up of Serpentine, a rock that's extremely high in Magnesium and Manganese content, good at growing trees and not much else.

It can be quite beautiful when wet, weathers quite easily and is some of the worst landslide material known when we get hit with a couple Pineapple expresses off the Pacific that saturate it beyond being able to hold together. 1100 feet of it slid into the Rogue across from my Grandfather's cabin down below Agness. The scar is visible to this day. You also don't want to fall on any freshly fractured surface, it breaks into thin blades, brittle and sharp, with no durability so it's useless for making arrowheads.

The region is also formed of lots of basalt with huge granitic plutons pushed up through it. Where there isn't rock, there's decomposed granite which is cement like in its composition, easily eroded into rather nasty terrain where vegetation has been scraped off with earth moving equipment. The eroded gravels and sands from this material are where you find most of the magnetite. It has a high nickel content, enough so that it has been considered mineable over in O'brien. Up near Roseburg, they've carved a whole mountaintop off mining Limonite, a weathered type of Peridotite similar to Serpentine.

Of late, we've been being warned about high amounts of Chromate 6 in the black sand. Laughable as it's everywhere.

Another thing to watch out for is Cinnabar, mercury is a naturally occuring metal around here, up Cow Creek, it's said to be of high enough content to literally bleed out of the rock.

iceng (author)capt.tagon2012-08-20

I've been to Agness twice and know of the surface of which you speak.

Have you noticed a diminishing of the real dark black sand turning
to a lighter shade since grade school days?


capt.tagon (author)iceng2012-08-22

Not so much in the tributaries here, still quite a bit of it. The diminishing probably has to do with hydrology and metrologic history. A whole lot of flushing ain't going on.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, in wintertime we have two major weather phenomena that are shaped by the jet stream out over the Pacific. One is the evaporation of tremendous quantities of water into a warm, unstable airmass which then gets conveyed into the western continental US almost straight out of Hawaii, hence its popular name, "The Pineapple Express". The other is southward pulses of extremely cold air off the Gulf of Alaska, or if even stronger, down from the Bearing Straits.

1964 was the best example of the perfect storm. You get a long term Pineapple Express which saturates everything with a long period of rain, then you start getting mixing between it and the cold air off the Gulf of Alaska which starts producing snow. Snow isn't so bad, but what we get in flood years is a complete wring-out of moisture in slushy snow that starts snapping off smaller trees from the sheer weight of it within a couple hours.

In December 1964, we had two weeks of this, followed by the return of warm rain in a Chinook that immediately pealed off all the snow in January and sent it downstream. On the hike down to Rainey Falls, there is a marker up on the hillside at 110 feet above average river level. That is the flood stage marker for the maximum height of the water flowing through that area during the flood. It was at 36 feet above flood stage at Grants Pass. At the height of the flood, it was estimated to be flowing at 500,000 cubic feet per second at Agness. This is the combined total flow from Elk Creek, the Applegate River, Illinois River and Rogue River.

These periodic major floods occurred quite regularly until the flood projects put in the Applegate and Lost Creek flood control dams. Another one was built on Elk Creek but the enviros got it and so it got partially built and then notched. Our last major flood was in 1997, from estimates it would have been as large or larger than the 1964 flood if the dams weren't there to modulate the water flow. It was kept back to a maximum of 27 feet above flood stage at Grants Pass.

With the removal of Savage Rapids Dam and a few really good floods we may get replenishment down at Gold Beach as all the sediment washes downstream.

svereecke (author)2012-08-19

Isn't that the same powder used for Thermite welding ? I have seen this process used to weld railroad tracks together. Maybe with a same setup can be used to cast small objects. And somebody mentioned radioactive sands, they also occur naturally. Sand eroded from granite (naturally radioactive) formations in France , washes up on the beaches in the Camargue. Anywhere you got sand made from igneous sources (volcanic or magmatic rock) there is a chance that natural isotopes are in it. Check for monazite sands.It is mostly harmless!

iceng (author)svereecke2012-08-20

Yes, an iron oxide is a component for a Thermite chemical reaction.

I understand during the war our military would insert a Thermite plug
into a cannon barrel on a tank or artillery piece and the heat produced
would actually bend the barrel...


whenu (author)2012-08-19

Might pay to check what else is in the sand, black sand from the West Coast beaches in NZ has titanium in and is difficult to smelt

iceng (author)whenu2012-08-20

Good point, but I have only that 3 step refined soda bottle.
So I suspect most metals are gone.


redrok (author)2012-08-19
Hi iceng;
Thomas Edison was doing this on a big scale on the sands in New Jersey in the late 1800's. See:
Also take a look at this wind generator with the poles made from driveway magnetite. See:
Very cool.
iceng (author)redrok2012-08-20

Thanks for the pointers into Yesteryear...


morkwa (author)2012-08-19

In the mid to late 1970's I got a free subscription to a treasure hunting magazine
when I bought a metal detector. In one of the issues there were instructions on how to make a magnet that will attract any metal you want but it had to have a core with the same kind of metal one wanted to attract. I thought I saved the magazine but tore the house upside down and cannot find it. Does anyone remember anything about this article? I know I'm older but there should be someone as old or has parents that had that hobby back then.

iceng (author)morkwa2012-08-19

to attract a metal like Cu, Ag, Au and Al you need to induce an AC electric current
in the metal with one coil and use a secondary out of phase coil to attract the
metal by pulling on the induced Eddy current in the metal...


nathb1028 (author)2012-08-19

Beach iron is magnetite and can be used as a substitute for rust in thermite. As it is an iron oxide... What can be done with thermite: it is an easy way to make slag iron and cast iron in molds without a furnace... And its fun to watch.

iceng (author)nathb10282012-08-19

Certainly if Fe2O3 rust works as oxidizer for Thermite at 1½ Oxygen
atoms per iron to 1¼ O per Fe in magnetite the iron may self smelt.
Otherwise smelting may have to be tried at a plasma temperature
under a cover gas.


JamesRPatrick (author)2012-08-19

This is neat. I wouldn't expect that much to be in the surface sand.
I went out to the curb in front of my house and dropped a neodymium magnet into the sand there, and sure enough it was covered in that same ferrous dust. It's more likely that mine came from cars than from nature, though.

iceng (author)JamesRPatrick2012-08-19


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