Rocker box in gold mining.

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A rocker box, also known as a cradle or big box, was a gold mining tool used in the 19th century for separating placer gold from sand and gravel. It consists of a high-sided box placed on rockers, with riffles and a carpet inside to trap gold.

The Dahlonega Gold Museum features an exhibit showcasing a rocker box, a significant gold mining implement from the 19th century. The rocker box, also known as a cradle or big box, was used for separating placer gold from sand and gravel in placer mining. The exhibit likely includes a high-sided box placed on rockers, with riffles, a carpet (Miner’s Moss), and a classifier sieve on top. The rocker box is an integral part of the history of gold mining, and its exhibit at the Dahlonega Gold Museum provides visitors with insights into the tools and techniques used during that era.

The box has a classifier sieve on top to screen out larger materials, and a baffle between the sieve and the sluice section to evenly distribute processed material. While not as widely used as sluices today, rocker boxes are effective in areas with limited water. They are rocked like a cradle to process material, and careful manipulation is needed to avoid losing gold. Despite being large and hard to move, rockers can process more gravel and recover more gold than a traditional pan. They are used in small-scale placer work, sampling, and cleaning sluice concentrates in various designs, often homemade. The rocker’s bottom is usually made of smooth board or metal with holes, and it can process one to three cubic yards per man-shift, depending on conditions. Building a rocker is relatively inexpensive, primarily depending on the cost of lumber.

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