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Surface prospecting with prospector's pick

5 posts in this topic

Hello, this is my first post and I want to start with a tutorial.


Most tutorials are centred in the use of the prospector’s pick while digging, but sometimes you want to supply your almost empty collection of ores and you do not want to waste the durability of your tools way too much at the begging. That is why this tutorial is designed for the time when you get your first prospector’s pick and tier 1 or 2 pick. This is one of the fastest methods to find a supply of basic ores and it is also less intensive in your picks, reducing the chance of breaking it before finding ores. Just to be clear, this works with ores that can be found no deeper than 12~13 blocks from the surface (due to normal restriction from the prospector’s pick, see the wiki for more information about this pick).


The first thing that you should do is to find ores in the surface (the ores that you are looking for). If you want more copper to keep working with your first metals, you must have marked the land where you found that ore (and coded it*, since you don’t have signs at that point).


Let’s start.

Step cero: The basic marking:

  • Harvest the mineral.
  • Put an easy to spot block (I suggest cobblestone rather than thatch, you see why latter).


Step one: Finding the starting point.


Now that we have the basic marking you are going use them to find a random spot close to one of the cobblestone marks. You want a spot that says something like “found an x’ quantity of y’ ore”, where 'x' can be any quantity (from traces to very large), when you find that spot you put a mark (thatch is good since is movable and it is really easy to see), that mark is going to be your starting point.

Special note: you might want to find and mark the largest quantity you obtain, that is why it is important to mark all ores in the surface (you can have a rough estimate of the area of the vein). Do not worry if you only found traces, this method work with any quantity (bigger than "nothing", obviously ^_^ )


Step two: Finding the centre of the vein.


  • From the starting point you are going to walk in a straight line (the direction does not matter, choose one randomly) until you find a change in quantity (e.g. from larger to medium) and mark it with thatch (this is going to be mark 'A'). Just remember that the prospector’s pick gives you “nothing found” even if there is something.
  • If you are working with “traces” because you could not find anything better you need to be sure that you will not find “traces” after two or three “nothing”.
  • From 1 start walking in the opposite direction (to your starting point) and, after passing through your starting point start testing until you find a change in quantity and mark it (mark 'B').
  • Found the centre of ‘A’ and ‘B’ and that be your new starting point. Just to avoid confusion delete your first starting point (that is why thatch is better than wood and cobblestone).
  • From the new starting point choose a different direction but now perpendicular to the line ‘AB’ and repeat the step 1 and 2. Those are going to be mark ‘C’ and ‘D’.
  • To be sure that you do not ended in a strange shaped vein just check diagonal to get 6 points like in a six shaped star. It is not necessary but helps to increase accuracy.
  • Now trace a centre using your 4~6 points and mark it.
  • Start digging in a 3x3 square until you find the ores. It can be done with a 2x2 but if you were not good enough to determine the centre you might miss vein.


That is all. By the way, English it is not my first language, if you see a mistake tell me and I fix it (and, even if it were my first language, just tell me).


* Due the block-ish nature of minecraft I like to code the ores I found on the surface in a binary style, for example:





G= ground

X= block other than dirt, like thatch)

P= Block that mark the beginning of the code, different from 'X'

_= Nothing, air block or a block of other color if you wish (can be dirt).





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Most of the time I have to dig 10 to 20 blocks down before I get a "traces of" reading on the pro-pick, then i dig about 14-15 blocks lower then start my prospecting. I think it would be easier to dig in the middle of the small nuggets you found and prospect underground. As soon as you find the ore, you have enough metal to replace the used tools (of course, go for copper ore first)


To be honest, I think that the techniques explained here is only an hybrid of the two techniques I analysed here. The only difference is that you try to find the center of then vein, when it is not required to find a vein. You would use less propick if you only used the level change technique I explain.


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Yes, they are similar. What I posted is not a new technique to find veins per se (there are several tutorials out there as I stated at the beginning of the tutorial that hit this issue). The problem with those technique is that they always start digging after placing the marks from the ore they found at ground level, even if they have readings of ores in the surface. That is a problem at the beginning of a game, where if your prospector's pick is destroyed and you didn't find the ores you are almost out of luck. Also, for beginners it is a nice way to get some ores if you couldn't find them in nearby mountains or you are afraid to go cave exploring especially playing in hardcore. With that in mind I attacked that problem and propose a technique (a mixture of techniques if you wish to say). What are the advantages of this technique? Since it is surface level it is really easy to do and it does not waste durability from your tools and save you a lot of time. The cons? that you need to have a little luck. I have mined most of the basic ores that way (copper and tier 0 ores, mostly) and prepare my self to do deep mining.


Another thing, with this technique you can test at ground level even if you do not found ores (just to try your luck) and yield possible results. 


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This guide helped me. Even if there are others like it, this is the one I saw and it made the whole mess clearer. Thank you. 


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I really liked this technique too, it makes a good way to get your foot in the door, in metallurgical terms.


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