I spoke with Chuck Madigan, owner of Sunspot Tooling Systems, the maker of the excellent and respected Stealth line of metal detecting scoops. Chuck’s company also makes specialized carbon fiber handles that are very good – I use one myself with a custom plastic D handle and it is a work of art.
How long have you been making scoops and other metal detecting accessories? How did you get into this field of manufacturing metal detecting gear?
It was around 1983 and just a few months after I got into the hobby! At that time, the “shovels” were very primitive. One of first that was used was an Army trench shovel set at 90 degree with holes drilled in it. Since I own a “tool and die” manufacturing business, I asked my sheet metal supplier if he was interested in making scoops? With his yes, I proceeded to design my first scoop. In those days they used a punching machine and a template in which the operator would move the machine to the location of a hole is a template and would press a button to tell the machine to activate and punch a round hole. It was primitive and limited our ability to design fine detail. Now, we cut with laser which allows us to cut just about any shape you can think of.
Do you still metal detect? Tell me a bit about your metal detecting experiences, finds, what you like about the hobby.
As most know, once in the hobby you are in it for life, and yes, I am an active hunter. In the mid 80’s, I ordered a treasure hunting magazine from the UK and ran across a little clip which congratulated the FIRST metal detecting club in Germany. WOW, what more could they say to me? Germany MUST be virgin. So, I bought a ticket to Frankfort and took off… I was scared, very scared walking down the tunnel to the plane. Not knowing German, never visited Europe etc. I rented a car, grabbed a map and headed out on the Autobahn. I remember looking in my rear view mirror and saw a Porsche “blow up” behind me. What do I mean? It must have been going 150 mph and since I had never experienced anything like this, the car was at first a speck in my rear view mirror. Since it was going so fast it grew like it blew up and as it passed, it shook my car.
I drove to my first lake and found myself a little worried, no hotel, no German language, where to go??? BUT, I wanted to try the lake first. It was about 3 pm… One hour in the water and I had 3 large bands! Oh yes, it was virgin. I figure I was the first in the world to detect that lake and maybe any German lakes. I made a number of trips over the years with my best 2 weeks ending up with 1.1 pounds of gold jewelry! I remember waking up in my hotel on day and thinking: $8 for the room including breakfast, $15 a day for the car rental and finding 5-10 gold rings a day. I said to myself, “Enjoy this while you can because this will not last forever”.
Where do you see the metal detecting industry going with respect to metal detectors?
I think for water hunting, streamlining is the last big frontier. The easier it is to swing, the longer you can hunt on any given day.
Where do you see the industry going with respect to metal detecting accessories?
As the easier targets are found and the harder it gets to find gold the more critical it is to have the best equipment and techniques. There will always be goodies to find, old deep and fresh drops. As an example as to how the right equipment can really help: even though I never did much land work, I realized how important a pin pointer was. After buying one I thought “how can anyone hunt the land without one?
What problems do you want to solve for metal detectorists?
I have toyed with the idea of titanium scoops for years, it really is the way to go. You can use much thinner metal and still maintain the strength that is needed. The thinner metal penetrates the sand better and the scoop would be about 30% lighter. What more could you ask for?
How do you feel about competitive companies?
I have seen them come and go. They get a sheet metal guy who knows nothing about the hobby or for that matter design. After a couple years they are gone. I was the first to develop a Carbon Fiber handle and spent a lot of money as I evolved through the problems. Now I see a few companies jumping aboard and making mistake after mistake. To me it is comical to watch them –they can’t even do a good job of copying. I never go on the forums and point out why their scoop or handle will end up in the scrap heap since I am not interested in teaching them how to manufacture products. It is their problem.