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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (01/2004) Relic Hunter (12/2003) Relic Hunter (02/2004)   Vol. 38 January 2004 
The Relic Hunter
As seen in the January 2004 edition of W&ET Magazine

George Lesche: Tool Designer/Relic Hunter

By: Ed Fedory

"If you're going to do the job, you'd better have the right tools."

Lessons learned as a boy... practiced as a man. It certainly seemed the case a couple of weeks ago when I was working on an Adirondack love seat. The table saw ripped the pine to the desired width... the radial arm saw cut each piece to the proper length... the band saw sliced the edges with the proper curves... the router finished the edges on each piece... the razor-sharp chisels carved the ten ornate hearts... the cordless drill set the screws... the sander smoothed any rough edges... a good brush applied the two coats of Essex green paint.

And from those many years in the past, my father's words guided me through the project: "A slow job is a good job... measure three times, cut once... take pride in your work... any job worth doing, is worth doing right." I guess it's pretty much what we try to get through to children today... as parents... as teachers.

Tools, however, are the key... whether you're building furniture... writing a story... taking a photograph... relic hunting... coinshooting... water hunting. At some point in each of our metal detecting careers, we've all taken a shot at designing our own digging tools or adding our own modifications to existing tools. I have even known a few who have met with some measure of success... very few. My own attempts, for the most part, were abysmal failures.

There's that other old saying, which is kind of suspect when it comes to making your own digging tools: "If you want the job done right, do it yourself." It sounds pretty neat, conceptually; but in terms of being practical, it usually doesn't work out. I don't enjoy looking under the hood of my truck very much anymore... too many vacuum hoses, sensors, and wires, for me. And when was the last time you practiced dentistry on yourself? Right, you pulled out a baby tooth once. I mean as an adult. No, some things are just better left to the pros.

It was about a decade ago that I first talked with George Lesche. The phone rang, I picked it up, and heard an unfamiliar voice on the other end of the line asking me if I would try out some of his digging tools on my relic hunts. I mentioned that I thought I was using a pretty good digging tool already, but if he sent a couple, I would try them out.

When the boxes arrived and were opened I knew that any tough digging was behind me. When I hefted one, I sensed I was dealing with some very sharp and serious steel! My old digging tool was given to my daughter, and she says it works really fine... for planting her tulip bulbs.

The key thing is, George started building his digging tools for himself. Then his digging buddies wanted some, and according to George it all just began snowballing, up to the point where he and his wife, Pam, now own and operate their own manufacturing company- Predator Tools.

"Living here in New Jersey," says George, "you have all sorts of Colonial sites, and that's pretty much the type of sites I mainly hunt during my free time. I don't mind hitting the beaches every so often during the rougher winter months... but my first passion is relic hunting Civil War sites.

"Ever since I pulled that first Minie ball from the soil of Virginia, I've been hooked!" George told me.

For myself, I never thought anything would interrupt my desire to hunt French & Indian War and Revolutionary War sites. Then I went to Virginia! To be honest, I didn't find a bag full of relics, but I did manage to find enough to plant this little nagging seed of a thought that keeps telling me that I have to go back there and do some more digging. There wasn't much of what I would call "easy digging"- you really earned what you found- but I guess it was just the feeling that came up from the ground and through your boots that you were walking on historic soil with each footstep you took. It was easy for me to understand what George was saying... been there... done that... have to do it again.

Relic hunting heaven, for George, is a place called Bermuda Hundred. It was a place of which I had never heard until recently, so I decided to do a little research on it in order to understand George's fascination with the site.

In May of 1864, Major General Benjamin Butler was making an offensive move in the direction of Richmond. His advance was repulsed at Swift Creek and Fort Clinton, and he withdrew into his entrenchments at Bermuda Hundred with 30,000 Union troops. In the meantime, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard was able to collect 18,000 troops to oppose Butler's force. During several engagements the Union forces attempt to break out. After severe losses, Butler was once again forced to retreat behind his earthworks.

On May 20, 1864, Beauregard mounted an attack against the Bermuda Hundred line. He drove back all of the advance pickets and then constructed a series of strongly fortified entrenchments called the Howlett Line which bottled up the Federal troops on the peninsula.

The equation for good relic hunting is a pretty simple one. Any rather limited area where large numbers of troops were stuck for a long period of time has got to be a great area in which to relic hunt!

Most of the camps I've hunted have been small ones that were used for a short period of time, and yet all of those camps were able to provide me with a pretty sizeable collection of relics, varying from dropped musketballs and coins, to lost shoe buckles and cooking utensils. However, the idea of relic hunting in an area where 30,000 troops were confined is, in my experience, mind-boggling!

According to George, "This is the only place I've ever relic hunted where I could also find arrowheads, fossil shark teeth up to 5" in length, and relics from the War of 1812, as well as the Civil War. It's just a super site! You're still able to see the trenches and gun emplacements, and when you walk through the woods you can see the depressions in the ground caused by heavy naval artillery fire from ships on the James River 140 years ago!

"In one case, while searching about 15' under a cliff, we started digging up fragments of a huge shell. By the time we were done, we were able to recover about eighty percent of the 200 lb. shell. After cleaning up all of the rough edges, I was finally able to reassemble it, and we now have it on display in our shop.

"We've dug up numerous Minie balls and buttons on the site, but the fascination of holding a piece of history in your hand is incredible. You're the first person to touch the object since its original owner lost or dropped it all those years ago."

George's love of history has extended to his entire family, and its not unusual to see the Lesche household out on the beaches or in the woods detecting together. They may be using a variety of detectors, but you can be sure there's only one type of digging tool they're using!

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