Tutorial: Dowsing Rods – A New Tool For Geocachers

Sick of DNFs or your GPSr leading you in circles? Guest author and British treasure cacher David Villanueva suggests trying a pair of dowsing rods to locate those elusive hides.

“Just as in hunting for a treasure cache, I can imagine the disappointment when you can’t find that geocache which really ought to be there. Is it just well hidden or has someone removed it? Either way, dowsing is a free technology that can help you.

David Villanueva

There are a number of dowsing tools that can be used but the simplest and easiest is the L-rod.  The basic L-rod is simply a length of stiff metal wire or thin round bar bent into the shape of the letter ‘L’, hence the name – although some might argue that it is an abbreviation of Locator Rod.

Traditionally the short arm of the ‘L’ is held in a loose fist while the long arm projects forward over the top of the hand. There are a few variations on the basic design and my personal preference is one used by that Jim Longton, Britain’s best treasure dowser.

He has kindly allowed me to reproduce this design here.  If you already have a pair of L-rods you are happy with, by all means, use them or you can make your own excellent rods as follows:


You will need 22 inches (56 centimetres) of round metal bar  – brass is considered best – that has a diameter of 1/16” (1.5 millimetres) to 3/16” (5mm) to make each rod.  Unless you have easy access to round bar, I suggest you use two wire coat hangers. (NB Measurements and angles do not need to be too precise to make a working rod.)


Invert the first hanger and measure 14” (36cm) from one side along the horizontal bar, then mark and cut through with pliers or a junior hacksaw.  Measure 22” (56cm) back from the first cut and make a second cut.  Discard the hooked portion. (Figure 1)

Smooth the cut ends with a file or emery cloth.


Using a pair of pliers or a vice, first straighten and then bend the shorter arm back to an angle of 135 degress. (Figure 2)



Measure 7” (18cm) along the shorter arm from its end and bend this portion back until it is horizontal (Fig 3), then turn the last 5.5” (14cm) up at right angles. Finally, turn the last 0.5” (1cm) of the upright inward, at right angles. (Figure 4)


Lay the rod on a level surface and adjust until it is lying reasonably flat.
Make a second rod from the other coat hanger.

HEALTH WARNING: The rods are perfectly harmless when used as described. If you wish to utilise them to play Conan the Barbarian, Robin Hood, Ivanhoe or act out any other fantasy, don’t blame me if you puncture an eyeball or any other part of your body. I would suggest that children using the rods should be supervised by a responsible adult. The rods can be made extra safe by folding their tips downwards or back on themselves, wrapping each end with insulating tape or by applying a blob of a resin such as Araldite.


Take the short arm of a rod in each hand so that the long arm is on the opposite side to your thumbs. Clench your fists around them loosely and turn your wrists so that your thumbs are uppermost and the long arm projects forward from the bottom of your hand.

Tuck your elbows into your body and keep your upper arms in line with your body. Hold your forearms straight out in front of you, the width of your body apart and at whatever angle necessary to keep the rods reasonably parallel to the ground. The rods should now be pointing forward like extensions of your forearms. You may need to adjust your grip so that the rods are just free to move but not sloppy.  When you are happy with holding the rods, we can move on to some dowsing exercises.


Hold your rods in the normal dowsing position as just described and ask them to turn left. After they have moved, restart the rods pointing forward. The easiest way to get the rods to point forward is to drop your forearms so that the rods point to the ground, then raise your forearms back to the horizontal. Now ask the rods to turn right. Restart and ask your rods to cross; they will cross on your chest. Practise until the rods move easily.

Next ask the rods to tell you ‘YES’ and then tell you ‘NO’. Normally, the rods will cross for ‘YES’ and move apart or open out for ‘NO’ but you will need to determine what the rods’ movement, or lack of it, means for you.

Place a coin on the floor and take a few steps back from it. Holding your rods in the normal dowsing position, walk slowly toward the coin, saying: “I am looking for a coin.”  The rods will either cross as you pass immediately over the coin or a few paces past the coin. Keep practising until they cross at the coin.

Stand sideways to a distant building or other large object that you know the location of and ask the rods to show you where it is. Give the full name of the place, i.e. “Show me St James Church”. Clear your mind of everything else and concentrate. Once you get this to work, try standing with your back to the ‘target’ (as dowsers tend to call objects they are trying to find) and see what happens.

When you have succeeded with the previous exercises, make up a test geocache. Get someone to hide it in your home or backyard. Take up your rods and ask: “Is there a geocache hidden near here?” Ask the rods to point to the geocache, then walk slowly in the direction indicated by the rods, turning as necessary to keep them pointing straight out in front of you. Upon reaching the geocache, the rods will cross.

Keep practising. Once you can obtain a response from the rods in all these exercises, you are basically ready to do anything. Even if you can’t do it all at first, you should find that the rods will produce some useful results when you are hunting real geocaches – and you will certainly improve with time.”

*Guest author David Villanueva has written numerous manuals and field-guides for treasure hunters. Discover how you can be more successful, whatever treasure you are looking for, with the FREE Successful Treasure Hunter’s Essential Guide and newsletter from True Treasure Books. To contact him, email david@truetreasurebooks.net


  1. Felix Kasza

    This is one of the better parodies I have read, and I award extra bonus points for the splendid dead-pan tone! Thanks!

    Uh … it *is* a parody, right? Please tell me that it’s a joke!

  2. Maurice Hartz

    I use the plastic stakes from my lawn care yard signs. I dowse water and sewer lines and cemetery graves. If the rod points to the head it’s female and toward feet for male. My next challenge will be lost coins and rings.

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