How to Make a Floatable Fossil Screen – perfect for hunting for treasure!

My brother, Brett, wrote up this Tutorial for me, and I love it.   When we visited him in North Carolina, he took us all down to the river to look for fossils and sharks teeth and whatnot, and it was a fun adventure.  This would also be very cool to use at the beach for shells.  It’s a perfect end of summer project– Do something fun, especially with your kids!

theboycreekMost kids like dinosaurs, sharks, and such, so when The Boy and Dot came to visit I decided to take them to creek to look for fossils from dinosaurs, sharks and such. We had a great day, and The Boy found all kinds of shark teeth from millions of years ago. Now while The Boy (3 years old at this point) seemed to be more interested in digging than actually finding things, many older kids really enjoy finding fossils and artifacts. After all, finding stuff is fun! It’s also great to get outside and get some exercise. Anyway, I decided to make a new screen recently, and figured I would document the steps in case anyone else was interested.

Keep reading for the supply list, and all the steps, well documented with pictures!  You don’t have to be a carpentry expert to do this…



1 1”x4”X8’
1 1”x2”x8’
1 Roll of ½” or ¼” Hardware Cloth
8 2” L Joints
2 Pull Handles with Screws
24 ¾” #6 Wood Screws
28 2” Deck Screws
1 Swimming Pool Noodle
6 14” Zip Ties
A Whole Bunch of ¼” Staples
About 6’ of Nylon Clothes Line (optional—for a leash)
(I believe everything but the pool noodle is available from Lowes.)


  • Tape Measure
  • Carpenter’s Square
  • A Pen
  • Wire Cutters
  • Staple Gun
  • Circular Saw
  • Drill with Screw Driver Bits and a 1/8” drill bit.

Always use safety goggle when using tools



Step 1- Cut your boards!

Note: I suppose this step is optional as you could have the folks at Lowes do this, but what’s the fun in that?

Measure and cut your wood 1×4 into 2 30” pieces and 2 18” pieces. These pieces will be the walls of your screen. I measure and cut my first 30” piece, and then use it to measure my second 30” piece. This helps make sure they are the same length. I then cut the 2nd 30” piece. The remaining board should be about 36”. Measure it to get the exact length, and then cut it in half. Your 2 halves should be about 18”.


3Next, repeat the process with the 1×2. These pieces will be the bottom of your frame and help hold the screen in place. When cutting my 1×2 pieces I generally use my already cut 1×4’s as my measuring sticks.

Step 2—Assembling Your Frame Walls

Use your #6 wood screws to attach 2 of the 2” L joints to each end of each of the 30” 1×4 pieces- make sure the L joint is flush with the end of the board. Next, attach the 18” 1×4 pieces to one of the 30” pieces. Finally, fit the 2nd 30” piece with L joints across the other ends of the 18” pieces, completing the rectangle, and attach using the L joints. Note, when assembling your frame, the 18” pieces should be inside of the 30” pieces. Next put a 2” Deck Screw between the L joints on each corner. These should pass through the 30” 1x4s and into the ends of the 18” 1x4s. You will probably want to drill the holes (with a 1/8” bit) for the screws before doing this to reduce the likelihood of splitting your boards. I didn’t do this, but note the beginnings of a split in the photo below.


Step 3—Assembling the Bottom of Your Frame

Lay your 1x2s out in a rectangle—be sure to keep your 18” pieces inside of the 30” pieces, so they will match up with your screen walls. Put 2” Deck Screws into each corner to hold the rectangle together. Again, first drill holes for your screws using a 1/8” drill bit.


Step 4—Cut your Screen

Warning: You may want to wear gloves for this step. Hardware cloth has many very exposed wire tips. It also comes tightly rolled and has a tendency to roll back up often causing those sharp tips to inflict painful damage to the unprotected hands and arms of those ignore this warning.

The first thing you will want to do here is cut off those pesky points. Take your wire cutters and snip the sharp edges off the hardware cloth. Once you have done this unroll the hardware cloth lengthwise over the bottom of your frame, and cut off a section approximately the 30” length of your frame. While you want to screen to cover most of the 18” end pieces, you will only want about 1 square of wire (2 squares for 1/4” hardware cloth) on each of the 30” side pieces. So, lay your section of hardware cloth over the bottom of your frame, lining it up so that only one square width (2 for 1/4″) is covering one of the side pieces. On the other side, mark the first row of squares covering the side piece (2nd for 1/4″) and cut off the remaining rows.


Once you’ve cut out your rectangle, use your staple gun to attach the screen to the frame bottom. Remember, the screen should cover most of the 18” end pieces, and only about 1 square (or 2) of the 30” side pieces. This is so sharp edges will not extend beyond the area covered by the 1×4 walls. Now, I have no idea how many staples are required, but staples are cheap, so I use bunches. Start by stapling a corner, putting a vertical stable just inside the vertical wire and a horizontal staple just inside a horizontal wire. This should keep the wire from slipping. Then stretch the screen as tightly as you can and staple all the way around the screen. Now you have the bottom of your screen!


Step 5—Attaching the Frame Walls

Now lay your frame walls on the floor and place the screen bottom on top of it. Line it up carefully, and then use 2” deck screws to attach it to the frame walls. Again, first drill holes for the screws using a 1/8” drill bit to prevent splitting. I use about 20 screws here—5 per side.


Step 6—Attach Handles

Place a handle in the center of each 18” ends and screw them into place.


Step 6—Make your screen floatable!

Take your pool noodle and cut it in half. Place the halves along the sides of your screen on the flotation ledges, and use zip ties to hold them in place.


Step 7—Attach a Leash (optional)

I didn’t do that for this one, but will probably add it at some point.

Cut about a 6 foot length of nylon clothes line and tie it to one of the handles.

Congratulations! You now have a floatable fossil Screen.

Happy hunting!