Question and Answer Session with FT-Fisher Engineers David Johnson and John Gardiner

Question and Answer Session with FT-Fisher Engineers David Johnson and John Gardiner

First of all, I want to thank Tom Walsh, Mike Scott, Tricia Richardson, Dave Johnson and John Gardiner for their help in arranging this interview. I think it’s a fair statement that First Texas – Fisher is one of the most exciting metal detector companies on the planet right now, and as such, has piqued the interest of the hobby detecting world in a way that hasn’t been seen for quite a while.

I had the idea for this interview months ago, before I had started this web site. There was quite a buzz in the forums when rumors started of a new Dave Johnson design coming from First Texas under the Teknetics moniker. After the subsequent release and success of the T-2, the hobby community was set on fire with excitement over the prospects of “things to come”. Another wave of excitement hit when it was learned First Texas had acquired Fisher, and that wave turned into a tsunami with the release of the F-75. Mr. Johnson was quick to point out that the T-2 and F-75 were team efforts, not solo projects, and that Engineer John Gardiner was key to the success of both machines.

The purpose of this interview is to give the fans of metal detecting a “behind the scenes” glimpse of the engineers who designed the T-2, F-75 and F-4. There is an unusual “connection” people in this hobby have with their metal detectors. Over time, they seem to take on a personality of their own, becoming an extension of the owner/user. Because of this “personal” connection, most view the responsible engineers with a sense of awe and mystery. I feel that “getting to know” the Engineers will help people appreciate and applaud the outstanding efforts of these geniuses behind the scenes.

All questions below are for both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Gardiner, unless otherwise designated. 

Question 1:

DS: What got you interested in engineering metal detectors? 

Dave: "In the early 1970’s I was working for CALTRANS doing traffic census. Some of that work involved inductive loop vehicle detectors. I got tired of hauling a 150-pound box of lead-acid batteries around to power them, and prototyped a vehicle detector that ran off a single 9-volt “transistor battery”. It was too unstable to be useful, but to my surprise it discriminated between cars and trucks. Then I got transferred to another department and abandoned work on the vehicle detector. 

In 1981 I was hired by Fisher Research Lab, which at that time was in Los Banos, California. I’ve been working in the metal detector industry ever since."

John: "After I graduated from UTEP I landed a job with First Texas Manufacturing. I started working on the different model for Bounty Hunter line. "

Question 2:

DS: How do you feel about the excitement amongst metal detecting hobbyists generated by the T-2 and the F-75?

Dave: "We intended for the T2 and F75 to be exciting products. We’re pleased that our effort was a success.

Not all metal detectors are supposed to be “exciting”. Many are revisions of established familiar products, and customers buy them because there’s a good track record behind them. Some products are new and different enough to generate a lot of interest, like our new F4. It’s getting a lot of attention because it’s a new combination of stuff that offers uncommonly good performance and features for the price. But it doesn’t generate the kind of excitement that major technological advances do." 

John: "I was very pleasantly surprised at how fast the T2 popularity has grown."

Question 3:

DS: How difficult was it walking the line between superb ergonomics and weight vs. structural durability (on the T-2 and F-75)?

Dave: "It took a lot of attention to detail. I was originally shooting for even lower weight. I’ve been studying the physiology of metal detector ergonomics for my whole career and on this product I had a blank check to get it right. There were things we had to do to get the ergonomics right that added weight. We were all betting that good ergonomics was more important than shaving every ounce, and the T2 and F75 proved us right. Nobody is saying we should have made it lighter."

John: "I really did not get to involved with this issue."

Question 4:

DS: Do you guys metal detect as a hobby? If so, what’s your favorite “find” to date?

Also, what are your other hobbies?

Dave: "I don’t detect as a hobby, but enjoy field testing units with people who really know their stuff. I especially enjoy field testing gold machines because both my grandfathers were gold prospectors and I inherited from them some of that love for geology and the desert. 

My main hobby if you can call it that, is being successful at treating the supposedly “untreatable” Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), and helping other ALS patients do the same. If anyone reading this has ALS or knows someone who does, I invite them to contact me at and mention “ALS” in the subject line so I’ll know it isn’t spam."

John: "I don’t detect as a hobby, but do have a unit that I use at home. My other hobbies are bike riding and reading."