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  • OT Stud Finder

    OT: Stud Finders What is the general operating principle for electronic Stud Finders? On the same job I used both a "cheepo" electronic studfinder and one that was both expensive and therfore supposed to be better. Both of them missed the stud. I used an electrical outlet and moved over 1/2 a stud width. Used a level and a nail and found the stud. But if there was not an electrical box I would have been SOL. Do they also find electrical wiring?

    Pete

  • #2
    Most stud finders, including electronic ones do not find the actual studs. They find the steel nails or screws that hold the wall board to those studs. I do not know if the electronic ones will give a false reading due to electrical wiring. I have found a lot of studs, both in my own homes and in others where I was installing things like curtain rods. My method in the past was a combination of knowing the standard, 16" spacing of the studs starting at one corner or the other and that good old nail and hammer. That method was also time consuming. Not the best when you are working in a million dollar home and the woman of the house is watching. I was also very good at hiding those nail holes.

    But there is a simple and almost fool proof way to find studs that I have used for the past 10 or 20 years. Neo magnets. The nails or screws in dry wall will only be a fraction of an inch below the surface so one or a stack of neo magnets will not only find them, it will stick to them. Here are some photos showing how I found the studs in a bathroom where I needed to install hand rails.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	P7060012.JPG Views:	0 Size:	170.4 KB ID:	1901342
    That's two stacks of neo magnets that are holding on two screws or nails under the wall paper. Finding the nails or screws is really fast because you can move the magnets fairly quickly over the wall and feel the locations. The fishing line has weights on the ends so it hangs vertically. I used two magnet stacks to get a better idea of the center line of the stud. Here you can two pairs of magnet stacks hanging down over two studs. It took me more time to tie the weights (washers) to the line than to actually find the studs.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	P7060014.JPG Views:	0 Size:	142.7 KB ID:	1901343
    I simply drilled my holes between the "lines".

    I highly recommend this method. And the magnets are less expensive than many stud finders.
    Paul A.
    SE Texas

    Make it fit.
    You can't win and there IS a penalty for trying!

    Comment


    • #3
      In addition to the magnetic sensors Paul A mentions, many of the stud finders out there sense a change in the density or depth of the wall material. Some use ultrasonic sensors and some are capacitance sensors that operate vaguely like a touch screen. What works best sort of varies with how and what your walls are made with. Old style lath and plaster walls seem to confuse most of them. The can be pretty good on more modern walls made with standard 1/2" drywall.

      Pauls' super magnet trick above is one of my go-to's as well, when the stud finder I have (a mid-grade capacative unit) seems to not be giving me clear direction.

      Comment


      • #4
        I have both the electronic units, Stanley, and some other brand I don't recall, and from the days of yore, a little unit with a magnet mounted on a pivot that you slide around on the wall until the magnet swings over, indicating it went over a nail or screw. You then backed it up until the magnet stood proud, and the magnet was strong enough to hold it to the wall. A little v notch in the bottom was used to mark the center of the stud(hopefully), and away you went. I have also used a sewing needle in a pin vise, as the holes are very small, and a tiny dab of spackle, wiped off with a damp cloth, finished the job.

        Comment


        • #5
          I have a Stanley I bought at a yard sale that senses live wires. It is good at finding the edge of a stud, but I still check with a thin nail if hanging something heavy.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Paul Alciatore View Post
            Most stud finders, including electronic ones do not find the actual studs. They find the steel nails or screws that hold the wall board to those studs. I do not know if the electronic ones will give a false reading due to electrical wiring. I have found a lot of studs, both in my own homes and in others where I was installing things like curtain rods. My method in the past was a combination of knowing the standard, 16" spacing of the studs starting at one corner or the other and that good old nail and hammer. That method was also time consuming. Not the best when you are working in a million dollar home and the woman of the house is watching. I was also very good at hiding those nail holes.

            But there is a simple and almost fool proof way to find studs that I have used for the past 10 or 20 years. Neo magnets. The nails or screws in dry wall will only be a fraction of an inch below the surface so one or a stack of neo magnets will not only find them, it will stick to them. Here are some photos showing how I found the studs in a bathroom where I needed to install hand rails.

            Click image for larger version Name:	P7060012.JPG Views:	0 Size:	170.4 KB ID:	1901342
            That's two stacks of neo magnets that are holding on two screws or nails under the wall paper. Finding the nails or screws is really fast because you can move the magnets fairly quickly over the wall and feel the locations. The fishing line has weights on the ends so it hangs vertically. I used two magnet stacks to get a better idea of the center line of the stud. Here you can two pairs of magnet stacks hanging down over two studs. It took me more time to tie the weights (washers) to the line than to actually find the studs.

            Click image for larger version Name:	P7060014.JPG Views:	0 Size:	142.7 KB ID:	1901343
            I simply drilled my holes between the "lines".

            I highly recommend this method. And the magnets are less expensive than many stud finders.
            That is a good idea but what if you have plaster walls? The plaster is usually thicker than sheet rock and the wire lath is nailed to the studs so if the magnets can pull through 3/4" of plaster they would probably stick anywhere .

            JL..............

            Comment


            • #7
              I've used everything over the years... Finally got sick of the cheap units and now use this mid-priced unit https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

              No matter which one you use, there is some sensitivity to technique. i.e you get better with practice.

              Oh, for steel studs I use an old cow magnet on surgical tube! Problem I find with magnets for screws is there is an assumption the prior guy hit the damn stud center.

              Comment


              • #8
                I've got one permanently attached to my hand- a set of knuckles. Works about as well as a stud finder, though a stud finder doesn't hurt your knuckles. I have one version that has a switch to go between finding wiring and finding studs. The main problem I have with all of them is that you don't get a continuous indication- you get a beep when it senses something. Come at it from both directions, and where the beeps start gives you an indication that a density change has occurred. If those points are about 1-1/2 apart, there's probably a stud there. That's about as precise as it ever gets. I would much rather have a continuous tone that slides up and down with density changes (or inductance changes in the case of steel studs). At least then you could hear where a center might be. Of course a continuous tone would drive everybody crazy.

                I want one with continuous tone, volume control, and sensitivity control. Approaching wiring would change the character of the tone, a metal stud would 'hear' differently than a wood stud, and passing screws or nails would give a faster variation. A dying battery would indicate itself also.
                I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

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                • #9
                  Thank you for all the varied opinions and ideas. I shall try the magnets to see if they agree with my nails. The person who built my shop (it wasn't me) was casual with the measurements, half the building is studs 16" on center and the other half is 24" on center. Both measurements kind of close. The drywall is 1/2"thick.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I like the use of rare earth magnets. I had a stanley that was completely useless around wires. Only wanted to warn me about wires and wouldn't tell me about the stud nearby. Can't stand that nanny crap.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I haven't used the ones with video displays- it would seem that once you got used to it you'd be able to tell at a glance what's in the wall. I'm sure there would be good and bad models of that too- like some of the remote cameras you can use to look through spark plug holes, etc. Some of those are little more than garbage. I have one- sheesh, did I just admit that-

                      Somehow I think a visual display stud finder would give the best answers, once you got used to it. I could be wrong.
                      I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by darryl View Post
                        The main problem I have with all of them is that you don't get a continuous indication- you get a beep when it senses something. Come at it from both directions, and where the beeps start gives you an indication that a density change has occurred. If those points are about 1-1/2 apart, there's probably a stud there. That's about as precise as it ever gets. I would much rather have a continuous tone that slides up and down with density changes (or inductance changes in the case of steel studs). At least then you could hear where a center might be. Of course a continuous tone would drive everybody crazy.
                        Huh. I bought my stud finder about 30 years ago. I'm pretty sure it's ultrasonic. It has a string of five LEDs.

                        I apply it to the wall in a hollow area (easy enough to find by tapping) and press the button. The LEDs run from 0 to 5 then back to 0. Then when I move it across the wall it goes from 0 to 5 as I go across a stud, then back to 0. It's obvious where the center is. It doesn't detect wiring.

                        After 30 years it still works fine. My son bought a stud finder (actually two) and neither worked well, but when I handed him mine it worked perfectly. He can't find one that works as well as mine, so he borrows it.

                        There must be other stud finders that work properly, mustn't there?

                        -js
                        There are no stupid questions. But there are lots of stupid answers. This is the internet.

                        Location: SF Bay Area

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Just to be accurate: Electronic stud finders rely on sensors that detect changes in the dielectric constant of the wall. The dielectric constant changes when the sensor is over a stud.

                          They do not look for drywall nails, the magnet kind do.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Ah, yes- I remember those- my boss had one with the string of lights. That made sense to me. None of the ones I've seen lately are like that- two of mine light on the edge of sensing- you have to come from both directions and put a mark where the led first comes on. Usually the marks end up a stud width apart, so you go between with your screws. This other one I have doesn't make sense when I use it- perhaps it's defective and that's why I have it.
                            I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Electric shaver, press it against the wall and it sounds different when it passes a stud.
                              As mentioned above, an electric box will show you where a stud is the majority of the time. The times it may be wrong is if it's directly beside a door or if it's a surface mount box.
                              Once a stud is found, I drop down to the floor and use a small nail to determine the center and spacing for the next stud. Reason for that is that at ankle level, people won't notice any patches etc like they would at eye level.

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