Everyone from doctors to builders has their selection of specialist tools, without which their work would be incredibly difficult. One specialist tool of construction workers, and a handy tool for DIY enthusiasts, is a metal stud finder.
There are many variants of this tool since its original inception at the start of the twentieth century. Two types remain in use today – the magnetic version and the electronic version. Here, we will be looking at how to use the magnetic version and discussing the basic concerns of this convenient device.
What Is a Magnetic Stud Finder?
The first thing to consider is what exactly a magnetic stud finder is, as well as why and where it should be used. Thankfully, answering the first question is rather simple and straightforward. A magnetic stud finder is an instrument used by builders and renovators, as well as many other professions that work with walled and sealed structures. This could include but is not limited to carpentry, plumbing, and electrical laborers.
Construction workers and renovators of old buildings and domestic dwellings use this device to locate hidden studs in the structures of walls. It is incredibly handy to prevent damage or bodily harm when, as an example, the wall has to be drilled to fit cabinets. Even anchoring a painting or shelf could have disastrous consequences if accidental hammering or drilling on a stud takes place.
In wooden houses, the frame of the house is held together by these studs and nails. If it is damaged in any way, it could create weak points that could make the frame collapse. In most cases, the frame is covered and sealed with drywall. This obviously hides these studs and makes it difficult to locate them without the correct tool. Magnetic stud finders come in a variety of forms.
Some are just basic frames with a magnetic needle suspended in the middle. Others are enclosed magnets that are kept in free suspension, and when attracted by the stud, it will thud against the casing.
More modern types are made of plastic and include handy extras like level bubbles. These work by pulling on a fixed magnet that alerts the user via the pull of the metal on the magnet.
Electronic Stud Finders
Electronic versions of the stud finder are commonly available, but since its invention, its usefulness has been widely disputed. Some of the more accurate devices use radar technology, but these stud finders are extremely expensive. Other electronic stud finders read the dielectric constant of wall surfaces, communicating any changes as soon as it crosses over a metal stud.
These devices are not preferred over the basic concept, which is both inexpensive, wear-free, and far more accurate. One inconsistency noted in electronic devices is the impairment of scanning because of inconsistencies in walls and the use of metal mesh binders that cause radical readings.
For this reason, the magnetic stud finder is the preferred choice for many construction workers. The latest radar technologies are growing more popular because of their convenient multi-tool abilities that can even detect live wiring and pipes behind a wall. However, this development is currently highly expensive, and it is not more ideal than the inexpensive design of the magnetic version.
How a Magnetic Stud Finder Works
The most basic concept is based on the attraction laws that are characteristic of metals in the presence of magnetic fields. By suspending a magnet loosely in a frame, similar to the design of a compass, and passing it over the wall, it will show reactions to the hidden presence of metals behind the wall. Acting like an indicator needle, the magnet will begin to point to the direction of the stud as soon as it is within close proximity.
In the same basic principle, an enclosed magnet will be pulled towards the stud and will thud against the casing as an alert to the presence of metal. One difficulty occurs with both designs. In structures where plastering is used instead of drywall, or where the studs are buried deeper behind the final wall surface, accuracy is impeded. In some versions of the magnetic stud finder, stronger magnets are employed, but these magnets can easily attract other interferences.
However, magnetic stud finders with powerful rare earth magnets, such as neodymium, are the most popular in use. These usually come in an enclosed form, or moving magnet detectors, as they are called.
How To Use a Magnetic Stud Finder
Using a magnetic stud finder is rather simple and requires no advanced knowledge. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to use this convenient tool.
- Once you have identified the area of the wall you will be drilling, hammering, etc., you want to safely scan the area for studs.
- Simply move the stud finder over the wall surface, keeping it level against the wall and moving in straight lines.
- Keep track of your movements to be sure that you scan every inch, just to be safe.
- Once the magnet closes in on a stud, you will begin to feel the pull of the magnetic attraction.
- Where the attraction is at its strongest is the most likely location of the stud.
- Be wary of other metallic objects like plumbing pipes, which will possibly show greater attraction force than studs.
- In moving magnetic detectors, you would have to listen closely for the sounding thud of the magnet when it is attracted by the metallic presence behind the wall.
- For the best efficiency in locating studs, use square movements over the wall, covering only small sections at a time.
- Once a stud is located, you can mark its location with a temporary marker.
These devices are as convenient to have as they are inexpensive to own. They come in a variety of forms and are easy to use, no matter what type you prefer. Keep in mind that the most expensive ones are not necessarily the best ones, though. Sometimes, simplicity is the most convenient tool of all.