August 2010: Toolbox


 Though it sounds like a dating device, the stud finder has nothing to do with landing a man, unless you’re planning to hang him on your wall from a picture hook. This small, handheld tool ensures that your trophies, whatever they may be, stay safely in place by identifying where the wooden supports run behind your walls. You’ll need to hammer your nails or screws into the wood if you want to keep the artwork or window shades you hang from pulling out.  


There are two types of stud finders, both typically powered by batteries. Electronic stud finders use electronic sensors to distinguish differences in the wall’s density, thereby distinguishing the wooden beams from the dry wall. Magnetic stud finders use magnets to identify metal beams or pick up on the metal nails and screws already embedded in the wooden beams behind the wall. When a stud is found, the finder beeps or registers the reading on an electronic screen. 

Without a stud finder, you can either use trial and error to find the studs in your wall (making many useless nail holes in the process) or do that wall “whisperer” thing where you knock on it and try to distinguish the dull sound of a stud from the hollow sound where there is no stud. I do this rap-a-tap-tap bit just to use my stud finder more efficiently, but I don’t suggest you rely on this technique when you’re hanging anything heavy, unless you want to wear your new plasma TV on your head.—Katherine Ludwig