Any die hard plumb bob users here?

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Old 02-21-17, 05:03 PM
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Any die hard plumb bob users here?

So I am new to home renovations and of course that includes carpentry. I've learned a few basic things, but one thing has sort of intrigued me; so much so I styled my account name after it. The humble plumb bob. It seems these days that spirit levels and lasers are the way to go, but I have read that a few carpenters still use the plumb bob. I didn't know which forum to put this in so I chose "walls and ceilings" since that is where a plumb bob can be often used; including hanging wall paper, pictures, baseboard heaters, etc.

So, I guess my question is; are there any die hard plumb bob users here? Do you use the 'PB' extensively? In any creative ways other than the standard lets make a new wall plumb. Does anyone use one to keep track of their shed's plumb/levelling on the ground? Anyone into flipping homes, and use one to record some serious numbers on the overall house plumb both interior and structurally?

Just curious. Thanks again.
 
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Old 02-21-17, 05:31 PM
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Think I have used a plumb bob exactly twice in my career as a carpenter/contractor. Levels and Lasers usually take care of the business that a plumb bob would be useful at.
 
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Old 02-21-17, 05:39 PM
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I most often use a plumb bob to locate electrical drops for new machinery. Or gas/air pipe, water lines and what not.

On the factory floor i generally use the chalk line as a PB, but in a pinch any string with some kind of weight attached will do.

Generally i use the string itself as a reference to measure from, but sometimes i will hang the bob directly over the "X" on the floor and work towards the string.

PB is an ancient tool that will never become totally obsolete. You can never be 100% sure your spirit level or laser is actually correct, but a plumb line will never lie!
 
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Old 02-21-17, 05:39 PM
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I have a few. They collect dust now that I have lasers. I can be done with whatever and moving on before a bob would have settled. I will say that my old turned brass bob is a beautiful tool.
 
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Old 02-21-17, 06:19 PM
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I have several brass ones too. I've used them many times to mark and set lighting fixtures from recessed cans to pendants over a work area or dinette area.

Unfortunately.... or actually fortunately..... I use a laser now.
 
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Old 02-21-17, 07:40 PM
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I would say a plumb bob is invaluable, but not for everyday use. To check a wall or floor I use a level. I carry a 6, 4 and 2 foot along with an occasional 8'. (I work on cabinets so I need all sizes).

other than the standard lets make a new wall plumb
Even for new walls a level is easier. You can use a tight fitting stud and a level to transfer your marks from the top plate down, or the bottom plate up.
If you are plumbing new walls with a level you might want to use stand off blocks. The idea is to have the level only touch the stud at the top and bottom, not lay right up against the side or face of the stud.
 
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Old 02-21-17, 09:08 PM
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I agree with all the above. Plumb bobs are great if you are inside where there is no wind, but if you are outside, there is really only a handful of days per year where they would actually be completely accurate. Lasers are so much more accurate, and take seconds to set up. My PLS180 is my best friend.
 
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Old 02-22-17, 03:14 AM
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I like the PLS180 for vertical and horizontal line management. However on a plumb bob note, a simple PLS3 almost exactly replicates a plumb bob with a single vertical beam to the floor and ceiling. I think we all have dusty plumb bobs in our tool boxes.
 
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Old 02-22-17, 03:19 AM
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Some interesting comments here.

I most often use a plumb bob to locate electrical drops for new machinery. Or gas/air pipe, water lines and what not........
........
Generally i use the string itself as a reference to measure from, but sometimes i will hang the bob directly over the "X" on the floor and work towards the string.

PB is an ancient tool that will never become totally obsolete. You can never be 100% sure your spirit level or laser is actually correct, but a plumb line will never lie!
I never thought about using it to locate stuff inside walls, good one. And yeah measuring to the string seems to be pretty darn accurate. I've read its the most accurate source you can get. After its settled down of course.


I can be done with whatever and moving on before a bob would have settled.
I can get mine to settle down in a couple seconds. I just close my fingers in on it. But you can't rush it.

Plumb bobs are great if you are inside where there is no wind, but if you are outside, there is really only a handful of days per year where they would actually be completely accurate. Lasers are so much more accurate, and take seconds to set up.
Yes outside use can be limited, but there are heavier versions available. I'm not sure anything can be "so much more accurate" than a plumb bob, plus the laser internals have to keep the alignment perfect, not sure if we can expect a bunch of components to do that forever. And levels can go out of alignment too. But lasers and levels sure are versatile in the business of things, and I'm not qualified to argue any more that I already have.

Anyone use them to align roof trusses? How about renovations on older 2 or 3 story homes, or maybe a house with a grand entrance and spiral staircase? Let me guess, lasers are as slick as sliced bread there too. But unlike lasers they don't need batteries!
 
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Old 02-22-17, 05:20 AM
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I have a couple of plumb bob's, and do use them from time to time, but nothing that stands out about them. Like any of my tools, I take care of them, but don't know of any single tool that is going to get me too far into a project without other tools. The one tool I still prefer for certain things, like window and door installations, and probably get the most comments or laughs over, is a folding rule. A lot of guys don't use them any more, but that's what I learned on and they still work. And I still use a sliding tee bevel a lot. Quite often, when cutting angles, it doesn't matter as much what the angle actually is, so long as the saw is set to that angle. So while someone else might measure an angle with a protractor and then set the saw to that exact angle, I adjust my bevel to fit the angle and then adjust the saw to the bevel. Lots of tools, many essential, and a lot of times it boils down to how much time it takes, how often you use it, and whether or not you can justify something more efficient. As far as levels, lasers, etc. getting out of whack, sure, it happens, but that's the reason that you take proper care of them and why you check and calibrate them at appropriate intervals.
 
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Old 02-22-17, 06:57 AM
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The only thing I remember using my plumb bob for in the last 20 years is hanging some bi-fold doors. Excellent for lining up the pivot pins.
I do keep it polished--seems to add class to my layout tool drawer.
 
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Old 03-04-17, 01:58 PM
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Yes I'll have to keep mine shiny too.

I do find it really slick that a plumb bob provides me with a perfect accurate plumb line in mid air that I can use as a reference line of measurement, and have that over significant lengths, say multiple stories, and measure with high resolution (definition) anywhere from top to bottom. Today (just fooling around trying it around the split-entry house) I dropped it from my upstairs to downstairs, and measured to my staircase wall. I discovered it was off-plumb about 8mm over 240cm (8 feet). For anyone thinking of buying/renovating/selling really old houses, especially 2 or 3 story houses, this tool use could prove to be invaluable.

Now I want to find some reference to code for this region where I can plug numbers into an equation to determine if a wall plumb is 'in-code' or out-of-code'. Also, anyone know of an equation(s) to take the above numbers and convert that to degrees?
 
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Old 03-04-17, 02:36 PM
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Anyone use them to align roof trusses?
No, but we did align these stick built beams with a laser. 'Bout the same thing.

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Old 03-04-17, 02:51 PM
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NAHB standards for what is acceptable are ridiculous, and 8mm in 240 cm is probably far within their tolerance in new construction.

=/< 2% is one standard. So using that, 4.8 cm in 240 cm is still ok according to NAHB. Anything more is considered "out of plumb". Told you the standards are ridiculous!

When I was still an apprentice, I had read the standard was no more than 1/4" in 8' which I always thought was a bit lax, but whatever. Then recently I read it was 3/8" in 4'! My, how some ppl's standards have changed!

There are still a few carpenters out there that take pride in their work and have higher standards than anything a handbook or code "requires".
 
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Old 03-04-17, 06:05 PM
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No, but we did align these stick built beams with a laser. 'Bout the same thing.
Yeah some of them lasers are pretty slick I must say. And a breeze to set up apparently. I don't have one yet. Key word "yet". Nice looking job there.


There are still a few carpenters out there that take pride in their work and have higher standards than anything a handbook or code "requires".
I won't ever be a pro, but I certain do hope to include tight standards in any work I do. I'm liking working with metric too. Might try to do a project someday purely using metric. I'm excited to use a plumb bob to see just how practical (or not) it is to get high precision. Lasers are looking pretty fun too.
 
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Old 03-05-17, 05:31 AM
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When replacing carpeting on stairs with hardwood I had to use a home-made plumb bob to align and center the balusters.
 
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Old 03-05-17, 07:45 AM
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Last time I saw a Plumb Bob used was by a power company worker setting a wood pole at a farm. Just held it at arms length and sighted it on the pole for plumb.
 
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Old 03-05-17, 09:33 PM
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Do plumb bobs work in metric? I've only used one in inches and fractions.
And for you diehard users, you know you can settle the lumber bob faster by putting the weight in a bucket of water.
 
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Old 03-06-17, 03:21 AM
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Only if you have a metric plumb bob, otherwise you need a conversion table
 
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Old 03-06-17, 10:11 AM
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you know you can settle the lumber bob faster

Well the combination of spell check, predictive typing a clumsy fingers caught up with me.
I suppose one could make a plumb bob with anything with mass. Maybe someone could turn one out on the lathe. (Lathe, not lath in this case.) but as a general rule the denser the material for the plummet the better so lumber is not a good choice.
Yes I too have a plumb bod. I know where it is. I have not used it in years. Seems like the last time I used it was to check a level.

By the way In ancient times people knew about making things plumb with a plumb bob. Do you know how they got things level?

Amos 7:7-9
This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8 And the LORD said to me, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A plumb line." Then the Lord said,

"See, I am setting a plumb line
in the midst of my people Israel;
I will never again pass them by;
9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword."
NRSV


St. Thomas guild - medieval woodworking, furniture and other crafts: The medieval toolchest: the level and plumb bob
 
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