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Re: [Shop-talk] Cheap / easy ways to measure long (500' or so)

To: Mark Andy <>
Subject: Re: [Shop-talk] Cheap / easy ways to measure long (500' or so)
From: Bob Spidell <>
Date: Tue, 24 Mar 2009 21:08:08 +0000 (UTC)
Surveyors use a "chain"--actually a 200' metal tape--and two people with plumb 
bobs. One person holds one end of the chain with a plumb bob draped over it 
pointing to the starting point, and the second person stretches the chain and 
makes a mark on the ground with his plumb bob draped over the 200' mark. Then, 
the pair move 200 feet and repeat the process for as many legs as required. 

The surveyors would use a third person on a transit or theodolite to keep the 
"chain gang" moving in a straight line, but someone with a decent eye would 

The chains are calibrated for temperature for extra accuracy, but you should be 
able to get within a foot or two with practice. I suspect the chains are 
expensive, but you might be able to rent one. Plumb bobs are cheap. 



What're some cheap/easy ways to measure up to 500' or so over grassy/flat 

I was initially thinking a measuring wheel with a decent diameter wheel, 
but would welcome other options. I'm a little worried about the smaller 
(~6") measuring wheels not working well on grass, and the ones with bigger 
wheels seem to be a little more expensive. My only other idea is a long 
nylon tape, but that's a hassle to move around for other measurements. 

I need accuracy to the foot or so. Prefer it to be under $50. Ease of 
use is important. This is just so I can measure stuff on our lot, to 
model our existing buildings so that we can play "what if" games with 
other building heights/placements... 


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