A Stud Finder is a simple little electric tool that helps locate studs.

Sounds like fun, no?

Before you get your hopes up too too far, stud finders are much better at finding the studs that hold your walls up than they are at finding the studs that help your pants down.

That's life.

The nice thing about stud finders is they're absolutely 100% idiot proof. And they're about $5. You take this little black box, run it over the wall and when it beeps, there's a stud behind the wall - and trust me: that stud wants to be nailed.

The whole reason to buy a stud finder is to help you nail studs.

Care to know how they work? Me too... so I went to howstuffworks.com and they were incredibly unhelpful... Here's what they had to say:

"Whether you are hanging pictures, putting up a new set of shelves or getting ready to start an addition, knowing where the studs are in a wall can be extremely handy! Before there were stud finders, either you pounded a small nail into the wall until you hit a stud or you used a small pivoting magnet. The magnet would help you find nails that had been driven into a stud. The first technique works but it damages the wall. The magnet technique is slow.

Electronic stud finders changed all that. They give you an amazingly accurate view into the wall and show you exactly where each stud is. These stud finders in a way are like a touch switch on a touch-sensitive lamp. They are using changes in capacitance to sense where the stud is. When the plate inside the stud finder is over wall board, it will sense one dielectric constant (sort of like an insulating value), but when it is over a stud the dielectric constant is different. (It works on a capacitance differential generated by density difference.) The circuit in the stud finder can sense the change and reports it on its display. The second patent below shows you exactly how to build this sort of stud finder.

The latest technology in stud finders uses a very small radar system to detect the stud. See How Radar Works for a description of radar."

Mmm-hmm. Well then.

Please make note: a stud finder is also excellent fun at your next cocktail party. Why? Because for whatever reason (if you understand the above, you'll understand why... just leave me out of it...) people always set off stud finders. Just put one against your friend's chest, and hit the button and the bell will ring. Ta Da! You've found a STUD.

If you don't think a given person is a stud, just don't put it flush against them, leave it a centimeter off their chest and nothing will happen. Ta Da! You've found a DUD.

Loads of fun, have a few drinks first.

Before the advent of these fancy capacitance stud finders, you could buy a mechanical stud finder. They didn't work so well at parties, but if you dug through a man's garage and found one, chances are he's a stud. Seriously, though.

The old stud finders were a magnet at the end of a little red balsa needle, suspended on a loose hinge in a small wooden or plastic housing. You slide the stud finder across the wall, and when it finds a stud, the needle, which had previously been hanging flaccid, springs to life and points straight out. A little homoerotic to be sure. Anyhow, it works because all nails since the dawn of time have been ferrous, and the magnet senses the nails or screws in the stud.

These archaic pieces of equipment will stop working when nails are no longer made of steel and iron; since steel workers and ironmongers are protected by a very strong lobby, these stud finders will work until the Ferrous Bureau's Day Off.

Danke schoen... darlin, danke schoen...

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