How to Make a Plumb Line

What is a Plumb Line

Simply put a plumb line is a line used to make a construction, or remodel, project look straight. Plumb lines are used in wall framing to align walls.

On floors when setting vinyl floor tile or ceramic tile mosaics. Or you can use a plumb line on a wall for tile back-splashes, wallpaper or setting cabinets.

Plumb Lines are also called chalk lines. Because what is most commonly used is a length of string with colored chalk dusted on it.

Traditional chalk lines had a hook at one end and a weight at the other. Chalk dust was gently rubbed onto the string. Modern chalk lines, which can be found in any hardware store, have a spool of string inside a chalk container.

Making The Line

The first thing to plan when making a chalk line is how you want the project to look once you're done. The Plumb Line becomes the point in which the materials will be started from. You can set a wall straight with a glance using a Plumb Line. Or avoid crooked tiles in your shower rap-around.

Once you have an idea where to begin measure two points on your project. This will be the base for your Plumb Line. These points may follow an existing wall, or edge of a counter. Once your points are made your ready to begin:

1) Place the hook, or tab, end of the string on the first point you made. Or have a partner hold the end on the point with their thumb. Reel out enough string to reach the second point.

2) Place the reel end behind your second point. About two inches with be plenty. Pull the string taunt with your thumb pressing the string to second point.

*Tip Make sure both ends match up to your points. I have redone far to many plumb lines because of slipped chalk lines.

3) With your free hand lift the tightened line about an inch off the ground and let go. This is called snapping the line. What you should have after snapping is a straight chalk line between your two points.

* Tip Your chalk line should be bold. If it is hard to see easily all you need to do is re-snap before moving the line.

That's it! You have a Plumb Line.

Other Methods

There are other ways you can make Plumb Lines. If you have a wall then vertical lines can be made with a weighted string to mark walls. I have used this to make sure shelves came out straight. This method is also good for adding new walls if you plan to section off a room.

A modern addition to setting Plumb Lines are laser levels. Basics laser levels make a solid line anywhere you want one. In my experience with laser levels there two really nice things about them.

* First, is the laser needs no cleaning up.

*Second, using prisms you can plumb a whole wall or floor with multiple lines.

With a laser you can hang pictures, shelves, cabinets, lights, mirrors, etc all without chalk marks.

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Comments 2 comments

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robertsloan2 8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

Great article. I can understand now how to use a plumb line, even to get horizontal lines straight. Makes perfect sense to me.

It could even apply to doing something like very large paintings, if I wanted to use perspective and used a plumb line while creating the sketches, stretching it out to the vanishing point beyond the painting. A mini-plumb line could be an artist's tool too! This would apply mostly to doing perspective on buildings and other cube or rectangular objects. to get their edges straight, and take erasing the line where it went past the object.

Donna 3 years ago

This article was very informative if I were asking the purpose of a plumb line. However, I wanted more detail on finding, as you referred to as point one and point two to make that initial line.

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