Instructables

Simple Clinometer - for measuring tree height

Picture of Simple Clinometer - for measuring tree height
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I needed to measure the height of a nearby tree that was too tall to climb.

The story goes like this. My wife had a sudden fear that if a particular old coniferous tree on a neighbor's property was to blow down in a wind storm, it would crush our house. I had an over-confident hunch that it would not. That the tree would fall short of the house because it appeared to me that the tree's height was less than the horizontal distance from the base of the tree to our house. Five minutes after that I began to doubt the accuracy of my hunch. I needed to put some logic behind it. I needed math.

The result, after five more minutes of frantic scavenging around the house for parts the tool was assembled with hot glue and masking tape, then used immediately.

(We're not going to be crushed!)
In fact there is a comforting 15 foot space between the house and the measured point on the ground where the top of the tree would be, were it to fall directly toward us.
 
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Step 1: Gather Materials


This instructable requires the following things to make.
  • a 45 degree Drafting Triangle -  (aka Set Square in Canada) (from any art supply)
  • a mason's line level (from any builder's supply)
  • a laser pointer (from office supply store)
  • Hot glue gun
  • masking tape
Any laser pointer would work. However, It will be more accurate if the enclosure has a uniform surface that's parallel to the beam, in order to assure alignment.
Crucio3 years ago
Now that's applied math. Very nice. I will make this tomorrow and measure some trees.

I was in a similar situation as you last summer, when I needed to cut down a rogue female maple tree in my back yard and wasn't sure if it would fall short of my house. I thought it would be closer, but paranoia amplifies fears. (It fell well short. Still, it would have been absolutely fantastic to have proven it theoretically first. :p

Thanks!
busidit (author)  Crucio3 years ago
Thanks for the comment Crucio.

I'm glad your house is safe. I like estimating the heights of tall trees and buildings by walking away a distance i think is equal to the height and I'm regularly way off. It's always surprising to confirm the height with this gadget.