Paper Stud Finder

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Have you ever been the victim of such puns as, ‘’This electronic stud finder must be working, it started going off as soon as I touched it!’’ told repeatedly by such ‘’studs’’ as our fathers. Well, the next time they decide to pull out a variation of that golden line when asked to hang up a velvet Elvis, hand them this Paper Stud Finder. But how does it work? Well the stud finder nomenclature is a bit deceiving as it uses a strong neodymium magnet to find drywall screws, which are consequently screwed into studs (in countries that nail up their drywall, this tool will still work ! ).

Step 1: Tools and Materials

- Die-cutter or Hobby knife

- Glue (I used cyanoacrylate )

- Side cutters

- Paperclip

- Bamboo skewer (to aid throughout the gluing process, non-essential )

- Cardstock (colour of choice )

- Small neodymium magnet

- Protective cutting surface

Step 2: Die-cutters and Software Sputters

Alright, so…we have a Cricut branded die-cutting machine and hardware-wise it has been a phenomenal machine; however, the proprietary browser-based software they force you to use is horrendous. I used this project to force myself to use it and caught myself working in Illustrator 20 minutes in. It was an arduous process not due to design hiccups or anything of substance but due instead to the clunky ‘’quirks’’ of the Cricut Design Space software.

If anyone at Cricut is reading this, please pass along that you’re stunting the creative potential of your product with your poorly designed software. Makers gonna make, so make your software maker-worthy before we move on to a more efficient tool.

Right, rant aside, the design process, set up, and cutting took about an hour. Onto gluing up the pieces!

Step 3: Base Assembly and Notes on Design

The design includes triangle-shaped cut outs to make it easier to mark the centers of the stud. I also rounded the corners and made sure it was small enough to be handheld, in fact, I could’ve and should’ve made it even smaller. I used calipers to measure the thickness of a single sheet of cardstock and used that measurement to calculate how many sheets would be needed to achieve the desired thickness of each piece. To accommodate the paperclip pivot point, openings in the pieces were made by separating pieces in half, creating an opening for the paperclip.

First, separate the different pieces and start assembling the base pieces with cyanoacrylate glue, making sure to align the pieces whilst applying firm pressure as the glue sets up. The base has a thickness of 17 sheets of cardstock (roughly a ¼’’ ).

Step 4: Pivot Assembly

Next, assemble the marathon track shaped pivot assembly pieces in the same fashion as the base. After 20 or so pieces add the separated pieces that will accommodate the paperclip and start a separate assembly of another 5 pieces. Both halves will be joined only after the paperclip and indicator have been installed.

Step 5: Indicator

Now the trickier, most time-consuming bit, assembling the hundred odd paper dots that make up the indicator. Apply a small dot of glue and use a sharp object to pick up and place each piece on its subsequently glued-up counterpart. After reaching a height of ½’’, cut three pieces into thirds and glue the two outer pieces of the circles in place, leaving a space in the center to accommodate the paperclip. Then, continue stacking the rest of the pieces until an inch and a half stack is achieved.

Step 6: Assembly

Start by gluing the bottom half of the pivot assembly to the base. Then, cut a piece of paperclip to span the width of the assembly and thread it into the indicator. Next, place the indicator in place and glue the paperclip’s ends to the bottom half of the pivot assembly. Glue the top half of the pivot assembly to the bottom half.

Step 7: Magnet Magic

Glue the neodymium magnet to the bottom of the indicator, observing polarity. One trick I’ve found is to use the blade of the hobby knife to set the magnet in place, that way proper polarity is observed, and my fingers stay glue-free.

Step 8: Limiters

Instead of making separate pieces for the limiters I decided to recycle the o-track shaped pieces of the pivot assembly to achieve the same result. Glue one of the o-track pieces perpendicularly to the pivot assembly making sure that the indicator is trapped within the piece. Cut another o-track piece to fill in the ends of the pivot assembly left by the limiter piece. Then glue a full o-track piece on top of those sets of pieces to give it a clean look. Lastly, trim off the excess limiter pieces with a hobby knife.

Step 9: Use and Closing Remarks

I needed to put up a live edge walnut light I made and opted to put this new stud finder to the test! And it performed…flawlessly ! I was able to immediately find the location of two studs in seconds and marked their locations with a pencil, using those triangular notches. Inserted a couple of screws after marking a level line and installed the light! The entire project, from design to final assembly, took only a few hours! I hope that this inspired you to want to make your own paper tool!

Do you want to know the best part about this project? I was finally able to use a stud finder without getting any false readings! ;)

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26 Discussions

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LondonThunder

2 months ago

Sweet! This would be an awesome gift for father's day! Plus the magnet on the inside can double as a way to secure it to the inside of a metal toolbox (on the wall or roof). Do you have any suggestions on where to find cheap small magnets?

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Ham-madeLondonThunder

Reply 2 months ago

Thanks LondonThunder!
You're absolutely right, this would make a great gift for the maker in the family! Oddly, I hadn't thought of simply attaching it to a metal toolbox, this is now where it resides! As far as sourcing magnets, you can purchase them as Scanner2 suggested, or if you have access to dead laptops, most have tiny neodymium magnets in their screen bezels, which activate a reed switch, indicating if the lid is open or closed. Free source if you can source them! If not, Amazon is probably your best bet.
Cheers!
Mr. Ham :)

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Scanner2LondonThunder

Reply 2 months ago

Try local hardware stores. If you don't have any nearby, try Amazon.

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Ham-madeDolon12

Reply 2 months ago

Hey Dolon12!
It sure is! Let me know if you end up modelling and printing it!
Cheers!
Mr. Ham

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Dolon12Ham-made

Reply 2 months ago

Here are the .stl files. The design is for a 6mm dia magnet, 4mm thick. Let me know if you need another size.

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Ham-madeDolon12

Reply 2 months ago

Thanks for sharing with the community Dolon12!
Cheers!
Mr. Ham
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JohnC430

2 months ago

I guess a simple toy compass would also do the job. You are assuming that the drywall screws are installed on every stud behind it. sure they will be on the edges of the drywall but definitely not on every stud. This is a Ferrous metal finder and NOT a stud finder. magnets are not attracted to wooden studs. it will not even find copper pipe behind the drywall.

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Ham-madeJohnC430

Reply 2 months ago

Hey JohnC430,
As I mentioned in the introduction, the stud finder nomenclature is deceiving as the device locates screws, which are made of ferrous metals, being the only types of metals magnets stick to. If you're worried about hitting a copper or PEX pipe, I recommend that you stick with a traditional electronic stud finder or X-Ray vision.
Good luck!
Mr. Ham

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stevebower

2 months ago on Step 9

Given drywall screwed are spaced out vertically. Should the stud finder be 'swept' over the wall? Isn't a 7mm screw head tricky to find?

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Ham-madestevebower

Reply 2 months ago

Hey stevebower!
If you start at a corner and measure out roughly 16" and start your search there they are surprisingly easy to find!
Cheers!
Mr. Ham

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S0dyP0p

2 months ago

Nice way to keep track of the little magnet and to make it a bit easier to use. I'm thinking a piece of wooden dowel would make an eaiser-to-assemble indicator, but this is a good simple concept and a step up from both the problematic electronic stud "finders" and knocking with my knuckle (my current favorite method).

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Ham-madeS0dyP0p

Reply 2 months ago

Hey S0dyP0p!
I agree with that improvement! That stack of what was essentially confetti was extremely tedious to assemble. In fact, the entire thing could be made out of wood or even 3D printed! Hopefully this will help you to avoid knuckle bruises in the future!
Cheers!
Mr. Ham

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pgs070947

2 months ago

I live in the UK where most drywallers loved their nails - cost less than screws.
So apart from the damaged board, popped heads and doubts about any weight-carrying, I routinely hoick out the nails with a cat's paw nail puller and replace with screws. The magnets are cheap enough so that half a dozen give you a nice line down the stud. Screws are a lot kinder on the board and no worries about fixing cupboards etc.
Surprising how easysome of the nails come out. Beware at joints in the board where two nails are often clouted in close to each other.

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Ham-madepgs070947

Reply 2 months ago

Hey pgs070947,
I cringe at the thought of putting up drywall with nails...great initiative on your part replacing them with screws! Also, great tip about putting several magnets in a row to mark a stud; hadn't occurred to me!
Cheers!
Mr. Ham

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UkeDog

2 months ago

Wow! That's quite an involved project, considering all the labor and die cutting hardware used. It is a cool looking device though, for sure!

I simply use a "magnetic finger glove" to pass over the wall, and when it finds a drywall screw/nail it holds itself in place right at that spot. "Points to it", so to speak!

This works so well that I refuse to use it as probably intended, that is to retrieve dropped fasteners when doing automotive work. I don't want to risk getting oil or grease on it!

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Ham-madeUkeDog

Reply 2 months ago

UkeDog!
Fantastic use for the magnetic finger glove! I've been trying to find a clever use for mine for years! Looks like I'll be harvesting the magnet and recycling my Paper Stud Finder project, thanks for the tip!
Cheers!
Mr. Ham