As the story goes…So there I was; up an 8’ stepladder in my garage and attempting to find the ceiling joists. I wanted to hang some newly purchased Christmas yard decorations to store them until next year. Many of you can appreciate my predicament because, as cabinetmakers, you have often found yourself searching for those same pesky studs and joists while up a ladder.

My particular state of affairs was made worse because my electronic stud finder was driving me nuts. It would continually identify ghosts that I knew were contrary to fact. I was sure that the joists ran east to west. It kept ignoring those and finding things that went north and south.

I became frustrated at locating something and then finding nothing when I drilled hole after hole in my sheetrock. So much so that I took the time to climb up into my attic to check on where I had been drilling as well as to check my sanity because I knew that the joists should run east to west.

Climbing up in the attic of a finished house is its own brand of insanity. What with 18 – 24” of fluff to deal with and no sure footholds to go from point A to point B, it’s a challenge. But that’s another story.

Yep, they go east to west. My stud finder liked to identify the taped seam between sheets. That area must be more dense than the rest of the board. But even with a fresh battery, I couldn’t find a 2-by-anything from below to save my soul.

I silently thanked my builder for not insulating my garage ceiling. That allowed me clear access to the garage sheetrock and joists. I retreated from the attic knowing two things. First of all, I had renewed faith in myself. I wasn’t crazy. But I had no more confidence in my stud finder.

I had to rely on things that my eyes had seen in the attic. Those landmarks helped me maintain my bearings from below and locate my attachment points. I moved forward and got my two reindeer and my 60” Christmas wreath rigged to the garage ceiling. 

I mentioned that many of you might appreciate my pain. You come into newly sheet rocked and painted kitchens and bathrooms and are faced with non-invasively finding studs and joists upon which to hang your cabinets. It happens with every job and sometimes…sometimes there’s just no way that you can tell what’s hiding behind the sheetrock. Yet, you really REALLY need to know.

I needed to find a tool that would allow me to regain my faith in electronic stud finder technology.

Several months prior, I had come to realize that the three stud finders that I owned were not playing well with others. With that thought in mind, I had gone on line and done some research. There I found a video on YouTube that concentrated on three devices that were of interest…well, one was interesting. One of the three was definitely only useful if you were dealing with metal studs. It used magnets. Even the wettest fir stud is invisible to magnets. Only the sheetrock nails or screws will react if you happen to find one. I had to have something that worked by measuring variations in density.

Interestingly, for all the other things that YouTube video proclaimed, it also gave the best finder a 4.6 out of 5 point score. That’s as good as it gets folks!

Franklin Sensors makes the Prosensor 710. It impressed me enough that I took the plunge and purchased one. Frankly, I think it might be the same thing only different compared to the “others” that detect anomalies in the wall. But I like the difference and simplicity of its approach.

It’s the same in that it detects the presence of a stud behind the sheetrock when compared to just sensing the sheetrock. The Prosensor 710 has only one density setting and that measures into the wall approximately 1.5” according to their specs.

Like the others, an LED light comes on to alert you to the presence of an anomaly in the wall. It goes out again when the point of measurement is no longer lined up with the stud. The difference that the Franklin device exhibits is that there are 13 LEDs spaced .5” apart across the length of the tool. As you slide the tool across the wallboard, those individual lights come on and go off as required. In other words, with a normal 1.5” stud, you can get three adjacent lights to come on. If it’s a double stud, you get more. If you have a stud set flat, more lights come on. There will be even more if it’s a 2 x 6 on the flat. If there’s a significant gap between studs, one or more lights indicating that area will not light up.

As you slide the Prosensor 710 across the wall and enciounter that stud, the first light comes on, followed by the second and third. Keep sliding and three lights continue to come on and go off in sequence as the sensor travels over the stud. There’s not much guessing about where the stud is. I found this refreshing.

I also found the lack of beeps and the flashing of multi-colored LEDs refreshing. You push the on/off button and the device does nothing until it passes over a stud. My defunct trio beeps and blinks at me in various random modes that make me question both its and my abilities. Just find the studs for me. That’s all I want.

The Prosensor 710 is powered by two AA sized batteries. The cover on the handle slides off easily to install those. Not recommended for sensing through exterior siding, etc., it sure did the thing for me on interior walls. Give it a try!

Until next time, sense on!!!

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