Since the advent of laser levels it's been easy to mark create guide lines over long distances. Because a laser doesn't lose its accuracy (or not so we as builders would be bothered) it's possible for one person to mark out lines on their own.
However what if you had to mark a line or a series of lines quickly and accurately so that they are all visible at the same time?
There's one little but very seldom talked about tool I love and wouldn't be without and that's a chalk line.
A chalk line allows a single person (although it's easier with two people) to mark a line on materials such as concrete, plasterboard, wood and even metal (in fact any material with a surface that powdered chalk is able to cling to) before cutting, drilling or marking a straight line.
How a chalk line works
The concept is simple. A fine string is coiled up inside (see fig 1.) a reservoir where finely ground dry chalk powder is stored. As the string is pulled out of the reservoir it retains chalk powder along its length and when held taught over a distance and pinged (or snapped as some refer to it) the chalk is jettisoned onto the surface where you want to leave a mark.
Chalk lines can be as long as 50 metres.
Figure 1. What a chalk line looks like (the winding handle can be closed, just like a wind up tape measure
Figure 2. The chalk line is pulled from its case where the chalk is stored.
Figure 3. Mark the point at either end of the line you wish to mark. Secure one end or get a helper to hold in place. Draw the chalk line out and hold the other end in place making sure that the line is stretched taught (do not pull too tight otherwise the string may snap).
Figure 4. Whilst holding the string on the mark with one hand pull the string up with the other until it is under a reasonable tension
Figure 5. Twang the string whilst it is under tension. As the chalk laden string returns to its original position the chalk is jettisoned onto the surface you wish to mark.
Figure 6. The chalk string should leave a crisp and easily identifiable line. Chalk comes in many colours just in case you want to keep more than set of lines separate from each other.
Chalk can also be temporary or semi permanent.
Use chalk lines on horizontal surfaces such as concrete for paving or tiling, vertical surfaces such as walls and fences. Draw across a series of fence posts to mark where tops need cutting off...there's no end to its applications.
Great and simple tool, always carry one in my builders box.
Good for setting out finish heights of paving along walls and under door sills.
Yes and inexpensive too. I use a cheap laser level to find end points, mark and then pull the line in.
It even works well on rough concrete surfaces where drawing a pencil line with a straight edge would be tricky.
I rip down timber with my chainsaw. It's quick and easy marking 3-4 metres on your own with a line and as long as the line is placed correctly on the mark there's no danger of slipping as might happen with a straight edge.