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Stud Finders Don't Suck, you're using it wrong

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

I wanted to put this out because so many people hate stud finders. I own about 6 of them and can get all of them to work, but, they're aren't magic and won't work everywhere. Once you understand how they work, it can help you get them to work a lot. I put out a video showing all this, but I'll try to explain it here. First off you have to realize that stud finders work by detecting the different density of objects. First you calibrate the tool to the wall, which effectively allows the tool to ignore the wall. Then when you start scanning it will detect the next object it gets near which has any density to it at all. Basically, the signal gets modified when it comes near another object, any object, including your hand, a pencil, etc.

The illustration above is of a magnetic field, which of course, you can't see, but it's very similar to the field your stud finder puts out. It's a signal that goes all around and even an object above, below or to the side will change it, and cause it to sense a stud. But here's where users fail to use it right. I'll list these as a numbered list.

  1. Calibrating it to quickly. You need to give it time to calibrate properly, which is usually indicated by the screen going blank, or the LEDs settling to only one on the bottom. Don't rush this step.

  2. Calibrating it over a stud, or to close to one. Granted, you won't know you did this, but if it seems to not be finding anything, try moving to a spot 3-6 inches away from where you started, and re-calibrate, and try again. If it calibrates over the stud, it will be ignoring anything of that density, so it will ignore the stud.

  3. Letting other objects get near the stud finder once it's been calibrated. Even a pencil, or finger will throw it off so keep your digits well away until you stop moving it and need to mark the wall.

  4. Moving to fast. Move at a nice steady pace, but don't rush it.

  5. Changing the position of your hand that holds the stud finder. Once you calibrate it, it actually calibrates it for the position of your hand too. Changing your hand position can throw it off.

  6. Scanning over too uneven of a surface. If you have heavy texture, etc, it might throw off the calibration and make it struggle.

  7. Scanning to close to trim, pictures, or other objects. ALL objects it gets near will cause it to read it as a stud, or throw off the calibration.

Other factors which can mess things up are wall that are thicker than you realize, such as with OSB behind the drywall, or with RC Channel on them, etc. If you're wall or ceiling is not just 1 layer of drywall over studs, it may not work. Also, things in the wall like other framing members, fire blocking, plumbing, electrical etc can throw it off. If you can't find it in one area, try moving over about 20-30" and scan again. If you find the stud, then measure over first 16" and mark it as this might be the stud location. If that doesn't work try 24". Will a more expensive model be more accurate? Well, not usually. It's more about additional features like a battery indicator, a red arrow pointer, deep scanning ability etc. But you can do just as well with a cheap model too. Here's my recommendations for Stud Finders- ONLINE STORE & AMAZON LINKS Here's some links to tools I mentioned in the video. (we do earn a small commission on sales, but it costs you nothing more, so thank you for your support)

A Zircon very similar to mine in the video-

The Franklin scanner with many LEDs-

If you have any thoughts, or questions, comment below. If you like this content feel free to share a link to it, but don't just share the article words, without giving me credit with a link to this page.

If you're trying to do your own mudding work, but struggle with getting it to come out right, I have a new guide that will help you with this. Click on the image below to read more about it.

Thank you,

Guy Purcella

That Kilted Guy Video Productions LLC

All rights reserved

copyright 2020

21,488 views3 comments


Your statement boldly says "Stud Finders Don't Suck, you're using it wrong."This jumps to the improper conclusion! I have tried two electronic stud finders and the reason why both failed to operate properly was either the old sheet rock or the insulation in the wall but even if it was sawdust, I don't think it would cause a problem.

Replying to

Well, old sheetrock doesn't have anything to do with it, and sawdust doesn't have enough 'Density' to set one off, so it's not that. 90% of the time, it is user error. But the Franklin is so much easier to use that you don't have to use it 'right', it just works. None work everytime though. I have used Dozens of them, and like I mentioned, I studies Electronic warfare in the USAF and the stud finder works on similar principles. I talked to a Franklin rep and they said my video was spot on. Thanks for the comment.


May 20, 2022

i wasn't aware of the calibration part so ill hold off on cursing at my stud finder. i have the zircon (as of 4/2022) and in the begining it was great but has become a little more erratic. its funny though because i searched ’ my stud finder sucks‘ and i got your article. lol

tks for info.

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