What Is A Stud Finder?

A stud finder is a small device used by builders and people doing D.I.Y to find where the beam or ‘stud’ behind a plasterboard wall is located. A plasterboard wall, or ‘stud wall’ is a type of wall used for the interior or houses to separate rooms etc, and it consists of ‘studs’ which are wooden beams going from the ceiling to the floor, and plasterboard.

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Plasterboard is a type of wall material which is easy to put up, fairly durable, and easy to paint and cut to size, the one problem is that it’s not very strong.

It’s designed to be a temporary, or easy to use wall solution, the drawback being that when you try and screw something heavy into it, it gives way.


You’re trying to screw something to a Drywall..

Imagine you were trying to put up a TV bracket, shelf unit, or even just a set of coat hooks on a drywall, you can’t use drill a hole into the plasterboard, because it’s going to break when you screw something into it and put pressure on the weak plasterboard. This is why you need to nail or screw into something stronger, the ‘stud’.

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The wooden beam running from top to bottom that forms the framework of the stud wall. This is what you want to be using to screw things to the wall, the problem of course being that when the wall is erected and finished, and if it’s painted you can’t actually see where the stud is, you use see a smooth wall. (Hopefully!)

This is where stud finders come in. What is a stud finder? It’s a small handheld device used to detect where the stud is on the drywall, usually very accurately.. This allows you to quickly and easily find the beam of wood in the plasterboard wall, and use it to secure whatever it is you’re attaching to the wall. They range in price, size, and ability.

Some are able to detect not only the location, but also the strength and density of the stud behind the wall. There are many stud finders out there, and there are even magnetic ones, which do sort of the same job, although these are used to located the screws.¬†They don’t detect where the wooden stud is, but rather where the screws are, which are usually always in line with the stud.

Who Invented The Stud Finder?

You may be wondering where this tool came from, and how it was developed. Before its arrival, people used a nail to poke holes in the plasterboard until they found something sturdy behind it, a technique which took time, and often damaged the wall. The magnetic stud finder has been around for longer than the electric one, and the electronic stud finder is really an extension of this.

The electric stud finder was invented and developed by a man called Robert Franklin. He came up with the idea for using a capacitor plate to detect the density in things like walls in 1977. He then approached several hardware companies trying to sell his new stud finder idea to them. They all refused and weren’t interested.

He eventually took his idea to the electronics manufacturer – Zircon. He went to their office in Campbell, California, and showed them his idea for a stud detector using a special circuit and the capacitor plate. They liked it, and went on to develop it further, developing the multi scanner and different variations of the original stud finder.

When his original patent on the idea expired in 1988, various other companies started copying the idea and making their own versions, after seeing how useful and successful the product was. It made life easier for all sorts of people and saved a lot of time. There are now lots of Zircon stud finders on the market, as they’ve¬†developed the product and fine tuned it over time.

For more on Magnetic Stud Finders, see our page on this. You could also read about How Stud Finders Work.