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Compasses, Optical Instruments & Other Helpful Tools

February 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Technology

Every professional uses some type of tool to help them get through the work day. For some people, this tool is a computer, for others the tool is a hammer or a forklift. For surveyors and engineers, tools such as a surveyor’s compass and a Jacob staff might come in handy. Here is a quick look at a few tools with multiple uses for a few unique professions.

You might simply think that a compass is just a compass, but there are actually quite a few different styles of compasses. Generally, people are familiar with the small circular tool that we all used on scouting adventures or hiking excursions. Today, people often simply use their smartphone, which usually comes standard with a compass. While a standard compass simply identifies magnetic north in relation to the user, a surveyor’s compass is a device that also provides information about horizontal angles, which is a much-needed measurement for surveying applications.

We all know what a typical compasses looks like, it’s simple a round device that is labeled with direction and features a magnetic needle. This needle is the part that points to magnetic north to help hikers and navigators and others determine direction. With a surveyor’s compasses, additional tools are added to help with measurement. A sighting device is mounted onto the surveyor’s compass and placed onto the north-south axis. From there, you would mount this compass onto some form of tripod and sometimes on a Jacob staff prior to use.

This Jacob staff, which is named in honor of the biblical Jacob, has several uses and is sometimes called by other names. This device dates back to the 1300s and was invented by a mathematician who used the Jacob staff for mathematical calculations, such as measuring distances. Often this was a tool used by sailors and astronomers. When we discuss the Jacob staff as it pertains to surveying, this was simply a rod on which a surveyor’s compass is mounted. Often it would be placed into the ground to help hold the compass steady and can still be used that way today.

There are many devices that can be supported by a Jacob staff in addition to a surveyor’s compass. Other types of compasses, such as a forester’s compass, might be mounted on the Jacob staff. You also might place an Abney level on a Jacob staff or perhaps a device known as a graphometer, which is yet another surveying instrument that can be used to measure angles.

Of course, these days, most surveyors will use a theodolite to measure angles. The theodolite is placed not on a Jacob staff but on a sturdier tripod as they are quite heavy. For those who use devices such as a basic surveyor’s compass or an Abney level, a lightweight Jacob staff might be the perfect option to consider.

Carey Bourdier loves blogging about precision scientific instruments. To get more information about alignment tools such as a maple wood Jacob Staff, check out the Warren Knight site today.

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