This section is from the book "The Boy Mechanic Vol. 2 1000 Things for Boys to Do", by Popular Mechanics Co.. Also available from Amazon: The Boy Mechanic, Vol2: 1000 Things for Boys to Do.
[In the training of a boy for a trade or profession there is none so profitable for outdoor work as that of a surveyor. This article sets forth how to accomplish surveying and the making of simple maps with the use of commonplace tools that any boy can make.-Editor.]
Surveying and map making have always been two of the most interesting things a civil engineer has had to do. And, like George Washington, many of the men we look up to today as successes in different lines worked as surveyors in their younger days. Surveying takes one out of doors, and is apt to lead him into the unknown and unexplored byways of the earth.
Though modern surveyors often use precise and expensive instruments, creditable surveys can be made with simple and inexpensive apparatus. Of such apparatus, two of the simplest are the plane table and the camera. Since one must know the principles of plane-table surveying before he can do camera surveying, this paper will describe the plane table alone, leaving the camera for another chapter.
A plane table is simply a drawing board mounted on a tripod so that it can be set up and worked upon in the field. One kind of plane table, which is used in the army for reconnaissance, does not even have a tripod; it is simply strapped to the arm of the man who is using it.
Plane-table maps vary greatly in scale and the area they represent. Landscape artists' plans may show only single city lots, while some topographic maps cover hundreds of square miles on a single sheet. For maps of a small farm, a park, or a residence block in the city, a plane table is almost ideal, since plane-table maps are made with rather simple apparatus and do not require much actual measuring on the ground. Most objects ,are located without ever going to. them, or even sending a rod-man to them.
Ill: Just A Few Weeks After George Washington's Sixteenth Birthday, in 1748, Lord Fairfax, Owner of a Large Estate in Virginia, Took Him into His Employ as a Surveyor
Besides the plane table itself and a sheet of paper, only a small carpenter's level, a tape to measure a few distances with, and some spikes for markers, a hard lead pencil, a ruler, and a few needles are absolutely necessary for this sort of a map.
To start a plane-table map, a station must first be selected from which as many as possible o f the objects to be located on the finished map can be seen. Ordinarily, the objects one would locate are corners of buildings, fence corners, intersections of roads, corners of lots, banks of streams, possibly trees, and section and quar- ter-section corners in the country. Arailroad, a lake, a / mountain, or / anything / which forms a noticeable landmark in / any particular locality, ought to be on the map. In mapping a territory which has never been surveyed before, toe first surveyor may name the hills and streams. After the first station has been selected, it is marked by a pile of stones, a stake, or, if precise work is to be done, a tack in the top of a stake. The table is then set up over this station point and leveled so that the surface of the paper will be truly horizontal. Generally, too, the board is "oriented," that is, placed so that two of its edges point north and south and two east and west. It is then clamped so that it will not move while working on it.
To begin the map, a point on the table is chosen to represent the station on the ground over which the table is set. This point is marked by sticking a fine needle into the paper, vertically. A small triangle should be drawn around the needle hole in the paper and labeled "Sta. A," so that it will not be lost in the maze of points which will soon cover the sheet. By sighting past his needle toward some object which is wanted on the map, like the corner of a house, its direction can be marked by setting another needle on the far side of the table, in line with the first and the given object. Then, if a ruler or straightedge be placed against these two needles and a fine line drawn connecting them, this line will show the exact direction of the object from other objects which are wanted on the finished map and can be seen from Sta. A are located by direction in the same way.
Sta. A. All the
The first points to have their direction thus marked ought to be the next stations to be occupied. If all the objects to be located can be seen from three stations, or even two of three stations, three stations will be sufficient. The distance to one of them from Sta. A should be carefully measured and laid off to scale along its direction line on the map. Its place on the map should be marked exactly as the first station was, substituting B for A. It is wise, after every few sights at other objects, to take a sight along the line AB to make sure that the board has not turned. A good map is impossible if the board twists.
To measure the distance between stations, a 50 or 100-ft. tape, or some accurate substitute, is necessary. An ordinary piece of iron telegraph wire, 105 ft. long, is a good substitute. A No3 point, about 2 1/2 ft. from one end, is marked with a little lump of solder. A chisel dent in this solder will mark one end of the 100-ft. section. Then, with a borrowed tape or a good rule, measure off and mark every 10 ft., just as the first point was marked, until the entire 100 ft. have been laid off. The last 10 ft. should be divided into feet. In all this measuring and marking, the wire must be stretched out taut and straight. The extra 2 1/2ft. at each end are used for making handles. By estimating the tenths of a foot, measurements can be made with such a tape, or "chain," as an old-time surveyor might call it, just as accurately as they can be laid off on the map.
Ill: An Alidade, Consisting of Two Sights And a Straightedge, Takes the Place of the Two Needles
Two men are required for measuring, or "chaining," a head and a rear chainman. The rear chainman holds the 100-ft. end of the tape on the station point, while the head chainman takes his end forward toward the station to which they are measuring. When he has gone nearly the length of the tape, the rear chainman calls "halt." The head chainman stops and draws the tape up tight, while the rear chainman holds his division end on the starting point. Then the head chain-man sticks a spike into the ground to mark the place where his division end comes, calls out "stuck," and starts on toward the object point.
Large spikes make good marking pins, especially if they have little red or white strips of cloth tied to them. Surveyors use 11 markers. One is stuck into the ground at the starting point and is carried forward by the rear chainman, who also picks up the markers at each 100-ft. point as soon as the head chainman calls "stuck." In this way, the number of markers which the rear chainman has in his hand is always the same as the number of hundreds of feet which the last set marker is from the starting point.
In measuring between two points, care must be taken to draw the tape out taut and straight, its two ends must be level with each other, and it must be exactly in line with the two points between which the measurement is being made. In measuring downhill, one end may have to be held up high, and the point on the ground where the end division would come, found by dropping a stone from the place where it is in the air and watching for the spot where the rock strikes the ground. A surer way to do this is to hold a plumb-bob string on the last division and carefully let the bob down until it touches the ground. A rod with a red or white flag on it ought to be placed at or just beyond the point to which the measurement is to be made so that the rear chainman can easily line in the head chainman. The latter, before he places his marker, looks back to the rear chainman to be told whether or not he is "on line" with the object point. If he is not, and ought to go to the rear chainman's right to get "on," the latter holds out his right arm and the head chainman moves accordingly. When he reaches the right point, the rear chainman signals "all right" by holding out both of his arms and then dropping them to his side; the marker is stuck, and both move up a hundred feet and repeat the process.
After all the points possible have been located from Sta. A, and the direction lines labeled lightly in pencil so that they can be distinguished when the board has been removed from the station, the plane table is picked up and carried to Sta. B. Here it is again set up, leveled, and oriented by making the direction of the line AB on the paper exactly the same as that of the line from Sta. A to Sta. B on the ground. This is done by placing needles at points A and B on the table and then turning the board until the two needles and Sta. A are in line. Sights are taken on the same objects which were "shot" at Sta. A, and to objects which were not visible from Sta. A. The intersection of the lines of sight toward a given object from A and from B marks the location on the paper of that object. If the two ends of a straight fence have been located in this way, a straight line joining the points will show the location of the fence on the map. By exactly similar methods, every other object is located on the paper.
In order to avoid errors, it is an excellent scheme to locate three stations near the outside edges of the area to be mapped, and locate all objects possible by sights from each of the three stations. If, instead of all three crossing each other at a point, the lines of sight from the three stations form a triangle, something is wrong. If the triangle is very small, it may be safe to use its center as the correct point; if not, the work must be repeated and checked. Locating even a few points by this method may prevent some bad blunders. The three stations ought to form as nearly as possible, an equilateral triangle; and the distances between all of them should be measured and laid out accurately on the plane table.
There are two ways in which the map may be finished, inked, or traced. By drawing in the "culture," that is, the things built by man, like the houses, the fences, the roads, and the railroads, in black ink ; the topography, that is, the hills and valleys, in brown; the water, in blue, and then erasing all the construction lines, a very neat map can be made. Another way is to get some "onion-skin" paper, or some tracing cloth, tack it over the penciled map, and trace the lines right through, using black India ink. This tracing can be blueprinted, just as a photographic film. A plain, neat title, describing location of map; who made it and when; the scale used; why It was made, if it was made for a special purpose, and the direction of the north point, ought to be on every map. The topographic sheets published by the United States Geological Survey are good samples to follow. They have been published for a great many places all over the country, and single copies can be obtained by sending 10 cents to the Director, United States Geological Survey, Washington, D. C.
Ill: From an Original Drawing of a Survey of Mount Vernon, Made by George Washington at the Age of 14
Plane tables are almost as easily made as they are bought. If there is no old drawing board around the house, a new bread board from the ten-cent store will serve. For ordinary work, a table which is 15 or 20 in. square will do very well. The board must be mounted on a tripod so that it will be rigid while it is being worked upon and yet can be unclamped and oriented. A brass plate, with a hole in it and a nut soldered over the hole, screwed to the bottom of the board will permit the board and tripod to be bolted together in good shape. Another method, which is not nearly as good, is to drill a hole clear through the board, countersink it on top for a bolt head, and bolt the board and tripod head directly together. With the brass plate and nut, the camera tripod can be pressed into service if a nut of the proper size has been used. The camera tripod is, however, apt to be wabbly with a drawing board on top; a much more satisfactory tripod can be built as shown in the accompanying drawings. Each leg is made of two strips of wood, 3/4 by % in. and 3 ft. long. These strips are screwed together at their lower ends, gripping a spike between them which will prevent the legs from slipping on the ground. The tops of the strips are spread apart and screwed to the opposite ends of an oak or maple cleat. This cleat is, in turn, screwed to the under side of the circular tripod head.
In place of the two needles and the ruler described for marking the line of sight, most plane-table men use an alidade, which is a combination of two sights and a straightedge. A very simple alidade may be made by mounting two needles on a ruler. The straight edge of the ruler is placed against the needle which marks the station at which the plane table is set up. Then, by swinging the ruler around this needle until its two sighting needles come in line with some object, the line of sight can be drawn directly on the paper along the edge of the ruler. A surveyor in India once made an alidade out of a piece of straightedge and two sights made of native coins hammered out by a native blacksmith. Two pieces of cigar box, one with a fine vertical saw slit in it, and the other with a vertical slot and a piece of fine wire or silk thread stretched down the center, glued to a well planed, straight, flat piece of wood, make a fine alidade. A careful worker may be able to put his sights on hinges so that they will fold down when not in use.
More than anything else, map making rewards care and accuracy, and shows up slipshod workmanship. If the pencils are sharp, the lines fine, and if the work is checked often, beautiful maps can be made with very simple apparatus.
White marks on waxed surfaces may be removed by rubbing lightly with a soft rag moistened in alcohol, after which rub with raw linseed oil.