More on Surveying Information

A reader and surveyor John A. Shuttleworth provide error comments and feedback on the MOTHER EARTH NEWS NOS. 34 and 35 articles on surveying information, and advice regarding the difficulties of surveying.

| November/December 1975

  • 036-082-01
    It's true that a knowledge of surveying is very useful . . . but there's far more to the skill than Aimee and Dave suggest, and the layman who wants to learn the basics had better find an expert to teach him.

  • 036-082-01

A reader and surveyor John A. Shuttleworth share their comments and surveying information on the MOTHER EARTH NEWS EARTH NEWS NOS. 34 and 35 two-part article "Surveying for the Homestead", and offer advice to homesteaders unaware of the technical abilities needed to survey land. 

More on Surveying Information

Joseph Kleid:

Though I myself am not yet ready to go back to the land, I've enjoyed MOTHER EARTH NEWS over the last year and have learned a good deal from her. Since I'm a student of civil engineering — a field I've left to teach woodworking — I follow the articles on alternative housing and construction with special interest. Which brings me to the subject of "Surveying for the Homestead" by Aimee Gelwick (MOTHER EARTH NEWS NOS. 34 and 35).

I should mention, first of all, that I was fortunate enough to attend a special school — Brooklyn Technical High, which is designed to prepare engineers-to-be for higher education — and studied surveying there for two years. In college I took specialized, advanced training in the same subject.

And what was the outcome of all that study? When I was done with school and ready to go to work, the only surveying job I could get was that of "rodman" . . . the helper who holds the "stick" for the person using the "machine" (transit or level). You see, even after my considerable exposure to the field, no one would hire me to operate the instruments myself. True, I'm here in the Big Apple — where building lots are measured in hundredths of a foot — but perhaps what I've said will suggest to you how much skill and proficiency are required to use surveying equipment.

While Aimee's article does contain certain technical errors and omissions, its main fault is that it presents surveying as if there really weren't much to the craft. This approach is, I believe, unfair to MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers.

For example, take the following sentence in the section on "Elevations": "The next step is to level the sighting instrument on its tripod." It's one thing to read this, and quite another to go out and do it for the first time with nobody standing by to instruct you. Just this single operation requires patience, dexterity, sensitivity, and a great deal of practice. An amateur's attempt would, I dare say, take hours (even if the screws didn't become jammed). The layman would be far better advised to use a level made by filling a garden hose with water.

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