952: Stud Finder

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Stud Finder
According to every stud finder I've tried to use, my walls contain a rapidly shifting network of hundreds and hundreds of studs.
Title text: According to every stud finder I've tried to use, my walls contain a rapidly shifting network of hundreds and hundreds of studs.


It sounds like you may be interested in my new product, a— stud finder finder.

In the comic, Cueball cannot locate his stud finder, so Black Hat begins a sales pitch for a "stud finder" finder. The joke is in the irony of having to find something that is used to find other things. Cueball interrupts Black Hat before he can make the obvious joke. (The same comic technique is used later in 1059: Bel-Air.) Currently no product exists that will locate a stud finder, but online review compilations are useful for finding the right stud finder to buy.

Studs are vertical wood members in wood-framed construction common in North America (though recently, steel framing has become a popular alternative to wood.) These supports reinforce a wall at regular intervals (16 inches, about half a meter, being typical) and at corners, windows, and doors.

A stud finder, using an electrostatic field that is affected by the densities and types of materials in the vicinity (wood or steel vs either empty space or relatively low-density insulation) identifies where studs and other significant framing elements are located. One would need to know the locations of studs within a wall for installing wiring, mounting shelves, or in this comic, hanging a picture. Wiring can be inserted between studs behind the drywall, while shelves, pictures, etc. are better affixed to studs.

Most stud finders have a light that turns on in conjunction with a beep when a higher density is detected, indicating the edge of a stud. There are circumstances that can fool stud finders. Most are designed for the drywall-over-wood-framing construction, and would be fooled by older plaster and lath construction (where the density is much more uniform throughout the length of the wall.) Lower quality stud finders can be fooled by things like moisture in the drywall, or wiring within the wall cavity, and may thus beep when there is not a stud immediately behind the scanned location. As a result, many people will try alternatives such as using a magnet (to find the drywall screws or steel stud) or tapping a finish nail through the wall to see if there is a stud underneath. Others, like the narrator of the title text, will give up. Assuming there was no electrostatic interference, a stud finder going off randomly would indicate lots and lots of studs at random places that change position.


[Black Hat sits on a couch, reading a book. Cueball is approaching him from behind the couch holding a picture in a frame, a screwdriver, and some screws.]
Cueball: Have you seen my stud finder? I've looked everywhere.
Black Hat: It sounds like you may be interested in my new product, a—
Cueball: Shut up.

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In most of the U.S. local building codes specify 16 inches (about 41 cm) center-to-center as the standard distance between wooden studs.wknehans 15:22, 18 September 2012 (UTC)

Could Black Hat probably have fixed Cueball's stud finder so that it always showed studs everywhere? Guru-45 (talk) 15:23, 21 November 2012 (UTC)

Well, I think it's Randall who's talking in the alt-text. --Jimmy C (talk) 17:43, 18 December 2012 (UTC)

I thought Black Hat was about to say he had a "stud" for sale. Which can be taken in one of several ways... 21:34, 10 November 2013 (UTC)

I've always taken this as Black Hat doing in real life what obnoxious advertisers do on the Internet. Which is to say, take key words out of things you type (like your email or a search box) and advertise at you based on that. Black Hat pounced on the word "stud" and Lord only knows what products might be advertised at you based on that word, especially out of the twisted mind of BH, and Cueball is smart enough to head that one off at the pass. 23:50, 22 November 2013 (UTC)

Note to all: stud-finder-finder is obviously and completely correct. 20:39, 21 January 2014 (UTC)

I concur. Although there are obviously many other references to the words Stud, then by saying he has a product that will interest a guy that is already looking for his own stud finder, it would not make much sense that the product should not be for finding the stud finder. (And not for finding studs etc.) --Kynde (talk) 15:43, 8 April 2017 (UTC)

At first, I thought Cueball was referring to rats in his walls in the title text. 20:40, 8 April 2016 (UTC)

It's a little bizarre that Cueball appears to want a stud finder to hang a picture. That's…mostly impractical and more trouble than it's worth. (Also, most people who hang pictures don't have stud finders, I claim.) A picture is one of the lightest things you can mount to a wall, it's normal to use a drywall anchor (of various types) or even forgo the anchor and use a picture-frame hanging hook (cf. https://www.thisoldhouse.com/ideas/choosing-proper-fastener). I'm not sure if Randall is just taking a shortcut here to come up with something that you could plausibly use a stud finder for, even though normally you would not, because illustrating, e.g., a bookshelf might be harder? Or perhaps he actually uses stud finders to hang pictures, which would be an example of overkill (Should there be a Category, like "tangential overkill"? It could include this comic, 952, as well as 1384: Krypton and 804: Pumpkin Carving). Or maybe something else? It's hard to know what is meant ironically, and thus hard to know what to put in the commentary. JohnHawkinson (talk) 22:46, 10 June 2017 (UTC)