Years ago when I was just learning the joy and challenge of DIY home improvement projects and long before we could watch others have DIY train wrecks on cable television, I decided to wallpaper my bathroom.
I have a pretty good eye. That is, I can “eyeball” relative straightness with an accuracy within a more than tolerable visual range of acceptability. In other words — words that make sense — I can hang stuff pretty straight without using levels and rulers.
But wall paper is a far different medium than small framed pictures. I hung the first piece and got all the air bubbles out and felt quite proud of myself. I hung the next…and the next.
By that third strip, it was beginning to be apparent that the wall was horrible crooked. By the time I got to the corner, I was shocked that the house was still standing since the walls were obviously not at all build properly.
And then I had to admit that it was not so much the walls as it was my wall paper hanging. What had been an imperceptible deviation from straight on the first sheet grew exponentially with each subsequent sheet until the un-straightness was apparent to even a undecerning eye.
That is the day I was introduced to a tool I’d seen but never valued: the plumb line.
A simple tool consisting of a weight and a string, used properly, can be the difference not only of things like well-hung wall paper but of straight walls and walkways. This vertical reference has been used since the time of ancient Egypt to ensure that constructions are “plumb” or vertically straight.