Your question about throwing the chain left handed is amusing. If the chain is

"done up" or thrown left handed, it must be "let out" in a reverse manner. The chain, when "done up" must be let out in the reverse of how it was done up, or you will have a tangled mess.The interesting part of this question comes when a right handed person tries to "let out" a chain done up left handed. Bad things happen.


An experienced chainman can tell when the chain is different from when it was "done up" right handed,.The left handed technique was usually done as a prank or to confuse a new chainman who has gotten to be a "know it all"..Of course left handed people sometimes do things which are left handed. 


Another question for the older group or to ponder. Do you remember or have you ever thrown or seen a "doubled thrown chain?" This is a chain done up in lengths (normally 5') and  thrown twice (making the chain into a circle of reduced diameter. This is a more difficult thing to do and is not nornally done often.


Chains were done up in 5' lengths and "thrown" to make the chain easer to store. A chain stored in this manner provides a convenient way to lay the chain back on the ground for measuring at a later time. Of course the reel was also used to store the chain; but, that is another story.


Hope you enjoyed this step back in time.


This Content Originally Published by a land surveyor to Land Surveyors United Network

Views: 3050

See Your Saved Posts Timeline

☇ Reply to this

Replies to This Discussion

also the vara means the distance the Spanish king would step or the kings stride.this should also been used maybe in other Spanish ruled states,FLA.,CAL. does anyone know?

Maybe we should be talking about how to chain and eveything that goes with it. There's more than rolling it up.But maybe i am a dinosaur, but one day i broke out a chain and had no one, on two crews that knew how to help me with it. I told my self this is what it has come when the radios are broke or the data collector batteries die. Time to go back to the office and call it a day.


You are exactly on the money. I worked with a program at Tyler Junior College (TJC has provided a surveying program for over 50 years). Not only did we serve to assist the school to direct their course programs to the needs of industry; but we started a 'Summer Camp' for prospective students.  


This program is 'on going' and has been available for the past 15-20 years. This, 'free' to junior & senior high school students, is a week long event which starts the attendees with instruction on fundimential skills, pacing, measuring with a chain and progreses to the use of all available surveying tools. By the last day exposure has been provided for the basic skills required in the surveying profession.


The school receives a good percentage of their new students from this program. I have ended my activity in the TJC programs due to age & travel distance. The program is continuing and has changed to address the influence and interest of the high school age group.


I have not been in favor to many of these changes because they have eliminated or pass over the fundimental skills of the surveying profession. Most changes were to gain the interest and influence the prospective stundent and not to teach skills eliminated by the advance of technology. The 'school' has been shortened to three days and subjects such as historical instruments and methods eliminated.


Still, the effort is better than the alternative. This 'Summer Camp' idea helped create another activity here in Texas, it is called 'Teachers Retreat'. This program offers high school teachers (such as math & science, etc.), an opportunity to experience the surveying profession. 


But that is another story!



Thanks Johnny. Thanks for your input. I have even seen the usage of a level decline too, We do not use that thing, Or why do we need to use that. I was staking the the storm drain and sewer at one site,because my company had been hired to do the utilities, another company  was the main surveyors. The supt. asked to check his finish floors.I told him you need to call my company before I can do that, he did, and that was worked out .  So I asked him why do you need this was there anything that seem wrong. He told me I just want to make sure the only finish floors were set on the o. s. hubs and they did not set any finish floors nails anywhere. I asked him what did they use, he told me I do not know but I never saw a level or a level rod, and he did not trust the forum builders laser levels.I found this case at many construction sites.What is up with not using a level. Does this make you a lesser surveyor or it not high tech. You have to embrace the new with the old, but this is a two way street, the same goes for the chain and why there are 80 chains in a mile.Why does that say that or I thought they did not use those anymore. they asked.  CALL ME A DINOSAUR feeling will not be hurt, and what happens when the batteries die.

billy b.

More  info on the vara, it also means a rod or a pole ,I have never use it in this context because a rod and a pole is 16.5 ft.? It appears on deeds  in the southern United States and also in California. There it is 33 inches and is still used in Latin America .In  Argentina it is 34.1 inches.and is used to measure lumber also. Texas also used cordels and leagues and labors which are part of the vara system. You may not ever use one ,but old land deeds may have them in the south.


I believe I mentioned the results of research I did 25-30 years ago when I   found at least 20 locations in which the vara had been or currently was in use.  Their lengths varied from 33 to 36 inches. The Texas vara was defined in the early 1900s to be 33 1/3 inches. This definition was by the Texas Legislature and is in force today. 


I have been in the surveying field since 1957; my early period was in West Texas, the past 35 years have been in East Texas, Marion County.was formed in 1861. The majority of recorded deeds in our county used the vara. My tenure of practice did not make a dent in this situation, so most of the remaining recorded deeds remain in their original form.  All resurveys are reported using the standard 'foot'.


The only exception to this method is when "an original survey of state owned lands is submitted to the Texas General Land Office for recording". In these situations the work is submitted by a Licensed State Land Surveyor and all descriptions and maps must be shown in the length of the official Texas 33 1/3 inch vara.


In West Texas,I found the vara, the rod, the pole and the chain all used to describe property. The unit used was evidently the preference of the individual surveyors and the units were not used in an interchangeable manner.


I sometimes combine units from different systems in a resurvey when I need to reference my call for the length of a line to its original distance.  I have never found the terms used interchangeably?? 




Thanks Johnny, In todays  world every thing is about point staking and the history gets lost in the tech world.I had asked if anyone knew other states that had used it,like CAL.or FLA..I once saw this ? on a  PC. test ,where those two states were named.I also knew the bottom half of MS.,ALB,and GA. where once West FLA. under Spanish rule. I did find ref. of it being used in those states, And land west of Texas could also have Spanish Land Deeds records.So it not just Texas surveyors that need to know this history. But this is the first time I ever saw the term rod or pole in ref. to a vara. but the 16.5 ft rod or pole maybe or is a English measurement. like you said you where aware of it and that is why things like this should out front with the teaching and practice of surveying.

Thanks again Johnny for engaging in this topic. I always enjoy your input.

billy b.

MAYBE , We can get Johnny to answer this. A friend of mind asked me what do you do if something is half a vara since it is 2.78 ft. what about it JOHNNY.  My old boss love to talk about a vara chain and  HE WOULD LOVE TO GET IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS.


I'm going to back into this question. Never in my time have I seen the term 'one-half a vara'.

That being said, the term may exist. My approach would be to try and determine the length of the vara in use for the time & location of the reference and apply that length in inches. Convert as necessary!!!

As I mentioned the several locations I found varied between 33 &36 inches.

Now, before I fail from brain overload, I'll stop.


Hi Johnny,

I am new to this "site".  My question is this:  Can you post, or provide an alternative site documenting, the 20 or so definitions of a vara that you found back then [alt defs---a pet peeve of mine].  Also (my stupidity) what "foot" under the Spanish.. system (US Survey??  Not likely).



Hi johnny ,  Don't explode yet, He did not ask me what a half a vara was ,He wanted to know what do you do if the measurement fell in between the vara marks. so i had to explain  how the measurements were at the ends of a vara chain and what they were. Because he had only seen tenths on a 100ft. Eng. chain. I just thought you could explain it better than me  and would have fun doing it.    Sorry for the confusion.

Also i once saw a deed in LA.  with the term ARPENT  i was told that it was french  and it was a square area like a acre of 192+- . Have you ever heard of this.  I can not remember the exact dist. but i know it was close to a 192 ft and for some reason i thought of it when i went to your museum site. ps. Please do not  overload.

             billy.      thanks johnny for your time.


Sorry I misunderstood the question.

You basically are correct, smaller units of the vara are defined in tenths of a vara. When measurements are made with a band chain your example works. Band chains with vara units were made, but uncommon. Most measuring devices which used the vara were of the 'link'chain' type.  Construction of the 'Vara Chain' is similar to the 'Gunter Chain'..We have examples of each type in the museum.

When using the band chain another issue encountered is whether the chain was a 'cut' chain or an 'add' chain!! These chains are different and their use can be confusing until their application is understood. 

You mention the 'ARPENT', it is a French unit and if I recall correctly, it may be used as both a unit of area and a unit of length. I provide this information from memory and it should be researched to confirm. It's length I do not recall, there are similar units in the Spanish System.

Perhaps I should add this type information to the museum website?

Again my brain is on over-load so I will stop.



Where Thousands of Professional Land Surveyors, Students of Surveying and Educators are United through Collaborative Knowledge and Purpose.

Tools,Apps and Quick Guides


Help With Survey Equipment

Social Support For Equipment

Surveying Video Categories

Surveying Photo Categories

United States Hub Forums

International Surveyor Hub Forums

Resources for Company Owners

Land Surveyor Social Media

Surveyor Resources Collections

Getting Started & Newsletter

New Equipment Added Daily

AdirPro GNSS Surveying 220-Degree Wide Angle Prism 720-21 for Topcon and Sokkia

End Date: Wednesday Nov-14-2018 14:14:07 PST
Buy It Now for only: $599.95
Buy It Now | Add to watch list


End Date: Wednesday Nov-14-2018 13:54:21 PST
Buy It Now for only: $7,500.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Nikon total station DTM 332.

End Date: Saturday Nov-10-2018 14:48:32 PST
Buy It Now for only: $1,300.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Trimble TDS Recon 400 Survey Data Collector Total Station GPS Robotics Pro

End Date: Tuesday Oct-16-2018 9:56:48 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $299.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Nikon Dtm-520 Total Station Surveying Instrument SKU 6694

$216.50 (18 Bids)
End Date: Thursday Oct-18-2018 6:32:34 PDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

Surveyor Birthdays

Surveyor Birthdays Today

Surveyor Birthdays Tomorrow

© 2018   © Created by Land Surveyors United   Powered by

Badges  |  Contact LSU  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service