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Not a Surveyor

I now have a Nikon 5M total station and a Trimble Nomad loaded with SurvCE, FieldGenius, and Survey Pro.

I have tested the Nomad and Total station and so far so good. Everything is operational via Bluetooth or wired.

My next mission is to learn how to use this stuff. I am building a house and putting in a new driveway and maybe some fencing, and outbuildings etc. on ~19 acres. This land is not cleared or perfectly flat, so getting straight shots from corner to corner where the markers are is not really feasible. I might be able to see from SW peg to NW peg. 

I have already paid for a professional licensed survey which I have registered with the county, but now I want to do a lot of measuring for myself as I work through this project the next year or two.

I am attaching a picture of the survey with the personal info omitted to make this easier for everyone to visualize. I also attached a rough topo from the net and a picture that shows the foliage I am dealing with and the SW peg location. 

My first issue is.....how do I find true north once I set my total station over the SW peg that is located 20.00' east of the corner as noted? Or is there a better method to do this?

It looks like I could set up over the SW peg and then shoot up to the NW peg and call that N 0 degrees, but how accurate will I be and how accurate will those pegs really be? It says 20.00' from corner on both of them , but I do wonder if they are really that darn perfectly located.

I need to shoot down that south property line from this location to eventually get it pegged out for a fence line and to measure off of to figure out where to clear the land for the house placement. Of course I am sure if I figure out how to do it, I can set the station up on the property and shoot down to the corner and then shoot locations over the South property line. The surveyor did this for me and gave me a couple pegs up the line, but not far enough up to measure off of for the house location.

I cannot see from corner to corner because the hill peaks near the middle and it is pretty grown up. However, I am willing to clear out a little, but I need to shoot a line to know what needs cleared. Once I had 0 degrees set, it would be a simple matter of turning the station to the bearing shown on the survey....right?

I am having a hard time looking on the net and finding a good answer on finding true north. I found a couple things saying to use a GPS system, a solar filter to look at the sun, or a couple old methods with other equipment I don't have....so I am not really sure what to do or what I might need to buy. I looked at GPS stuff on eBay just a little, but have no clue what pieces I would need to buy.

Feel free to ask me any questions I have not covered that might help, or send me links. I am willing to read, I just need a place to start and a little help.


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  •  Hi John,

     Survey Bearing are base on what the surveyor used. A lot of old bearings are still base on the original survey even those where a compass was used. We are bound by the foot steps of the first surveyors in some cases.What ever your surveyor used should be indicated on your survey. Bases for Bearings.If plat bearings where used or Deed or calls or if Re-plat or New it should be shown for those in the future,even the old or originals are good to indicate.Not all states use Sections some use Metes and Bounds which we borrowed from England. PLSS (Public Lands Survey System) uses sections. Texas, not one of the first 13 States,uses Metes and Bounds plus mixed with its own system like PLSS.plus it has a lot of old Spanish land Deeds.No you used the Bearings on your survey of your property. Finding north could be a fun project for you in the future.Do not look at the Sun without a filter for your TS, eye damage and TS damage can occur. When you work do not accidentally point the TS toward the Sun. A filter is great for a eclipse,but they are not cheap, and finding Polaris in the day is possible without one,

    but I still have not done this. Looking forward to do this someday. have only done it at night.

    Send me a Associate request my page does not have one,then we can contact each other better.

    This way I can email you at LSU email.

    • Not a Surveyor

      Request sent. It was unresponsive to clicking the option to add a personal message to the request..

      •  Hi John, 

        The same here, I went to your page and tried same results. I will find out how to fix this.


  • Hi John, 

    All This depends if you can see between those points 1 and 2. You can set up on either if you can see better from pt.2 just reverse everything. I have not used your other two programs maybe other can help you there. I have a older ver. of Survey Pro , but yours should work no problem or even better. Back to finding North,lets call it that. I even use the term True north and you will find description of it in many text and books. If there was a True north it would be Geodetic or Astronomic, both pass through geographic north and are very close to each other only a few seconds apart.

     Magnetic North is always changing. Declinations of a compass depends where you are at and what year it is, and a lot more other variables . Grid norths is a map projection systems along grid lines used today  like GPS and older times before GPS. Plan north is North used on a set of plans or drawings for that project only. Finding True North as some say is what North you need. Finding True North  Geodetic or in this case Astronomic  with a Total Station is  a lost Art today, only practice by a few Surveyors. Mainly to

    or may be needed with GPS Information. This is called a Star (Polaris) or a Sun (Sun) shot.


    • Not a Surveyor

      Yeah. I get what your saying. I did spend some time reading about how sections are divided up and how things are compensated for base on sections getting smaller as you go north, the curve of the earth, how the errors are factored across the townships, sections lines vs true north etc. I finally had to stop reading about it. Too much info for what I am trying to do.

      For someone that spends more time designing mechanical and electrical stuff out to the 10 thousandths of of an inch with zero error in the actual drawings to deal with, this world of surveying imperfection can be a little hard on the OCD :). I am used to adding the tolerances after the design rather than drawing with the imperfections accounted for...

      I think all of that is going to get beyond what I actually need to be focusing on for my current task as far as finding north goes. I am going to follow your advice working off my existing survey when I can get back to it....

  • Hi  John, 

     I worked up a sketch,like field notes for you to look at. I will attach it as PDF. This way  its small and easy to carry. That o/s line was parallel, it is still North the distance is different. You will find different Terminology used it varies it depends on the surveyor and what area you are in. Those 2 IRFC should be good to start your survey.Survey Pro is the program I would use. I have used it. it should have all cogo menus you need.  Start looking through it.

     Your manual should show how to start a job file,edit or store coordinates then how to calculated with points and directions program to calculate with. I do not judge surveyors on what they did or did not do.

    Points in asphalt get overlay that may be the reason he did not set points in the road. they do make PK nails to set in asphalt but that up to the surveyor. But here is the coordinates I used and the point #'s.

    Start where  I did and see if you can calculate or come up with the same. Decimals  at Fix 4 (0.0000)

    in the DC. You have just begun.

    1.North 5000.0000.......East 7000.0000

    2.North 5618.5000.......East 7000.0005

    3.North 4987.7229.......East 8304.6122

    4.North 5610.7667.......East 8308.5177

    5.North 5616.2536.......East 7380.1139

    6.North 5618.6182.......East 6980.0009

    7.North 5000.1882.......East 6980.0009

    8.North 5008.3542.......East 6294.2195

    51. North 5000.0000.....East 7000.0000 same as one, before I told you to use 50, instead use 51. occupy 51 Back site 2 solve then do Back site check then go to Side shots and shoot pt 2 make sure your TS is set on Zero on all these shots. this shot will be stored as PT. 52. 

    Now you can Inverse 2 and 52 and 51 to 52 your Bearing should be North.

    • Not a Surveyor

      This is great. Thank you.

      It may take me a little while to do this, but I will report back once I do, or if I run into questions.

      I will try to read through my TS station manual more and also read through the Survey Pro manual which I have downloaded. When I am at home with some time I will go through this with the DC and give it a shot.

      I am still working on designing the house and deciding placement etc. which is holding up the whole project and taking most of my time (that I am not at work or commuting). I am trying to keep the survey learning going in the background too so that won't hang me up as long when the time comes to start laying stuff out for work to start. 

  • Hi John,

    Sorry I well write everything out. A DC is a Data Collector.And yes you are correct about the two points. I Have to take my wife to the Hospital today for her appointment . It will take all day. I really did not spend much time looking at your survey,when I get the time tonight I will work all the math up ,no big deal. 

    Yes you can trust those points they are Iron Rods Set Capped (IRSC) In your case they are IRFC or FIRC Iron Rod Found Capped or. He used SIRC Set Iron Rod Capped. What is the reason for this  

    20 ft.o/s ( Off/Set) is that a road ,what is this strip. With out having the complete Plat or survey I am not getting to see everything. Have you created a job  in your  DC, do you know how to store coordinates

    in it or how to calculate a survey in it yet. I have never used a Nomad but all DC work very similar .

    You do not need a special program to do this just cogo,there should be a screen with a program

    similar to Point and Direction you give it a point number then a Bearing and a Distance then solve.

    This can be found in your Menu's and sub menu's. That is good DC. I know you are new to this

    and yes this can be done with the HP 50 G with SGS Cogo. I will use it and my DC.

    Got to go now.

    • Not a Surveyor

      “A DC is a Data Collector”

      Ahh yes, I should have put Data Collector with DC. That was ignorance on my part… It did not click right away because I have been referring to it as Nomad. I googled DC survey and the first thing that came up was desk calculator.

      “He used SIRC Set Iron Rod Capped. What is the reason for this”
      I am not sure why he used this term. Should he have used IRSC as a better standard term? I am pretty sure there was no rod at the SW corner before the survey. I believe he set that one. Before the survey I got all the info from the county and they had no record of a marker there. He may or may not have found the NW rod. The county indicated there was one there from a previous survey of the property to the north not that long ago. Both pegs have a yellow cap. I cannot tell if one was already there or he re-set it.  Should his drawing have indicated if it was a found rod or if he set it himself using different annotation? Or…maybe he just put a new yellow cap on the NW one, if it did not have one...

      “20 ft.o/s ( Off/Set) is that a road ,what is this strip.”

      Yes that is a paved county road. This was gravel up until about 8-10 years ago give or take.


      To answer your other questions, I have not used my DC to store any points, or really done much with it yet. The only thing I have done is verify that it works with my TS via Bluetooth or wired. I have turned the laser on and off remotely and taken some “shots” just to make sure they talk. I would not say I know what I am doing yet.

      I am not sure if there is anything in my data collector as far as a stand alone COGO only program or calculator.

      I do have 3 pieces of software to choose from and I did set them up with and verify they all talk to the total station.  

      I have Carlson SurvCE V3, Fieldgenius V7, & Survey Pro 5.3.

      I am not sure which one I should be using/learning first?

      Should I be doing my “COGO” work within one of those or would you expect me to find something else in the DC more basic? Narrowing it down will help me focus on learning one of these to start with, then I am sure the usefulness of the others will come to light once I know more.

      Feel free to just “assign” me a specific homework task each step of the way as we go along. I want to learn what I am doing. I am happy to do all the work or calculations (might have a lot of questions along the way).

  •  Hi John,  In the interest of teaching you or other students of surveying, lets try to start.

    You do not need to know where 0 Deg geodetic or (astronomic) North is. You need to use the bearings

    between your points on your new survey done by a license surveyor. He has already determined the directions on your survey. That is the one's you need to use  on your property.  Next in your DC,calculate

    the coordinates around your property,plus the two 20 ft. o/s that are IRSC at the SW and NW cor. You said you may be able to see between them. They are 618.43 ft. apart with a bearing of  North 0°-00'-00". You can use uneven coordinates if you like,5000 north and 7000 east on point #1 POB cal.. as the SW cor 20 ft. o/s , IRSC, Pt 2 the IRSC 20 ft o/s NW cor.  I see 6 more points you can calculate. If you like to save more numbers for cal. then next jump to 50 and store the same coordinates as you put on pt 1. the 5000 N and the 7000 E so 1 and 50 are the same pt.Inverse them to be sure. next solve BS 50 to 2 and do BS check gun zeroed  then go to side shots and  shoot pt 2 with Next # 51 gun zeroed and store it. Know check by Inverse 2 to 51,  the difference will be small,then check 50 to 51 ,the Bearing North and a distance close to 618.43 ft. make sure the bearing is the same as 1 to 2, North. This will get you started.

    It's always best to check to another pt. Me I would complete to a close traverse to at less 3 known points. But this will let you point stake the SE cor which is a stone in the future . If you can tie it you will know more about adjusting your survey, since the distance to it is 1324.67 ft. If you can not see between Pt1 and PT2 You have to do other options. Like Resection or  assume traverse. Your first calculated numbers will be 1 to 49 ,50 you will occupy pt 1, 51 will be shot  cal 2. etc. this will kept your cal #'s separate of you shot #'s without using a control file. John there is no such thing as True North, they are all True but that is another Discussion.

     Geodetic, (astronomic) ,Magnetic and Grid .

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