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.


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"Another question for the older group or to ponder. Do you remember or have you ever thrown or seen a "doubled thrown chain?""


yes sir...  i witnessed my boss Jim Stacy OK PLS do it, i was unable to do it...



When I began surveying with a seasoned veteran (a real veteran in every sense of the word, a U.S. Marine who was drafted to serve in Viet Nam) he asked me if I learned how to "throw a chain" in college.  I said "what"?  Nevermind, i'll show you, he said.  I was expecting him to reach into the truck and produce a chain that he would throw.  He removed a steel tape, not a chain at all, and did not throw it anywhere, rather, he coiled it as a fly-fisherman may do with his line.  Naturally, I asked him "if there is no chain and there is no throwing involved, why do you call it throwing a chain"?  The reply was unpleasant at best, but I did learn how to do it quite well by the end of the day. 

Interesting to read your experience. I have another story,  I entered college several years after I had started surveying. This is a story of my encounter with a college surveying professor.

The instructor "let the chain out" , then "did it up" and ask the class to "throw it". After several of the class members had made their attempts, I "double throwed" the chain. Needless to say, I was considered a "smart alex" by the teacher.


I have other tales (true stories) all for another day.




I will be eagerly awaiting the "rest of the story". :-)

I have actually used a steel tape "chain" to MAKE MONEY !!!  They still work if you know how to use them. Once you learn to "throw" a chain you never forget. I only learned the "double throw" method........thought that was the finished product. I'm one of the last Mohicans. I came in just as technology did. We used an old hayes 41 with no data collection. Boy were those the good ole days!!

Thanks for your interest. I am not so sure of "the good ole days". Depends on your point of view! I have been in the business since 1957 and we have had a technology explosion during my lifetime. I have a great respect for the advancements made in the tools available to the modern surveyor.

My concern is "the lack of knowledge" for the fundamentals. The race for personnel and the profit motive has outrun our teaching. Modern or younger surveyors have not learned how to chain, therefore they are unable to teach. This may apply beyond what we would like to believe.



the double chain , that is nothing but today,yes it's a big something,but what is next how to tie a plumb bob knot. lol   but that's another story.


What's a plumb bob? lol

That technology ended with the optical plum-it!

Again "that's another story"- these are great ways to show your age!!!






Yea, Well they get out of adjustment the plumb bob does not lol. But since we are talking about chains and what links they roll up at . How about a vara chain. a vara is 2.78 ft.rd., So a texas vara is 33 and one third inch.'s, so now your going to roll up a chain with that in mine.Since texas did not use the public land system a lot of the records are in vara's and the old surveyors use a vara chain, Texas adjusted the vara so 36 of them would = 100 with that i mine you still have a 100 ft. chain with links of 2.78 ft.It can be done. But who needs a wet cold muddy chain.

The real trick is throwing a chain using one hand.


Yes, to throw the chain with one hand it is best done with a 'well used and limber chain'.

It also requires a strong hand capable of a rapid snap of the wrist.


Billy Brroks reference to the 'Texas Vara' is correct. I have worked in Texas all my life,

the East Texas are for the past 35-40 years. Our counties still have a large number of deeds which use the vara for their  distance. 


The Museum of Measurement and Time has many examples of the 'link chain'. We also have several examples of the 'Texas Vara'. If your ever near the Jefferson, Texas area,. stop by for a visit!

Research I did 20+ years ago revealed at least 20 different lengths for the Spanish Vara (most ranged from 33" to 36").





thanks johnny, i have had a few vara chains in my hand, the last one i clean to put on display for Hugh Peiser PLS a good friend of mine.I was the only person he knew that could roll it up.

No one knows how to roll up a cloth tape and throw it.Maybe that is why they invented


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