Surveyor’s Equipment 101: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Clinometers

Clinometers are used by many different professionals, such as scientists, engineers and surveyors. This instrument is typically used during field work and will enable the user to measure various angles. A prime example of how clinometers are used in the field of engineering is to survey land, check certain calculations, such as the height of a tree or the gradient of a slope. Clinometers can be used for many different reasons, although they will all provide certain data and measurements that can be used by many different professionals.

Different Types of Clinometers

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There are many different styles and scales of clinometers and they will vary depending on exactly what they will be used for. There are two extremely popular models, which are most commonly used in forestry when calculating heights and distances of trees. The instrument will provide readings based on distance from where the operator is standing to the end or tip of another object, such as a tree.


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Clinometers which are used by engineers and numerous other professionals will use a set standard of formulas in order to calculate various angles. Using the tree example again, a professional can position themselves a certain distance from a tree and then calculate the height percentage multiplied by the horizontal baseline distance; which will then tell them the exact height of the tree. However, this will require the operator to be distanced in the right position from the tree and make notes of the figures provided for the trunk and indeed the tree top.


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The use of clinometers has become extremely important for foresters and the work that they complete. Foresters most commonly use clinometers to calculate the height of a tree, as well as data about the overall volume. This information can then be converted into data which will allow the forester to determine how healthy the tree is, how well it is growing, as well as helping to monitor and gather information about other wildlife and plants within the vicinity.

How to Use Clinometers

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In order to use a clinometer, you will typically need to hold it in one hand while you look through the lens with one eye. This will allow you to view whether a certain object is at the optimal baseline distance. The lens of the clinometer will then display data in scalar format, although you should be aware that these readings will only be accurate if the clinometer is the right way up.

Things to Consider

A very common condition that many people suffer from is heterophoria, which means that the axes of a person’s eyes do not focus in a parallel manner and therefore the direction in which the eyes point are not consistent with each other. Therefore, this will require a person to ensure that one eye is closed whilst they are taking measurements to ensure that the data they record is completely accurate. Heterophoria will only occur in individuals when both eyes are not being used to view the same thing and therefore this can be overcome by simply closing one eye while you are using a clinometer.

Today’s guest author, Jenny Wadlow, is associated with Jac Surveyors, a company providing precise and efficient project surveys across Melbourne. Her hobbies include stitching and knitting. You can follow her on Twitter @JennyWadlow.

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