952: Stud Finder
Title text: According to every stud finder I've tried to use, my walls contain a rapidly shifting network of hundreds and hundreds of studs.
It sounds like you may be interested in my new product, a— stud finder finder.
In the comic, Cueball cannot locate his stud finder, so Black Hat begins a sales pitch for a "stud finder" finder. The joke is in the irony of having to find something that is used to find other things. Cueball interrupts Black Hat before he can make the obvious joke. (The same comic technique is used later in 1059: Bel-Air.) Currently no product exists that will locate a stud finder, but online review compilations are useful for finding the right stud finder to buy.
Studs are vertical wood members in wood-framed construction common in North America (though recently, steel framing has become a popular alternative to wood.) These supports reinforce a wall at regular intervals (18 inches, about half a meter, being typical) and at corners, windows, and doors.
A stud finder, using an electrostatic field that is affected by the densities and types of materials in the vicinity (wood or steel vs either empty space or relatively low-density insulation) identifies where studs and other significant framing elements are located. One would need to know the locations of studs within a wall for installing wiring, mounting shelves, or in this comic, hanging a picture. Wiring can be inserted between studs behind the drywall, while shelves, pictures, etc. are better affixed to studs.
Most stud finders have a light that turns on in conjunction with a beep when a higher density is detected, indicating the edge of a stud. There are circumstances that can fool stud finders. Most are designed for the drywall-over-wood-framing construction, and would be fooled by older plaster and lath construction (where the density is much more uniform throughout the length of the wall.) Lower quality stud finders can be fooled by things like moisture in the drywall, or wiring within the wall cavity, and may thus beep when there is not a stud immediately behind the scanned location. As a result, many people will try alternatives such as using a magnet (to find the drywall screws or steel stud) or tapping a finish nail through the wall to see if there is a stud underneath. Others, like the narrator of the title-text, will give up. Assuming there was no electrostatic interference, a stud finder going off randomly would indicate lots and lots of studs at random places that change position.
- [Black Hat sits on a couch, reading a book. Cueball is approaching him from behind the couch holding a picture in a frame, a screwdriver, and some screws.]
- Cueball: Have you seen my stud finder? I've looked everywhere.
- Black Hat: It sounds like you may be interested in my new product, a—
- Cueball: Shut up.