Data Collection / Surveying Basics / Turner: Surveyor's Footsteps

Surveyors can grow by planting their own marks like MAG nails

April 5, 2014
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The story goes that Johnny Appleseed gathered the apple seeds from the cider press and traveled America planting apple trees along the way. While taking family walks, my wife and I might turn to the kids and point out a wild apple tree and exclaim, “That must be one of Johnny’s apple trees.”

I’ve been surveying the southeast Pennsylvania region for the past 36 years, and I have seen a lot of monumentation. There are pins of various sizes, spikes, the old PK nails, the newer MAG nails, concrete monuments and stone monuments to name a few. I don’t think these are unique to this area and have personally seen them in other states. Much of the surveying profession has to do with finding, recognizing and locating existing monumentation. Then perhaps later we revisit the site and set new monumentation.

When I am starting the field portion of a survey, I begin looking for all the usual suspects in the usual places. I still listen for railroad spikes and PK nails and will dig them up and locate them. When I find a stone or concrete marker, I assume for the moment that there is at least one more of its kind on the site somewhere. It makes sense that if there is one on the right of way at one side of the tract, someone would have set another at the other side. Or, if the right rear has a stone, the left rear probably had a stone set too. I believe it’s easier to find monumentation at the initial visit than to calculate and return to the site to find a stone a half a foot away and then need to rethink, recalculate and try again. We know “surveying is not an exact science.”

When I find a concrete monument, I will use my metal locator to assess if there is any metal in the marker. This way, I know what I could expect at another corner. To my knowledge, there are no concrete or marble locator units presently on the market, or plans to developing one.


Therefore, I put forth the suggestion that field crews who find a non-ferrous marker take a moment and place either a small magnet, short steel pin or a MAG nail alongside these very important, often old, property markers. Push the magnetic object down so that the next surveyor will find the point you found. Putting too large a ferrous object might convince a surveyor that it is too strong a signal. Putting too small or nothing will be too little a signal. Putting a MAG nail could be just right. Besides the signal strength, they are fairly easy to carry a few in the pocket to be placed when locating the marker in the field surveying process. Push them a few inches below the surface next to the monument/stone and the next surveyor will thank you for the effort, and if you stay surveying in the area for 36 years, you might actually be making your own life easier in the process.

I would add a thought which may be of help to some–when you make your judgments and decisions on where you will set your markers, it would be in your best interests to blaze a trail so any who follow will quickly arrive at your conclusions. You will possibly avoid conflicts and unwanted unnecessary explanations and phone calls.

 We might be known for having to occasionally take a machete to an apple or other tree but amongst ourselves we could be known for planting "MAGS" to grow our solidarity.  

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