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Theodolites: What you need to get started

Theodolites: What you need to get started

Theodolites: What You Need to Know To Get Started

A theodolite is an optical instrument that uses precise measurements to ascertain the angles between predetermined points on vertical and horizontal planes. These devices are used by land surveyors, construction workers and engineers. If you work in any of these fields, understanding essential pieces of equipment and knowing how they work are integral parts of your job description.

As you first use these instruments, you may find them daunting. Keep reading to learn more about how you set one up in addition to some frequently asked questions regarding their purpose and usage.

Understanding the Steps for Using a Theodolite

Before getting to the questions, you must understand how to set it up. The instructions are as follows:
  1. Mark the point at which you will begin measuring with a nail or surveyor’s stake.
  2. Set up the instrument at eye level. The mounting plate hole needs to be directly over the stake.
  3. Securely drive the legs into the ground for stability.
  4. Mount the theodolite onto the tripod using the mounting knobs to ensure it will not fall off.
  5. Measure the height or distance between the instrument and the ground. Use this as a basis or reference for other instruments.
  6. Level the instrument using the built-in knobs and levels to adjust it.
  7. Calibrate the vertical plummet or small site to ensure it stays over the surveyor’s stake for accuracy.
  8. Aim the integrated crosshairs at the measurement point by adjusting the locking knobs. Operate the viewing scope to record the vertical and horizontal angles.


Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Different Types of Instruments?


There are three types of these precision instruments:
  • A digital theodolite is more commonly used. They are comprised of a base-mounted telescope with an integrated digital screen displaying vertical and horizontal angles.
  • Non-Digital devices are less frequently used and operate without an electronic readout screen.
  • A transit theodolite is similar to the other types and contain an electronic screen. They are shorter than the other two and can rotate and flip over to aid in back-checking and the prevention of errors.
All of the devices operate in the same capacity and will give accurate and consistent results when used correctly. Some are more modern and user-friendly than others.

What Parts Does This Instrument Consist of?

The main components in this high-caliber leveling instrument are:
  • Handle
  • Handle Screw
  • Center Mark and Vertical Plate
  • Objective Lens
  • Telescope Fine Motion
  • Horizontal Clamp
  • Tubular Vial
  • LCD Reader Display
  • Circular Vial
  • Operating Keys
  • Tripod Base Plate
  • Horizontal Fine Motion
  • Targeting Site
  • Focusing Ring
  • Battery Case
  • Eyepiece
  • Telescope Clamp
  • Tribrach Locking Lever
  • Leveling Screw
  • Communication Port
  • Optical Plummet
Due to the need for highly-calibrated manipulations of the instrument, it is necessary for field surveyors and others who rely on this device to understand what its parts are, where they are located, and how they function for precise measuring purposes.

What Are the Advantages of Using a Precision Measuring Instrument?


The primary advantage of using this implement is its ability to produce accurate measurements time and again. This is a requirement in any precision-related field. To further this point, there is never a reason to repeat the measurements as the instruments are considered to be exact.
Other advantages come into play when using a modern digital implement versus an older version. The newer model features a digital or electronic reading display along with an internal magnifying optical system.
The convenience of taking horizontal circle readings on either side of zero virtually eliminates the need to retake a reading. In addition, horizontal circles can be conveniently calibrated to zero or any desired value.

How Do I Care for a Digital Instrument?

Caring for your new instrument is relatively easy to accomplish. There are some simple and common sense rules to follow, including:
  • Always follow the directions to lock the instrument in its carrying case during transport.
  • Keep the device dry of water or other chemicals or dry it immediately.
  • Use caution not to drop it.
  • Keep the battery consistently near full charge.
  • Avoid looking directly into the sun via the telescope.
  • Always handle it properly.

How Does It Measure Distance?

The instrument consists of a telescope that is angled on vertical and horizontal axes thereby measuring both of these angles. They are read from graduated circles that continue to reduce in size for 10 to 20-minute time periods. A micrometer measures on each side of the circle for an exact measurement.

Contact Engineer Supply Today.

Accurate measurements are critical for results when you are in the business of ensuring clear and consistent measurements every time. Seek only the best and most reliable theodolites from a reputable company. The expertise and reliability at Engineer Supply will keep you coming back for all of your surveying needs.
Look to our team to answer any of your questions or guide you on the best instrument to suit your specific type of work. We are here to help you on your path to success. The team at Engineer Supply will treat you like family. We have extensive knowledge of the product to answer all your questions so you can get back to work and achieve precise outcomes with each use. Connect with us today.

Best Theodolites

#1: Topcon Theodolite DT-307L with Laser Pointer


This theodolite integrates the same advanced circle reading technology found in Topcon’s high-performance total stations, so you can do more accurate calculations while you’re out on the field. Topcon continues to include high-quality optics and electronics in all their theodolites, and this particular model can endure any kind of wet or dust condition that you may find while you’re out in the field. This will keep you productive regardless of the surrounding weather. This theodolite also comes with the following accessories:

  • Plumb bob.
  • Tool kit.
  • Lint-free lens cloth.
  • Waterproof protective cover.
  • Hard carrying case.
Be sure to pick yours up at Engineer Supply today!

#2: Leica Digital Electronic Theodolite


This digital theodolite is an economical but sophisticated tool for measuring angles and slopes with a five-second accuracy. It also has a laser plummet for quick and easy setup, a reticle illuminator for a brighter view, as well as many other attractive features.

It’s a great tool for even the most demanding job requirements, and the automatic vertical angle compensator (which can be turned on or off) will make sure you get an accurate reading if the instrument moves out of balance. If the theodolite moves out of the compensation range, it will display a tilt warning in the vertical angle reading space (which can help you to avoid any costly errors).

Both sides of the instrument have back-lit LCD display panels, which will allow you to access functions from either side. And both of them are easy to read, even in low-light conditions. This digital theodolite has a number of other features, which can include:

  • Horizontal angle indicator that can help with faster orientation.
  • Numerous customization options.
  • IP54 Rating for water and dust resistance.
  • NiMH rechargeable battery pack with a charger.
  • AA alkaline battery holder for an additional power option.
If you’re ready to purchase this theodolite, be sure to pick yours up at Engineer Supply.

#3: Futtura 5-Second Digital Theodolite


This theodolite can give you more accuracy at a lower cost than most of the standard models. It comes with a NiCad battery and charger, as well as an alkaline battery pack. It also has two LCD displays that can be used with a large push-button system. It has flexible mounting options with its removable tribrach, and it will fit any standard 5/8” x 11” flat or dome-head tripod.

#4: GeoMax ZIPP02 2-Second Digital Theodolite


With a vertical compensator and a 2-second accuracy, this theodolite will give you the precision you need for even the most demanding jobs. It has a variety of display modes and measurement units. It’s also easy to operate with only six keys, and it comes with a laser plummet so you can make sure it’s set up correctly. When you purchase this digital theodolite, it will come with the following accessories:

  • Hard carrying case.
  • Tribrach.
  • Rechargeable battery.
  • Charger
  • Alkaline battery cassette.
It also has an IP54 Rating for dust and water resistance as well as a 36-hour battery life.

#5: David White DT8-05LS 5-Second Laser Sight Digital Theodolite with Optical Plummet


This theodolite has a laser beam built into the aperture, so it can be easily and accurately aligned. And the simple, push-button functions will give you precise digital readouts on an LCD display. It also has an incremental encoding system with two digital displays and an automatic power shut-off system. The coaxial tangent and clamp screws will make sighting and alignment easier, and it even has an optical plummet for better point centering.

#6: Futtura 10-Second Digital Theodolite


This theodolite uses rechargeable NiCad batteries (charger is included) as well as an alkaline battery pack. The two LCD displays have large displays, which makes it easier to read. This design allows you to get an accurate reading from either side of the machine. The built-in crosshair, display illumination, and simple push-button operation makes it easy to use. And the removable optical plummet (with its ability to fit flat or dome-head tripods) will give you more flexibility.

#7: SitePro 5 Second Digital Theodolite


The incremental encoding detection system and dual digital displays on this theodolite will allow you to get precise readouts that are easy to read, and the 30x telescope will give you a bright wide field. The built-in 3x optical plummet will allow you to set it up quickly and easily. It also has a 5-second vertical and horizontal accuracy, so you can get precise readings in even the most demanding situation. This digital theodolite comes with a variety of other features, including the following:

  • Automatic power shut-off.
  • Optical plummet for centering of point.
  • Coaxial tangent and clamp screws to make sighting and alignment functions easier.
Be sure to pick yours up at Engineer Supply today!

#8: Northwest Instrument 5-Second Digital Theodolite


This theodolite has photoelectric incremental encoding that will make sure you get precise results. The horizontal and vertical measurements are displayed on dual-sided LCD displays. And it has a number of other features, which includes the following:

  • A telescope that features erect imaging.
  • An aperture of 45mm.
  • 30x magnification.
  • 4-second resolving power.
  • Stadia ratio of 1:100.
  • Angle measurement with a minimum accuracy of five seconds at 360 degrees.
If you’re ready to pick up one of the best theodolites for surveying, be sure to pick yours up at Engineer Supply.
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