Chalk line

Chalk line tool.

A chalk line or chalk box is a tool for marking long, straight lines on relatively flat surfaces, much farther than is practical by hand or with a straightedge.

It is an important tool in construction and carpentry, the working of timber in a rough and unplaned state, as it does not require the timber to have a straight or squared edge formed onto it beforehand.



Blue chalk line on concrete walls as level reference.

Chalk lines have been in use since ancient Egypt, and used continuously by builders in various cultures since.

Continuing development of this simple but effective tool focuses on the coloration for the chalk or marking compound,[1] as well as the outer case and method of handling.[2]


A chalk line draws straight lines by the action of a taut nylon or similar string. Specifically, the string (previously impregnated or coated with a loose dye such as chalk) is laid across the surface to be marked and pulled tight. The string is then plucked or snapped sharply to cause the string to strike the surface, leaving a straight line. The primary problems associated with improper maintenance of a chalk line are string breakage due to excessive tension on the line, and degradation of the line associated with moisture contamination.[3]

Chalk lines and plumb-bobs are often sold as a single tool.[4]

Ink lines

Sumitsubo and bamboo marking pens

In Japan, an ink line is used in preference to a chalk line. This is a silken cord, stored on a combined reel and inkpot called a sumitsubo. Alongside the line reel is a cavity filled with ink-soaked cotton fibres, which the line is drawn through as it is unreeled. These sumitsubo are highly decorated and much-prized by their owners.[5] As with many such tools, they're often made by their users while apprentices.[6]

On the completion of a major building, such as a temple, a large celebration or topping-out ceremony is held. As part of this event, a set of symbolic carpenter's tools are freshly made and presented to the new building. A sumitsubo is a traditional tool included with them.[7]


See also

  • Measuring tape

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • chalk line — (ch[add]k l[imac]n ), n. 1. a string impregnated with powdered chalk, used in construction to mark a straight line on a surface, such as a wall. The string is held taut on the surface between the two end points of the line to be made, the center… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Chalk line — Chalk Chalk (ch[add]k), n. [AS. cealc lime, from L. calx limestone. See {Calz}, and {Cawk}.] 1. (Min.) A soft, earthy substance, of a white, grayish, or yellowish white color, consisting of calcium carbonate, and having the same composition as… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • chalk line — Building Trades. 1. a chalked string for making a straight line on a large surface, as a wall, by holding the string taut against the surface and snapping it to transfer the chalk. 2. the line so made. [1400 50; late ME] * * * …   Universalium

  • chalk line — noun A line made on a surface by snapping a taut string or cord dusted with colored chalk …   Wiktionary

  • chalk-line — /ˈtʃɔk laɪn/ (say chawk luyn) noun a length of cord dusted with chalk used by bricklayers, etc., to mark levels for new work …   Australian English dictionary

  • chalk line — noun a chalked string used in the building trades to make a straight line on a vertical surface • Syn: ↑snap line, ↑snapline • Hypernyms: ↑string, ↑twine …   Useful english dictionary

  • chalk-line — …   Useful english dictionary

  • Chalk Line Walk — Der Cakewalk ist ein Gesellschaftstanz, der um 1850 entstand und zunächst Chalk Line Walk (englisch für „Kreideliniengang“) genannt wurde. Von 1895 bis 1905 wurde der Tanz dann auf der Grundlage von Ragtime Musik als Cakewalk zum bekannten… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • walk\ the\ chalk\ line — • walk the chalk • walk the chalk line • walk the chalk mark To act exactly as you are supposed to; behave properly; obey. That new teacher really makes the students walk the chalk. In some classes the students play and talk, but Mr. Parker makes …   Словарь американских идиом

  • walk the chalk line — phrasal or walk the chalk mark or walk chalk also walk a chalk line : to behave in a strictly disciplined or obedient way : conduct oneself without deviation from propriety …   Useful english dictionary

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