Monday, May 20, 2019

Curved Walls Made Easy w/TOOL's • Sola Inclinometer - Milwaukee Pocket Level

Myersville 2019 Project curved retaining walls

In this blog I'm going to share with you a tool which has helped me build curved walls (dry laid stone). Along with a simple and affordable alternative.

To start I just wanted to share my story of my first real curved wall build. It all started in 2010 on a DSC project located in Baltimore City Maryland at Wyman Park Dell. Neil Rippingale was running the project and was off site when I started my first section on the project with a curve not by choice. This was where I was in the production line up. Only having my level 1 DSC/DSWA I was very green. Well I don't think I felt like that - but it was the god's honest truth - I didn't have a clue. I started my build of a 24" high x 4' long section. Before I got more then half way up the other team leaders stopped me! They highly suggested I rebuild the section before Neil made it back. In English that would really mean Dude that section is pathetic, chop, chop strip it down and rebuild it before Neil asks you too.  LOL Ok maybe not that bad but it was BAD! 

Most wallers building curved walls by either setting up wall frames such as rebar or wooden frames in random places throughout the curve. For years this was how I did it (as seen below). It gives you a reference but also blocks you line of site. I often found I got hard lines behind the frames without smooth transitions around the frames. Hard to explain except for those who have experienced this first hand. You get it! 

Related blog:  How - To Wall Frames

In 2015 my walling friend Kim Coggin told me about this tool called a Sola Inclinometer. Which she learned from another waller Michael Murphy. Her exact words were "You need to buy one of these!" Sure ya why and what does it do? Well I trust Kim and Michael so I did just that bought one. 2015 I used this for the very first time on a 32" - 72" curved retaining wall. The first thing you have to do is set it to your wall frame to get the correct angle with the bubble. Then lock it in place. As seen in second photo up both are set at a 1:6 batter.

Now curves can be a mind game when you first start walling. I had a very hard time trusting this tool was correct - then again the bubble never lies! The other issue I had was getting the hang of reading it. Since I was not use to a vertical angled level. Not sure which mind game was harder building the curve or trusting the Inclinometer. When I got the wall done I was amazed how smooth everything looked - WOW game changer! From that day forward this is what I use. One important thing to keep in mind if you have stones that have bull noses or stick out this can often throw of your wall angle. Always be sure to keep you stones IE behind the string line. In this case the imaginary batter you have set for the wall. 

Now the model I bought was the Sola Inclinometer APN 60 T which has been replaced with the Sola Magnetic Analog Inclinometer w/Carry Bag - NAM 50. Prices range from $99-$150+ if you can find one! I would suggest trying both part #'s to see what pops up in search engines. If this is the way you want to go for a tool. The total height is only 2ft. When I'm building taller sections I place this on a 4ft or 6ft level set on the wall to be sure everything is correct. 

my DSWA Level 3A untimed test requirement. 

Accurate, adjustable angular dimensions
Better, faster and more accurate reading through the patented SOLA FOCUS vials
Break-resistant acrylic block-vial with a tightness guarantee of 30 years
Measured values of circular scale:
1. Angular degrees 4 x 90°
2. Gradients 0 – 100%
3. Inclination ratios
Shock-absorbing end caps

Horizontal measurement
Vertical measurement
Angle/inclination measurement"


BUT-WAIT!!! I'm going to share a $$ saving tip below! 

With the love of the Sola and my passion to to help others. I realized that the New Sola Magnetic model didn't make any sense at that CRAZY PRICE!!

I began my quest to find an affordable solution for others to get the same results for less the $30 bucks.  In my travels I spotted the Milwaukee "4" Magnetic Pocket Level"Model # 48-22-5102 @ Home Depot for $20. The next thing I purchased was 36 in. x 1 in. x 1/16 in. Steel Square Tube $11. You can attach it to just about anything which is straight even a level. The other cool thing is it really will fit in your pocket. Last amazing benefit - it won't hurt your wallet. You can use it for just about anything. While you can't read the numbers as easy as the Sola. It really doesn't matter, you only need to set the bubble to your wall frame. Voila - Easy Peasy! 

"The Milwaukee® Pocket Level offer users a compact, yet heavy duty alternative to current protractors and angle finders, while also functioning as a traditional pocket level for quick checks. Amplified Rare Earth Magnet Technology utilizes magnetic circuits to redirect and focus the magnetic field for industry-leading holding power. Providing functionality similar to a protractor, a Locking 360° Adjustable Vial secures the vial in place so users can identify and repeat any angle needed. A locking screw protects the accuracy of the vial whether it’s taken in and out of pockets or pouches. SHARPSITE™ Vial Technology magnifies the bubble so it’s easier to read, and the vial is engineered with high-impact acrylic for ultimate durability that will protect accuracy over the life of the level."


my DSWA Level 3A untimed test requirement.

Something else both can be used for is determining a grade/slope. All you would need to do is grab a 6' level or something else long and straight. Place the level on it and adjust the bubble then read the #. For example I needed to build my DSWA Level 3 features on a 20 degree slope (seen above). The hill I found actually turned out to be 25. After learning how to do it the right way with measurements and math.....etc.  I was able to come up with the same answer much quicker without doing a lot of work under 2 mins. Now this is only really works for short distances but it does give you a good starting point.

After reading this blog I'm sure you now have a better understand how I build curved walls and the tools that assist me day to day. I'm sure these tools can be used in many applications. Walling is the one I know the best. 

Myersville 2019 Project curved retaining walls
Thank you for reading my blog I hope either tool offers years of joy walling. Please be sure to put in the comments below what you use or how you like to build curved walls. 
Mark J-

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