Home > Maths > Measuring Slopes: Make a Clinometer

Measuring Slopes: Make a Clinometer

By: Suzanne Elvidge BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 24 Aug 2012 |
 
Tree Building Clinometer Declinometer

A clinometer (also known as a declinometer or inclinometer) is used to measure the steepness of a slope, and can be used to work out the heights of tall things, such as buildings or trees.

Making a Clinometer

Take a plastic 180-degree protractor, and make a small hole where the angles meet, at the centre of the straight side. Thread one end of a piece of fishing line (this needs to be about 10 cm longer than the protractor) and tie it on tightly. Tie a large nut, stone or piece of modelling clay to the other end of the fishing line to act as a weight. Tape a drinking straw to the straight edge of the protractor to use as a sight or scope.

Using a Clinometer to Measure a Slope

Find something up a slope that is at about eye height, and then look along the sight (the straw along the straight side of the protractor) at this object. Wait until the weighted line has stopped swinging, and then carefully hold it against the protractor. Read the angle off the protractor (if the numbers are above 90, subtract 90 to get the correct value). It might be easier to get a partner to read the angle on the protractor.

Using a Clinometer to Estimate Heights

Clinometers can also be used to measure the heights of things such as trees (for other methods see ‘How Tall is It? Measure Something Tall Without Climbing It’).

Find an area of flat ground with a tall tree, and plenty of room to walk away from the tree. Look through the clinometer to find the top of the tree, and walk away from the tree in a straight line until the angle on the clinometer reads 45 degrees. The distance between you and the tree is now the same as the distance from the trunk of the tree at eye level to the top of the tree. Measure the distance from the clinometer to the tree – this gives the height of the tree from eye level to the top. Add the height from the ground to the clinometer (eye level) to total an estimate of the height of the tree.

This works because, by walking away from the tree until the clinometer reads 45 degrees, it makes a right-angled triangle (isosceles triangle) between the clinometer, the tree trunk and the top of the tree. The distance along the base of a right-angled triangle is always the same as the height.

Uses of Clinometers

Clinometers are used for many things. People who work in forests use clinometers to measure the heights of trees. Builders and architects use them to measure the heights of buildings.

Clinometers are also used by surveyors to measure the steepness of slopes, or the difference between two slopes.

Other uses include working out latitude (the distance north or south of the Earth’s equator); measuring movement in buildings; monitoring the angles of the booms in cranes; checking the angle of drilling for wells; or showing the pitch and roll of a ship or plane.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Tee
    Re: Vibrations: Seeing and Feeling Sound
    I have just witnessed a fork vibrating so fast on its own on the kitchen top. It made a sound while vibrating as if the…
    24 August 2019
  • simran panaich
    Re: Soap and Detergent Chemistry
    thnx!! It helped me a lot !!! THank YOu so much
    6 June 2019
  • Mar2
    Re: Why Oil and Water Don't Mix
    I am doing this as a demo for homogeneous mixture examples. It really helps, it is interesting, and thank you so much for it!!!
    5 June 2019
  • COOL STUDENT
    Re: Why Oil and Water Don't Mix
    Why does the food coloring mix with the water i did not quite get iy
    31 May 2019
  • EMILY BAKER
    Re: Looking at Soil Profiles
    This thing is stupid. I am a doctor and I know better then you do! I will do something about this website if you don’t change the…
    25 May 2019
  • Alice Picello
    Re: Looking at Soil Profiles
    THIS DIDN’T TEACH ME ANYTHING ON SOIL PROFILES
    25 May 2019
  • Rea
    Re: Making an Emulsion
    I have always wondered about the Earth. My teacher gave us this website to read about why water and oil don't mix. I started looking around on…
    16 May 2019
  • Candytashy
    Re: Looking at Soil Profiles
    Thanks so much for this post .it really helped me .made my homework much easier and l have learnt a lot from this post
    25 March 2019
  • Rajput
    Re: Pulling and Pushing: Magnetic Attraction
    Kya kisi chemical ko copper me mix karne se iron or steel ko push kiya ja sakte hai. Yadi ho to formula batye.
    25 March 2019
  • AT LIFE
    Re: Soap and Detergent Chemistry
    Thanks you so much because you help different students especially science who went be a perfect a part of chemistry
    22 March 2019