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Using a chalk line allows you to draw a straight line with only one pluck. See more pictures of hand tools.

Drawing a long, straight line on a wall or other large flat surface can be difficult. You need a straight edge that may be many feet in length. Fortunately, you can use a chalk line to do the job easily.

What a Chalk Line Does

A chalk line, chalk reel, or chalk box is a metal or plastic case with powdered chalk and an 18- to 50-foot string line inside. A hook ring is on the outside at the end of the string. A rewind crank is located on the side of the tool to wind the line into the case when the job is done. The case typically has one pointed end so that it also can be used as a plumb bob.

How to Safely Use a Chalk Line

To draw a straight line on a wall, such as when installing wallpaper, gently shake the tool to distribute the chalk evenly inside the case. Fasten the hook ring at the top of the wall and pull the case down to withdraw the line from the case, being careful to not let the chalk-covered line touch the wall yet. Place the line over the second mark on the wall, pull the line tight, then pull the line away from the wall and let it snap against the wall to deposit a chalk line, called "snapping a line."

Alternately, the chalk line case can be used as a plumb bob. Suspend the case from the hook ring and extend the line to identify a point on the wall directly below the hook ring.

How to Maintain a Chalk Line

Excess tension on the string can break it. However, the most common problem with chalk lines is that the dry chalk inside is damaged by moisture. Hardware stores sell boxes of replacement chalk powder in white, red, or blue.

Tools Related to the Chalk Line

Other handy leveling and marking devices include the square, straight edge, level, and carpenter's pencil.

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