The collection
Plumb bob. Conical brass weight with a sharply pointed steel tip.
before 1934

Plumb Bob, Model no. 5724-12 oz.

Designed by
Brass, steel
Produced by
Eugene Dietzgen Co., Chicago, Illinois
14.6 x 3 x 3 cm

The Liliane and David M. Stewart Program for Modern Design, gift of Dr. Michael Sze, 2011.8*

The everyday tools of architects, engineers and builders are often simple utilitarian objects. This ingenious and perfectly symmetrical object has been used since ancient Egypt to the present day to ensure that structures are “plumb,” or perfectly vertical, using a line pulled taut and straight by a weight hanging from its end.

This modern version tapers to a very fine point for precise measurement. The sharp point is reversible: it can be unscrewed, flipped over, and screwed back in with the point safely inside to prevent damage and injuries. The Museum of Modern Art described the beauty of such tools by anonymous designers as “entirely unintentional.”

The Stewart Program for Modern Design, photo: Denis Farley.