Of course I'm talking about the wood framing member found behind your drywall, but you knew that didn't you?
A Good Place to Start
To find your first stud look for a receptacle (electrical outlet) in your wall. The electrical boxes which hold your receptacles are attached directly to a wall stud. You will find a stud located on one side or the other of the receptacle.
Electronic Stud Finder (the best method)
The surest method of stud-finding is the electronic stud finder. This stud finder locates studs by measuring the density of a wall. These units flash a light when a stud is found. By coming toward the stud from both ends, you can find and mark its edges, and then accurately determine its center. After finding the approximate location of your first stud by starting at a receptacle, you can verify its location using the electronic stud finder. The remaining wall studs should be located at 16 or 24 inch intervals along your wall.
No Stud Finder? Try this Simple Method
To determine on which side of the receptacle the stud is located you can drive in a small test nail. You can feel immediately if you have hit wood. Measure 16” or 24” from that location and using the nail test again, verify the location of the stud.
The "Traditional" Method
Tap the wall lightly with your knuckles or a hammer wrapped in a cloth. The solid sound of the wooden stud beneath the wall will be different from the hollow sound produced by the spaces between studs.
Once you locate a solid area, drive in a small test nail. If you do not hit the stud you will have to move slightly in one direction or the other and try again.
Magnetic Stud Finder
A low-tech and inexpensive stud finder uses a magnet to locate nails or screws which fasten wall materials to underlying studs.
These units will find the nails and screws, but they can also pick up metal conduit and galvanized pipes, so you should verify by checking 16” or 24 “ to the side of a given reading to see if there is another stud.
Drill a small, sharply angled hole in an inconspicuous spot, push in a piece of coat hanger wire or other stiff wire until it hits a solid surface. Mark the wire with tape, remove it from the hole and measure the length of wire from the tape to the end. This is approximate distance from your hole to the side of the stud. Measure 16” or 24” and using a small nail verify the location of the next stud.