View Full Version : Slightly OT, need Level

Tim Clarke
12-21-2008, 11:30 PM
Well, the time has come to purchase a new carpenters level, either a 36" or a 48. I don't really want a sleazy POS. I want a decent one, say midrange in price and quality. The big box stores around here have cheap and spendy with little in between. The Starrett ones online seem nice, and run between reasonable and high priced.

So, anyone have any insight? Sources? Words of wisdom?

Thanks in advance
Best wishes of the christmas season to all,

12-21-2008, 11:35 PM
I was in Lee Valley this summer and they had a rack of 48" for around $30 ea that looked very good quality, if they're 30 up here they're likely $15 in the US.

J Tiers
12-21-2008, 11:40 PM
I have bought several old Sanders levels at estate sales...... love them... much nicer than the new snap-together plastic and extrusion ones. All cast aluminum and solid vial inserts...... and they repeat perfectly end-for end, always.

OK, you don't have estate sales..... but Lee Valley may likely have good stuff, although it will cost more then the $4 or so mine do!

Just stay out of the big box stores..... most of their tools seem junky to me.

I wonder if H-D gets a special cheap trash version of DeWalt drills? I hear they do for locksets, plumbing stuff, etc.

Rookie machinist
12-22-2008, 12:07 AM
If you are looking for a good level you can't go wrong with a Stabila level. They are well made and hold up well. I have not seen them in the big box stores but if you have a White Cap or Gahnl Lumber near you they have them.

12-22-2008, 02:22 AM
I think the ones I always bought were Johnson's. Relatively cheap. BUT, you flip them end for end, they read the same. That is the test. NAME ain't the thing
2 foot, 4 foot, 6 1/2 foot, don't matter. A line level is as accurate, with a good base. The vial and how it is mounted is the thing.

Was on another Forum about levels, precision, there, and flip the level and it read otherwise. STILL, the owner insisted that it was accurate. There ain't no level you can trust that does not read exactly the same way when you flip it end for end. 10 bucks or 300 bucks. 300 is some of the "Machinist's Professional" levels, or "Master Levels"



12-22-2008, 04:35 AM
The "zero both times when turned end-for-end" is one of the checks. This only checks the level in the horizontal position/s and perhaps only on one side of the level.

The other is that the "cross" vial does the same. This checks the "vertical" position/s.

Check both sides of the level and vials for accuracy as some levels will have different values/accuracy for opposite sides.

Next, check for straightness and twist/warp/"hogging".

Next, check for accuracy in terms of mm/metre or parts of an inch per foot/yard at both sides for horizontal and vertical as this is usually the critical requirement.

Next, check for each of adjustment - if any.

Next, check for availability and cost of spares (vials and mounts etc.) as well as local service.

Check for "anti-skid/slip" pads to minimise "slide" on slopes.

Check for shock proofing or reducing to minimise damage if dropped.

Check cost versus value for the size and accuracy you require.

My levels are machined aluminium with "shock absorber" ends and anti-skid pads and have an accuracy of 1:1,000 (1mm per 1,000mm = 1mm per metre = 0.0573 arc degree = 3.4377 arc minutes = 3 minute 26.3 arc seconds. This is almost twice as accurate as a Machinist vernier or digital protractor which is calibrated to 0.10 degree = 6 arc minutes.

This sort of accuracy approximates to about 1/8 inch per 10 ft which is 1:(10 x 12 x 8) = 1 : 960

12-22-2008, 11:03 AM
I have a pair of old johnson levels from the home depot, had them for about 9 years. They've held up nice and are accurate. flipped end for end in both vertical or horizontal they read the same from both sides

Right now they look king of ragged, but still read as good as the day I picked them up.

A while ago I picked up a starret branded torpedo (6") thing was off by a full 1/16" in it's length when flipped end for end.