L is for Laser level

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L is for Laser level

I've been drooling over this tool for years, but finally was able to justify buying one a few months ago. It is an beautiful piece of technology.

But first, some background about levels - probably unnecessary, but you never know. A level is a tool that tells you the orientation of something. From as far back as people cared to build things that were truly flat, people have used levels. From the Romans back to the Etruscans, Egyptians, Phoenicians and before, carpenters would fill a marked pan with water and set it on top of a wall. When the level of water was the same all around, the wall was flat. If you put two holes in the pan at opposite ends, right on the level line, you could use the pan level as a sighting tool for building level roads, piers, aqueducts, cathedrals, etc.

An open pan of water is a bit awkward, though, so as soon as it was practical, instead of looking at the level of water in a pan, they put the water in a little bottle with a flat bottom, then (because bottles break) they embedded the glass into a flat piece of wood. Convenient, that, since it's easier to make wood flat than it is to make glass flat (1). Eventually, somebody had the idea of using a glass tube mostly filled, instead of a little bottle insert only partly filled. Instead of looking for the surface of the water to go flat, you looked for the bubble to go in the middle of the tube (2).

Really old levels have only one bubble glass, level with the block of wood. Modern levels typically have three bubble glasses: one flat (3), one vertical (4) and one at a 45 degree angle (5). I have four big levels, ranging from 2 feet to 4 feet, in wood, steel, plastic, and fiberglass. I also have all the silly little levels built into my drills, saws, adjustable squares, etc.

A big advantage of the laser level pictured here is... well, there are several. Instead of laying a long level against the wall and marking spots across the wall that a true level (for laying tile, installing light fixtures, hanging pictures, etc.), you turn on the little vacuum pump built into the base of the laser level and hold it against an adjacent or opposite wall. It holds itself in place, shooting a flat laser beam across the entire wall you're working on (6).

The laser electronics swing free inside the case, so even if the thing you attached it to isn't level, your laser line is. With a tweak of a knob, you can adjust the line up or down to be exactly where you want it. It stays on as you work across 10, 20, 30 or more feet of wall (7). Also, the beam can be set to a flat line, a vertical line or both. This cross hairs feature lets you align the picture your hanging with respect to the vase below (8).

I know this is a specialty tool. Believe me, I've gotten by with long levels and plumb bobs, hose levels and taught pieces of string. I've installed drop ceilings, dug French drains, built stud walls, brick walls, fieldstone walks and lots of other things that absolutely HAD to be level and/or pitched at an exact angle.

But this laser level turns an hour's work into ten minutes. It's a thing of marvelous beauty.

1. A downside is that Incidentally, since the little bottles were sealed, they couldn't change the water. Since water gets scummy and cloudy after a while, they pretty soon switched to using alcohol or mineral spirits in the glass. Hence the old name, "spirit level".

2. This led to the colloquial term for someone who was a little off as being "half a bubble off plumb".

3. For floors.

4. For walls.

5. For no earthly purpose. Who in the world measures an angle with a level? Crog the Caveman? That's like trimming your fingernails with an axe. To get an angle properly, you measure rise and run, then calculate it.

6. So damn cool, I'm about to cry remembering the first time I used it.

7. *sniff sniff*

8. Or, more importantly, align the light fixture wiring with the outlet and/or sink underneath it, so you not only have the fixture level, it's wired properly between the studs, missing interfering pipes other wires.

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  1. I have no use in my life for one of these. But you make me really, really want one...

    Visiting from the A to Z Challenge :)

    Naomi @ Cornet Crafts


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