Intro To The Best Spirit Levels For | Construction & Carpentry & Home Use |
A level is an essential tool for any professional or do-it-yourself hobbyist to determine if objects such as walls, shelves, or banisters are horizontally or vertically straight and even. A level is also sometimes referred to as a spirit level or bubble level. A level is a tool designed to tell the user whether a surface is straight – either horizontally (known as “level”) or vertically (known as “plumb”). This type of information is vital for jobs ranging from construction work, brick work, tile work, and carpentry to metal work, home repair, and picture hanging.
What Is a Bubble Level?
Traditionally and continuing today, a basic type of level contains a glass vial that is filled almost completely with liquid, but leaving a bubble inside it. At rest, on a flat surface, the bubble comes to rest at the perfect center of the vial due to the construction of the vial at a slight curve. The vial has two parallel lines drawn at its center. That tiny bubble is the key to the level. On a perfectly level surface, the bubble appears directly between those two lines. When the user places the level against a surface that is not straight or level, the bubble travels away from the center.
The best bubble level often contains two glass vials, one for determining horizontal surfaces as level and one for determining if vertical surfaces are straight or plumb. The two glass vials will be perpendicular to each other. Some levels contain a third vial, installed at an angle, to determine if a surface is at a perfect 45 –degree angle. Some levels allow the glass vial or vials to rotate or adjust, depending on the surface the user is trying to achieve.
In selecting a level, one important consideration is size and length. The buyer must determine the size of the objects that will be evaluated and whether the level should be easily portable (Should it fit in a tool belt? Will it be taken up a ladder?). Another key feature is the construction of the vials that hold the bubbles. High quality levels will have bubbles that fit perfectly between the markers, the ends of the bubble just touching the edges of the lines. Bubbles that are larger than that space or significantly smaller indicate that the tool may be a lower quality level and may lead to inaccurate measurements. Fast-reacting bubbles (bubbles that move at the slightest adjustment) are also important.
In addition, consider the durability of the level. Materials make a huge difference. Wood, plastic, and aluminum are common materials used to create levels and have different advantages and disadvantages. The glass vials should also be protected from breakage.
Let’s Take a Look at Some of The Most Popular Spirit Levels Available Today…
# 1 Stanley 43-511 Magnetic Shock Resistant Torpedo Level
The Stanley 43-511 is a classic, traditional level with a few updated features for durability and improved use. Built with a heavy-duty aluminum frame that is water resistant, this tool is built to last and Stanley proves that with its limited lifetime warranty. The level has non-marring feet to prevent damage to finished surfaces and has rubber ends for better shock absorption. Three separate vials designed to use with horizontal, vertical, or angled surfaces.
The magnetic surface allows the user to operate hands free when leveling metal surfaces. The magnetic surface also provides a way to hold or store the level easily on a nearby metal surface. At 10 inches long and weighing only 5.4 ounces, this small level can go anywhere!
# 2 Empire e81.12 True Blue 12-Inch Magnetic Tool Box Level
Though only 12 inches long and weighing only 5.6 ounces, this Empire e81.12 level packs a lot of features into its heavy duty extruded aluminum frame! Impressively, this unit has 4 separate glass vials to read horizontal (level), vertical (plumb), 45 degree, and vari-pitch. Vari-pitch vial reads the slope of a surface in 1/8 inch increments.
One full length of the level is magnetic for hands free use on metal surfaces and hands free storage. Empire offers a limited lifetime warranty on this tool.
# 3 MD 92379 SmartTool Rail with Free Case, 24 inch
This 24-inch SmartTool offers a step up in technology from the traditional glass vials. While this level does offer the two traditional glass vials to determine horizontal (level) or vertical (plumb) surfaces, it also lets the user measure digitally (electronically) with an actual number for any angle he or she is seeking. It measures the angle of surfaces no matter what the angle! This feature can be handy when installing ramps or other jobs where the angle is important. Whether you’re seeking 0 degrees (level) or 30 degrees, you can find the perfect angle with this tool. Just press the on/off button and the SmartTool gives you the angle of that surface down to its decimal point. It shuts off automatically when not in use after 6 minutes.
The user can select whether he or she wants the results to read out in degrees, percent, or pitch. This device also offers a Listen and Level feature which is ideal for working in low-light areas. An audible tone alerts the user when the tool reaches level or plumb. The Hold feature helps in low light areas as well. Take the measurement, press the hold button, and then bring the SmartTool closer to you or into the light to read the measurement.
The SmartTool includes a carrying case and requires a 9-volt battery which is not included. The manufacturer offers a 1 year warranty against manufacturing defects.
# 4 Stabila 37816 48-Inch and 16-Inch Aluminum Box Beam Level Set
This Stabila product comes with two professional grade levels that are accuracy certified. Stabila has long been considered the gold standard of levels, boasting that their levels are electronically calibrated and inspected with a certification of accuracy. These levels maintain accuracy even when the vial fluid reaches extreme temperatures of -5 degrees Fahrenheit all the way to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Stabila guarantees their levels for life and states the vials will not fog, leak, or become inaccurate. Stabila will replace any level that develops a fault. (Bent or cut frames void the warranty.)
This set comes with two levels to give you increased flexibility depending on the job. Both levels have three vials, two vertical and one horizontal. Both have aluminum frames with a reinforced ribbed design for durability. The 16-inch level has one hand grip while the 48-inch has two hand grips. Both have rubber end caps to prevent damage, but they can be removed should the user need to take flush measurements.
# 5 General Tools TS02 ToolSmart Bluetooth Connected Digital Angle Finder, Protractor, Level and 10.5-Inch Ruler
The ToolSmart Digital Angle finder combines the features of a traditional level (two glass vials for horizontal or vertical use) with digital technology to create an angle finder to determine the angle of any corner, especially useful for crown molding and flooring. With Bluetooth technology, the tool can send the measurements to your smartphone ToolSmart App.
# 6 Irwin Tools 1000 I-Beam Level
The Irwin Tools 1000 I-beam level comes in a multitude of sizes including 18 inches, 24 inches, 36 inches, 48 inches, and 72 inches. All sizes are built with rigid aluminum I-beam construction for durability. The rotating dial vial allows you to find the angle you need quickly and easily and gives the tool a lot of versatility at a great price. In addition to the rotating vial, the level has the traditional horizontal and vertical vials as well. Irwin offers a lifetime accuracy guarantee.
# 7 Stanley 42-480 48-Inch Professional I-Beam Level
The Stanley 42-480 offers 48 inches of heavy-duty aluminum I-beam construction for a professional grade durability, rigidity, and accuracy. Clear acrylic vial covers provide extra protection for the vials and increase readability. This level features 360-degree vials set directly into the frame for viewing at any angle.
This model offers two hand holds for ease of handling as well as two hang holes for storage. Shock absorbing end caps help prevent damage to the device and to surfaces it might contact. Yellow-powder coating increases visibility at the jobsite. Stanley offers its usual lifetime limited warranty on the product.
# 8 Stanley 42-324 24-Inch I-Beam 180-Degree Level
This Stanley 42-324 24-inch model offers a bit more mobility than the 48-inch level discussed above. This Stanley level also offers shock-resisting end caps and I-Beam construction. Its three vials also have clear-acrylic vial covers, but only a 180-degree rotating view. However, this model has the added feature of a measuring scale printed directly on the level to assist with layout and measurement.
Despite its 24 inches of length, the aluminum construction keeps the weight down to an easily maneuverable 12 ounces. Stanley offers its standard lifetime limited warranty.
# 9 Swanson Tool TL041M Heavy-duty Magnetic Torpedo Level
This versatile Swanson level comes in a range of sizes from the 6-inch pocket size to 11 inches. It also offers a range of different features including a digital version and a lighted version to work in the dark or in low-lighted areas. This level has 4 vials for horizontal (level), vertical (plumb), 45 degree, and 30 degree. The 30-degree vial is noted as being perfect for “kink-proofing” pipes. One side of the tool holds strong rare earth magnets for excellent grip strength. An added feature is the unique Tri-Loc anti-dog attachment for bending conduit and other pipes. This attachment has a “three-points of contact” design to hold pipe securely in place and eliminate movement.
This level offers a precision-machined solid billet aluminum frame with an outer edge that has laser-etched SAE and metric measurements. Swanson stands behind their product with a limited lifetime warranty. The versatility of four different glass vials, the unique Tri-Loc attachment, and sturdy frame with magnets and optional lights and digital readout make this level stand out.
# 10 Qooltek Multipurpose Laser Level
The Qooltek Multipurpose Level has so many features that it is a true workhorse among levels. In additional to the traditional 3 glass vials (horizontal, vertical, and 45 degree) for leveling, the Qooltek takes it up a notch with a built in laser level as well. It also features an 8-foot measuring tape and standard/metric ruler. Three AG 13 button cell batteries are included plus another three are included as a backup.
With the choice of three glass vials or a laser, this tool can be used in any type of working situation-a wall, awkward angles, difficult spaces, etc. The laser has 3 line modes for horizontal, vertical, or cross line switch. The laser is perfect for measuring the space between hangers to level the nails when hanging pictures. The possibilities are endless!