A Man and His Level

A Man and His Level

I finally mounted my check rail, but before undertaking this momental task I went to Home Depot to buy some kind of leveling device. I was originally thinking of getting some kind of fancy auto-balancing laser level, but they’re expensive…$39 and up! The one I really wanted was about $80, but the packaging was done is such a way that I couldn’t quite tell if it did what I really wanted. So, I thought I’d check out what I thought would be the boring old-style levels and save myself some money.

What I didn’t expect was this sweet piece of machined aircraft aluminum:

Empire Level

The World of Levels

Levels deliver precision measurement in demanding construction environments, have to be shock-proof, lightweight, and easy to read. And of course it helps if they look cool. The one above is from the Empire Level Manufacturing Corporation website, which made the slickest ones I saw. Their claim to fame is some kind of innovation in the level bubble capsule itself, but I thought they just looked neat. Look!

true blueCOOL!

true blueCOOL!

Prices were about $16 for a 24-inch aluminum level.

Another neat purveyor of fine levels were the wooden ones from Johnson Level & Tool. They were made of laminated strips of wood, with brass edging and shock mounts on either side…really neat looking. These were a bit more expensive, at $25 for a 24-inch wooden level. I couldn’t find a decent picture on their website, but there was a fancy web page for their new product line. It’s called, er, “The Big Johnson”:

The Big Johnson I spent about an hour looking at every different level there, admiring the design and construction of each manufacturer’s offering. It’s interesting to note that both Empire and Johnson are located in Wisconsin, the land of cheese and hearty wursts. Is toolmaking a tradition out there? The president of Empire Level is apparently fifth-generation member of the family that founded the business in 1919. There’s a cute picture of her holding the “the super-accurate True Blue® vial which is at the heart of Empire’s premium level’s and squares.” Adorable.

Money is Still Money

Despite all this looking and shopping, I just decided to get this $3.99 Stanley plastic level:

Stanley Level $3.99 Cheap, cheerful, doesn’t take up a lot of space, and it gets the job done. Still looks cool, albeit in a more toylike way. And what really matters is that I got the check rail mounted:

The mounted check rail Woo hoo!


  1. Mark Webb 14 years ago

    Looks very very straight and level :-)


  2. Joan 14 years ago

    I did predict a sojourn to the tool bin in your future.

  3. beth 14 years ago

    Do you think one of these could be mounted with some very strong velcro?  (I want to put one up at work without damaging the walls.)

  4. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Beth: Yes, it can mount with velcro or even sticky foam tape. There’s not a lot of pressure on the check rail, and it’s pretty light (it’s made of aluminum).

    Just make sure you get a BIG enough one…I am already regretting the small size of this one. I would get at least a 24”.