Laser Tools: Levels, Angle Finder, Protractors

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Summary: Get an overview on what is available in precision measuring with laser and digital tools that can level and plumb, measure angles, measure distances and more. For more great tool advice, visit www.toolselect.com.

MIKE: Well, if you go digital with one of those things, now you can actually get a read-out for what that angle is.

BARNABY: That's better than relying on your partner. "Is it level yet? Is it level yet?" "What?"

MIKE: "What's it worth to you?"

BARNABY: Hey, what's happening? Barnaby here. You know, Mike, I was once talking to an old time woodworker who said, "You can tell the value of a carpenter by the length of the man's level." This guy showed up once with an eight-foot level on a job site and everybody was like, "I am not worthy. I am not worthy." Because it is all about making sure that everything is spot-on on the job.

MIKE: It makes your job easier when things are plumb and when they're level and you know what to expect.

BARNABY: Right. Well, I'll tell you what, now these days they've digitalized levels and angle measures and T-bevels and protractors. It's all about superfine measurements and so that's what we're doing right here is a category overview, and we're kind of talking new tech and, yet, we both are kind of old school. You've been at construction for what, about 20 years?

MIKE: About that, yeah.

BARNABY: Yeah, and I've been dropping my level for about 15 years doing a lot of home improvements.

MIKE: That's good for them.

BARNABY: Yeah, we'll see if these things hold up a little bit better over time. It is kind of a wonderful marriage of the angle finder and the level in a lot of these devices.

MIKE: Yeah, and you start out with those old angle finders; they're not really old, they're still in use. Just being able to tell you what angle something is running at. Whether it's a pipe that you're working with as a plumber and you want to know exactly what the run on that thing is going to be or whatever.

BARNABY: I was just putting in a soil line in a bathroom and we were trying to figure out, "Gee, I wonder exactly how much fall do we really need to get that stuff out of my world into the world of the sewage treatment." When you have a beech handle, which wouldn't obviously stick to PVC, but still, it will give you actually measurements of inches over footfall, millimeters over meters. So, it gives you a real accurate measurement as opposed to the old bubble.

MIKE: Yeah, you're taking some of the guess work out of it. You're taking more precision and putting that back into it. That's nice.

BARNABY: Yeah, and I love the fact that if you're working with pipe that this is magnetized so you just stick it up and there it is.

MIKE: A lot of them are and they've got that V-groove in it so it really grabs the pipe nice, so those are real handy for that application.

BARNABY: Yeah, all right, well let's get back to the length of a level right here. They come in varying lengths, right?

MIKE: Yeah.

BARNABY: And this one right here is the big daddy of the bunch on the table.

MIKE: The four-footer.

BARNABY: Right. And it has laser to it.

MIKE: Lasers.

BARNABY: I think it's amazing. Right?

MIKE: Everything needs lasers, Gerry.

BARNABY: Yeah, now what's a laser for in a level, do you think?

MIKE: If you want to transfer a mark. If you're working with cabinets or something and you've got a line where you've got to transfer it across the room, you can fire that laser up and you know exactly what you're getting at on the other end of the room, so that's handy. Or if you've got to point at something.

BARNABY: Right.

MIKE: Or you've got a cat or a dog.

BARNABY: A PowerPoint presentation and you're just like, "Hey, look at this."

MIKE: And they need a little exercise and you fire up the laser.

BARNABY: Right.

MIKE: This one right here tells you what angle something is at. You can tell on a stair run what your angle's at or you can tell with plumbing what your angle's at. A lot of them have an audible beep to them, which is nice because you can set a pipe or a beam or something and you don't have to be looking at the level necessarily. You may be jacking a beam and trying to get it up to level and as it approaches level it starts to beep and when it hits level it goes to a solid tone.

BARNABY: Yeah, well it's better than relying on your partner. "Is it level yet? Is it level yet?" "What?"

MIKE: "What's it worth to you?"

BARNABY: With these devices, you've got to wonder about the durability and so, for that, you should definitely be looking at the overmolding and end caps on it. So, if you do drop it, it's going to take some shock absorption.

MIKE: Yeah, you don't want to be dropping them. Once in awhile it's going to happen and so you've got to look at what kind of abuse will it withstand and there are all different accuracies, too. You can look at how accurate of a level do you really need and which one’s got more accuracy. Stuff to think about.

BARNABY: Right, and also some of the features. As we look at this right here, it's got this interesting … you can see that at night almost. It's got a phosphorescence to it.

MIKE: It's got a glow.

BARNABY: You can see it if you're upside down because it will actually flip for you and you can just take it to this direction, to this direction, and even if you flip it over this way the numbers flip for you.

MIKE: Yeah, and different ways you can read it out. So, if you're working above your head, you can still read the digital on that one.

BARNABY: Absolutely. Then we get into the angle finders right here, which is oh so very necessary. Crown molding, base, whatever you're talking about, you've got to know what the angles are.

MIKE: Yeah, it makes a big difference. If you're new to crown molding or if you're doing crown molding a lot, knowing what that angle is, knowing takes the guesswork out of some of that sneaking up on a cut business with a piece of crown mold.

BARNABY: Oh, I had guys doing some crown in my house and they were just calling out numbers lickety-split just yelling out to the guy on the saw and bam, bam, bam, it's all snapping up perfectly and they were using things like this.

MIKE: Well, they're handy. It's just a nice little trick. It takes a little bit of the mental work out of the game and it gives you an accurate result.

BARNABY: Right, and you know size matters once again as far as measuring angles. You've got the shorter arm right here, you've got the larger arm, and some are actually transformable.

MIKE: Yeah, this one's transformable. You can slide this one out, get a little bit longer arm on it or you can move it back the other way. You can get into tighter spots with it. It's got a display on both sides, all things to kind of keep in mind. How you're going to use the tool, what options do you want when you're using the tool. If you're working above your head and changing the configuration a lot, you might want to think about a display on two sides of the unit.

BARNABY: Right, and sometimes you don't need the big boys, you need the smaller ones right here. This would be more for woodworking, or it could be transferred into tile. We're talking about T-bevels and digital protractors.

MIKE: Yeah, you got the digital protractor here. So, if you've got a piece of wood that you want to transfer an angle onto, you can just set it on the wood, you can get a digital readout of exactly what angle you got, you can mark it and then you can cut it. Or you get into the old T-bevels where you can grab an angle off something and transfer it back. With these guys, you wouldn't really know what the angle was. You would know that the angle is this. That's the angle.

BARNABY: Right.

MIKE: Then you could transfer that right onto a blade on your saw. You could get your cut right. Well, if you go digital with one of those things, now you can actually get a readout for what that angle is. So, now you know what the angle is, you can hit hold and if you bump it you don't lose it, which is handy because I've heard of that happening to other people where they bump them and now they've got to go back and reset it, but that, of course, never happened to me. But if it did, you'd still have the angle here and now you've got the number and you can transfer that to anything else. You can actually transfer it to your different saws without having to actually set it up on there. That's a nice thing.

BARNABY: Yeah, boy it has come oh so very far in a very quick fashion, hasn't it? That's the reason for this category overview, to keep you up to speed on what's happening in the world of tools.

So, what we're going to do is put a lot of these out for testing and so you'll be able to see individually how they perform in the hands of the appropriate user.

But we just wanted to give you a quick overview of what it is that's happening in the world of laser measurements, levels, angles. It's all just accuracy on the job site. That's what we're all after. Right tools for the right job. ToolSELECT.com.

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