The R-Beam levels take their name from the resemblance of their cross section to the letter R
During my research for a recent article on levels (“An Inside Look at Box-Beam Levels,” FHB #228) I heard off-the-record rumors that Stabila was working on a new level that promised to stand out from the crowd. The company delivered a set of these new R-Beam levels to our office recently, and the rumors proved true. The new R-Beam design is definitely a twist on the standard rectangular box-beam style.
The R-Beam levels take their name from the resemblance of their cross section to the letter R. The major marketing thrust of the R-Beam models is that they are more robust than Stabila’s standard Type 196 levels. There’s no argument there. These levels are downright beefy, and they feel almost as rigid in the flat position as they do on edge. What’s more, the R-Beam models don’t have the heavily beveled edges common to other beefy levels, and the vials are bridged by the metal body, so scribing accurate pencil lines with these levels is easier than with any other level I’ve tried.
After years of using a standard box-beam level, I found the R-Beam’s curved profile odd and a bit bulky, and it took some time to get used to the lack of traditional handles. The R-profile actually nests nicely in the palm of the hand, though, and I imagine that once you’re used to the new profile, a standard box beam will begin to feel weird.
The new levels also do away with the typical machined surfaces found on most U.S-sold box-beam levels in favor of a fully painted European-style design. It’s a good change. The machined surfaces are more window dressing than they are functional. Also, the painted surface is easier to keep clean, so gobs of thinset, mortar, and adhesives won’t affect the leveling surface.
The new series of levels carries the same accuracy and warranty as the rest of the Stabila lineup. Because the company won’t be offering combo packages of the new R-Beam levels, buyers will have to shop for the 24-in., 48-in., 72-in., and 96-in. models a la carte. Stabila also will not be offering magnetic, extendable, or digital versions. Finally, pricing is going to be about 15% higher than the comparable Type 196 models, widening the current price gap between Stabila and the next most expensive competitor, Sola.