Compact Chalk Reel
This slimmed-down chalk reel measures 4 in. long and 2 in. wide, and it’s 2 in. thick at its widest point (the handle)
When I’m not bending nails or tearing apart old houses, one of my favorite pastimes is backpacking. The hikers’ mantra is that ounces add up to pounds, so the size and weight of your gear is directly proportional to the distance you will be able to travel, the time it takes to travel that distance, and your comfort level during the trip. I try to keep this mantra in mind when choosing which items are worthy of riding around in my tool bags all day.
When I first saw Stanley’s Compact Chalk Reel, I was intrigued by its slimmed-down but still full-featured design. The box itself measures just 4 in. long and 2 in. wide, and it’s only 2 in. thick at its widest point (the handle). That’s a significant reduction in size compared to my Tajima chalk reel, which is 1-1⁄2 in. longer and wider, and 1⁄2 in. thicker. In addition to its rather tiny profile, this chalkline boasts 3x gearing for quick retraction, a belt hook (easily removed with one screw to further trim it down), a rather average (but completely serviceable) steel hook, a clear loading door, and a high-quality braided line. When the tool is filled with good chalk, it leaves very crisp 1⁄16-in.-wide lines, and despite its trimmed-down size, Stanley claims that you can still get about 50 snaps between refills. My experience using the tool confirmed this.
Part of trimming down this package means that you’re getting only 30 ft. of that nice braided line, compared to the 100 ft. you get in most chalk reels. My bread and butter is framing houses. In my line of work, it’s common to have walls and decks that are more than 30 ft. long, and there’s the rub. My only solution is either to carry two chalk reels or to run to the truck every time I need to snap a long line. For me, this is a deal breaker.
If most of your work is interior, where spaces and materials are generally limited to less than 30 ft., I absolutely recommend that you give this little bugger a chance. Besides its modern features and solid functioning, it will leave a little more space in your pouches and take a little bit more weight off your hips. Ounces add up to pounds.