Storing/Protecting your levels
The time has come for me to buy some new levels. I had a full set of Empire box beams, but they have all wandered out of true over years of use. I’m wondering what everybody has in terms of on-the-go protection for yoru levels for both on the jobsite and when not in use/riding in the truck?
I know Stabila has the fabric cases, although I’m not sure I’m going to be buying Stabila levels. I wondered about a wide diameter of PVC tubing, sectioned off on the inside, perhaps? Anybody have/seen any clever solutions?
I have a couple of old Mayes cast-aluminum, Made in USA levels. I keep them hung on a nail in my shop when not in use and behind the seat of my truck when I'm using them out on a job. They never get put into the back of my truck to get banged around. Even with the care I've given them I've broken one of the glass lens out--the vial in that window is good--it's just the lens that's broken.
I have several levels in the van.
The shorty's-12", 16/18", and 24's are in a few places-a couple of the shorters in my vito long bag, couple stashed on the shelf with the 24. All Stabila, but the 24-a fine old (30 yrs easy) wood level with the vials set in plaster.
Hanging from the shelf system straight down-2-48's-one stabila, one equally old wood-same vial setup.
The 6' er, hooked longways up near the top of the van, from the shelf unit-stabila as well.
Line laser and dot laser (dot-thank you to Taunton-Peachfest Prize!-Stabila as well) are between the pass. seat and the canabalized center console, commandeered from an old Dodge Ram "SUV" from around the 70's somewhere.
Torpedo level hanging in the "doorway" of the Head Protector Cage.
Couple of those round "circular" levels-up near the dash.
All are safe from falling or getting crushed or dinged up. All off the floor.
Out on the job they get cared for real well!
The stabila's have the rubber ends that keep them from sliding down the walls when leaned-others and the stab's as well are leaned against a wall or whatever, sparingly. The biggest harmer to levels is that guillatine type drop-keep that from happening and you'll get long life from the level.
I am a firm believer in the Non Adjustible levels-and all of mine are still true-no X on any vial.
Somewhere, about 25 years ago, I bought a plastic case for a 4-foot level. It's black plastic, "level shaped", with a bayonet (twist) cap. Doesn't provide a lot of protection, but better by far than nothing.
Every time I read a thread about levels I get to wondering what kind of accuracy any level can give against a piece of wood. I bought my first 4' level about 45 years ago. It was a nice wood masons level with brass edges and set me back about $15.00. About 3 months later I had it leaning against a wall and dropped another wall on it. It looked like a horseshoe and not having another $15.00 I stepped on the bowed part until it was straight and went on with the house. I used that level for over 20 years and for 20 years it rode in the back of my truck where ever I had space. Eventually the glass on the vials was mostly cracked and hard to read so I popped for a $25.00 Empire and went on with life. It gets pretty much the same treatment as the last one and falls out of the truck on a regular basis. Every couple of years I check it for plumb and level and it's always bang on. My old wood level hangs on a nail in the shop and even though it's hard ot read it's still right on too.
But, even if I had to buy a new $25.00 level every 6 months I still wouldn't keep it in a case. I spend way too much of my time now taking tools out of cases and putting them back in. Tools are dirt cheap, my time isn't.
For the last 10 years or so I've worked out of a pickup with two 4' job boxes bolted down to the bed and I store things a bit different than someone with a van or whatnot, so this is what I do because it just seems to work well:
a 30" Stabila rides in the narrow upper shelf of one of the job boxes. The level is constantly crammed into the space with other light weight misc carp things, but it has held up really well.
The 48" Stabila is in a plastic hard case, which pushes it's length to 51" or 52" - too long to fit in a job box safely so it rides in the cab behind my seat. The only other things back there are usually work lights and drop clothes so it's pretty safe even though the plastic case is quite flexible.
The door height stabila is the most vulnerable and the most used so it's suprised me that it's survived as long as it has in the bed of the truck with no other protection other than being set inside a 6' piece of aluminum C channel used for a table saw fence extension. The C channel's inside dimensions are only slightly larger than that of the level so they go together well and the roughly 1/4" wall is super stiff.
The aluminum C channel is useful as a straight edge, clamps onto a table saw fence easily, and is so tough that I've considered having a piece cut for the 4' level, but I don't know that I'd ever use the 4' C channel if the 6' is available. More useful in my case would be a longer 8' piece when getting edges of rough sawn boards straighened up on the table saw - there never seems to be enough length and 8' is as long as would fit in the bed of the truck.
A Stabila plate level (the extendable version) is hard to transport on a regular basis so it always stays home unless there is a definate need then it's put in the bed as gingerly as possible.
A laser level is kept in the cab - there's just too much moisture and abuse in one of the boxes with our crazy temperature swings - cool temps/condensation and blazing hot temps all in one day. Same goes for the bag of chisels and hand planes - they ride in the cab.
I also have a heavy duty Stabila 16" level, but I just don't ever use it so it's at home in our junk drawer to level pictures.....a life of leisure for such a nice tool.
For that hard shell case you have, what does the inside of the tube look like? is it padded or something? I'm just curious how they keep the levels from rattling around inside the case, or whether that's not even a concern.
The hard shell case is a simple plastic model that I probably picked up at HD or Lowes - the level rattles around in there with probably 1/2" of clearance. Since it's plastic it doesn't seem to do any cosmetic damage to the level. Having said that, I'm suprised that the aluminum C channel also doesn't seem to do any cosmetic damage to my longer level. The plastic oval hand hole grommets in the Stabilas stick out past the sides slightly so that's probably the reason there is so little paint missing with level on metal contact.
I'm always a bit jealous of guys who have room for long flat shelves in tool trailers or vans - a little carpet and it makes a perfect place for a number of levels of all lengths and sizes.
With 12 years of trouble free use in situations that require a great deal of accuracy I don't hesitate in saying these are the least expensive levels in the long run that I've ever used. When I was starting out I used various varioius makes that were pretty decent, but they all eventually went berserk (value = 0) .
My first 4' level was an AL I-Beam type. A 'helper' used it to pry a ladder with its feet out of frozen mud.
That left me with a horseshoe
Next two levels were JOHNSON mahogany brass bound
first one went about twenmty years and got cloudy dirty lenses with one vvial off true
next one is still fine
I switched to a set of levelutions with soft zippered carry case a dozen years ago. The case hangs verticle from a hook in my tool trailer
Get the wood level repaired.
Here's one-if the same company I did business with many moons ago-
Wood Level Repair
5627 S Elaine Ave, Cudahy, WI 53110
(If the same folks known as Wood Level and Repair Company-Milwaukee. They repaired my vial set in plaster level)
or here in Michigan:
But I am not sure if I have it anymore.
Last I recal using it was about 1992 or thereabouts
You haven't moved since then, have you?
Then it's right where you put it.
No need for thanks, I gave that advice to everyone who "can't find it".
My 4' Johnson came in a hard plastic box that does a pretty good job of protecting it if you are good about putting it back in the box..
It's one thing to brag about your 4' Johnson, but that box thing is just weird.
I have, what I think is an expensive 4 foot level and put it in a chunk of 4 inch ABS pipe. One end is glued shut and the other end has threaded cleanout plug which I unscrew to get at the level. I also put a piece of foam at the bottom and inside the cleanout which gives the level a bit of cushion inside. It rides where ever I happen to toss it and it is still as good as new.
In the shop? hang from a screw or a peg, between studs.
In the truck? Lay in a trough made from a piece of plastic rain gutter.
On site? Get levels with rare earth magnets, stick them to a roofing nail head.