LED-lit coloured spirits, laser integration, user-operated rotating bubble vials – there’s an awful lot of cool and exciting innovation in the vast world of spirit levels. But for hard-working bricklayers, surveyors, metalworkers, carpenters, masons, framers, plumbers and an even longer list of professionals who need and rely on them, spirit levels just have to perform – day after day after day.
Sure, the cool technological innovations grab all the headlines – but often those neon LED lights and eye-catching colours and shapes are actually hiding some facts that you really should know about. Namely, that the best-performing spirit levels are often the ones that don’t screech from the marketing hilltops, and in reality end up attracting the least widespread attention.
To get what professionals really need in the toolbox, you often have to ask those who have been in the know – for a long time. So we’ve combined the wisdom of all those low-profile but super-productive woodworkers, stonemasons, millwrights, metalworkers and videographers (and more) to find out what the most serious daily spirit level users look for when they’re on the market for a shiny new tool.
If you see a spirit level with a maximum measuring tolerance exceeding 1mm, keep browsing. Remember, the tolerance is the difference between the maximum and minimum dimensions of acceptable inaccuracy, and for a great spirit level you should be looking at more like a 0.5mm tolerance for the main horizontal position – and even 0.3mm if you’re really fussy.
2. Quality compliance
Did you know that only the best spirit level manufacturers achieve and adhere to ISO 9001 requirements? It’s the internationally-recognised quality management system that gives consumers the best possible assurance that the spirit level in their hands is the outcome of supremely managed and monitored quality control systems. And part of that certification requires and each and every spirit level with ISO 9001 certification has been individually tested and calibrated.
3. Profile weight
Beware of super-lightweight spirit levels! While the word “lightweight” is often appropriately used to demonstrate that sturdiness doesn’t necessarily equate to being as heavy as a plank of concrete, steer clear of spirit levels with a listed profile weight under 400g/linear meter. Spirit levels with greater than 500g/linear meter will last longer, with only robust wall thicknesses able to resist the daily grind of busy worksites when it comes to longevity and continued accuracy.
And while we warned about those fancy and newfangled innovations at the top of this article, there are some modern features that really are a must, including:
* Anti-slip qualities for secure positioning
* Break and deformation-resistant vials
* Electricity and UV-resistant bubbles/spirits
* Long product guarantees (such as lifetime accuracy/vial warranties).
Today’s vast range of the highest quality spirit levels, inclinometers and other professional levelling tools is truly competitive, with the various shapes, sizes and helpful features like magnetism and digitisation able to satisfy even the most discerning professional. Making that final product choice, however, can be difficult – so don’t be shy to ask for a bit of experience-based guidance so that you tick every box for your vital daily tasks and budget.