Levels are not regularly used in woodworking unless the project is going to be permanently, or semi-permanently, mounted in relationship to the earth’s surface. One can’t level a fireplace mantle or wall shelf while building them, but they must be leveled when mounted to a wall.
On the other hand, wooden fences, doors, and structures require a level during certain phases of construction. No one wants on off-kelter garden shed, fence or such, so a level is a must during construction.
With that being said, let’s take a closer look at the best wood levels you could get.
The 3 Best Wood Level
Uses Of Levels
Just when would a woodworker pull out the level? Here’sa few times that a level is an indispensable tool.
Hanging Wall Shelves
Who wants a wall shelf that doesn’t sit level? Pretty much nobody. Shelves need to sit level. The best way to ensure that the shelf is perfectly horizontal is by pulling out the level when hanging it.
Setting Fence Posts
Fence posts need to be plumb to the ground. Well, they don’t need to be, but that’s the correct way to build a fence. It’s a sign of a quality craftsman. The right level will assure that your posts are pointing straight up and down.
Hanging Pre-Hung Doors
Door frames HAVE to be vertical. If not, the door will tend to swing open or closed, depending upon how the door frame is off from plumb. Doors that are not plumb will swing closed when they should stay open, and that’s VERY irritating.
Kitchen cabinets and counter tops should be absolutely level. Counter top spills that run to the edge are irritating. A level counter top will prevent that.
Hanging Art on Walls
Photos, art, and such look SO wrong when not level. Use levels to mark double hanger holes in the wall and to level the piece when it’s actually hung on the wall.
Checking Angles Other Than Vertical and Level
Some levels have the ability check measurements other than vertical and level. Want to set a 45 degree rafter on your new woodworking shed? You’ll need a level that will read 45 degree. Many levels can read infinite numbers, so you have many to choose from.
What To Consider When Buying A Wood Level
Accuracy is the most important quality in a level. An item hung even a few degrees off of level will not look right, so it’s very important to purchase accurate levels. Most levels come accurately set from the factory, but bubble levels can be off if they’ve been jarred roughly in shipping.
Digital levels have to pass quality control standards assuring accuracy and are manufactured so that they retain that accuracy. One really has to depend upon the manufacturer to provide accurate levels.
One really can’t look at a level and determine it to be so, but one can do some online research to see what other users have to say about accuracy.
Levels need to be made of materials that will last. Wood was the original material used to make the main body of the level. Now days they are available in polymers and aluminum. The later two tend to be lighter than wood and do not suffer so much from age.
Different Types Of Wood Levels
Bubble levels use slightly curved tubes of glass filled with fluid and a single bubble of air. The curve of glass is situated like a rainbow with the bow towards the top. The bubble moves to the high point when used. The glass tubes are marked with two lines set apart the width of the bubble. When the level is level, the bubble will be centered between the two lines.
Digital levels utilize electronic circuitry that senses perpendicular relation to the earth’s center. These can measure and infinite number of angles and come “zeroed” from the factory. When reading absolute level, the level should indicate zero degrees. Measuring plumb, the level should read 90 degrees.
3 Best Wood Levels
M-D Building Products 92379 Smarttool Rail with Free Case, 24-Inch
The M-D Smart Tool Digital level is the priciest level of the lot, as it has a digital read out. Using patented sensor technology it measures with an accuracy of 1/10 of a degree. One can also set it to beep at a predetermined angle. A 9v battery is required for power. A case is included to protect it during transportation and storage.
This is the most costly of the levels covered, so one would have to think hard to justify the cost. It’s not overly pricey for a digital level of its size and accuracy, so it’s a value in itself.
The body is a rugged box beam made of aluminum, for lightness and durability. It’s powder-coated in yellow for visibility and protection.
The Smart Tool Digital level has not only a digital display, but also vial (bubble) sights for quick reading of level and plumb. The digital display can read in degrees, roof pitch, or inches per foot. Along with the digital readout, one can set the level to beep when it reads a desired angle.
While the most expensive level, this level offers the greatest variety of measuring methods. Although not necessary for general shop work, it will serve in many scenarios, both in the shop and in the field. This level will shine when setting the pitch when installing rafters or stair hand rails. The included case is a bonus.
Stanley 42-324 24-Inch I-Beam 180 Level
The Stanley 24” I-Beam level is a great level for checking the level of counter tops as well as marking double hangers when hanging shelves and such. The aluminum construction is durable and light. The top of the level is marked off as a rule, making measurement on the fly easy to do.
This level is very reasonably priced for its size and quality. Definitely easy on the pocket book , it would be a great addition to the shop.
The Stanley I-Beam level’s body is an aluminum I-beam that is powder coated for durability and visibility. As mentioned earlier the top is marked off as a rule, so one can measure and level with it. The markings are easy to read.
The Stanley utilizes a 3-vial (bubble) sight system which are easy to read. Two of the vials are permanently affixed at 0 degrees (level) and 90 degrees. The third vial can be rotated so that this level can read a variety of angles.
This level is a great buy for the quality and size. The versatile adjustable vial makes it more useful than many other levels. One can’t go wrong with this level, which will serve well in the shop and in the field.
CHECKPOINT 0300PL Pro Mag Precision Torpedo Level
The Checkpoint Pro Mag torpedo level is 8 ½ inches long which makes it a great choice for quick measurements and easy carrying in one’s pocket. It’s light weight aluminum construction will last for years and it has Rare Earth magnets in one side so that it can adhere to metallic objects such as pipes and metal fence posts.
The Pro Mag torpedo level is the leas expensive level of the lot, which makes it a great choice for the new woodworking when outfitting his tool cabinet or bag.
The body is machined from 6061 aluminum allow which is commonly used in aircraft construction. 6061 aluminum is harder than your standard beer can aluminum, so this level will hold up for years. One side of the body has a v-groove machined with Rare Earth magnets allowing it to set on pipe and fence tubing with having to hold it.
The Pro Mag torpedo level utilizes a 4-vial (bubble) system, reading 90 degrees, 45 degrees, and 0 degrees (level). The vials have oversized view ports and an oversised 0 for easy reading from all sides.
With the quality, size and cost all working in its favor , the Pro Mag torpedo level is a great choice. It’s compact enough for leveling wall art, but long enough for most other jobs. To check the level of an distance over its 8 ½ inches, simply place the Pro Mag on top of an aluminum straight edge and you’re good to go.