October 4, 2010

Johnson Digital Laser Level & Angle Locator - Review

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The digital world has made a beachhead and now seems to be in the process a full-fledged invasion into the dusty universe of the construction site. Laser levels, which used to be the exception, are now the rule. In addition, there are all kinds of measuring devices and task-specific layout lasers that have recently hit the scene. And on top of all this, a couple of digital angle finders have shown up. Among them, the Johnson Digital Laser Level and Angle Locator. Johnson was nice enough to send us one to take a look at.

So what exactly does this tool do?

Well, it does a lot actually. Where to start....

First off, we should describe the tool. It's the shape of a level with two digital screens on it. An arm opens up on a hinge and a little thumb knob is capable of locking the arm. The bottom of the level has two magnets on it as well as a little port where you can screw it on to a tripod. There is also a button that activates a laser line out of one end of the tool.

To use the angle locator, just open the arm to the desired point and the tool tells you the angle.

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The level is 1' 9" long, but if that doesn't satisfy you, just flip the arm out to the 180 mark and you've got a 3' 3-1/2" level. If you're still not getting what you need, turn the laser on and, well, it's pretty damn long at that point.

johnson_level_laser.jpgThe Johnson can speak in five different languages (degrees, percent, mm/m, in/ft in decimal, in/ft in fractional). Unlike the Bosch angle finder, the Johnson has converted the leveling function to the digital as well, so in this case one screen does the angle locator and the other does the level. One great feature of the read-outs is that they automatically invert when the tool is held upside down. One not-so-great feature is that there is no way to light up the read-out (they're difficult to see in low light).

When using the level, the digital screen tells you how far it's out of level and two little arrows tell you which way it's off. Because of this, it's very easy to determine things like the pitch on a waste pipe. Just put the tool on the pipe, set it to 'in/ft' and....'oh wait, the pitch is 6" per foot.' That's it.

There is also a very easy calibration process, so we were always confident that it was on target (unlike a lot of the little line lasers).

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So to answer the 'what does it do?" question, we put the tool in the truck and used it when we could, which was actually quite a bit, mostly as a level although we did use the angle finder some. We installed some casing in an old house and the angle finder was great for the 89 degree angles. Unfortunately, the tool doesn't tell have a 'miter cut' button to tell you the exact cut to make. Sure, we know it's the angle divided by half, but it would have been a nice touch.

johnson_level_hinge.jpgWe didn't get into any roofing, but if you go through the process and figure your angles on paper first, this tool will make transcribing them a snap. We were also hoping for a stair project to come along, but none did. It would be interesting to add the functionality of this tool into the mix there, particularly with the laser projection.

Like we said, the tool can easily verify plumbing pitches (and get a snap-shot of a roof pitch) without holding a level and a tape measure which usually makes us look and feel kinda dumb. We also see it being helpful in any kind of drainage situation (patios, walkways, etc), where a specific drainage pitch is being asked for.

It's a very nice tool with a sturdy feel to it. We don't get the sense that it's going to be dying on us anytime soon. We're also convinced that we've only scratched the surface on it's usefulness.

The Johnson Laser Level comes with a padded carrying sleeve.

$250 at Amazon.com

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at October 4, 2010 2:00 PM

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Recent Comments

Just got this piece last week for a wall I needed to be 8.5 degrees of plum
so great price when you have the angle finder too in one
was trying to figer out how to use the other features so thanx for the review
it would be cool if the lazer could also give you distance but I guess that would be on the next model


Posted by: Mr P at October 5, 2010 9:12 PM
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