September 1, 2010
...and here's the second of our Bosch Laser Level reviews. This time around, Reader Adam B. discovers a few ups and downs with the tool (mostly ups)...
It wasn't terribly long ago that a crafty engineer thought, "I can build tools with frickin' laser beams!" Since then, there have been a plethora of tools ranging from useless (laser guided scissors, anyone?) to "How did we ever manage without these things?" Laser levels are a shining example of the latter. I have used a number of them myself, ranging from $15 "Is my picture straight" levels to Hilti cross-hair and rotary levels. Such levels have proved indispensible on job sites, particularly when restoring homes built over one hundred years ago. Thus, I was very excited to find a shiny Bosch GLL-80 sitting on my doorstep.
Continue reading: "Bosch GLL2-80 Laser Level - Reader Review (Adam B.)"
August 31, 2010
If you recall, a bit ago we ran a contest where we gave out ten new Bosch Dual Plane Line Lasers to chosen readers so that they could review them for the site (our original review is here). We encouraged them to be hard on the tools and to be nothing, if not honest in their assessment. The selected readers ranged from tradesmen to DIYers. We asked that they also rate the laser on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best). Here is the first review...
I received the Bosch Laser Level the other day as promised by those kind hearted souls of Toolsnob.com. The case was extremely big and bulky for such a small device, but once I opened it, I was told my eyes lit up as though it was my favorite holiday. By the way my favorite holiday is any day I get to open free tools. I played around with the Laser Level for a few hours. It has a very rugged design and the built in alarm definitely lets you know when you're not holding it level. Around the house it worked perfectly. It easily demonstrated how badly my picture hanging ability really is, but out in the field is a whole different story.
Continue reading: "Bosch GLL2-80 Laser Level - Reader Review (Richard K.)"
July 13, 2010
Last week we reviewed Swason's new Lightning Level which turned out to be a pretty nice tool. Just press a button and the vials light up. That one is available in 24" and 48" lengths, which in our opinion are two of the three essential level sizes. But what about the third, the torpedo level? They're too small to house batteries and a torpedo level with LEDs seems a bit like overkill. So do these little levels stay sadly unlit?
Not so says Johnson Level and Tool with the release of their new Glo-View Torpedo Level. This one doesn't have any LEDs to light up the vials, but rather it...wait for it...wait for it...wait for it...glows! Whoa.
Like most torpedoes, the Glo-View has three vials; a level, a plumb, and a 45 degree. It has an aluminum housing and one of the long sides has a v-groove to make it easier to hold it against a pipe. The other side has three magnets on it so you can stick it to a metal stud or whatever. We're not going to get into our thoughts on magnetized levels again, but if you're interested, we spent a paragraph on it here.
The glow feature is nice and subtle. In fact, if someone just handed you the level during the day, it's likely you wouldn't even realize the level had any special ability. The glowing things works like any glow-in-the-dark toy you had when you were little; hold it by the light and let it charge up, and then you've got enough glow-mojo (glojo?) to last you a little while, at least long enough to worm your way into the crawlspace and solder a few pipes.
The Glo-View Torpedo runs for just over $15, which puts it in right in the mid-range for torpedo levels, so it's not like you're paying an extra $30 for the glowing ability.
Johnson has incorporated their Glo-View into their line of box levels, so the feature is available 24", 48", 72", and 96" lengths as well. It's a good alternative to the Swanson LED levels if you're interested in having the vials lit, but you're still a little dodgy about having a level with a light switch on it.
July 9, 2010
Previous to them sending us their new Lightning Level to review, the only contact we had ever had from Swanson was the legal document that their lawyers dropped on us demanding that we stop using the term 'Speed Square' in a generic sense. As it turns out, the only acceptable way to refer to the tool is by saying in its entirety: "SPEED® Square, a registered trademark of Swanson Tool Co., Inc." so if you see anyone else out there who doesn't take the time to write out that entire ridiculous statement, please contact Swanson and let them know that there's some serious trademark violation going on. The whole episode was very irritating and entirely unnecessary...they could have just asked. We hope that those lawyers charged them a lot of money. Due to their heavy-handed approach to the matter, we decided we would rather drink wood glue than aid in the publicity of any of their tools. We created a blacklist and we put them on it. It was the least we could do. We're deeply Irish and capable of holding a mega-grudge.
But, our policy is to review everything that shows up on the doorstep, so we suppressed the battle-axe wielding tribal Irish chieftain who lives in our head (he's in charge of long-term animosities), and carried on with the review of the Swanson's Lightning Level.
So what exactly is it? Well, it's a level with a little LED light at each vial. To operate it, just press the button that is at one end of the level and the lights go on. Press it again and they go off. If you forget to press it again, it goes off by itself in ten minutes.
The level has two plumb vials and one level vial, rubber bumpers at each end (and, at one end, the dual AAA battery compartment), and rubber grips. Both edges have v-grooves for things like pipes and on the model we tested, one side (the side uninterrupted by the level vial), is magnetized.
Thankfully, Swanson has a non-magnetized version available. We sit the fence on the whole magnetic level thing. While there are circumstances when it comes in handy, most of the time we find it to be a nuisance. Once the magnets collect a few metal shavings, which is inevitable, they become VERY dangerous to finished surfaces. It seems to be a matter of personal preference, and ours is to usually pass on them.
And what do we think about the lighted vials? We actually like them and Swanson did a nice execution with the tool. Thankfully, it's not a level with some additional contraption built off the side that lights the vials up, but rather it's a cleanly integrated system. It's not like you feel compelled to always use the lights, but they're there if you need them. It's a level that happens to have lights, not lights that happen to have a level.
And we found the feature to be useful in all the usual places; closets, basements, and job sites (especially when you're only relying on a string of junky temp lights). We also feel the need to note that the pictures we took don't accurately represent the lights. In reality, it's a nice soft glow that lights up the vial, not the Tron special effect that our camera is capable of showing.
So is it a necessary feature that should be included on all levels? We don't think so. Is it handy to have from time to time? Definitely.
The Lightning Level is available in both 24" and 48" lengths and goes for about $45 and $65 respectively (add about $10 for the magnetized version).
July 6, 2010
If you keep up to date on all things Tool Snob, you're aware that we're big fans of the Bosch GLL2-80 Dual Plane Laser Level. We dig the fact that it combines a massive amount of functionality in such a small package. Because of this, it's become our primary on-site level (our review is here).
But Bosch isn't satisfied with just having our feedback, they want yours as well. So they're going to send the GLL2-80 laser to 10 Toolsnob.com readers to use for one month. In return, all you have to do is send us photos and/or video clips and a brief write-up of your experiences with the tool to share with Bosch (and we'll post it up here on Tool Snob). Here's the cool part; if you're into the tool and want to keep it after the test, it's all yours...and that's a $320 value!
So how it works is this:
1. You convince us that you should be one of the 10 reviewers.
2. Bosch sends you a level.
3. You use and abuse it.
4. You email us your thoughts (with some pics and maybe even a video).
5. Your review gets posted up on Tool Snob.
6. DIY Network gives you a TV show because they're so impressed with your tool reviewing skills.*
7. If you like the GLL2-80, you get to keep it.
To get your name in the hat, email us at newstips(at)toolsnob.com and tell us a bit about yourself, your level of experience, the types of projects you do, and why you should be considered. Please title your email, "Bosch Giveaway" so it's easy for us to sort through the entries. Be as concise as possible, 100 words should do you fine.
Because of the nature of the tool, we want to hear from contractors and serious DIYers. Basically, the kind of people who are going to be able to fully evaluate this tool, appreciate its high points and put it through its paces. If you're a DIYer, feel free to send us a photo of your gutted living room to show you're legit.
We'll be taking entries for about two weeks and we'll choose our 10 testers on July 20th. The units will be sent out soon after that.
If you're not chosen, don't sweat it because Bosch is giving us an additional laser to just plain old give away. We'll do that at random from the names that are left once the ten testers are chosen.
So good luck and get your entries in.
* step six is purely a hypothetical pipe dream, but you never know....
May 14, 2010
We break our lasers down into two groups; the big tri-pod style rotary lasers, descended from transits, and the little jobsite ones like the fantastic PLS2. Each of these styles has limitations though; the rotary lasers, while they can project a 360 line (meaning a line completely around the level), are large and awkward to use; and while the little guys are barely bigger than a juice box, they can only project a line out in front of them, so they constantly have to be shifted around the room in order to complete some tasks.
Bosch with their new GLL2-80 actually combines the good from both styles of lasers. Now, for the first time, you can get the 360 line, both vertical and horizontal, in a small package.
The technology here is actually very interesting. In a normal 360 level, the laser itself spins, and it's this additional mechanism that leads to their bulky bodies. What Bosch has done to get around this is to utilize something they call Cone Mirror Technology. What happens is that the laser shines against a little reflective cone which then projects it out 360 degrees. Our guess is that the little cone is about as finely machined of an item as you're going to find in any tool. With this set-up in action, Bosch has found a way to deliver the 360 laser in something that's barely larger than a pocket dictionary.
The GLL2-80 has a number of smart features beyond the whole 'shoot the laser at the cone' thing. First off, it can be used in any one of three modes; horizontal line, vertical line, or both simultaneously. You also have the option of locking the leveling pendulum, so you're able to work in crooked, saggy houses like ours where level is less important than straight. The Bosch level shuts off automatically in 30 minutes, but you can override that if you want, and it also makes a little squawk when it's too far out of level, but you can override that as well. When it's off, the pendulum locks into place so there's no risk of damage during transport. There is also a mode that assists the laser in getting picked up by a remote receiver (not included in all packages).
There is also a little stand for the tool complete with an adjustment knob, so you can set it up and then tinker with the height of the level. The functionality of this stand is fantastic and we were able to really fine-tune the laser height to exactly where we wanted it.
The one minor detail that we wished was different is the on/off slide switch (the red one on the side). Unlike the PLSs, Bosch went with a hard switch (PLS's have soft-touch buttons), so it's difficult to switch the tool on and off and keep it stable at the same time. We've been on sites where we leave our laser set up in one spot for days on end and we practically build a razor wire enclosure around it so it doesn't get bumped. Keeping the level stable makes turning the laser on and off every day an operation like Indiana Jones fiddling with the statue in the first scene of Raiders. We're not saying this is impossible with the Bosch, it's just more difficult.
But that's a minor quibble when placed against the positives of this laser. Normally to get this kind of functionality you've got to use something the size of a watermelon. So what does this all mean to you in a functional sense? Well, it means a single laser set up for an entire roomful of wainscotting. It means no more setting up your laser in the corner to try to get the most coverage out of it's limited beam. It means one click and you can tell that your kitchen floor is two inches out of level fron the sides to the center (we're serious on this one), it means knowing exactly where the entire face of a new partition wall will land. it means a lot of things, all of which translate directly into more a more efficient work day.
The bottom line is that Bosch has once again stuffed big tool functionality into a small tool body (remember their PS21?). And then there's the price. It's looking like the GLL2-80 is going to retail in the $300 range (which is just a bit more expensive than the 180 cross line PLS). To say that this is a very good price for this item is a bit of an understatment.
August 12, 2009
We found this little video over at the Johnson Level website. It describes the process of making a level. It's about five minutes and it's pretty interesting if you've got the time.
Johnson Levels at Amazon.com
May 29, 2009
After a slew of interesting and successful releases last year, C.H. Hanson pretty much went dark. Now, with the release of their Precision Ball Level, we can assume that those missing months were spent deep in their mountain fortress experimenting with the design of the level. After seeing what they did to the utility knife, the measuring square, the chalk line, and the pencil, we're not surprised that they took on one of the most basic and old-fashioned of all tools.
What they've done here is replaced the common vial and bubble with a black and white ball, creating something like you'd see in the cockpit of a plane. It looks like the ball is weighted and free floating in a liquid, so the horizontal line is always at level and the vertical line always at plumb. What this change does is add a whole new dimension to the tool. Now, instead of simply seeing if your cabinet is out of level, you can see to what degree or what pitch. This means that the level can now be used during roof construction and other situations where you might need framing at odd angles. Also, the black and white ball takes some of the guess work out of reading the level. No more, "well the bubble looks centered...kinda....sorta...."
We're curious to see how this ranks against our tried and true Stabilas. From what we've experienced Hanson makes some very durable tools and to be a level worthy of a job site, long-term durability is key. We also wonder how accurate the level is if the level itself isn't plumb, but the edge of it is against a plumb surface. For example, checking across the corner of a door jamb. If the level has any meat to it right where is connects with the ball, this could cause a problem.
The Ball Level will be sold for about $50 for what looks like a 2' length. The Stabila 2' goes for about $60.
More information at C.H. Hanson
May 21, 2009
If this was a circular saw or a demo bar, maybe we'd give a pass to the Lil' Savage, but it's a torpedo level so we feel the need to call it out as one of the worst tool names we've heard in years. Even if Swanson had called it the 'Little Savage,' it might not have been worth mentioning, but the horrific use of the 'Lil,' (a designation meant for cookies and children's toys) sets a new bar for ridiculous. "Dude, I've got to check this jamb for plumb, pass me the Lil' Savage."
But beyond the fact that the name brings to mind an image of a rabid, battle-crazed Smurf, the Lil' Savage looks like a pretty useful item for the carpenter or serious DIYer. The top has a v-groove to make it easy to hold against a pipe (or an outside corner), there are four vials (30, 45, 90, 0 degrees), four magnets for use with metal studs, and even some kind of clamp for taking readings off bent pipes. Swanson makes some nice tools, their measuring square is probably the best out there, so we're sure this is a quality tool. It just needs a new name.
December 2, 2008
The Black & Decker Bullseye Auto-Leveling Laser with Stud Sensor is a small laser level with the single purpose of hanging things on walls, or more specifically, lining up two or more items on a wall. There's really not a whole lot else you can do with it, but since it does its assigned task so well, the limits of the tool aren't really a problem.
The unit looks like a plus-sized stud sensor with switches on both sides and laser lights coming out of the sides of the rounded top. The switch on the right activates the stud sensor and the switch on the left turns on the self-leveling laser. We tested the laser against one that is about seven times more expensive and we have to say that the Black & Decker was spot on level.
The beam is nice and bright even in a well-lit room and if the unit gets tilted too far to either side, the laser gets blocked and can't be seen. After a few simple tests, we came t o the conclusion that the stud sensor works fine too.
The Bullseye comes with two attachments that allow it to be held on a wall so you can work without having to hold it, freeing up your hands for picture hanging.
The Bullseye costs about $40 which sounds like a lot, but anyone who has ever hung pictures with a loved one realizes that it's a process prone to making one generally unloving. That said, maybe $40 is a small price to pay for a tool that will make picture hanging a little less difficult.
The Bullseye comes with a nice nylon case that can hold the unit and both attachments.