Building and construction projects often require a level surface. Shelves must be straight to keep things from sliding to one side. A chest of drawers needs straight angles for the drawers to fit in their slots. Even without structural necessity, do-it-yourself projects look better when they've been built straight. Many different tools can be applied to this task.
Templates and Blocks
A simple way to ensure a level or even line is to compare it against something you know to be level or square. Templates are forms, typically metal, that you use to draw straight lines when set against something straight. A T-square is a good example of a template. Blocks are solid blocks, often of wood, with right and 45-degree angles. Set in the angle of a shelf or corner, they instantly tell you if the corner is level.
The bubble level is the most common leveling tool. A bubble level is a cylinder of fluid with a single bubble in it, marked with horizontal lines. The cylinder is mounted inside a straight-edged frame. If the frame is level, the bubble sits between the central lines. If not, the air bubble rises outside the lines. Some levels come with multiple lines that can tell you if the frame is at a 45-degree angle.
A laser level projects a perfectly straight line of laser light, the kind found in laser pointers, on a surface directly in front of it. By mounting an object on that line you can be sure it's straight. Many laser levels come with an integral bubble level so the user can confirm that the laser level is, itself, straight and level.
A plumb line is a weight, often pointed, tied to a string. If you hold or mount one end of the string, the weight will drop straight down, forming a 90-degree angle with gravity and the ground. Comparing the angle of the line against vertical walls or the floor will tell you immediately whether or not they are level.
A quick, imprecise method for checking levelness requires a tennis, pool or other ball. Set the ball on a surface that must be level. If the ball rolls, the surface is not level. You need to raise the side of the surface toward which the ball rolled. If you don't have a ball, a cylindrical object (such as a can of food) will do.
- "Step-by-Step Basic Carpentry"; Ben Allen; 1997
- "The New Way Things Work"; David Macaulay, et al; 1998
- Photo Credit level image by Albert Lozano from Fotolia.com
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