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Bob Vila Radio: Levels

Do you want to make sure that shelf you’re putting up is really on the level? Then you need… well, a level. Levels are indespensable for keeping projects horizontally true and vertically plumb.


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Listen to BOB VILA ON LEVELS or read the text below:

There are specialized levels for different jobs—mason’s levels, post levels, line levels—but they all work on the same principle. A slightly curved glass or plastic tube is filled almost completely with a liquid, usually a colored spirit or alcohol. This leaves an air bubble suspended in the tube. When the level is placed on a surface, you’ll know the surface is level if the bubble centers perfectly between sets of parallel lines printed on the tube.

Every workshop should have levels in several lengths. Most levels have more than one tube, with at least one mounted transversely so the tool can be used both vertically and horizontally. There is also sometimes a tube running at a 45-degree angle.

A quality level will have an air bubble that precisely touches the parallel lines and reacts quickly when the level is moved. Look for levels with smooth surfaces free of seams or end caps that could affect accuracy. Some levels have a magnetic strip down one side, leaving your hands free to make adjustments. That comes in handy when you’re working with a metal surface like an appliance that needs leveling.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

For more on tools, consider:

Bob Vila Radio: Power Drill
Bob Vila Radio: Tool Tip — Ratchet Sets
Bob Vila Radio: Types of Paintbrushes

Tools & Workshop