When it comes to building and construction, masons have one of the most important and difficult jobs. They build structures, sometimes enormous buildings, from individual blocks or units.
Because masonry usually forms a structure from the base up, it’s vital that each unit be perfectly level and plumb. Going out of level, even the smallest amount, can result in instability for the rest of the structure. So, it’s important that a mason have the right tools on the job site to help ensure that each project they tackle is sound.
From plumb bobs to lasers, masons have a variety of tools to choose from, but the one that gets the most use, and is almost always at hand, is the level. A good, accurate level will ensure that each stage of the structure is plumb, level and structurally sound.
Among levels, you will find a variety of options. Size, casing, grip and vial can all vary by manufacturer and purpose. With so much riding on the use of accurate tools for masons, choosing the right level for the job can make or break a project. Learn to identify what makes a good level, so you can be sure your job comes out right every time.
Profile or Level Housing
For years, levels have been made of wood. You can still find wooden levels made from a variety of species such as walnut or oak, each carefully laminated and finished for a brilliant appearance.
Unfortunately, wood is a porous material and has a tendency to warp after prolonged contact with moisture. It can also chip and splinter if dropped. Job sites are often subjected to a range of weather, and tools can often get misplaced, dropped or stepped on. When this happens, the level will lose its accuracy. It is tough to beat a well-cared for wood level, but it is definitely tough to care for a wood level enough to ensure that it stays accurate with heavy use in extreme conditions.
Instead, consider a level with an aluminum or aluminum alloy body as they are more durable. They will not warp, bend or crack, no matter the weather, and will help protect the accuracy of the vials, so your level will continue to perform well job after job. Aluminum is strong and light. With a profile extruded to enhance the strength characteristics of aluminum, we would match a box beam against any wood level out there.
It’s not uncommon for a mason to check the level or plumb of a variety of surfaces, such as brick, concrete or unset cement. Plus, you could be holding the level barehanded, with gloves, or with wet or dirty hands against rough, smooth or textured finishes. To get an accurate reading, the grip you have on the level needs to be secure.
If you can’t hold the level easily enough and long enough to get an accurate reading, then your job is going to be more difficult. Choose a level that has comfortable, cushioned grips that will give you a secure hold no matter what the conditions. More necessary on longer levels, hand holds are a simple detail that is worth paying a lot of attention to.
Any level that you choose needs to have an unbreakable vial. If your level is dropped or knocked, you need to know that the vial is going to remain both intact and accurate. Most levels fail at the interface between the vial and the profile. It’s important to select a level that has a strong warranty behind it. Manufacturers often express their confidence in their products through their warranty.
In addition to being unbreakable, make sure that the level you invest in doesn’t fog and has a magnified vial so you can get an accurate reading in any condition or lighting. Keson levels have a FOCUS vial made of shockproof acrylic that gives a 20% magnified reading. An acrylic, magnified, fog-free vial is going to give you the results you need every time.
Levels have a degree of accuracy that can range depending on the quality of the level, what material the level is made of and what the vial is made of. Because your level is only as good as its accuracy, make sure that you invest in a level that is, at a minimum, accurate to within 0.5mm/0.0005in/0.029° when standard and 0.75mm/0.00075in/0.043° when inverted.
For crucial jobs, levels that are accurate to within 0.3mm are available and may be a better choice for the most precise reading.
Every Mason needs to have at least two or three levels. Having a variety of sizes on hand can help your job go more smoothly. Choose a level that comes in more than one size. At a minimum, you should have a larger level for projects with bigger surfaces, and smaller options for tighter compact spaces.
Clean your level after each use. Periodically check your level’s measuring surface for dings or dents. Ensure that your level is reading accurately before you start each job. A level is a precision measuring device. When adjusting a block, brick or other object “into level,” please consider tapping the block, brick or other object rather than striking the level.
Choose the Best Level for Masons
Masons have an important job that relies heavily on the tools they use. Visit Keson for levels that can give you the accuracy and reliability you need to get the job done right each and every time.