Laser levels

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I'm planning to install about 400 feet of (three layered) crown molding in 5 rooms with several outside corners. I'm wondering if I should buy a laser lever device or just use what I have (4' bubble level and chalk line). At the BORG I saw several laser level types and prices. Any suggestions on brands/types? It would be nice to keep the price under $50 (I saw some over $300!). What are the big advantages over a traditional chalk line? I did not particularly like the 3M stick strips, but I guess there are limited ways to hold the device up 10' on the wall. TIA
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"Phisherman" wrote in message

I routinely use a relatively cheap Black and Decker "Bullseye" to mark reference lines when installing cabinets/shelves, etc. Beats the hell out of a level for layout, IMO, and although probably considered cheesy by "pro" standards, it works for me and fits your budget.
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I've looked real hard @ the Bullseye level, thinking about it's "self-leveling" claim. I bought one of the Crapsman ones a couple years back, and although it was nice to be able to put it on top of a tripod, as others here have pointed out, the bubble levels are so small you can't get decent accuracy.
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The cheaper 'self levelling' ones are only as good as the 'frictionlessness' (if there isn't such a word,well..too bad..lol) of the bearings the laser is mounted on. The errors are easily measured when you compare accuracy to a K & E 18" WYE engineers level... and mine is 80+ years old. Tip the laser one way, allow it to right itself (say from the bottom up) and drop your cross hair onto the centre of the laser dot. Then tilt the laser backwards and allow to settle from the top to the bottom. You'll be less than impressed with the results.
IMHO, the Borg type of lasers are fine for fences and decks and a decent choice for interior use, like kitchen cabinets. I wholeheartedly agree with Swingman that 'good enough' is all it needs to be and the added benefit is that you don't have to clean the pencil- and chalkline marks off the wall.
But 'accurate??? Try dropping a couple of grand for starters.
IMHO, one is much better off to buy a decent mid-range dumpy level. With all the rage for lasers, there are lots of used dumpies on the market.
My 2.2 cents
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wrote:

I've resisted the temptation of getting a laser level... I've had a water level for about 25 years that I've used for leveling buildings, leveling floors, leveling ceilings, installing cabinets, building decks, hanging exterior siding, setting fence top levels, and for setting grade levels for driveways, yards, retaining walls, foundations, etc.
I've got it filled with blue colored automotive windshield washer fluid so I can see the water level easier and so it doesn't freeze. The batteries are never dead, it only takes one guy to operate, the worse case scenario for dropping it is having to add more washer fluid, you can set levels outside line-of-sight (I've hung the water bottle inside the house and marked level references on the all the outside walls of a house by sticking the hose through window and door openings), and it was and is cheap. The one I have uses water only, no electronic gizmo to bust or have dead batteries!
John Who cannot justify an electronic gizmo when water works just fine... ;~)
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Oops... forgot which account I was using... vv is me!
wrote:

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Ok. I give up. I have never heard of the term "dumpy level" before nor can I figure out what it means by the context. Will someone please take pity on poor ol' me and pound the meaning into my thick head. Thanks. Larry
snip IMHO, one is much better off to buy a decent mid-range dumpy level.

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<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dumpy_level>
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Sears, Ryobi, Black & Decker all sell low cost laser levels that use a variety of methods to hang on the wall, and all of them seem to me to work well indoors, as long as they're not put through the abuse pros might give them. There are probably a couple more out there.
Note the "indoors" above. Almost all current low cost laser tools are not bright enough to be easily visible in sunshine. A few are. Some of the pro layout tools are, but here you're probably eyeballing $700 or more for the gear.
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If you buy one, get a better one than mine. I don't know the brand I bought but it was around $20. You get what you pay for! It shoots a nice straight line, but level? Not even close. It's off by 1/2" on less than 20 feet. You could also consider a water level.
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Mike Marlow wrote:

As a chalkline though - you can use the water level to correct the laser level. And water levels are pretty accurate, just a pain if there's only one of you. It's not like the laser beam bends, it's the bubble levels on it can't give you enough accuracy. But the laser line, once level, is a heck of a lot easier to use than a water level.
This is a much, much cheaper solution than a pro-grade laser level. It also allows you to set grade the same way. I'm amazed they don't explain all this with the laser levels. It would require them to admit their device is not perfectly accurate (ever notice the fine print on "accurate to 1/2" over 30' like mine says [$20 @ half-off at HD] ...), but it would help people use the tool more accurately.
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First the general comments...
Before you buy anything, I'd _strongly_ suggest you look at the manufacturer's claimed accuracy. Some of the less expensive ones claim to be accurate to within, for example, +/- 3/8" at 25 feet -- and that's really pretty damn poor IMHO. I figure I can get pretty near that close to level just by eye, without any tools at all, and I *know* I can do a lot better than that with a water level (long clear vinyl tube full of water).
I've also seen one or two of the cheaper ones that claim "99-point-something percent" accuracy, which sounds good until you think about it a bit, and realize that 25 feet is 300 inches... and "99.5% accuracy" means an error of an _inch_and_a_half_!
As the price goes up, so does the accuracy... but I am not persuaded that any of these devices offer any improvement over plumb bobs and the various types of conventional levels, other than convenience. And the convenience isn't much use, if the accuracy isn't there. I know from experience that I can lay out horizontal lines around a large room, using only a water level, a pencil, a couple chairs, and a helper, with an accumulated error across all four corners of only about 1/16". Homeowner-grade laser levels just aren't that accurate. I'm sure that many professional-grade tools *are*... if you want to spend in four figures.
Now the specific:
I bought a David White "Tri-Beam Torpedo Laser Level" at Lowes a few months ago -- and returned it after using it (or, more precisely, *trying* to use it) for only 30 minutes. It was a piece of crap. For seventy bucks, I expect a laser that projects a fairly small, sharp dot. Not! At only 25 feet, the dot was fuzzy, and at least 3/8" across, while a five-dollar laser pointer projected a crisp dot less than half as large. The "vertical" beam was even worse: at only eight feet, it was fuzzy, 1/4" wide, and out of plumb by nearly half an inch! Again, I can do as well by eye, and much better with basic tools. I sure don't need a $70 laser to get a stud within a half inch of plumb.
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On Sun, 12 Feb 2006 18:00:17 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote:

Yup, just because it is a laser doesn't mean it is right. My little Harbor Fright 9.99 laser is off about a half inch in 33 feet (shooting across the water in the pool) The classic difference between accuracy and precision. This is like the digital meters. They can give you an inaccurate answer, precisely wrong out to 3 decimal places. All those numbers do make you feel confident tho.
Remember the Egyptians built the pyramids with nothing but string and a straight edge using the things you learned in freshman geometry.
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Oh come on.... everybody knows they used alien technology to build the pyramids.
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Last time I did some tiling I bought one of these http://www.screwfix.com/app/sfd/cat/pro.jsp?id (030&tsg110 One of the best gadgets I ever bought! Paid for itself on one job. It's a pair of line projector lasers, one vertical and one horizontal. Excellent for tiling or anything where you're doing complicated two axis stuff in a small area at a time.
For a simple level around a whole room, I'd probably get a "whirling spot" device. These aren't quite so visible, but they have a wider usable arc (360) without repositioning.
Prices vary a lot. Cheap ones are less bright and less robust, but still accurate and useful.
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On Sun, 12 Feb 2006 18:01:28 +0000, Andy Dingley

I don't know enough about these, so I have to ask. Aren't they levelled using bubbles? If so, what's the advantage? If your eyes are out of whack, and its' slightly tilted, you'll go full circle, but at an angle. Also, a slight angle error is a large dimension error at a distance. That's why I never bothered buying one. I'm curious, and would really like to know if I'm missing something [and keep the jokes to yourselves.]
I ran a line around my previous house, 30' square, as a baseline for putting up siding. I used a stringline and line level. A neighbour held the other end raising lowering from my point, and we marked our way around the corners. I called when it was level, and he marked ahead of me. When it came back to the first corner [I was at the last, just marked], I called when it was level, and he called back saying it was right on the first mark. It doesn't get better than that for anything I'd be doing. I used a level and square to put up ceiling tile, and you'd need a microscope to see any flaws.
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wrote:

Bubbles or pendulum, depending on what you spend.

Convenience. You set up one gadget in the middle of the room, then you have a horizontal datum all the way round almost instantly. Great for tiling.
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On Mon, 13 Feb 2006 00:55:24 +0000, Andy Dingley

OK, but it's still a level only because it has a bubble or a pendulum, not because its a laser. It seems that the laser part is only for eliminating marking. That would make sense to me now.
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I've never done crown moulding but why would you need a level? If you need a line for the bottom of the moulding why not cut a board to the right width and just mark along the bottom? You want the line to follow the ceiling not necessarily be level, don't you?
-Leuf
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Leuf wrote:

Leuf is right. I've done plenty of crown moulding in my home. A level is worthless because the ceiling isn't necessarily level, and you don't want any gaps.
What I tend to do is cut a piece of scrap moulding about 1' long and use it to mark off every foot or so around the wall. This gives a perfect reference when setting the moulding into place.
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