vintage levels

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Forum topic by 12strings posted 10-26-2013 04:13 AM 2886 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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434 posts in 3471 days

10-26-2013 04:13 AM

Topic tags/keywords: tip

I see quite a few antique wooden levels at local stores. Are these ever usable? What should I look for, avoid. And expect as far as rehab?

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

8 replies so far

View biglarry's profile


76 posts in 3775 days

#1 posted 10-26-2013 12:17 PM

A level can be checked for accuracy by flipping the ends 180 degrees, the bubble should be in the same place. If the body is in good shape then it should be okay. I’m not a person that collects things so I don’t know about the rehab end. If I have a use for a item I will get it and pass on things that need repair.

-- "When the going gets tough, switch to power tools." - Red Green

View lwllms's profile


555 posts in 4368 days

#2 posted 10-26-2013 12:59 PM

Make sure the level is straight and true with the vials intact. Many of the old wooden levels have adjustable vials which makes them superior to what’s available today. If you learn to set them, you’ll be able to keep them accurate for a life-time. Look for levels with adjustable vials.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7926 posts in 4001 days

#3 posted 10-26-2013 03:54 PM

Saw this post, so I went out and checked, then adjusted my vintage spirit level. It was off slightly after ~100years (1920s it seems), but not much.

All polished up 8-)

Not sure what this is, maybe some kind of plaster and glue? Anyway, THAT part is not adjustable.

Careful sanding of one end brought each orientation/rotation into a matched reading. Checked it on my TS at both 0 and 180 degrees rotation. I thought about putting some finish back on this thing but do not want to recreate the problem with an uneven coat. Maybe I’ll just JPW the bottom.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Don W's profile

Don W

20057 posts in 3654 days

#4 posted 10-27-2013 12:25 AM

Nice work Mike.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7926 posts in 4001 days

#5 posted 10-27-2013 12:45 AM

Thanks Don. It was interesting to see that the mortise where the glass vial resides,had shrunken and was visible over time when sanding the bottom. It was not detectable from feeling, yet as I sanded it slowly became noticeable.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

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555 posts in 4368 days

#6 posted 10-27-2013 01:47 AM

Here’s my favorite level, the 28” Stanley #30 I used to hang doors with. The 28” length is ideal to plumb the hinge side of a jamb when using three hinges per door.

Here’s the edge level adjustment:

You have to remove this plate to adjust this level vial:

Then there a level and plumb vials that are adjustable on the face of the level. The two screws just have to be loosened to adjust the vial:

View HorizontalMike's profile


7926 posts in 4001 days

#7 posted 10-27-2013 01:57 AM

Nice images. It is always interesting to see just how well thought out some of our early tools were, regarding accuracy and usefulness.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View GOOD LUCK TO ALL's profile


418 posts in 2814 days

#8 posted 10-27-2013 02:51 AM

Sorry, it’s not wood but it is Vintage. Also my Stanley scribe.

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