Tool Time – Level

A level is one of the many tools we use on a regular basis. Since it is such an important tool for our trade we thought we’d do a little research on the level. Did you know…?


  • A spirit level or bubble level is an instrument designed to indicate whether a surface is horizontal (level) or vertical (plumb).
  • Melchisedech Thevenot invented the spirit level sometime around February 1661.
  • Early spirit levels had two banana-shaped curved glass vials at each viewing point and were complicated to use.
  • In the 1920s Henry Ziemann, the founder of Empire Level Mfg, Corp., invented the modern level with a single vial.
  • These vials have a slightly curved glass tube which is incompletely filled with a liquid, usually a colored spirit or alcohol, leaving a bubble in the tube.
  • Alcohol instead of water is usually used because alcohol has low viscosity and surface tension, which allows the bubble to move and settle.
  • A colorant such as fluorescein, typically yellow or green, may be added to increase the visibility of the bubble.
  • A traditional carpenter’s spirit level is usually made of wood, aluminum or composite material with a small window in the middle where the spirit level is mounted. Two markings designate where the bubble should be if the surface is level.
  • There are a variety of other types of spirit levels including: surveyor’s leveling instrument, torpedo level and electronic level.





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