It’s said that performing one step successfully leads to the successful performance of the next step. On a jobsite, the first step involves doing good layout work. If that isn’t done right, the next steps won’t be correct either. Fortunately, tool and equipment manufacturers continue to improve layout instruments, making them easier to use and more accurate.
In the laser industry, the first layout tools were rotary lasers that projected laser points 360 degrees and could be picked up by a receiver. Users could plot level points from one location to another. Early models required manually leveling the instrument each time you set it up, but today most laser tools automatically level themselves and, more recently, a variety of tools have become available to meet specific work needs, including the following:
- Point lasers. For tradesmen who need to locate or transfer a point, these lasers project points of light. They utilize between two and five laser points for establishing plumb, level or square depending on the tool purchased.
- Line lasers. One, two or three lines of light are projected to establish plumb, level and square.
- Combination lasers. They combine the functionality of both point and line lasers, making them a two-in-one instrument.
- Plane lasers. They project two or three planes of light on the X, Y and Z axes, making it easy to plumb, level and square.
- Rotary lasers. They project a 360-degree plane of level points.
For work outside or in areas with bright conditions, receivers can be purchased for some of the above instruments, allowing workers to locate laser beams for layout work even when they can’t visibly see the beams.
What to look for when you buy
Today, most laser levels feature automatic leveling. Small pendulums hold the laser light and mechanically position themselves. Look for instruments that automatically lock the pendulum in a safe position for transport when the instrument switch is turned off. If the pendulum isn’t safely locked when transporting the instrument, damage can occur that requires professional repair.
Angela Tedesco, a product manager for Robert Bosch Tool Corp., says the most common laser-light color is red. “However, the green beam color is easier to see and is more visible in bright light,” she adds. Occasionally, a laser line must be projected on an angle from one position to another, and some line and plane lasers feature locking pendulum positions to hold these angles for transferring.
Using and caring for laser tools
Many units have strong magnets or mounts to hold tools against something metal during setup. You can screw units on tripods as well. When you turn on the laser level, it will quickly self-level and is ready to use. Locate the lines and points so they can be seen throughout your work area—the width of the line or the point becomes smaller the farther you are from your work.
In terms of care, Tedesco suggests always turning the tool off (to lock the pendulum) before you move it. Avoid dropping the tool and don’t store it at temperatures over 120 F. It’s a good idea to check the calibration before each project—instructions in the manual should tell you how to do this, but you can also have calibrations done professionally.
Joe Nasvik is a writer and editor serving the construction and concrete industries. He has 18 years’ experience as a concrete contractor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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