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The Many Uses of The Plumb and Level Toolkit

What is a Plumb and Level? and what is its history?

Tools used to test for vertical and horizontal have always worked on the same principle. The essential features were a heavy bob and line. Egyptians levels used the bob and line suspended from the apex of an A - shaped wooden frame. This type was in general use up to the middle ages. A later form, common until the mid nineteenth century, was a short plumb rule and bob set at right angles to a straight edge. Levels had been known and used in surveying and navigating instruments before 1800, but they were adopted by carpenters and other at about that time. They are now also used in plumb rules. The main advantage of an air bubble in a carved glass tube is that it is virtually dead still, which a plumb bob never is.

Spirit Level

Size: 75mm to 2000mm

Material: Aluminium, Wood or Plastic

Use: To determine the accurate level of a surface

The important part of any level is the vial. This is a carved or barreled glass or plastic tube containing a clear liquid which may be alcohol, oil or chloroform. There is a bubble of air in the liquid which floats to the highest point of the curve, where two lines are marked on the vial. When the level is "true" the bubble will come to rest between the two marked lines. The vial is protected by a transparent cover and can be replaced if necessary. Vials are fitted in levels of various kinds. The simplest is a small pocket level, Which contains one vial. A "line" level is similar in size, but is fitted with a hook at either end to locate it on a taut cord. This insures that the levelling line is truly horizontal. standard levels are parallel top and bottom, ranging in length from approximately 225mm up to 2000mm. The shorter 225mm levels are often tapered at both ends. These are known as "torpedo", "canoe" or "boat-shaped" levels. The longer the level, the more accurate the reading. longer levels contain several vials for measuring horizontally and vertically. Some are set at 45 degrees for angles surfaces. Before buying, check that the level is true by setting it up on a surface already established as truly horizontal.


Chalk Line

Size: 5.5m to 30m

Material: Cotton or Plastic

Use: To snap a marked line

A chalk line is used to mark a straight line on a surface. This may be a plumbed line on the wall for hanging wallpaper vertically, or perhaps a center line on a ceiling for the application of tiles. In the best models, the line is contained in a case with colored chalk powder (white, red or blue). As the line is withdrawn from the casing, a felt gasket distributes an even chalk coating. The line has a hook and ring at one end for attaching to a nail or catching between floor boards.


Plumb Bob

Size: Weight- 43g to 1800g

Material: Bob- brass, plastic, lead or steel Line- Nylon or Silk

Use: To determine a vertical line

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The plumb bob is used to make sure that a structure such as a door frame is truly vertical, or that an object is directly under a point on a ceiling. This helps in the sitting of a light fixture. The plumb bob is a pointed weight attached to a length of line which is contained in the bob itself and fastens in a slot in the cap. If the hardened point on the bob end becomes bent it will no longer give a true reading, so it must be replaced. Hold the end of the line at the required point and allow it to settle out of it natural swing. Make sure that it is hanging free, and mark the point below the plumb bob or the edge of the line.


Bricklayers Line and Pins

Size: Length- 9m to 18m

Material: Pins- steel, Line- cotton, plastic, nylon, hemp

Use: To make sure that a course of bricks is straight and true

The line is stretched along a wall and secured at either end by flat bladed steel pins. As you lay the bricks, take care that the line is not being pushed out of true.


Line Block

Size: Approximately 100mm

Material: Block- wood, plastic Line- cotton, plastic, hemp, nylon

Use: To make sure that a course of bricks a straight and true

This is the same device as the line and pins but uses plastic or wooden "L" shaped blocks in place of the pins. The line passes through a slot in the block and is tied of at each end. As the line is pulled tight, the blocks hold their position by friction on the bricks.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Temoor Dar

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