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View Full Version : Quality of Levels,pipe fitting tools etc.



MrLeadMan
08-16-2012, 10:20 PM
So I've started a job in a fab/job shop. My previous experiance has been manufacturing.
I went in with the basic tools I knew I would need and after a couple weeks I have determined what new tools I need. So some questions.

What, if any, brands of levels are better than others? Looking at torpedo, 24", and 48".

Pipe fitting tools. I know I need two hole pins and such but are there any real time savers out there that would make life easier. Shop I'm at does alot of oilfield fab and repair. Flanges we do lots of flanges.

Thanks in advance.

DSW
08-16-2012, 10:44 PM
Best levels I've used are the Stablia ones. Not their lower end ones, but their upper end units like the 196 units. Not "machinist" grade, but very accurate, no matter which way you use them usually. Even the "home owner" grade units are better than most of the box store ones.

http://www.stabila.com/main.taf?p=1,1



I've got one of their small torpedo levels, 1 18" level, 3 24" levels ( one of which is digital and my go to level any time I need to do accurate work or figure angles), 2 48" levels and a 6' one.

I must have a dozen assorted home owner quality levels that I picked up before getting the Stablia ones. I couldn't even tell you where most of them are since the only one of those that I ever even bother to use is a small magnetic torpedo level that I keep as a spare. None of those will even come close to the accuracy I can get with the Stablia ones. Set my 6' Stablia down and level it out and 1/2 the others won't show level in one direction or another. Take any of my Stablia's and set it down on top of the 6'er and no matter how you set it down it will read level.

BD1
08-17-2012, 10:16 AM
Torpedo level with the rare earth magnets. I have a checkpoint but here are others.
http://www.bing.com/shopping/search?q=torpedo+level+with+rare+earth+magnets&qpvt=torpedo+level+with+rare+earth+magnets&FORM=HURE#x0y0

TozziWelding
08-19-2012, 01:49 AM
Flange Wizard, Curv-O-Mark, etc.......

turk
08-19-2012, 02:31 AM
I am a big fan of starrett

justinT
08-19-2012, 10:29 AM
Flange Wizard, Curv-O-Mark, etc.......

I second Flange Wizard I have their torpedo level, center finder, and hole pins they are the best quality

SR20steve
08-19-2012, 10:47 AM
I second Flange Wizard I have their torpedo level, center finder, and hole pins they are the best quality

I really like their two hole pins and center finder, but the torpedo level is not very good IMO. The magnets make it difficult to level small pieces with any accuracy and the angle dial has allot of slop in it so you have to keep rechecking to make sure it hasn't moved slightly. I would level something with the FW level, then take my standard run of the mill torpedo level out and recheck it and it would be off. If I need to get a exact angle I'll use a digital level. But I find myself using squares as much as possible seems much faster and easier to get accurate fit up on pipe.

Those Stabila's look real sweet, I've never used them though.

Fitter638nyc
08-19-2012, 01:03 PM
In my work tool box I have most of the time 1 set of 24" framing squares,1 set of 12" framing squares I use them alot. Stablia torpedo level and a check point torpedo level, a small center finder Some 2 hole pins I made up out of thread rod because the other one walk away. A 3/32
tack-it spacer,2 Small bore wedge 1 big bore wedge, pipeliners file,Vise grip chain pliers they come in handy alot. A blue pipefitter book:blob2:

killdozerd11
08-19-2012, 02:35 PM
I picked up this starrett level and adjustable parallels for $20.00 at a yard sale

CEP
08-19-2012, 03:25 PM
I picked up this starrett level and adjustable parallels for $20.00 at a yard sale

You should be ashamed of your self.
You know you can go to jail for stealing?:laugh:

Dualie
08-19-2012, 10:45 PM
i picked up several of them over the years, dont think i paid more than $50 each for them. None as nice as that though.

wnywelder
08-19-2012, 11:58 PM
The company I work for supplies a lot of our tools, and they give us Stanley Pro I-Beam 24"& 48" levels. I know they are inexpensive, but they are also capable of accurate work and I use them every day. Checkpoint makes great magnetic torpedo levels. At home I have several levels from Macklanburg-Duncan, and have also used their SmartTool digital level. All good products. We do alot of flanges, and everyone uses threaded studs. Just keep several sizes on hand, two for every bolt hole size you encounter (we keep 1/2" up to 2" diameter on hand). Cheap, accurate, quick, and nobody is interested in stealing them. Other must have tools in my opinion: pipe wraparound, radius marker and ball points, miracle point center finder, 3 and five inch wedges.

Ruark
08-20-2012, 10:32 AM
Even the "home owner" grade units are better than most of the box store ones.

That's the truth. Next time you're in a box store, put a level up against a beam or wall. Then put another level there and look at the difference between bubble positions. It's shocking. Really... try it.

Same thing with any kind of rulers or measuring tapes. Put two of them together at "0" then look at them at 4 feet or so. One will always be 1/16" or more different from the other. That's why my grandad taught me many years ago to always build a project with the same ruler, or rulers that you carefully matched, or you could end up with a real mess. Same goes for levels and squares.

rlitman
08-20-2012, 10:41 AM
That's the truth. Next time you're in a box store, put a level up against a beam or wall. Then put another level there and look at the difference between bubble positions. It's shocking. Really... try it.

Same thing with any kind of rulers or measuring tapes. Put two of them together at "0" then look at them at 4 feet or so. One will always be 1/16" or more different from the other. That's why my grandad taught me many years ago to always build a project with the same ruler, or rulers that you carefully matched, or you could end up with a real mess. Same goes for levels and squares.

You cannot compare levels by the bubble position, unless the bubble is in the center. Anywhere off center, and different curvature vials will react differently.
I will say that Stabila makes a great level. Their vial design is supposed to be the most resistant to damage (where others might shift and go off), and they use a metal spring clip inside to mark the lines, rather than painted lines (that's why there's a gap in their line on the back-side).

Tape measures today are far better than they were years ago (but I'm not comparing name-brand tapes with HF ones). Any good tape should do (whether you prefer Stanley, Lufkin, or Starrett, you'll be fine).
The biggest issue I've had with tape measures, is damage to the moving "foot". That can throw things off a lot.

Ruark
08-20-2012, 01:27 PM
You cannot compare levels by the bubble position, unless the bubble is in the center. Anywhere off center, and different curvature vials will react differently.

Tape measures today are far better than they were years ago (but I'm not comparing name-brand tapes with HF ones). Any good tape should do (whether you prefer Stanley, Lufkin, or Starrett, you'll be fine).


I'm not sure what kind of "curvature" you're talking about. The vials in the levels I've seen are straight, not curved.

I would still check the tape measures before starting a major project, just to be safe. Actually, the most radical differences I've seen has been with rulers, or between tapes and rulers, like those big 4-foot steel rulers. I've seen those be 1/8" off every 3 feet, next to a standard Stanley tape measure.

johnrbauer
09-20-2014, 10:59 AM
How about Ridged are they good?

SR20steve
09-20-2014, 01:06 PM
A couple 2 foot squares, a couple 1 foot squares, a straight edge, and a tape measure are better than any level. It's like my boss says, levels are open for interpretation a bit, squares don't lie as long as they are not out of square. It's faster to and you don't need to be in a level position to verify is something is square, plumb, or level.

lotechman
09-20-2014, 01:17 PM
The big thing about Stabilator is that the bubble level unit is not a curved tube. The curved tube shape is machined out of a solid piece of plastic. The plastic block is bonded into the aluminum box beam that is the level itself. The curved tube design can shift or the tube can be damaged. By the time you manage to compromise a stabila level you heve destroyed the whole unit.
I have had a digital stabila for many years and it has proven faultless. It gives accuracy to tenth of a degree. I bought it because we were building a roof structure much like pagoda. Each five foot square bay was skewed 1.7. Degrees. Not a single bay was actually square.

johnrbauer
09-20-2014, 01:41 PM
From what I have seen its hard to find a stabila dealer?

Meltedmetal
09-20-2014, 01:44 PM
I'm not sure what kind of "curvature" you're talking about. The vials in the levels I've seen are straight, not curved.

I would still check the tape measures before starting a major project, just to be safe. Actually, the most radical differences I've seen has been with rulers, or between tapes and rulers, like those big 4-foot steel rulers. I've seen those be 1/8" off every 3 feet, next to a standard Stanley tape measure.

You didn't by any chance have a shrink rule? http://www.freemansupply.com/starrettsteelshrin.htm They are used in pattern and core box making to account for the shrinkage when the molten metal shrinks. Different shrinks for different metals.---Meltedmetal

DSW
09-20-2014, 02:05 PM
From what I have seen its hard to find a stabila dealer?

I haven't had any trouble. Don't bother looking at box stores. Try dedicated building supply houses. Most of the small local lumber yards I deal with both in PA and Jersey usually stock Stabila. They may not have every model, but they can order one if they don't have them.

I tried their dealer locator using your location and it pulled up several places withing 10 miles of Livingston NJ.


http://www.stabila.com/dealer-locator/find-a-dealer?location=Livingston%2C+New+Jersey&distance=10

DSW
09-20-2014, 02:16 PM
The big thing about Stabilator is that the bubble level unit is not a curved tube. The curved tube shape is machined out of a solid piece of plastic. The plastic block is bonded into the aluminum box beam that is the level itself. The curved tube design can shift or the tube can be damaged. By the time you manage to compromise a stabila level you heve destroyed the whole unit.



I drove a guy I was working with earlier this summer crazy because I always flip my Stabila level over and use it "upside down" when working over my head. He just couldn't get it thru his head it doesn't matter what orientation you use these levels in, they still read level/plumb. He also had a really hard time believing that I managed to lay out a level line all the way around a 20'x15' basement as accurately as his cheapy laser with my 4' Stabila level. I was out maybe less than a 1/16th by the time I made it all the way back around to where I started.

Bob
09-20-2014, 02:22 PM
My most used level is a small Stabila magnetic. I just can't get by with out it. Tape measures are always Stanley, been very consistent for me.

johnrbauer
09-20-2014, 02:33 PM
Here in Indiana according to find dealer there is only two in Indianapolis about 90 miles away.

DSW
09-20-2014, 02:37 PM
That being the case you may just have to shop online. I saw plenty of them listed for sale on line, so it doesn't look like Stabila limits sales to only store locations.

johnrbauer
09-20-2014, 02:40 PM
I will try that but may check out some big contracting dealers in Fort Wayne

12345678910
09-20-2014, 06:51 PM
You can check a level against itself by swapping it end for end.

OP

How about a PI pipe tape ?

cope
09-20-2014, 07:36 PM
I'm not sure what kind of "curvature" you're talking about. The vials in the levels I've seen are straight, not curved.


Many are curved.

kingnero
09-21-2014, 04:15 AM
I'm not sure what kind of "curvature" you're talking about. The vials in the levels I've seen are straight, not curved.

Many are curved.
Not true. ALL are curved. If they weren't, the bubble would only ever be either in the center, or at the very ends...

DSW
09-21-2014, 04:35 AM
Glass tubes are usually "banana" shaped and only read one direction. Block type tubes like on the Stabila levels are sort of a reversed hourglass with the center wider than the ends, so it's "curved" in all directions at once.

mikecwik
09-21-2014, 08:27 AM
What would you figure he might need a pi tape for?

I don't think I would want to use a precision level for pipe work.

That Flange Wizard kit looks pretty nice.

Oldendum
09-21-2014, 10:19 AM
I'm not sure what kind of "curvature" you're talking about. The vials in the levels I've seen are straight, not curved....

They are curved or tapered inside the tube. In other words, the middle of the tube has a slightly larger diameter that the ends. If the curvature is very small, the level is more sensitive.

Now, some levels do have a slightly curved tube. It's cheap to make them that way.

gxbxc
09-21-2014, 12:33 PM
A Pi tape tells you the diameter of a pipe by measuring the circumference of the pipe.

mikecwik
09-21-2014, 01:27 PM
I know what it is used for. I was wondering does a pipe fitter need such a tool? Do they machine the outside of pipe and need to measure so precise?

M J D
09-21-2014, 01:38 PM
The pi tape must be for those who can't do basic math. BTW I believe the flange wizard tools are nicer quality than the contour brand.

92dlxman
09-21-2014, 03:40 PM
I have a Stabila 4' that I love and cherish.

as far as my torpedo, I used the big-box Swanson Savage but learned to be very careful to orient it the same because they are never true. I just replaced it with an Empire billet aluminum one that is actually really close. I like it. am now looking to see if Stabila has something more up my alley though.

so can anybody detail more on the curved vials? I never realized they all were.

just asking because I found one that has a very visible curve to the vials and there are two vials for each location on the beam. so I have a "u" and an "n" to look at and im wondering if it is worth a damn or even which bubble is right?

mikecwik
09-21-2014, 08:41 PM
If in fact they do need a pi tape a guy can go the inexpensive route. Lufkin makes a tape measure pull out model that measures to .100, it cost about 15 dollars.

I know what you are thinking that is a pretty large gap but I have tested them side by side with expensive .001 models and without much thinking a guy can eyeball the .1 to within a few thousandths. Probably not a good idea if you have less than .040 tolerance.

con_fuse9
09-22-2014, 05:57 PM
Can the Stabila digital really read down to .01 degree???? wow.

I have an old smart level (20 years old???) and its .1 degree.

lotechman
09-25-2014, 11:36 AM
Can the Stabila digital really read down to .01 degree???? wow.

I have an old smart level (20 years old???) and its .1 degree.

I was reading a post about building extremely sensitive electronic levels .... Off the shef sensors are amazing. My stabila is to tenth of a degree ....goo enough
Pi tapes are largely used by machinists when turning large diameters...more accurate than calipers balanced across a ring. I was in one shop that rolled rings that had to be right because they fit in a huge hydraulically actuated fixture. They would Pi tape and check before putting the final tack with with a gap to get that perfect diameter. Out of round didn't matter because of the Pi tape. The fixture would force it round on assembly.