Winter 2013/14 Tool Swap: Plumb Level and Center Marker

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Project by Rick M posted 02-23-2014 03:34 AM 2317 views 5 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The plumb level is a modernized reproduction of the plumb level as drawn in Peter Nicholson’s The Mechanics Companion, 1831. My version replaces the string and lead weight with a brass rod, axle, and roller bearing. Made from cherry (frame), walnut (axle & plumb bob), and holly (center mark); and finished with bees wax and oil. Gravity pushes the pointer down, toward the low side. Plumb levels can be extremely accurate.

This is actually the 2nd plumb level I built and benefits from lessons learned. Most importantly I did not glue the center portion and used brass screws instead of glued pins on the angle brackets, that way it can be adjusted if it ever gets out of whack.

I will write more about plumb levels in a separate project that will post tomorrow.

Bonus item:
The center marker is cherry with maple dowels, the pin is from a rivet. I used the pin as a pivot point so both dowel holes would be equidistant from the center. It’s used for finding exact center on the edge of a board.


12 comments so far

View theoldfart's profile


8327 posts in 1962 days

#1 posted 02-23-2014 03:44 AM

Rick, really neat plumb bob. The book you refer to, is there a printed version still avalable?

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Rick M's profile

Rick M

8171 posts in 1891 days

#2 posted 02-23-2014 04:15 AM

You can buy the book from Amazon. If you buy a printed version make sure it has the illustrations, I seem to remember there is a version without them.

You might also be interested in Thomas Martin’s The Circle of Mechanical Arts, 1813. Here is a similar plumb level from his book.


View johnhutchinson's profile


1211 posts in 1141 days

#3 posted 02-23-2014 04:36 AM

Very cool tool !!! Let’s see, if I put 20 in a row, and lifted them on alternate sides with a series of cams … but I digress. :)

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

View CFrye's profile


8918 posts in 1351 days

#4 posted 02-23-2014 05:45 AM

I love the vintage-ness (that’s a word) of this plumB level Rick! The center marker is a great bonus. Thanks for sharing the projects and the book references.

-- God bless, Candy

View fatandy2003's profile


258 posts in 1755 days

#5 posted 02-23-2014 09:35 AM

Very nice. Glad to see traditional tools live on!


-- -- Andy, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of liberty must undergo the fatigues of supporting it” - Thomas Paine

View Don W's profile (online now)

Don W

18063 posts in 2079 days

#6 posted 02-23-2014 12:55 PM

Well done Rick

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

View doubleDD's profile (online now)


5454 posts in 1554 days

#7 posted 02-23-2014 01:33 PM

Great to see tools like this being made. I like it.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View Rick M's profile

Rick M

8171 posts in 1891 days

#8 posted 02-23-2014 01:51 PM

More about version one and plumb levels in general in a separate project page.

Click for details


View BigRedKnothead's profile


8205 posts in 1493 days

#9 posted 02-23-2014 02:29 PM

Proud to have these in my shop. Thanks man.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View JL7's profile


8462 posts in 2476 days

#10 posted 02-23-2014 03:22 PM

Very cool Rick. Learned something new today…....

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View Airframer's profile


3043 posts in 1464 days

#11 posted 02-23-2014 04:59 PM

That is cool! I would have never thought of something like that. Nice work!

-- Eric - "I'm getting proficient with these hand jobbers. - BigRedKnothead"

View Tim's profile


3185 posts in 1473 days

#12 posted 02-23-2014 06:23 PM

Very nicely done and great information, thanks. You can download free copies of three different versions of Mechanic’s Companion from Not sure what the differences in the editions are, but they are different years. They each seem to have the illustrations. You can get pdf or epub or other file formats. There’s lots of other good vintage woodworking books on there too including all 5 volumes of Turning and Mechanical Manipulation by Holtzapffel. (1832) (1842) (1845)

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