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 1500 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


4728 posts in 1195 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?

-- "Aged flatus, I heard that some one has already blown out your mortise." THE Surgeon ……………………………………. Kevin

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

4476 posts in 1124 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


740 posts in 374 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


3824 posts in 584 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


151 posts in 988 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

15519 posts in 1312 days

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

Well done Rick

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View doubleDD's profile


2780 posts in 787 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.

4476 posts in 1124 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


5784 posts in 727 days

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

Proud to have these in my shop. Thanks man.

-- Red-- "I'm a lumber hoardin', finger nickin', sliver cursin', breaker trippin', summbuckin woodworker ya'll"

View JL7's profile


7472 posts in 1709 days

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

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

-- Jeff - I have not failed. I've just found 10,002 ways that won't work.

View Airframer's profile


2723 posts in 697 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


1382 posts in 706 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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