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Nicholson Plumb Level

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Project by Rick M. posted 56 days ago 1034 views 5 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is the project page for version one. Version two and swap items are here:
Click for details

This is a modernized reproduction of the plumb level as drawn in Peter Nicholson’s The Mechanics Companion, 1831. (pic 3)

A very similar version appears in Thomas Martin’s The Circle of Mechanical Arts, 1813, but I chose the Nicholson version because it has better lines. Here is Martin’s version.

And for comparison, Moxon’s carpenter level and bricklayer level.

My version replaces the string with a brass rod, attached to a wood axle press fit into a roller bearing. The frame is cherry, the plumb bob is ebony, the inlay strip is American holly, finish is beeswax and oil. On v.2 (swap item), I used brass screws and no glue so it can be adjusted. There is no advantage to the rod and bearing, I did it simply to modernize the design and be different. I would show a picture of the bearing in place but after pressing in the axle I couldn’t remove it. The brass rod is actually canted back toward the frame and the plumb bob is flat on the back. On a level surface the pointer will be centered on the white strip. Gravity will push the pointer toward the low side. The bearing is a 1/4×3/8×1/8” metal shielded bearing that is press fit into a hole drilled top center. The ebony axle has a small tenon on the back that fits into the bearing. It works like a plumb bob, gravity forces the pointer toward earth and when aligned with the holly strip the base is level.

Bearing:

Plumb levels have been around for at least 4500 years. They were used by Egyptians to build pyramids and the Romans used variations for surveying and construction. Here are a few other types:

-- |Statistics show that 100% of people bitten by a snake were close to it.|





10 comments so far

View johnstoneb's profile

johnstoneb

515 posts in 676 days


#1 posted 56 days ago

Nice job.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View CFrye's profile

CFrye

1607 posts in 343 days


#2 posted 56 days ago

This is such a cool old tool! Love all the different versions! Is there a way to secure the plumb bob for storage or travel Rick?

-- God bless, Candy

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

3384 posts in 883 days


#3 posted 56 days ago

No, I didn’t really build these for daily use, too easy to knock out of alignment.

-- |Statistics show that 100% of people bitten by a snake were close to it.|

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

1360 posts in 754 days


#4 posted 56 days ago

Very nice reproduction (and enhancement) of a vintage tool. I had not heard of these before, but using gravity to define vertical, then making a superstructure to frame the right angle makes perfect sense. Excellent work on display, Rick! In looking at the different options you posted above, I like the style you picked best too.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View woodchuckerNJ's profile

woodchuckerNJ

452 posts in 137 days


#5 posted 56 days ago

Nice,

-- Jeff NJ

View Don W's profile

Don W

13950 posts in 1070 days


#6 posted 56 days ago

I had never seen one before. A pretty simple theory really. It looks like a great piece.

-- There is nothing like the sound of a well tuned hand plane. - http://timetestedtools.wordpress.com (timetestedtools at hotmail dot c0m)

View LakeLover's profile

LakeLover

272 posts in 442 days


#7 posted 56 days ago

Thanks Rick.

That good pic helps. Now that would be a laugh to pull one out on a job site.

Question On v.2 (swap item), I used brass screws and no glue so it can be adjusted.

??? inquiring minds have to know !!

View oldnovice's profile

oldnovice

3265 posts in 1871 days


#8 posted 56 days ago

Rick, nice job, well done indeed!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

3384 posts in 883 days


#9 posted 56 days ago

@Lakeover, You’d think the angle brackets would help hold the center piece still but in reality it’s just something else to go wrong. On version 2 I didn’t glue the center and used brass screws on the angle brackets so that if it goes out of kilter, you can just loosen or shim and put it back into alignment.

If build one for regular use it’ll probably be Moxonish from a piece of plywood; not as pretty but less likely to shift with humidity.

-- |Statistics show that 100% of people bitten by a snake were close to it.|

View doubleDD's profile (online now)

doubleDD

2040 posts in 546 days


#10 posted 56 days ago

This is a cool tool. I see this handy for many jobs. Well done Rick.

-- --Dave-- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams

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