Wooden Levels...which kind of wood should I use?

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Forum topic by BubTheBuilder posted 05-07-2012 07:03 PM 3704 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View BubTheBuilder's profile


58 posts in 2237 days

05-07-2012 07:03 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hello fellow LJers…

Lately, I have I have been making my own layout, measuring and leveling tools to take my woodworking to a whole new level (no pun intended). I have knocked out quite a bit from my “Wish-List”, but now I want to make 3 levels. I want a 6’, 4’ and 2’ level (possibly a torpedo level as well), but here is the kicker…I want to make them out of wood.

I am reaching out to this network and its plethora of knowledge. My question is what wood should I use? Obviously I would need something that is hard and durable. I wouldn’t mind something with a nice grain though. My first thought was Teak, but I figured I would reach out to everyone here first and seek advice.

Second question is, where would be a good place to order or purchase the wood suggested?

Has anyone ever made or had experience with wooden levels before?

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Many thanks….

-- Richard-- "If it ain't tight, then it ain't right."

8 replies so far

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2964 days

#1 posted 05-07-2012 07:12 PM

Bamboo, or laminated cherry.
Dimensional Stability is foremost concern.

View BubTheBuilder's profile


58 posts in 2237 days

#2 posted 05-07-2012 07:17 PM

Where would I find wood like this? My lumber yard here is the equivalent to an Ace Hardware…LOL!

-- Richard-- "If it ain't tight, then it ain't right."

View Doss's profile


779 posts in 2258 days

#3 posted 05-07-2012 07:24 PM

I hope you have a straight-edge and a few other really accurate reference tools to begin with. Dimensionally-stable wood is one thing, but also having the proper finishes to keep them stable is another. You can find this type of wood on the internet fairly easily if you don’t have it available locally.

I think it’s cool that you’re making your own tools like this; but, realize if you want high-accuracy pieces, that it’s going to take a lot of work and expertise (and possibly a lot of extra tools to ensure they are flat, square, parallel, etc.).

Good luck.

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

View Brit's profile


7373 posts in 2836 days

#4 posted 05-07-2012 07:36 PM

Personally, I wouldn’t go overboard with worrying about trying to get them incredibly accurate. After all, you’re working wood and wood moves.

Secondly, you might like to check out Kari Hultman’s project where she made a spirit level.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Doss's profile


779 posts in 2258 days

#5 posted 05-07-2012 07:52 PM

Along the lines of what Brit said, I guess it does matter what you plan on using them for afterwards. If they’re more for showpieces or just a test of skill, then have at it.

Man, Kari’s is a pretty level. So pretty in fact, that I’d never use it. :-)

To me though, if it isn’t something I can reasonably trust, I wouldn’t bother with it. I have a few Stabilas that work just fine for me and I trust them… which is the most important part.

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

View PutnamEco's profile


155 posts in 3279 days

#6 posted 05-07-2012 09:05 PM

Sounds like a fun project.If I were to undertake it, I think I would go for some kind of lamination. I would use Oak, Walnut, and Hickory, and would lay it up with epoxy. I would probably go with Crick tools replacement vials and build a level similar to theirs.

-- “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

View Kari Hultman's profile

Kari Hultman

48 posts in 3006 days

#7 posted 05-08-2012 10:37 AM

Some of the antique levels were made of mahogany or rosewood. Heavier woods (such as cocobolo) are really nice—the added weight seems to help the level stay put. I used cherry with my level but the brass helped give it weight. It should probably have some brass corners on the bottom though because it seems a little imbalanced. I buy exotic lumber from Hearne Hardwoods and domestic from Groffs Lumber.

View bondogaposis's profile


4717 posts in 2344 days

#8 posted 05-08-2012 10:57 AM

Traditionally, levels were made of Honduran mahogany, quartersawn for stability.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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