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Flex Laser Tools - Getting the measure

Aimed at:- Pros who need the speed and accuracy of laser marking out and measuring.

Pros: Keenly priced, up to date and very accurate.
No reason not to have one.

Flex tools aren’t available outside specialist tool dealers for the very good reason that only specialist dealers are in a position to give professional advice on the best use and purposes of Flex tools. Of course, this limits the scope of the market, but loyalty to the trades has been a Flex motto in the market.

Flex is probably most well known for their Giraffe wall sanders so it was with some surprise that I took delivery of a range of Flex laser products a while ago. Initial impressions were favourable – they seemed to have all the build quality and capability associated with other Flex products, and there is nothing like a bit of competition in the market to raise everyone’s game.

I started with the ADM60-T Touchscreen laser range finder. I am a great fan of this type of tool – how did we ever manage without them, dragging tape measures around site and having to climb ladders to measure roof heights for example. All done in seconds now with a laser measure, with all the extra calculations too. The ADM 60-T has a Flex Red casing with black rubber “bumpers” on most of the edges. Powered by 4 AAA batteries it comes in a nylon case and a standard tripod screw fixing in the bottom for static (and more accurate) use.

Weighing only 180g and with a length of 115mm the measure will easily fit into a trouser pocket. What makes this measure different from many is the touch screen. The on/off switch is on the right hand side and once this is pushed the blue-based display is easy to read even in daylight. Energy saving kicks in quite quickly to reduce the display and then turns off the device automatically after a minute or two.

There are only seven icons on the screen and they all follow “computer logic”. For example it is simple to scroll through the units needed – from metres to miilimetres, feet and inches, inches only or feet only. The device will also automatically calculate cubic volume, area and triangulated heights by simply selecting the appropriate icon on the screen.

I am still slightly in awe of how quickly simple surveying, estimating and measuring can be done with laser devices like this, and the Flex ADM60-T is so easy to understand and use that it is a no-brainer for even independent tradespeople to have one for doing quotes. It will pay for itself in time saved incredibly quickly.

Next on the list was the ALC 2/1 Basic Self-levelling Crossline Laser in its custom carrying case. The description pretty well tells you all that it does, but what it can’t convey is that the quality of this device is excellent. Although there is an interior red plastic casing to hold the laser projector and lenses, most of the exterior is covered with a rubberized material that offers excellent shock and dust protection.

The device can stand on a flattish surface or can be held on a tripod or one of the other bases that Flex supplies as accessories. If the placement surface is not flat enough to sustain a level reading, the laser will turn off and on intermittently and a warning light will show red on the top display. The display is simple to use and understand. There is a choice of interior and exterior use. The latter simply makes the laser crosslines slightly brighter so they are easier to see. There are three modes selected by an advance button – single vertical line, single horizontal line and combined vertical and horizontal lines. Ideal for brickwork, tiling, laying out kitchens and even hanging pictures. I have used similar devices for real and when I tried this Flex ALC 2/1 it is better than many and up there with the best. With a working range of 20m (probably a bit more indoors) it is another one of those time saving devices that you wonder how you managed without.

The Flex ALC 3/1 Basic Self-levelling Crossline Laser is bigger than the device above and comes in its own carrying case with the addition of a special magnetic wall holder so that it can be stuck to ferrous metal surfaces as well as being able to be used from a standard tripod mount.

It follows a similar pattern to its smaller sibling with generous rubberized shock and dirt proofing but it has the addition of a side laser beam used for plumb measurements. Switching on the switch on the side frees the floating laser projectors and it will self-level in a few seconds. Again, simply scrolling through the menus will allow the user to select the correct mode, i.e. horizontal, vertical, combined vertical and horizontal and then plumb mode with an additional vertical line that projects onto a surface at angles to the first two lines. There is again an interior and exterior mode and the range is given in the specs as 20m and 5m in plumb mode. Measurements are specced to be within 0.3mm/m, which is certainly good enough for most purposes. No doubt it costs a bit more than the Basic ALC 2/1, but if there is a chance you would use the plumb function a lot it would make sense to buy the bigger one – it too will soon repay its investment costs.

Some people might query why you might need a digital spirit level – after all many trades use ordinary spirit levels every day with no problems. But the truth is the addition of the laser bits improves the flexibility and functionality of a basic spirit level so that it becomes something a lot more. I was sent two examples of the spirit levels – namely the ADL30 and the ADL 60. They both function in a similar way with identical displays, and they both have magnets inset into the bases making them ideal for use by scaffolders and HVAC engineers. The ADL 30’s top surface is not milled so it has only one registered flat surface, whereas the ADL 60 at 60cm long has two registered surfaces, top and bottom, so can be used accurately from either. Both levels include a standard tripod mount and a vertical and horizontal spirit bubble. They can therefore both be used as ordinary spirit levels.

But the magic really begins when the central display is switched on. Immediately the bright green display shows a measurement in degrees above and below vertical or horizontal. If you want different units e.g. inches per foot or percentage, just change it using the “unit” button. A “beep” can be selected as an audio signal to indicate horizontal or vertical.

Finally, by pushing a switch on the right hand end of the levels, a pinpoint laser is projected from the end that can be used as a marker for lining up the level selected.

Like “ordinary” spirit levels they have protective rubber cap ends and the ADL 60 has two rubber-lined handles for easier handling.

No doubt these levels have a specialist clientele in mind rather than simply bricklayer duties, but the quality is not in doubt and they are very easy to use and understand. Years ago I never thought I would be so enthusiastic about things digital and laser, but I have changed my mind because the benefits of these new devices in making measuring, marking and laying out are so obvious. Never mind the cost – feel the ease of use and the accuracy.

There is further information on products from Flex, including the Flex Random Orbit Sander and The Flex Giraffe II

 

Flex lasers measurers level Peter Brett Reviews
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