I guess we all managed quite well before the arrival of laser levels. A plumb bob and spirit level are capable of giving good results in the hands of people that know what to do. For myself, laser levels have been nothing short of minor miracles. They are quick to set up, usually accurate (unless you have a habit of mistreating them) and reliable. And so versatile too – anything from levels for courses of bricks, setting out tiles on floor and walls and hanging up kitchen cabinets, to name but a few possibilities.
A few years on too, the prices of laser tools have also plunged as they have been adopted for use by all manner of trades and professions. I am tempted to paraphrase an old Prime Minister from the 1960′s, Harold McMillan, who declared that “we have never had it so good.”
The DEWALT DW089 is a recently launched multi line laser level, that I am sure will become a favourite with building professionals of all kinds on the basis of my tests.
First impressions are very positive since the whole package looks very robust and compact. For example, the laser level and lens projectors are well protected by a cast alloy screen that looks as though it would withstand a frenzied attack with a club hammer. Behind this screen is a clear plastic box that contains the lasers and self-leveling mechanism. From what I could see this plastic box would be effectively dust proof and moisture proof (within reason).
The rest of the laser housing and other bits is in the classic DEWALT yellow and black livery. It is covered with a slightly grippy plastic/rubber compound that promises to not only absorb small shocks but also to be reasonably dust proof too.
Attached to the top of the level itself is a magnetic bracket that is another piece of well thought out design. The bracket is fixed to the level by one screw that enables the laser level to be pivoted nearly 180 degrees from left to right, so it should be possible to get the laser pretty well targeted on wherever you want the laser to project. This single screw also enables the vertical laser line (and by extension the other two lines) to be micro adjusted to exactly where the user wants the laser to project – for example on the edge of a wall or line of cabinets.
For those users lucky enough to have a sturdy tripod, there is a standard tripod screw thread under the level close to the battery housing.
The magnetic bracket can also be attached (the magnets are very strong – I nearly pinched my fingers) to any magnetic vertical surface or to another bracket supplied as part of the DW089 kit. This is another well-designed piece that is again very strongly made in black plastic. It can be attached to slim projections like a metal stud via a spring-loaded clip. Or there are holes, top and bottom, where it can be screwed to a stud wall or hung from a nail or screw.
I know from other laser levels I have used that many of them have similar sorts of devices to enable the easy and accurate use of laser leveling, but what impresses about the DEWALT is the robustness of the parts and the clarity and precision of the design. Clearly, whoever designed these had a very good idea of what users need.
Getting started with the DW089 was straightforward- the four AA batteries are loaded into the battery compartment under the level – and then it is ready for use.
Like most other laser levels the DW089 has a built-in failsafe for users. The level will self level as long as it is not on a tilt of more than four degrees. If there is more tilt, the laser will flash, so the user knows to find a more level spot (or use a tripod, bracket etc) on which to place the level.
There are three switches down one side of the laser casing. The first of these activates the vertical laser, the second the horizontal laser and the third operates the second vertical laser that is at 90 degrees to the first vertical laser. This is a very handy system in that each laser is individually controlled. Some other levels have a three-way switch that switches each laser on in sequence, so there is always a small hassle to switch it off. With individual switches you save battery power (however minimal that might be) and also have the convenience and efficiency of choosing which laser and switch you want to each time.
When I had set the laser up I used it to measure how accurately the cabinets in my kitchen had been hung. I was pleased to see that they were pretty well all vertical where necessary, with light fittings and radiators similarly all horizontal – but then I did buy the house from a plumber who had done all the improvements.
The laser projection is another critical feature, and since the DW089 is a Class 2 laser it has sufficient power to project quite large distances. In the dark, it projected easily down my garden to the back wall 25 metres away, so my guess is that indoors on a building site it would be more than adequate.
Over a distance of 5 metres the line projects at a smidgeon over 2 mm thick, so is easy to work to. Of course in all three modes, the laser line projects top and bottom, so the vertical line for example will project along the floor, wall and ceiling of a room, enabling all vertical elements of a room to be laid to.
The DW089 comes in a strong custom moulded carry case that provides genuine protection in building site and back-of-white-van conditions. But as befits a professional quality device, the instructions have detailed notes on how to recalibrate the laser should it lose accuracy from being dropped, for example.
My only regret with this review is that I didn’t have a real building job on which I could have used the DW089. From my tests, I think it would a first class device to use on a building site, and would save huge amounts of time and hassle for almost any trade.