No matter what structure you're in, you can't do your job effectively without level. Since lasers have taken us beyond the primordial bubble levels of the last century, we have options these days. Despite this technology, they haven't replaced spirit levels (named for the mineral spirits inside the vial), especially for home building and remodeling applications. Given the simplicity of using a layout tool like the Empire Level e55 series, I doubt they would.
The Empire Level e55 series is an I-Beam style level from the True Blue series. I might be one of the few who thinks a bit of alligator orange to accent the blue would be nice, but without it, the Wisconsin-based company still has a very attractive look. Empire's years of innovation set the e55 apart.
When it comes to the grades we use, it's usually a choice between I-beam and box girder styles. There is not much difference in functionality between the two. Cut off the end of the I-beam and you will see the design shaped like the letter "I". Box beam levels are (you guessed it) box shaped. Box beam levels tend to be a little more durable due to their structural design. I-beam levels get some durability help, weigh less, and often cost a few dollars less when high-grade aluminum is used.
Clint has been subtly hinting at getting greater levels for door frames and large window installations, so we've introduced the 72" Empire Level e55 Series I-Beam Level.
As long as a level is actually horizontal (along with plumb and square), it all comes down to features. You need it to be accurate, durable and visible. This is where we start to see the difference in Empire Level. Back in 2004, Empire launched the True Blue vial, which has defined the brand ever since. Clear acrylic vial with blue line and liquid, the meniscus is easier to read than traditional yellow vials.
Adding to the visibility factor is the top window of the center vial. This is a huge benefit when you are overhead checking the level of floors or other applications.
In terms of durability, the Empire e55 series utilizes aluminum as a material that is both strong and lightweight. Protective end caps help prevent damage and loss of precision due to end strikes. Acrylic bottles are more durable than glass and are now fairly standard in the industry.
Empire Level e55 Series 72″ True Blue I-Beam Level Specifications
- Model: Imperial Class e55.72
- Length: 72″
- Frame Material: Aluminum
- Accuracy: 0.0005 inches per inch
- Vials: 2 plumbs, level 1
- Price: $49.99
- Warranty: Limited Lifetime
About that accuracy…
The Empire Level e55 Series I-Beam Levels are accurate to 0.0005 of an inch (5/10,000 of an inch). At 72 inches in length, the e55.72 will not deviate more than 0.036 inches from end to end when displaying a perfectly level surface. If you're keeping score at home, that's less than a millimeter on a 6 foot length (forgive me for confusing metric and standard measurements).
Levels are always knocked and bumped, especially the long ones. Anytime accuracy is questionable after a fall, there's an easy way to double check it.
Lay a level down on a flat surface and mark the ends. Pay careful attention to the position of the meniscus (even if it is not level). Rotate the spirit level 180 degrees to line up with the mark you made and see if the meniscus is in the exact same position. If yes, you are good to go! Use the same technique on the other side. Do the same on the walls on both sides to test the accuracy of the plumb bob. In less than 5 minutes, you know you won't have to go back and redo your work later.
to sum up
Accurate, durable and visible – it doesn't get much better. Well, it does. We could also add lightweighting to the list of honors we've bestowed on the Empire Level e55 series. While we only tested the 72″ I-Beam (Empire Level e55.72), there are several other options available. For smaller sizes, you can choose from the 24″ ($18.99) or 48″ ($26.99 ) length. If you regularly work around steel structures, you can purchase the e55 Series Magnetic I-Beam Levels in 24", 48", or 76" lengths.
If you really need another reason to try Empire Level's e55 line, you'll feel good knowing it's made in the USA. You'll keep Americans working while getting a great product.