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Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level
Getting double-crossed the good way
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 5-8-2011
Because so many of our installation and building projects involve both horizontal and vertical alignments having a laser that shoots simultaneous level and plumb lines and doing it accurately can be invaluable. The Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level is such a laser level and so far the only down side I can find is that it removes virtually all of our excuses for not getting everything level and plumb.
The Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level (#40-0921) shown in this review comes with the laser unit itself, 3 “AAA” alkaline batteries, red tinted glasses, tripod, instruction manual and hard-shell carrying case. You can literally buy this unit and go right to the job.
The Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level unit is only 5" x 4" x 3.5" and weighs a whole 1.2lbs. It has a tough plastic body and very little in the way of things for you to operate or set. It does have a knob on the side that releases the pendulum centering mechanism and turns on the laser. That’s it for operational controls. The Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level has a 5/8"-11 threaded boss in the bottom that matches up with the included tripod.
The Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level unit has a full-circle swivel base with cast-in graduations that depict a 360-degree circle that let you shoot plumb lines with very precise separations. I think this feature will sort of grow on you. Establish one point in a room and you can split the walls into exacting segments that would take a bunch of measuring and math to do manually. Since I would rather skip manual and math, the Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level goes up a few notches on my must-have list.
The Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level is powered by three AAA batteries (included) and you can expect approximately 12 hours of continuous use before needing replacements. The cross beam laser has a wavelength of 635nm +/-10nm (Red), is classified as Class IIIa with a maximum power output of <=5mW. Johnson Level and Tool literature claims an accuracy of +/-1/4" at 35-feet and I can’t find anything to refute that. If anything the accuracy appears to a bit closer than that. The interior range is listed as 100-feet (depending on light conditions naturally) and while I could only get about 75-feet away the beams and their accuracy remain on or better than the claims by the manufacturer. The red tinted glasses they include in the kit make the laser easily visible in surprisingly bright light situations.
On the Level
The Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level has an internal pendulum type leveling system that can correct for surfaces up to +/-6 degrees out of level. That might not sound like much but even stuff I build is closer to level than that! Since both the level and plumb lasers come from the same internal unit they are always 90-degrees from each other making further adjustments unnecessary.
The ON/OFF knob both releases ad turns the laser on and when turned to the OFF position it shuts down the laser and locks the pendulum system in place. That prevents damage to the internal systems during transport. That really is the only control that you deal with when using the Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level.
In the Shop
I love self-leveling lasers because they are so easy to use and gravity is always more precise than I can be using bubble level to set the unit up. Plus this pendulum system is way faster. The Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level really is sort of plug & play for the masses.
The evaluation period for the Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level was rather short because you turn it on and it does what it is supposed to. You do have to get it to the right room (or close if the hallway is clear) and it does have to be aimed towards the surfaces that you want to work on. After that, turn it on and go to work.
One of the surprising things (to me anyway) about the Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level is the wide angle of the beams. Set the Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level on a flat surface and the lower portion of the plumb beam begins a tad over an inch from the base! It doesn’t wrap around to straight over the unit but it comes close. The gist of all this is that you will have to move the Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level far less than I would have thought. That ease of use means that the learning curve for the Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level is as flat as possible and still be able to suggest it is a curve.
The Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level might be aimed at the contractor but its very reasonable price and popularity proves that the DIY crowd is also taking this tool home in big numbers. The street price of $90.00 (5-6-2011) certainly puts the Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level within reach of more budgets but its capabilities fit a wide range of homeowners and professional contractors. Do you need a nearly instant way to be sure that the shelves, towel rods, pictures and everything else that didn’t quite get level before are actually level from now on? The Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level is an economical and simple tool to make it happen.
The tripod and hard shell carry case are also just as handy the contractor as the homeowner. Whether you need to protect the tool during frequent transport to the next job or just store it all together between not-so-frequent uses, the case is nice. The tripod makes it much easier to adjust the height of the Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level to put the level line exactly where you need it.
If you own a home or a business and want to install things level and plumb there is a very good chance that the Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level is just what you need. I’m as good at getting out of household projects as anyone but the Johnson Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser Level will remain in my man cabinet so I can look good and get done quickly when actually cornered into installing something.
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