Some woodworkers scoff at owning a level because it is regarded as mostly a carpenter’s tool. Furniture doesn’t have to be level and plumb, does it?
A small level – about 12″ long – is a great thing to have in the workshop. You can use it to level your workbench. And then you can learn a lot of things about the chairs, stools and boxes you build there.
For me, a 12″ level is indispensable when leveling the legs of any piece of furniture – including a chest, table or chair. You can buy a cheap aluminum or plastic level from the home center. Or you can spend a little more and buy a vintage Starrett machinist’s level for $20 to $40. (Yes, there will be a temporary shortage and price spike because of this blog entry. But it will go away because Starrett made tons of these.)
These cast-iron Starrett levels are gorgeous. The three vials are replaceable. The tool’s underside is relieved so it sits nicely on a round surface, such as a chair stick. This level will remind you of how things used to be made for people in the trades.
There are fancier levels out there (Davis Tool and Level for starters). And there are some modern makers out there who do stunning work that is worth supporting, too. So get a level. And get one that makes you want to take care of it.
One more thing: If you want to get fancy, buy an inclinometer, too. These can help you precisely dial in the pitch of a chair seat, for example.
— Christopher Schwarz
Read other entries from The Anarchist’s Gift Guide here.