Laser levels are a no-brainer these days. They are even easier to use, very versatile and accurate and sure beat a piece of string and a plumb bob because they don’t move around when there is the slightest air movement. They are also coming down in cost too, so what once cost over £200 is now available for less than half that.
There are a few things to watch out for. Not all laser lines are made equal – laser lines that are too broad when projected will lead to obvious built-in errors, and some lasers occasionally need to be recalibrated, so the laser device needs to have that facility, otherwise it would just have to be discarded once it has taken a knock or two.
The Kapro brand from tool-giant Draper Tools has established itself in the UK market as a good, solid, no-nonsense and very good value for money range of devices. So it was on the basis of these that I took a closer look at the Kapro Pro-Laser Visicross.
The impression of quality is immediately evident when you get the device out of its box. It comes neatly packed into a nearly-cubic black nylon case that is a superb protection for the laser liner. The packing foam surrounding the device is soft enough to absorb shocks but hard enough to retain its shape and therefore make it easy to remove and replace the laser. My guess is that the case would withstand a lot of banging about in the back of the van, although of course I would always recommend that you try to take better care of your tools!
Also inside the case is a mirrored reflector target and a comprehensive set of instructions that includes a recalibration test. Admirably, the instructions are written in clear English and do not appear to have been translated from a variety of languages and then into English.
The Pro-laser Visicross is quite compact, fitting neatly into one hand. The basic body is made of red plastic, but all the corners, top and bottom and some spaces in between, are covered in a strong rubberised overmould that provides very good protection against accidental knocks as well as providing good gripping surfaces too.
The battery compartment at the back has a strong catch and it is easy to load the three AA batteries needed to get the laser started.On the top of the device there are only three switches, the Pulse mode switch and the horizontal and vertical laser selector switches. The Pulse mode is used in conjunction with the laser detector.
On the side is the all important laser self-leveling device lock and on/off switch. The lock has to be engaged whenever the laser is moved or transported because the sensitive self-leveling mechanism relies on gravity to function, and also the laser lines will not switch on without the lever being moved to the “on” position. There is a loud “beep” if the laser is outside of the +- 4degrees level needed for operation.
On the base there is a choice of two tripod threads. The smaller thread is also used to hold the L-shaped magnetic bracket that is included in the kit. This bracket has two powerful magnets attached so that it can be plonked onto a handy scaffold pole or other magnetic surface for ready use. There are also two keyhole-shaped apertures that will allow the use of the customary rusty nail or screw hastily hammered into a plank to hang the laser. (Been on a building site recently?)
Using the Pro-laser Visicross is simplicity itself. To my mind it is a great deal easier than using a plumb bob or lines drawn with the aid of a spirit level. The advantage of having a projected level line on a surface that finds its way around bumps and protrusions is considerable and allows a whole room to be quickly set up for level. Great for hanging kitchen cabinets, tiles etc etc.
If you decide to purchase the laser detector with the kit, it makes the Pro-laser Visicross even more useful since it extends the working range of the laser beam to a very generous 40m even in sunlight.
The laser detector is another device you have to learn to use efficiently to get the best out of it. In practice, I found it more difficult to use than the laser itself, but as I persevered, its value soon became clear.The laser detector needs to have a 9V battery inserted to power the detector plate and the flashing lights. Once that is done the on/off switch is activated and then you choose the “near” or “far” options with the middle button. A green light indicates “near” or less than 15m and the red light indicates “far”.
It requires a steady hand and clever use of the horizontal and vertical spirit bubbles to detect either a horizontal or vertical projected laser line. You know you are getting close when the beeps start speeding up. The indicator lights will show whether you need to move the device up or down and when a green light shows and the beeps are rapid then you are spot on.
In order to allow the detector to be used in a variety of ways it comes with an adjustable clamp. This is used to attach the detector to a tripod, plank, fence post or whatever so that it can be held securely and accurately when detecting a laser line.
Combined, the Pro-Laser Visicross and the laser detector make for very practical pieces of kit that can be used indoors and out. In my view it would be a must-have for jobbing tradespeople. A plumber, shopfitter, tiler or builder would get good use out of it and the savings in time would soon pay for the kit itself.