What did we do before lasers? Perhaps the lack of them explains some of the slightly dodgy angles I come across when I am around doing various jobs? We just don’t have the excuse any longer for sloping doorways, windows not quite at right angles or rows of tiles that don’t line up.
But there always seems to be room for another item in the very competitive market for laser products hence the new range of products distributed by Topcon GB, which is based in Berkshire.
As the name implies, the Pacific Laser Systems lasers are based in the USA, and the products are designed and assembled there, so should pass the quality threshold in the minds of doubters. What is perhaps more relevant is that Pacific Laser Systems grew out of a company of professional contractors who decided that they needed to use their fifty plus years of experience to design a series of laser tools for interior and exterior use by builders, framers, tillers and plumbers.
To get a complete overview of PLS product range visit www.plslaser.co.uk
There are literally dozens of tools in the PLS range, but I was sent a PLS4 System, a fully self-leveling vertical and horizontal laser that is a generalist tool, suitable for use by many trades on the building site.
PLS prides itself that the tools they designed themselves will be compact, tough enough to survive on a building site and very practical. Not a bad set of criteria!
The PLS4 System comes in a custom fitted plastic case that is certainly strong enough to withstand the back of a white van. The loop handle of the case could be lockable with a padlock for security if necessary.
The laser itself has a bright yellow casing and looks like a bigger box on top of a smaller box. But angular looks aside, the case is very well made and put together.
Three AA batteries are inserted into a lidded compartment on the side.
The two laser projectors are housed behind a strong and clear glass lens cover. These are well recessed for protection from dust and impact, but it is also possible to clean them if that (it will at some time) becomes necessary.
Looking at the laser projectors (not when they are on!!!) they have been mounted on a gimbaled self-leveling mechanism that is very sensitive, and will ensure that the correct level is found quickly.
On the underside of the casing is a brass inset for the necessary tripod screw.
The switchgear is as straightforward as it could possibly be. On the top of the level is a sealed panel with a three concealed switches. No need to worry about dust getting in. The on/off switch selects the vertical points lasers and the “LINES” switch pressed once will start the horizontal laser, another press will switch on the vertical laser and a third press will turn them both on. A fourth press will turn them both off.
As this is a self-leveling laser, a red light indicates that the level is not properly achieved, while a green light indicates that the level is within tolerance. If the level goes beyond more than six degrees out, the lasers are automatically turned off. The tiny third switch when pushed, causes the lines to pulse should the user need this mode.
So far, so simple. This laser level is clearly easy to use and doesn’t take a lot of setting up.
But the PLS4 System kit has a couple of very useful extras. A strong U-shaped alloy extrusion with captive screw is used as a floor or flat-surface stand for the laser. This increases the footprint of the laser so that it can sit stably on a flattish surface. The U-shape means it can be held on the edge of a scaffolding plank for example.
Perhaps more useful for many users like plumbers or carpenters, is the L-shaped magnetic bracket. This attaches to the bottom of the level and the strong inset circular magnets offer a secure fixing to scaffolding poles, radiators etc. Two small holes also mean a quick tack to a plank with a couple of small nails is also possible.
Working indoors with lasers is usually quite straightforward, since the laser lines are easy to see. However, outdoors in bright sunshine, users need another solution. The PLS4 kit comes with quite a sophisticated laser detector. This has a clamp system that will hold it in either a horizontal or vertical mode to detect the laser lines and an audible signal will inform the user. The laser detector means that the effective distance the level can be used is a very respectable 60 metres (200ft)
The accuracy specs of the PLS 4 are pretty good too. The cross line accuracy is +/- 3mm at 10 metres and point to point accuracy is +/- 2mm at 10 metres.
The main laser device has a padded black nylon wallet into which it can be packed for protection. It certainly means that you can leave the whole case in the van if all you need to use is the main laser.
We all expect from laser devices these days to be simple to operate, with decent instructions and able to take a few knocks in the course of the work on site. It seems to me that the PLS4 kit is all of the above. It is clear that the people who designed it knew a bit about the business they were in and designed a practical device that is versatile enough to suit a number of trades.
But there is also the fact that the PLS4 System is a product from a company that has a huge experience of using and designing lasers. There is sometimes safety in big numbers!