For builders and bricklayers, all is for naught if one’s work is not level. After all, who wants to sleep in a bed that been placed on a sloping floor, and if your brick patio is laid at the wrong angle, the winter rains will saturate your home’s foundations rather than running off harmlessly into your flower beds or lawn.

There are two types of antique levels of interest to collectors of antique tools. The first is an inclinometer, which, as its name implies, measures a slope’s degree of incline, which is read via the tool’s circular protractor. Some 19th-century American inclinometer manufacturers only made the device, which customers would mount in rosewood, cherry, and other woods of varying lengths as they saw fit. Most, though, sold their inclinometers in cast-iron or wooden frames—hard woods with brass accents were the rule.

One of the companies most highly regarded for its inclinometers was Davis Level & Tool Co., whose pierced-and-japanned cast-iron housings resembled the trimwork on the Victorian Era homes they helped build. Inclinometers labeled Davis and Cook were often shaped like mantel clocks, although many manufacturers made inclinometers in this classic style.

The second type of collectible level is the spirit level, which most of us know today as the bubble level. Originally, the liquid in the level’s vial was filled with spirits, which is how the device got its name. Interestingly, the vials curved slightly so the bubble would naturally rise to the top of the horizontally positioned cylinder when the tool was perfectly level. The straighter the vial, the more sensitive, and accurate, the level.

Spirit levels came in all sizes, from pocket levels that were just two inches long to carpenter’s levels that were almost three feet across. The name Davis is associated with any number of these levels, as are brands such as Stanley, Millers Falls, and Stratton Brothers.

Of particular interest to collectors of railroadiana are railroad levels, which were often five feet in length. Though called levels, these devices were really inclinometers since they allowed railroad workers to measure a track’s grade.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Alloy Artifacts

Alloy Artifacts

A tool collectors’ dream, this site is a deep repository of photos and info on 20th century hand tools and the co… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Machinery

Vintage Machinery

This collective website, which started as an online discussion forum, also includes a large database of manufacture… [read review or visit site]

Drainspotting

Drainspotting

Josh and Cam Larios have created this site enabling people to upload and 'tag' photos of historic or artistic manho… [read review or visit site]

A Millers Falls Home Page

A Millers Falls Home Page

Randy Roeder has carved out a niche for himself with his fine website devoted to the history of the Millers Falls C… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

L.davis Level/inclinometer Original Box 1867 Patent Mantle Clock Vtg Old AntiqueVintage Starrett 12" Graduated Level 98-12, In Box, No Reserve!Early Stanley Rule & Level Co. Stanley 40 Scrub Plane - No Reserve!Vintage Starrett 6" 98-6 Graduated Level, Bubbles Intact, No Reserve!Vintage Starrett 12" Precision Machinists Level Vintage Starrett Machinist Bubble Level 2 Way 18 Inch With Wooden CaseStanley Bedrock 605c Plane W/flat Top Sides And Early Stanley Rule & Level BladeAntique Pair Of**rare** Ornate Cast Iron & Brass Line Levels StanleyAntique Davis Level & Tool Co Mantle Clock Level 1867Antique The American Level & Grade Finder Edward Helb Railroad York Co Pa 19041870 Pat. Stratton Brothers 6 1/2" Rosewood & Brassbound Level Crisp #10 Type 1?Stanley Rule & Level Co # 99 Left Handed Side Rabbet Plane Type 1 1895 Pat. Date2010 P N T C Level Best In The West Pacific Northwest Tool CollectorsVintage Starrett No. 98 Level In BoxVintage Starrett The L.s.s. Co. Athol, Mass. Usa Machinist Level W/ Wooden BoxCrescent Mfg. Co. Antique 6 Inch Carpenter Level ToolVintage Marples Mortice Gauge With Combined Marking Gauge PointBridge City Tool Works Bl-9 Bench Level 1993 Signature Series Vintage Stanley Rule & Level Co # 46 Combination Plane Cutters - 8 PiecesVintage Belknap Blue Grass Chalk Line Reel & Plumb Bob #t5-bg100cb Vintage Antique 6" L.s. Starrett No. 97 Eclipse Vial LevelVery Unusual Antique Level Tool Model B5m - Federal Products Co. Providence, RiVintage Stanley Plumb Bob Rule And Level With Reel Vintage Solid Brass Stanley Rule&level Co. Spoke ShaveVintage Brass Plumb BobDavis Patent No 8 Cast Iron Level 18" M. W. Robinson Co. New York863l Lufkin 24" Boxwood & Brass Folding Ruler With Level ~ JcboxlotVintage L.s. Starrett Machinist Bubble Level, Two-way, Small, 6" BaseStanley Rule & Level Co # 83 Adj. Cabinet Scraper Plane Sweetheart (1920 - 1921)2 Different Starrett #87 Plumb Bobs 87b 5/8 X 5 1/2" 87c 7/8 X 6" Both Very LeanPlumb Bob Plumbob Plumbbob Weight W↑d 1939 Army Ww2 Ww Two~~ Stanley No. 36 ~~Vintage 1 Lb-3 Oz #18-cst Solid Brass Plumb Bob W/leather Sheath & Gammon Reel Vintage Stanley Rule & Level Co Compass Plane Early Pat. 1877 *parts Or Repair*Vintage Starrett Machinist Bench Level No. 130:original Box- 3 ½ Inches Usa:usedEarly Stanley Rule & Level Co. Bullnose Rabbet Wood Plane 1 InchAntique Fancy Stanley Hand Level- June 28,1896 Patent Date - Woodworking ToolNice Vintage Wood & Brass Spirit LevelStarrett # 132-12 Twelve Inch Cast Iron Bench Level W/ 3 VilesPat 1896 Stanley #1 Walnut Level Old Primitive Antique Carpenter Farm ToolVintage Stanley Tape Measure With Level Black LeatherVintage Cast Iron Plumb Bob Tool - 9 Oz.Bubble Level Mixed Tool Lot Aluminum Wood 9" +others Vintage Miller Falls 7 1/2 Oz Plumb Bob No. 3 Made In U.s.a.Mayes Brothers Level And Angle Finder With Scale.Vintage Craftsman Pocket Magnetic Level Protractor Rule Square ToolStanley 42-466 12-inch High Impact Abs Level26" Stanley Cherrywood Brassbound Level #3 Patent 1896 Vgc Antique VintageVintage Hand Drill Stanley 741 Made In Usa Chest Brace & LevelDavis & Cook Wood & Brass Carpenter Level Woodworking Carpentry Tool 16"Vintage Stanley Cherry LevelVintage Millers Falls Brass Plumb Bob No. 54 8ozVintage Stanley Rule And Level Co. 30" Level Brass End Caps Farm Fresh Look!!!