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    

Flockton Tompkin Sheffield Antique Victorian 12" Folding Ruler Rule In CaseOld Brass Plumb Bob By Record With Wooden Reel Old Woodworking Tool Plumbbob Antique Paul Leistner St. Charles Mo Reversible Bronze 2 Lb Plumb Bob 19th C3 Antique Engineering Drawing Instruments, Protractor, Scale Rule, Parallel Rule Nice 19th Century Sailor Made Level With Engraved Fish And Inlaid Ebony WoodVery Unique 7" Cast Iron Level - Unknown MakerHtf! L.l. Davis Cast Iron Adjustable Spirit Level "inclinometer" Ptd. 1867~niceAntique 2 Pound A. L Thompson Brass And Steel Plumb Bob Lowell, MassVintage Superb Pair Of Patternmakers 3 1/2" Brass & Steel Trammel PointsVintage Stanley Rule & Level Co. No. 113 Compass Wood Working PlaneVery Nice 6-inch Starrett Inclineometer Machinist Bench LevelVintage Internal Reel Plumb Bob Excellent And Unusual Patented 9 " Solid Brass Level ,Hibbard Spencer Bartlett No. 8 Plumb Bob - Hsb & Co. - VintageSuper Rare Winchester # 9862 Cast Iron 12" Level With 3 Working Bubble Vials Antique Stanley Rule & Level Co. Box Wood Triangle Square RulerStanley LevelK&e Plumb Bob Internal String # 6487Antique Stanley Rule & Level Co. No. 80 Wood W/ Brass Ends Yardstick Ruler ToolVtg Lufkin 6" Level No 171 Folding Boxwood Brass Carpenter's Ruler W CaliperVintage, Steel Pointed Brass Plumb BobStanley #1093 18" Brass Bound Level Crisp Unmessed With 5/08/06 Pat.Vintage The Lss Co Athol Mass. Usa 6" Metal Machinist Level Starrett Tool24oz Solid Brass Plumb Bob With Gammon Line Reel Nr!Vintage German Machinist Level Double Vial Strich AusschlagStarrett 1’ Precision Level24" Rabone #1190 Boxwood & Brass Folding Rule Level Inclinometer And 1465 RuleMiniature Tool Plumb Bob Vintage BrassAntique Stanley Level - Small - Stanley New Britain Usa - 8 CmAntique Tri-level Wood Auger Bit Box Case Russell Jennings Drill Toolbox Full! Superb 3" Brass & Steel Conical Plumb Bob 3oz By Fulton Fine Condition Old ToolStanley Rule & Level Co SpokeshaveAntique/ Vintage Brass Plumb Bob Gl Berger & Sons Boston 10.5oz.4 1/4"5 Old Bevels Old Woodworking Tool Vintage Tool Antique Tool Sliding BevelL.s. Starrett Cast Iron Level Ornate 24" L.s.s. Co. Athol Ma MachinistAntique/vintage Brass Plumb Bob 5.5oz. 3"Stanley No 60 Chisel 1 Inch Good Condition With Box Original BevelVintage15 Oz. Brass & Steel Plumb BobStratton Brothers Full Brass Bound 28" Rosewood LevelExcellent Stanley Sweetheart No. 138 Level Sights In Original BoxStanley Rule & Level Co. #53 Folding 2ft Boxwood Rule Stanley Rule & Level Co - Tool Part, Plane Iron - Carpentry Plane Blade (c)Vtg Antique Old Wood Burl Plumbbob Plumb Bob Tool Wedge Wooden Top Toy CarvedNice Vtg 1939 Starrett Transit And Level Instruction Book Plumb Bob Tape ToolPlumb BobVintage Starrett Plumb Bob No. 87 Patent Oct. 16, 1906 Mercury FilledStanley Adjustable Spokeshave, Made In England, Never UsedVintage The Lss Co Athol Mass. Usa 6" Metal Machinist Level Starrett ToolAntique Stanley Line Level Pat June 23 96 Brass And Cast Irontool Wood WorkingSmall Novelty LevelStanley Rule & Level Co. #70 Folding 2ft Boxwood Rule Antique 19th C Pocket Level Tool Embossed Brass & Cast Iron Square Bit LevelVintage Craftsman Pocket Level 4624 And David White Hand Level 5556Vintagebrass Lutz Plumb Bob . With Leather Sheath Vintage Keen Kutter Kk3 LevelVintage Chapin Stephens No 036 Combination Rule With Level Vintage 10" Walnut & Brass Side Window Sighting Spirit Level Old ToolJ. Rabone & Sons Boat Shaped Rosewood & Brass Level 12" EnglandVintage Stanley Level Cherry Wood 16" Usa Made No China Here No Reserve Original