Checkpoint Laser Levels and More
When torpedo-style levels move into the laser era
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 4-25-2013
When I posted my first look at Checkpoint levels lots of you became interested. That made it easy to look at more of Checkpoint’s line and this time some sport lasers along with the first rate manufacturing we saw in the first Checkpoint review.
As we saw earlier Checkpoint has a high standard for their CNC machining and processing. All of the levels shown in this review are made from 6061 aluminum billet using CNC machining and super clean anodizing to produce a superior overall fit and finish. Despite their knockout appearance, Checkpoint levels are tools that are meant to be used so they are as tough as they are good looking.
The spirit vials are sized to be easily read from a wide range of angles yet set into the body of the levels for protection on the job. All of these levels feature very strong magnets along one edge that hold the tool fast to ferrous metal surfaces. It is hard to overstate the usefulness of these magnets when you are working alone.
The lasers built into the 880 G3, 600 EV and LB-1 levels are bright and finely focused to produce a clean, easy to see dot. This clarity is always important but particularly when you are sighting locations through a darkened space or under a building. The center of the laser dot is set precisely ½” above the bottom surface of the level to make it easy to level distant surfaces to each other quickly within exacting tolerances despite poor ambient lighting.
The 880 (#0327) is the best selling of the Checkpoint levels, no doubt to people who want good quality tools. The bright red anodizing is applied to a polished surface producing a gorgeous looking tool. But good looks don’t get the job done so Checkpoint carves crossing V-grooves in the bottom surface to make locating it on rounded materials simple. The four super strong magnets inset along the bottom edge of this 8-5/8”-long level hold fast to free your hands when working with ferrous metals.
The body has four vials that indicate level, 90-degrees, 45-degrees and 30 degrees. They also put a circular “bulls eye” level vial in the top edge. All of the vials have generous orifices surrounding them that give you a good view while protecting them from damage on the job.
The laser system runs along the bottom of the 880 and is operated by a knurled brass knob. Turn the knob in and it turns on the laser. Back the knob out and it shuts the laser off. Three AAA batteries (supplied) power the laser and give a long service life in normal use. The power draw is low enough that you should carry extra batteries because you will likely forget when you changed them last!
The checkpoint 880 G3 level has a street price of about $90.00. (4-22-2013)
EV 600 and 300
The Checkpoint EV600 and EV300 levels are designed to be more entry level tools. The both versions are 6-7/8”-long and feature three rare earth magnets along the flat bottom edge. The top edge of the EV300 has a V-groove to help locate it on rounded stock. Both bodies have spirit vials showing 0, 45-degrees and 90-degrees.The EV300 is only 1-14”-tall which allows it to be carried in a pocket or tool belt. The EV600 is 1-3/4” tall because it houses the laser unit. This laser also has the knurled brass knob that both activates it and covers the battery compartment. The EV600 uses 2 AAA batteries which are included.
The EV600 level sells for $65.00 while the EV300 has a street price of $39.99. (4-22-2013)
The LB-1 Laser Base (#0400) is designed as an add on for the popular Checkpoint Ultra Mag torpedo level which has no laser. The Laser Base is 8-7/8”-long and has a wide, V-grooved bottom edge with four rare earth magnets inset. The body houses a Checkpoint laser unit powered by three AAA batteries (included) and controlled by a knurled brass knob. As on the other laser-equipped levels, the laser dot is located ½” above the lower surface of the Laser Base to make transferring level points around a workspace simple and accurate.
The Laser Base has no bubble vials but it does have a machined top surface that accepts their Ultra Mag level. Actually, all of the anodized Checkpoint levels (except the U6) will fit this groove so you can add laser capability to existing Checkpoint levels at a reasonable cost. A thumbscrew locks the Ultra Mag level in place so you can use the pair as a single tool. The Laser Base can be used as a stand-alone laser level for plumb bob and many reference readings on the job site.
The Checkpoint LB-1 Laser Base has a street price of $78.00.
U6 Flat Surface Level
The U6 is just 2-1/2” across the legs and has flat surfaces at 0-degrees, 60-degrees, 30-degrees, 22.5-degrees, 45-degrees and 90-degres. All of those surfaces have a large rare earth magnet inset to hold the U6 to ferrous metal while you use your hands for other work. The U-6 is designed to be a bit less costly than its V-grooved brother. The U6 is a commonly used level in the welding and scaffold jobs among many others.
The U6 Flat Surface Level has a street price of $38.99 which includes a canvas belt pouch.
At 4-1/2”-long the Mini Mag (# 0303) may be the smallest of these Checkpoint levels but it maintains the quality and usefulness of this line. The Mini Mag has a 0-degree, 30-degree and 90-degree vials that are recessed into the CNC machined aluminum billet body.
The bottom of the body is flat with three rare earth magnets set into it. The top edge has a V-groove that helps orient the Mini Mag on round stock.
The end of the body has a thumbscrew that interacts with an arched seat, allowing the Mini Mag to be installed on the end of a piece of conduit or other tubing to let you know when you have the perfect bend. Incidentally, the 30-degree vial corresponds with the 2 to 1 Z-bend offsets used so often in electrical installations.
The Mini Mag has a street price of $40.99.
In the Shop
There is no great mystery involved in using torpedo levels so we won’t go into technique. However, the way the Checkpoint levels are machined the vials are precisely positioned, protected from common job site knocks and easy to see from a rather steep angle. That means increased accuracy and less straining in odd positions for you. The magnets are exceptionally strong so the Checkpoint levels really will stay where you put them so you actually do have both hands free for other tasks.
The laser-equipped models show an increase versatility I was not aware of before doing this review. The additional reach of the laser makes getting counter tops or fixtures around a room at the same height very easy and eliminates running around with long tubes full of water that some of us have done for the same job. In addition to being less labor intensive, the laser is way faster and more accurate as well. Want to place wall hangings at the same height on separate walls? No problem. Getting shelves on opposite walls even with each other is a snap. The list of what you can use the laser for is limited more by your mind than the functionality of the tool.
Levels are a necessary tool for any contractor or home handyman so it just makes sense to get a good one that will last forever. The Checkpoint levels shown here are reasonably priced for the quality and function you get. The remarkable quality of the materials and workmanship mean that with simple common sense care on your part these tools will remain perfectly functional and accurate forever.
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