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 A Brief History of Laser Levels

Mankind has been building elaborate structures for thousands of years from whatever materials were available. After we figured out that rocks have to be stacked up in specific ways to keep from falling over, people got really good at shaping and stacking stone, using only the crudest hand tools. The advantages of using standardized rectangular shapes seems to have become obvious early on, as with Neolithic Stonehenge, dating back 5000 years. The need for a level reference probably occured about an hour later, but in any case, as our stacking became increasingly precise our structures grew taller.  Carefully honed and arranged, stone has been skillfully put to use to create very refined structures that last a long, long time.  We learned how to build structures with lots of different materials, but the basic geometric reference requirements of plumb, and level, and square, remain.

It’s thought that the pyramids of Giza may have been constructed -over 4000 years ago- using a “water level” reference… a device which we at OLT consider to be a stroke of simple genius in mankind’s history. In the case of the pyramids, one theory suggests that the entire area around each pyramid was gradually flooded; a series of locks and dams used to elevate each stone. Although this technique solves several problems of moving and leveling 30-ton blocks of stone to build a pyramid, it's not a very practical solution for most home construction. The portable “water level”, at its most basic, is a flexible tube filled with water, its ends elevated to the same height to prevent spilling. The tube can traverse any terrain, as long as the ends remain at the same height: a water level naturally takes the curvature of the earth into account, i.e., what it gives you isn’t really level, because the earth isn’t really flat... but the ancient Egyptians didn't know that. Anyway, the water level is a beautiful solution, if an inconvenient and messy one.

Although the revolutionary “spirit level”, with a bubble in a glass vial, was invented around 1650 A.D., the modern bubble level only came into widespread use in the early 1900’s.

Laser levels have now been around the jobsite for decades, significantly improving the efficiency of construction. The popularity of lasers as a jobsite reference tool began with the "rotator" type instruments, and even today the rotator is still the most commonly used laser. A rotator creates the impression of a plane of laser light by spinning a horizontal laser beam around a vertical axis; an automatic leveling mechanism then aligns the laser beam "plane" with gravity to project a level reference. Sometime in the 1990's, "layout" lasers came along, offering the contractor a few simple laser dots to quickly define plum, level and square references, all packaged in a more portable instrument. In the years following, layout lasers have been improved by stretching the dots into line segments that serve as guides for specialized purposes such as floor tile layout.

Origin Laser Tools combines the best qualities of rotators and layout lasers. Check it out. Take a quick tour of our website to understand how our 3D laser tools will make your layout, alignment and reference tasks almost effortless. This is a tool designed and built for the long haul. Through years of reliable service, it will pay for itself many times over.