Every tradesman hopes that the tradesmen before him kept everything level and plumb. If each successive step isn’t true by just a little, the cumulative effect can be pronounced. We’ve all run into those guys who don’t take enough time to be sure the next guy’s job isn’t a hassle, but if you’re reading these pages then that’s probably not you! Derek Nichelson recently gave us a short history lesson on the bubble – or spirit – level with his Empire box level review and Daniel Elms showed us that innovation continues even in this space with the Ox Tools Trade Wood level. But now it’s time to check out a level designed for tight, dark spaces – the Klein Tools Lighted Torpedo Billet Level. Let’s check this thing out.
Most people aren’t familiar with the term billet or, at least, aren’t familiar with the term as it’s used for the level’s purpose since the definitions vary widely. In this case, a billet refers to the small bar of metal that makes up the level’s body. And the body is pretty hard to miss with its bright orange anodized aluminum and three vials for level, plumb, and 45 degrees.
But look a little closer and you’ll see a black power switch with a shining light decal below it. This is the switch that lights up all three vials for dark spaces and it’s really the functional standout of this tool. Press the button and you’ll see the light neon green glow of all three vials – it’s pretty cool! A 3-minute auto-shutoff preserves the two AA batteries that power it.
The Klein Tools Lighted Torpedo Billet Level also has features we’ve come to expect from professional-grade billet torpedoes. It has top-view windows for the level and 45-degree vials, a v-groove for pipe and conduit, and rare-earth magnets held securely by a locking track.
But how well does it perform in the field?
I explained in a recent review of the Klein 25-ft magnetic tape measure that I’m in the middle of installing electrical service to a building that had been long abandoned but is now part of a large revitalization project. So there’s plenty of work to do and plenty of opportunities to use the level.
In Electrical Service Installation 101 you learn (if it’s not intuitive already) that you shut off the power to perform work. If you fail to learn it then, you’ll learn it quickly on the jobsite! Since I often don’t have AC power and work in dim spaces, another light source is imperative. Carrying a Coast HP7R flashlight or even having a headlamp can be cumbersome, so you can see the brilliance of a level with built-in light capability. The picture tells the tale: the lights are bright and make the vials easy to read.
The unlighted model of this level – the Klein 935RB – includes a fourth vial at 30 degrees, but I must say that the trade-off for the light is well worth it. I was delighted (sorry, couldn’t help myself) with this feature of the Klein 935RBLT and I anticipate competitors following suit with similar designs. The auto-shutoff is an excellent feature because inevitably I will either leave the light on or the button gets inadvertently pressed in my bag and drains the battery. I don’t have to worry about it.
You might find some reviewers unsatisfied with the relatively large size of this torpedo level. But many others, including me, think it gives it a heavier-duty feel that isn’t a concern at all. If it still includes the 30-degree vial as well as the lighted capability, it might grow too big. But as it stands, it’s just fine for me.
The vials are also easy to read in natural light. I especially like the top view windows for the level and 45-degree vials. I know Klein Tools caters to electricians, but I think the company should consider adding 1/8- and 1/4-inch pitch lines to the level vial to benefit plumbers who often work in dim spaces and need to produce work at a given angle.
The magnets are strong. I like their long, rectangular shape because it makes the level grip metal very securely. Rare-earth magnets have become standard in professional torpedo levels because of their strength and these are probably the strongest magnets I’ve used. The groove on the opposite side of the metal fits snugly around the conduit.
One seemingly strange feature is the tapered nose. It’s noticeably different from standard torpedo levels and Klein intentionally put this in the design to make it easier going into your pocket.
The Bottom Line
Klein isn’t the first to create a torpedo billet level, but it certainly improves upon the design with the lights, strong magnets, and top view windows. It eliminates the 30-degree vial of the unlighted version to make room for the two AA batteries but still includes three vials for level, plumb, and 45 degrees.
The light-up capability of all three vials for dim spaces is really the marquee feature of this level – for good reason. These lights are exceptionally helpful because you don’t need to bring a flashlight or wear a headlamp. Just press the button and light up the vials. A 3-minute auto-shutoff preserves the batteries.
The rare-earth magnets are remarkably strong and hold securely with a metal strip on the bottom of the level. The groove keeps it in alignment with pipes and conduit. While some give it a slight knock for its size, it’s really not an issue for me. It all adds up to a really solid product from Klein Tools. I love this level – it’s found a permanent place in my Klein Tradesman Pro Camo Backpack. For a price less than $35, there’s a good chance you’ll see the Klein Tools Lighted Torpedo Billet Level showing up in Pro tool bags everywhere.
Klein Tools Lighted Torpedo Billet Level Features
- Large, bright LED high-definition vials are easy to read in any lighting condition
- Locking track prevents powerful Rare-Earth magnets from falling out
- Large, easy-to-read high-visibility vials at 3 angles: level, 90, and 45 degrees
- Large top-view vial windows enable easy readability from multiple angles
- High-visibility orange professional-grade billet aluminum body is easy to see on conduit and at jobsite
- 3-minute auto shut-off saves battery life
- V-Groove fits the contour of conduit and pipe
- Tapered nose easily pushes into pockets
- Water and impact resistant
Klein Tools Lighted Torpedo Billet Level Specifications
- Model number: Klein 935RBLT
- Overall Length: 9 inches (228.6 mm)
- Accuracy: 0.001
- Magnet Type: Rare Earth
- Material: Aluminum
- Special Features: 3 Minute Shut Off; Water and Impact Resistant
- Type: Magnetic Lighted Torpedo Billet
- Price: $39.97