No matter what kind of construction you find yourself in, you can’t do your job effectively without a level. We’ve got options these days thanks with lasers moving us beyond the original bubble levels of the last century. Despite the technology, they haven’t supplanted the spirit level (named for the mineral spirits inside the vial), particularly for residential construction and remodeling applications. Given the simplicity of using layout tools like the Empire Level e55 Series, I doubt they ever will.
The Empire Level e55 Series is an I-Beam style of level in the True Blue series. I may be in the minority in thinking a little Gator orange to accent the blue would be nice, but the Wisconsin based company still manages a very attractive look without it. It’s Empire’s innovation over the years that makes the e55 special.
When it comes to the levels we use, it’s usually a choice between I-beam and box beam styles. There’s not much difference in function between the two. Cut the end off of an I-beam level and you’ll see the design is shaped like the letter “I”. Box beam levels are (you guessed it) box shaped. Box beam levels tend to be a bit more durable thanks to the structural design. I-beam levels get some durability help when high grade aluminum is used, are lighter, and usually run a few dollars less.
Clint has been dropping subtle hints about getting a larger level for door frames and large window installation, so we brought in the 72″ Empire Level e55 Series I-Beam Level.
Empire Level e55 Series I-Beam Level Key Features
As long as a level is actually level (along with plumb and square), it all boils down to the features. You need it to be accurate, durable, and visible. This is where we begin to see Empire Level set itself apart. Back in 2004, Empire introduced the True Blue vial that has defined the brand ever since. Clear acrylic vials feature blue lines and liquid resulting in an easier to read meniscus compared to traditional yellow ones.
Adding to the visibility factor is a top window on the center vial. This is a huge benefit when you’re checking the level of flooring or other applications when you’re overhead.
When it comes to durability, the Empire e55 Series employs aluminum as a material that is both strong and lightweight. Protective end caps help prevent damage and loss of accuracy due to end strikes. The acrylic vial is more durable than glass and is pretty standard in the industry now.
Empire Level e55 Series 72″ True Blue I-Beam Level Specifications
- Model: Empire Level e55.72
- Length: 72″
- Frame Material: Aluminum
- Accuracy: 0.0005″ per inch
- Vials: 2 plumb, 1 level
- Price: $49.99
- Warranty: Limited Lifetime
About that Accuracy…
Empire Level e55 Series I-Beam Levels are accurate to 0.0005″ (5/10,000″) per inch. At the 72 inch length, the e55.72 will be no more than 0.036″ off from end to end when showing a perfectly level surface. That’s less than a millimeter over the 6 feet of length if you’re keeping score at home (forgive me for mixing metric and standard measurements).
Levels get knocked and bumped around all the time, especially these long ones. After a fall and any time accuracy is in question, there’s a simple way to double check it.
On a flat surface set your level down and mark both ends. Carefully note where the meniscus is (even if it’s not level). Turn the level 180 degrees, lining back up with the mark you made and see if the meniscus is in the exact same position. If it is, you’re good to go! Use the same technique on the opposite side. Do the same against a wall on both sides to test the accuracy of your plumb vials. It takes less than 5 minutes to know you won’t have to go back and redo your work later.
Wrapping it Up
Accurate, durable, and visible – it doesn’t get much better than that. Well, it does actually. We can also throw in lightweight to the list of accolades we’re giving the Empire Level e55 Series. While we only tested the 72″ I-Beam (Empire Level e55.72), several other options are also available. In smaller sizes, you can go for a 24″ ($18.99) or 48″ ($26.99) length. If you’re working around steel structures frequently, you can grab an e55 Series Magnetic I-Beam Level in 24″, 48″, or 76″ lengths.
If you really need another reason to try Empire Level’s e55 Series, you can feel good knowing that it’s Made in the USA. You’ll be keeping Americans at work while getting your hands on an outstanding product.