It’s commonly known that a longer level produces more accurate measurements than a shorter one. A 4- or 6-foot level (or longer) is likely pretty accurate across a span longer than the level, but it’s really just extrapolation and trust in your tool. Ideally, you’d have a level that was as long as the distance between the two endpoints of the work. Of course, that’s not really practical, although laser levels effectively do just that. Then again, a long level often won’t fit in the workspace or is unwieldy for the job. That’s why tradesmen use torpedo levels: 10- to 12-inch levels that are appropriate for tight spaces or smaller work. Torpedo levels come in several shapes and materials – from inexpensive plastic to proprietary composites to aluminum in odd die cast designs, I-beam, or billet form. Today we’ve got a unique take on the design coutesy of the Kapro Torpedo Level with OptiVision.
Kapro has been making layout and measurement tools for thirty years. Headquartered in Israel, its American subsidiary, Kapro Tools, is in the small town of Lake Mills, Wisconsin. The company prides itself on its innovation which includes a unique vial integration and bubble/color definition. Are these ideas enough to make your current small level seem out of plumb? Let’s fire this torpedo and find out!
Cast Body and Form
I mentioned that torpedo levels come in many shapes and materials, but the Kapro Torpedo Level must be unique among them – at least in shape. It’s cast aluminum body is reminiscent of Short Circuit’s Johnny 5, for all you 70s and 80s kids. In any event, you’ll notice that the white body has a thick bridge around the level vial for strength, while the plumb and angle vial are at opposite ends.
A precision-milled bottom has a V-groove and rare-earth magnets. These features will be especially helpful to our electrician and perhaps plumber friends, even if us carpenters won’t use them quite as much.
OptiVision and Rotating Vials
The selling proposition of OptiVision – the red color of the level vial – is that it’s up to 8 times easier to see than a traditional vial. I’m not sure how you quantify that exactly, but anything that’s clearer and results in great is accuracy is fine with me. It seems to work well with the Kapro Condor, so there’s every reason to believe it will with this torpedo. We will literally see.
This vial includes gradient lines at 1% and 2% on the inside of the vial. I should note, however, that the “1%” and “2%” markings aren’t present. The website photos of this torpedo show one level without the markings and the rest with them, so it’s possible we just got an early sample.
Then there’s the plumb vial which has no particular innovation. The rotating angle vial is probably as self-explanatory as it is potentially useful! The world of building and remodeling is more complicated than just level and plumb 90° angles, and that’s where this vial, with 5° graduated markings, will assist us.
All three of the Kapro Red Torpedo Level’s vials are acrylic, shock resistant, UV protected, and warrantied for life.
Have you ever found that your level isn’t accurate? It’s not a good feeling – and it probably didn’t result in accurate work, either! Most high-end levels today are verified accurate to 0.0005 inches per inch – a remarkably tight tolerance. The Kapro is no different with a certification from the German VPA to 0.0005 inches per inch. It is a bit odd, though, that Kapro’s video claims it’s the only level with that amount of accuracy. I’m sure the folks at Empire, Stabila, and other companies would object, but it may be specific to the VPA process.
Two oversized, shockproof endcaps contribute to the Kapro Torpedo Level’s unique look and protect the level’s accuracy. I suspect they also provide a secure grip surface. There’s also a hanging hole in each end cap.
When I first got the Kapro torpedo level in hand, I was first struck by the weight. The cast aluminum body puts it on the hefty side. Of course, the heft also means it’s strong. In fact, I mentioned the bridge around the OptiVision level vial – a feature that protects accuracy but beefs up the tool. So too do the shockproof end caps. It’s something to keep in mind if you plan to carry this in your toolbelt – you’ll need a large pouch. And don’t count on being able to slip this into your pants pocket. Most torpedo levels are tapered or beveled in some ways to allow easy pocketing. It might not be a deal breaker for you, but the size and rubberized end of the Kapro will make this virtually impossible.
Seeing Red (In A Good Way)
I used this torpedo level on several jobs, including building the framework to re-skirt a mobile home, verifying its railing angles were within tolerance, and several leveling and angular tasks. I’m happy to report that the plumb vial is a breeze to use. The angular vial rotation works very well, too. The star of the show, of course, is the OptiVision level vial. I must say, it is very easy to read with the red color creating a high contrast that is clear to the eye.
What’s Your Angle?
Despite Optivision’s strength, there is a design oddity that could make the Kapro slightly harder to use than a traditional level. The OptiVision vial nests in the top of the level such that it’s visible from the top and only one side of the level. Effectively this makes the level have a front and back, whereas most levels are reversible. I suppose you could make the case that because most rotating vial angle levels only have the angle gradations on one side to give it a front and back as well. But I use the level vial much more often. I find myself sometimes having to flip the level around. It’s certainly no dealbreaker, but it’s worth a mention!
The Bottom Line
The Kapro Torpedo Level is a tough layout tool with a couple unique features. The other side of the features’ coin means that the level is large and heavy. It’ll need a big pocket in your toolbelt and it won’t slide easily – if at all – into your pants pocket. All the vials, especially the OptiVision level vial, are easy to see. But the nested design of the OptiVision vial means you might have to flip the level around to see it, which can be annoying in the middle of the job. If those couple quirks don’t dissuade you, the Kapro is not too shabby for $19.99 compared to peers with comparable features at $50 or more.
Kapro Torpedo Level with OptiVision Features
- OptiVision Red horizontal vial creates highly visible red bubble edges, for exact reading and optimal vision in bright & low light
- Tilted horizontal vial with epoxy locking for direct line of sight viewing
- Vial Gradient Lines for measuring slopes up to 2% grade
- 3 Unbreakable Acrylic Shockproof Vials
- Angle Finder with gradient markings to easily find the degree of any slope
- Rare-Earth Magnets for the strongest grip to any metal surface
- Fine Milled Surface with V-groove for accurate and easy placement on pipes and curved surfaces
- Advanced Impact Resistance end caps to protect the level’s integrity.
- Proven Durability – Drop tested from up to 2 meters
Kapro Torpedo Level with OptiVision Features
- Model Number: Kapro 935-10
- Length: 10 Inches
- Accuracy: < 0.0005 Inches per inch
- Price: $19.36