Swanson Box Beam Level BBL24M Review
Sometimes I like my tools to be basic, indestructible machines. Items with no glitter or fancy options. You know, like the Incredible Hulk. You don’t see him driving around in a Lexus wearing pleated pants and sporting a bow tie… So when a durable, indestructible 24″ level is desired, Swanson takes up the call and delivers its BBL24M Swanson Box Beam Level that has the features to take a beating and then some. With rubber “Super Shock” end caps and solid block acrylic vials, the Swanson Box Beam level is certainly a tool that isn’t afraid to take a beating and come out on top. We took it for a spin in our real-world test and found it to be an extremely easy-to-use, no-nonsense product that will provide years of reliable service.
All of the Swanson Box Beam Levels come with the same yellow (painted) aluminum frame and Super Shock end caps. It’s these caps that really do well to protect the level from suffering any real damage when dropped from high places (and believe me, we tested this thoroughly). For additional protection, Swanson opted for solid block acrylic vials for this level. They come across as extremely durable and look like they can take a beating and walk away unscathed. The vials have three line designations on each side of the bubble. The middle line indicates a 2 percent grade and the outer line indicates a 4 percent grade. If you’ve ever laid out a plumbing drain you’ll quickly realize how handy these marks are.
The Magnetic Box Beam Levels, of which we tried out the 24″ version, include dual cushion-grip handles that allow easy portability and positioning of the tool overhead. The handles are made of what looks to be durable nylon and the rubber overmold adds that comfort grip that we found very pleasing. The handles are a tad on the thin-side and those expecting to be able to insert anything other than the fingertips of larger hands – especially when gloved – may be disappointed. About the only glaring omission (in our opinion) was the marked absence of any laser etched rulers. Of course, Swanson has several different models to choose from with regard to levels, so it’s probably absent by design. Still, I’d prefer to walk around with just one or two levels, so I’d encourage this small addition in a future version.
We liked the machined edges of the box beam level, and noted that the dual V-grooves were perfect for both round stock and squared corners. The bottom of the level features internal rare earth magnets that Swanson labels with its IMS (Integrated Magnetic System) designation. The magnets are located within the aluminum frame and are completely enclosed by the level. This means they will never corrode and won’t come loose. The BBL24M weighs just over a pound, even with the four magnets integrated into the frame and we felt that the yellow paint looked to be a durable finish that would handle a few hits before taking on scratches. This series is also available in a 48-inch model and the similar BBLXX0M models, which only lack the internal IMS magnets, come in 24″, 48″ and even 72″ lengths.
Typically there’s only so much you can say about a level except to say that it’s… well, level. It certainly worked well in every application we could think of and the magnets held it solid against any ferrous metal. In the case of the Swanson Box Beam Magnetic level, you also (fortunately for us) have the added challenge the company posed of marketing it as a super durable level. Now that’s a challenge. We appreciated being able (nay, almost dared to drop it from over 13 feet… just to see what happens. So that’s just what we did. Onto concrete. Ten times. Yeah, it was fun – and we certainly banged it up a bit. When we were done, however, the level was none the worse for wear except for some small gouges in the rubber end-caps and slight marring of the surfaces of some of the machined corners. I’ll take that over a cracked vial any day.
Swanson Box Beam Level Conclusion
The Swanson BBL24M is a rugged tool that indeed stands up to tons of job site abuse and rugged wear and tear. We did some extreme testing and it came out looking just fine. I liked its basic features as well as the hidden IMS magnet system and wished only that they had included a laser-etched SAE ruler along the sides. Because it hit so many things right on target, we gave it a performance rating of 7/10. The presence of a host of other magnetic levels on the market and the steep competition gave the Swanson Box Beam level a value rating of 6/10 on our scale. This is definitely one of those Incredible Hulk-tough tools that you can add into your arsenal. It’s just too bad it isn’t green.