From October 2017
I’m getting ready to install a wood fence. What tools will I need for this project?
—Michael McCarthy, Chicago
You don’t need many tools to put in a fence—a posthole digger, a mason line to keep posts aligned, a tape measure, a hammer or drill/driver for fasteners, a shovel for filling around posts, and a 4-foot level to check that each post is plumb. Before you start, take a moment to make sure your level is trustworthy. Here’s how to go about it.
1. Check vial, then rotate. Hold the level vertically against a surface and check the position of the bubble relative to the lines in the plumb vial; the bubble does not have to sit between the lines. To make accurate readings, sight through the vial when the lines that wrap around it are lined up front to back. Now rotate the level 180 degrees, place it in the same spot as before, and note the bubble’s position in the same vial. If the bubble is in exactly the same position after the level is rotated, your level is good to go.
2. Don’t toss it yet. If one vial’s readings don’t match, it doesn’t mean the whole level is bad; most levels have two plumb vials. Test the other one and if it’s good, tape over the bad vial to avoid any confusion.
3. Two bad vials? It may be possible to salvage your level if the vials are adjustable. Just use the same procedure as above to set them right. But if the vials are fixed, it’s no longer a level—it’s a straightedge.