Illustration by Harry Bates
Using a square to level around the corner
To check a vertical
post for plumb, as Norm is doing in Image 1, put the level on two adjacent faces, and look at the bubble straight on, not from an angle. The same holds true for
flat surfaces, such as
a countertop. Place
the level so it's running from side to side, then turn it 90 degrees
and check again back to front. If there's
no discrepancy, the surface is level.
Turning a Corner
A level is fine for drawing level lines, but if that line has to turn an outside corner, a combination square is the easiest, most accurate way to mark the turn. First, draw a level line on one wall right
to the corner. Then place the square's rule on the adjacent wall (as shown in Image 2). Align it with the line you just drew, and make a mark on the adjacent wall. Now line up the level with this mark and continue drawing your level line (as shown in Image 3).
If I'm doing work that requires a constant pitch, such as hanging a gutter,
I'll tape a block of wood to one end of the level to give it the desired pitch. For example, if I need a slope of 1/8 inch for every foot, I'll tape a
½-inch block to the end of a 4-foot level (4 x 1/8 = ½). That way, when the bubble indicates level, the gutter has the proper slope.
Tip: Whether I'm checking a vertical piece for plumb
or a horizontal piece for level,
I always use the longest level that
I can because it
gives me the most accurate results.