We spent a little time with Stanley’s new 24” FatMax magnetic (43-525) and non-magnetic (43-524) levels here in the Toolmonger test shop. They look like any other level — and even a bunch like the old FatMax lineup — except for a few new features. But instead of just checking out the new features and moving on, we decided to put them through a little hell to find out how they hold up to some real-life abuse. Specifically, we dropped them each from eight feet onto concrete a hundred times.
Guess what happened! Wait, don’t guess. Just read on past the jump and we’ll tell you.
First of all, let’s go over the necessary parts of a level and why they’re important. A level is made up of a beam that provides as flat a surface as possible and a reliable plumb (or bubble) either parallel or perpendicular to that surface — depending on whether you want to check walls or floors and ceilings. It’s a pretty simple system. The modern level offers additions that make life easier, but the core is the same: beam and bubble.
We noticed the new FatMax’s two biggest additions right off: Stanley added a second hand grip to the 24″ model — previous 24-inchers had only one — and the bridge across the center bubble is now half-closed, allowing you to scribe a line the full length of the beam. The other side remains open to help increase bubble visibility.
The second grip was a much anticipated add-on to last year’s model. Both grips are well-placed and very comfortable. And, of course, you can now position the level in either direction with one hand.
Stanley also completely redesigned the shock-absorbing caps for the new FatMax line, going from simple rubber stoppers to high-impact structures built to take a beating. They’re also a lot beefier and take up more space than the old end caps, which means the metal part of the level is slightly shorter. To make up for some of the loss of metal, small red tabs on one side of the end caps allow you to draw straight lines all the way to the ends.
The top and bottom beam surfaces are now pattern-milled into a rigid surface instead of a smooth finish, but it appears to be a purely aesthetic choice. It does, however, help to prevent sliding.
The new FatMax’s vials are the same as last year’s — Stanley had the good sense not to mess with what works. These vials have been proven to hold up well and are easy to read even at a good distance — like across a room.
Scribing lines with the new FatMax levels is easy. It makes a flat, straight line nearly two feet in length. The line was easy to mark almost end to end, though you do miss the absolute end by about an eighth of an inch on either end of its 24″ length.
We also put it on a few surfaces and found that the bubble vials work quite well. You can read them from a good distance — just like last year’s models.
Read on to page two to see us treat these levels badly.