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Beating The Living S#!$ Out Of ‘Em

At this point we decided to see if the FatMax could take being knocked around a little. Or maybe knocked around a lot.

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So, we grabbed a six-foot ladder and an extra two-foot level to make a reasonably accurate drop height of eight feet. We then positioned the level on top and started dropping it on a concrete driveway over and over again.

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We tried to make the drops random — some on the beam, some on the ends, some on corners — essentially we acted like careless idiots, flinging the level from the right height.
We selected 100 drops to essentially exceed the damage any pro could expect in a reasonable life of the tool. For any truly clumsy people, we’ve simply simulated what your level will eventually look like.

A few notes on our testing process:

First, whenever we saw a change — such as something breaking off a level, a rattle showing up, or the level appearing visibly worse off than before — we stopped to take pictures. Otherwise, we stopped to take pictures every ten drops for the first fifty drops, then after twenty for a total of seventy, then after thirty more for a total of one hundred. Our reasoning is that if something doesn’t happen in the first fifty drops, it’s probably only going to happen rarely or will prove dependent on wear.

So what does a FatMax level look like after this kind of beating? Take a look for yourself:

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Actual failures on specific features varied between the two levels, suggesting that specific failures are more likely due to random occurrence rather than design or manufacturing issues.

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For instance, one of the two grips on the non-magnetic level split on drop 43 and shed a screw completely on drop 57, but none of the other grips were damaged.

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Likewise, although the center vial on the magnetic level broke loose enough to render the center bubble completely unreliable after about fifty drops, the center vial on the non-magnetic level remained rock-solid even after the full hundred drops — and even after a few dozen additional drops later.

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On both levels, however, the plastic cover over the center vial (a piece unnecessary to proper function) fell off quickly. (On the non-magnetic level it came off on drop 22, and on the magnetic level it came off on drop 3.) This wouldn’t affect the performance of its duties, but it is a bit of an eyesore, and the loss of the cover immediately allows dirt (and anything else small enough to fit in around the center vial) to enter the beam and rattle around.

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The magnetic level shed its first magnet on drop six, but the second lasted until drop 72. The magnets are glued into their holes by the back against a flat surface, though, and a little super glue should buy you another couple of drops.

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At least two of the four corners on each level ended up bent in slightly. While this is visually apparent, it really doesn’t affect the level readings. By lining up the levels with something flat or with each other it was impossible to measure the deflection with anything we had on hand.

Read on to page three for our conclusions.

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