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When our friends at Stanley roll out new levels, we generally tend to at least listen to what they have to say. A while back they plopped a couple of aluminum, 4’ lighted levels in our lap. I scoffed and asked if they were kidding — they weren’t. I then found out why; they’re pretty damn cool.

The new lighted level should look rather familiar if you’ve been to the big box in the last few years because it’s mostly the same as far as the feature set goes: an aluminum box level with oversized vials, big rubber end caps, and four magnets running along the bottom to grip steel. Good stuff, but nothing radically new.

One new feature is the ruler that spans the top of the spine. It measures out from the center in inches or metric and boasts easy-to-read numbers that don’t come off even if accidentally sanded.

The trick comes when you get a closer look at the top edge and the small switch on the side near one of the end caps. Push the little button and you get 27 bright, white LED lights — 24 along the spine and one for each vial.

As usual we had to know how it worked, so we popped the screw that holds it in and yanked what turned out to be the switch and battery pack out of the end. Three AA batteries power the level and are quite easy to replace. Not that you’ll need to all that often since the pack will power the level for quite some time; we left one on overnight and found it still lit the next morning. 

It doesn’t make a half bad work light for under cabinets, either. It functions at least as well as some of the gimmick area lights we’ve seen. At least this one has a good day job as a respectable level even if you don’t need a light.

We must also confess to using it as a flashlight when we popped a breaker in the shop not too long ago because it was at hand. Cheesy, perhaps, but it worked out fine and we didn’t have to fumble around to find something else that would work.

The bottom line here is this level won’t change your life (unless you’re a cabinetry installer, then yes, yes it will). Otherwise it’s the same sweet level it always was but with lights and a ruler on it. We dig it and it seems sturdy enough. Given the fact that it only costs a few bucks over $40 the sans-LED levels, if the lights turn you on, go for it. It’s still a Stanley, so even if the novelty wears off you know it’s a solid piece of gear.

Fat Max 48″ Lighted Level [Stanley]
Street Pricing [Google Products]

 

One Response to Hands-On: Stanley Fat Max Lighted Level

  1. Phil says:

    Having just the vials lit would be a good idea, especially given my failing-from-age eyesight. Not often I would ever need an area light built into a level, but it could come in handy when being used as a straightedge to check surface flatness. The light would peek from all the low spots.

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