Durable, Affordable: Craftsman Box Torpedo Spirit Level
Craftsman builds a stout 9-inch box torpedo level with rubberized, non-marking ends and a magnetic edge. The Craftsmen spirit level’s magnified center vial makes reading easier.
When I say stout, I mean it: the anodized aluminum level seems heavy for its size, especially compared to resin or polypropylene competitors, and it remained accurate even after I dropped it repeatedly. Some of the level’s weight is due to the fact that the ends are not tapered (unlike most torpedo levels, as the name implies). But it should easily outlast plastic competitors and read accurately for years to come.
If you’re looking for a moderately-priced spirit level (also known as a bubble level) that will be useful over the long term, I would recommend the Craftsman 9-in Box Torpedo spirit level. During my review, it did everything I needed it to.
Craftsman Spirit Level in Practice
The Craftsman 9-in. Box Torpedo level fit right into my varied, light-duty home tool kit. My bag happened to have a pocket that held it just right and didn’t make it hard to insert or remove.
I did find the magnified vial easy to read, but I do have one small gripe. With any spirit level, I prefer a bubble that touches both hairlines at once. If the bubble floats between the lines without touching either one, you have to guesstimate for accuracy. Again, this is minor, but the Craftsman level’s bubbles were too small to contact both lines in any vial.
The level measures horizontal level, vertical plumb, and 45-degree angles. The magnet on the bottom was very strong; if I had a big shop toolbox, I wouldn’t flinch at sticking it to the side for storage.
I drop-tested the Craftsmen spirit level from countertop and overhead heights, and it still read accurately afterward. In my experience, this is pretty important. I vividly remember a time several years ago when a coworker ruined an old level a mentor had given me by dropping it. I was pretty angry — and clearly still am, as indicated by my inclusion of the anecdote.
As with any job site accident, there were multiple ways to avoid it, but the accident still happened. Object lesson: durable gear is better for longevity. The Craftsman Box Torpedo spirit level’s rubberized ends should help soften impacts from drops. In my experience, the more you use a tool, the more you want to protect it. If your tools are built well, you’re off to a good start.
Anodized Aluminum vs. Plastic Construction
Simply put: any plastic level eventually ends up in the trash can. If you want a level capable of lasting forever, it needs to be metal. That’s pretty intuitive if you think about plastic’s malleable properties. All plastic reacts to heat changes and direct sunlight by warping, cracking, reshaping, etc. Any change to a level’s original shape damages its accuracy. Since it’s a tool with only one purpose, it’s trash as soon as it doesn’t work as intended anymore. Object lesson: stable materials are better for levels.
Thus, aluminum levels are the industry standard for trade workers who require them, like framers, cabinet installers, fence builders, appliance installers, etc.
If you add Craftsman’s anodized aluminum 9″ box torpedo level to your kit, you’re choosing a professional-grade tool.
Craftsmen Spirit Level Review Conclusions
In a 9-inch torpedo spirit level, Craftsman makes a capable entry. Its anodized aluminum box torpedo resisted drops; it was highly readable and highly magnetic. I’m fully confident that mine will last as long as I do unless I do something really dumb to it (back over it with my truck, try to use it as a boomerang, pry a large boulder out of the ground with it; you get the idea).
It fit nicely into a tool bag pocket, though I did end up choosing an intermediate-sized pocket. MSRP is $17.