29 April 2011

Level With Me

The weekend we had the bobcat, Steve also rented us a transit level. What's a transit level? It's the weird tripod device that you sometimes see surveyors or construction crews using along the road:

I had never understood how they work (how does just looking at stuff tell you how high it is?!), but it's actually pretty simple. They consist of three parts. The first is the tripod itself. Not too much to say about that.

The second is the level part, which sits on top of the tripod. It's actually like a level and binoculars in one.

You attach it to the tripod, adjust the legs to get it roughly level, and then use the three knobs at the base of the head to level it the rest of the way. The level has its own bubble level built in so you know it's perfectly level when the bubble is in the center of the circle:

Once the head is level, you look through the binocular part (er, monocular?). There's a grid on the view finder that establishes a level line in whichever direction you look. Another person holds the third part, a yardstick on steroids, at various points around the yard (I imagine there are stands for a person to work independently, but I had Steve for that).

Once you do that at several locations and note the height on the stick where the viewfinder's center line lines up, you can figure out which parts of the yard are higher or lower than other parts. In our case, we were trying to establish a gentle slope away from the house (about six inches of drop over ten feet), so if the height next to the house was, say, 4'8" and the height ten feet away was 4'11", we knew we needed to bring the slope down some more. (The trickiest thing about the transit level is that the numbers are the opposite of what you would think, logically, they should be. A "higher" reading on the stick means that the ground level is lower in that spot -- because that means the stick is sitting lower on the ground.)

So that's the tale of our weekend with the transit level. It worked out really well for the backyard. Unfortunately, because of the problems with the bobcat battery, we kind of ran out of time to use it much in the front yard (although we ended up with a much easier -- for us -- solution for grading the front yard). Nonetheless, Steve liked it so much that he ordered the head part from Amazon so we can use it (with a tripod we already have and some kind of modified yardstick) for future projects. Which I guess means that there will be future projects....

1 comment:

  1. Whenever I read about a home improvement tool like this one, the engineer in me thinks, "That would be so cool to have! Think of all the great home improvement projects I use it on!" And then the exhausted part of me thinks, "Um . . . no."