Bassan's Product Review:

CST Automatic Level Outfit

Apr 15, 2020

Tool: CST/berger 55-SLVP28ND Auto Level Kit.

Specs: Automatic optical level with 28X zoom and an accuracy of 1/16" at 200'.

Uses: Transferring grades, layouts and site prep.

Initial review: This CST/berger kit includes a 28X zoom optical level, plumb bob, tripod, levelling rod and carrying case. This type of level is also commonly called a builder’s level.



Unlike the self levelling rotary laser level, a builder’s level must be levelled manually using levelling screws on the unit’s base. A right angle prism helps by putting the levelling bubble in view. The builder’s level internal optics automatically levels using an industry standard magnetically dampened, wire-hung compensator. A compensator lock also protects the instrument during transport or storage and the sealed unit construction protects against the elements. A top-mounted optical peep-sight helps to quickly reference the levelling rod or benchmark and the precise focusing knob and left / right fine-tuning knobs also helps to quickly focus on objects. That part of the builder level works very similar to a set of binoculars. Builder levels also have a rotating base marked in degrees to establish or set angles of varying degrees.



Like a rotary laser level, a builder’s level can be used to transfer levels and grades. But unlike using a rotary laser level, using a builder’s level is a 2-person job. You’ll need someone on the levelling rod and someone taking readings with the builder’s level.



So why bother with a builder’s level when a laser level can complete the same tasks? A builder’s level can also rotate 360 degrees so laying out straight lines and angles other than 90 degrees are easy tasks. To establish angles, the builder’s level is placed directly over a benchmark using a plumb bob, set at 0 degrees and the angle turned. Distances can also be calculated by using the gradient marks (or stadia) on a builder’s level’s crosshairs. To calculate distance, the difference between the 2 gradients marks are multiplied by the level’s gradient scale (1:100). For example, gradient 1 is 10.1m, gradient 2 is 10.5m. Distance = 0.4m x 100 = 4m.



Price and ease of use are other factors to consider when deciding between a rotary laser level and a builder’s level. Depending on the model chosen, a builder’s level can be ¼ the cost of a rotary laser level. Some DIY’ers and trades people may find a rotary laser level easier to setup but the level of complexity is greater.



An updated review will be provided after the builder’s level is put to use at upcoming jobs at the St. John’s Rod and Gun Club. We have plans to rebuild another traphouse and pour new concrete shooting pads. The builder’s level will come in useful determining grades and determining the proper angles of all trapfield components.

Cheers, A. Bassan

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