Back in 2013 I wrote about what I carry in my tool bags every day. I wrote about the Tajima chalk line, stating that, “in my opinion no other chalk line is worth having”. I stand by that statement, but recently Milwuakee released a couple of chalk boxes that made me wonder if maybe Tajima had some real competition.
Milwaukee Bold Line and Precision Line. These two chalk boxes are very similar. They both feature a “strip guard” clutch, planetary gear system, and a 6 to 1 ration (making them faster to wind). Milwaukee claims that this gearing system will prolong of the life of the box by distributing forces evenly over 3 gears. The “Strip Guard” protects the gears when the line is snagged and if you are like me you just wind harder.
The Bold line is a 1.5mm braided line while the precision line is a .9mm “tightly braided” line for smaller lines. This box also is designed to spill less chalk. The Bold Line chalk box has a rubber overmold, which offers better gripping, while the Precision Line does not. Oddly, even without this overmold, the Precision line weighs slightly more than the Bold Line.
What We Liked. What we like about these lines is that you can push the handle to release the line as you pull, whereas the Tajima has a lock. These lines also have stout gearing, which is obvious during use; you can feel when winding that the gears have no play and are very strong. I think Milwaukee’s claims that these will last a long time are accurate. I don’t see myself replacing either of these boxes anytime soon.
We love the Tajima boxes but don’t use them if we are going to get the line wet. When moisture gets into the Tajima box, the chalk consolidates; when we wind the line up the gears break. This isn’t a problem at all with the Milwaukee lines.
What we didn’t like about the Milwaukee boxes is the line itself. You can’t stretch the line at all. I love being able stretch the Tajima line into a corner to snap a line. I found with the Milwaukee that I had to have the right amount of line out to get into the corner.
My recommendation is to go out and buy the Milwuakee lines, Bold for framing, and Precision for everything else. What I plan to do is replace the line in the Milwaukee with the Tajima line and I think I’d have the perfect chalk box: a durable Milwaukee box and the Tajima line that is crisp and long lasting.
Tim Uhler is lead framer for Pioneer Builders in Port Orchard, Wash. and a contributing editor to Tools of the Trade.