About a year ago Stabila introduced a newly designed spirit level, the R Beam Level. Tools of the Trade sent us some and we’ve been using them since last spring. Instead of being box-shaped, like standard levels, these have a cross-section shaped like a capitalized “R”. There are a few advantages to this design. It provides three sharp edges that can be used to draw or scribe straight lines. And the curved edge makes the level comfortable to grip. Basically, the entire length of the tool is a grip—there is no need for hand holes.
Stabila claims these levels are 120% stronger without saying stronger than what. That’s okay; it’s clear from handling these tools that they are heavier and more rigid than most other levels. We’ve had them for less than a year so it’s hard to know how durable they will be long-term. But we’ve used Stabila levels for close to 20 years and if these are anything like previous models from that company then they should hold up fine.
I like the smooth finish on the body of the level and the way the curve is cut back at the vials so they are easier to read at an angle. The vials are locked in place with epoxy so like previous models from Stabila; they should remain accurate over time. These levels are so solid we don’t feel the need to baby them—so we don’t.
After months of using R Beam Levels we have come to love them. We were given 8-, 6-, 4-, and 2-foot models. It’s too bad they don’t make a 5-foot level because that’s a handy length to have. We use the 6- and 8-foot models the most. The 8-foot model is good for checking ridge posts and plumbing walls up to 12 feet tall (though for that task a plate level would be preferable). The 6-footer is good for plumbing cripple walls and we use it as a straight-edge marking out sheathing cuts when it’s too wet to use a chalk line. This works even when the sheathing is curled because the R Beam is stiff enough that I can push down on it and the plywood or OSB will flatten out long enough for me to draw the line.
R Beam levels are pricey. Online I’ve seen the 6-foot model for $210 and the 8-foot model for $260. That’s a lot to pay for a level but worth it if you use the tool every day and need it to be sturdy and accurate. The levels come with a lifetime warranty; if a vial leaks, fogs, or becomes inaccurate Stabila will replace that tool for free (though if you bend the body you are on your own).