For my first ten or fifteen years in carpentry, Stabila levels were mythical. Most of the time, you couldn’t even buy one, even if you could afford the hefty price tag. There just weren’t many around—only the most discriminating stores sold them, and they were always in short supply. Today you can buy a Stabila level at every professional tool store and lumber dealer. But Stabila’s levels are about to become mythical once more.
|These days, I don’t write too many tool reviews. Someone is always complaining that I’ve got a conflict of interest because of Katz Roadshow Sponsorship. So if that worries you, stop reading right here, because I’ve had a wonderful relationship with Stabila for more than twenty years, and I’ve given them ideas for new products, like the 5-ft. level and the Jambers Set.|
While I’ve never asked or received remuneration for helping them, they’ve shown me enormous respect, and they have supported every educational program I’ve produced.
Maybe that’s why I was one of the first carpenters in the U.S. to get my hands on a Stabila R-Beam level, back in 2011. I have to admit that I thought it was kind of bulky at the time. It wasn’t sleek. And it wouldn’t pack with my other levels.
But once I started using the R-beam, I stopped reaching for my old red-handled set…
R-beam levels are flat on the bottom and won’t tip over. (You can see the R-shape in the end of the level, above.)
|R-beam levels have sharper, crisp corners, so I can see if something is flat and straight, or bowed and twisted.|
|R-beam levels don’t have eased edges, so pencil lines are always scribed straight and true—the lead doesn’t duck under the edge of the level.|
|R-beam levels have “wide-angle” vials—I can see the bubble vial from an oblique angle, and I don’t have to stand perfectly perpendicular to the level.|
R-beam levels have a continuous grip—I don’t have to look for a handhold before picking one up.
And R-beam levels are stronger—I can step on my level without worrying about bending it.
But there are a couple disappointments, too:
|R-beam levels aren’t easy to hang on nails—the holes are small and difficult to thread over a screw or nail.|
|R-beam levels don’t fit in my Stabila level case.|
But all of the negatives can’t compare to the positives. These are the best and most comfortable levels I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve never worked with any other level that has given me the same sense of confidence.
While I always recommend supporting your local tool dealer, Amazon is selling the 24″ R-Beam for $79.99, the 48″ for $139.99, the 72″ for $209.99, and the 96″ for $330.18.
Good article Gary. And now I’m convinced that you really are on the level!!
I’m going order one of the 48. It will be helpful ! Thanks
I don’t find the 48″ level to be nearly as valuable as the 5 ft. level, especially in the R-Beam design because it makes such a great straight-edge, the longer lengths seem to be more useful.
Great article Gary I’m just kinda bummed out that I might have to sell some of my “old guy stabilas”
so I can afford the price tag of the new ones haha
Thanks for the review, Gary. Any idea when the 78″ will become available? Some online retailers are already making space for it.
I have the 78″ and the 32″ R-beam levels, too. You don’t? How come? Actually, I think there’s only a few sets in the U.S. so far, but they should be here very soon. I thought they were starting to sell them in early spring, but that’s passed.
I was ready to pick up another 78″ 196, but I will get the R-beam when it becomes available. Nice timing!
I would miss the handholds. I thread my heavy cable through for security. And I’ve had a tough enough time finding cases. I had to modify a Johnson hard tube for my 59″, including a cut out for one handle for the aforementioned locking issue. I guess I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve had the opportunity to hold one.
Great, now I need a third set of Stabila levels.
Do they offer upgrade pricing? Or should I just wait for the Stabila level 5.
SOUNDS GOOD, GOING TO TRY THE 48
Nice review of a nice product. Time to up-grade from my American
Great article. I wonder if the green cast of the liquid in the bubble will go clear like the old Stabila levels do. It sure makes the bubble hard to see.
I saw them at the lumberyard contractors night. I got a 6′ and in two weeks I get to put it through the paces hanging doors. I debated between it and the jamber set. I think now I made the right choice
I’m holding out for the 60″
Nice article. Short and to the point.
I usually don’t like the “advertizing” articles but in this case I commend you for it.
I’ve been to your roadshow and I’ve won some stabila items there as well as at JLC. I appreciate the fact that they are a Major supporter of your roadshows. Thanks to you and all the show sponsors for putting on that, as well as this wonderful magazine.
One thing I would point out about your article concerns the part about being able to read the bubble at an angle. You know if it shows level while viewed at an angle it’s not really level right?
At least that’s the way my levels read. Stabila a as well.
God bless you and keep up the good work,
Great comments from all! Stabila has new carrying cases that do fit all of our levels including the R Beam. We will look into the possibilty of increasing the size of the “hang hole” on this series of levels. There is no current plan to add a 59″ R Beam. We strive to improve all Stabila products, including vial fade. Each generation gets better with new chemical solutions for the vials. Thank You, Darrell Hammond, National Sales Manager, Stabila Level Company.
Hope u can help me. I have a stabila level which is 1 yr old and was sold to me in a set with a 10 yr guarantee. After 1 year of light use the vertical level vials have become untrue. If i attempt to plumb a vertical stud wall for example, and the wall is slightly out of plumb, the level will show the bubble next to the right hand line on the top vial, the bottom vial will display the bubble next to the left hand line. Hopefully that makes sense. So i consulted the little 10 yr warranty booklet i got with the level. The only information given is to check the website, yet there is not an english language option. So im left without a level, and feel rather hard done to, as i will have to send this level off now for repair/warranty assesment without me or the tool retailer knowing whether its even worth it. Plus i cant afford to go and buy a new one, so i cannot work, so i cannot afford a new 1…. As you can see this traps me in an endless cycle. The reason i have wrote here is that reaching customer service for stabila is proving to be impossible. What is the point of paying top money for a poor product, where for less money u could buy a cheapo level each year if stabilas are only lasting a year these days. Hope to hear back from somebody soon.
I have the magnetic jamber set and love them. However one of the plumb vials doesn’t read true. It’s a good 1/16th out which can be frustrating. None of the stores that carry stabila by me want anything to do with the lifetime warranty. I contacted stabila and was told I could ship it to them at my expense and if they found it to be in good condition and the vial was out enough they would make good on it. If for some reason they found it to be user neglect I wouldn’t get my level back unless I paid for return shipping. I haven’t been willing to take the chance yet. I’m not sure I could bring myself to buy another stabila because of this issue.
I owned one Stabila and only one it went bad after two years when I took it back for the warranty for life , the business owner told me no warranty however I will give you 10% off the purchase of a new one. I threw the piece of junk out! Bought a Crick made in the USA and will refurbish the level for $10.00. SO I WILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER STABILA a warranty is only as good as the company that stands behind it, and Stabila does not back up their warranty!
PJ, that sounds suspicious to me. You didn’t contact Stabila directly? It sounds like the toolstore you bought the level from wouldn’t honor the warrantee, NOT Stabila. It sounds like your problem is with your toolstore, but you’re blaming Stabila? I know several carpenters who have returned products to Stabila and they’ve always honored the warrantee–it’s a part of their brand, a part of their confidence in their own tools–right to the top of the corporate ladder. I’ve also known guys who have sent in levels they’ve dropped from the fourth floor or a building, or driven over with their trucks–and even a few of those guys have gotten new levels! But shame on them….
I received my level back today from Stabila for a warranty claim. A well taken care of 48″ model 96 level used mostly in trim applications. Stabila stated that it is within tolerance and returned my level. The warranty states that a inaccurate level will be replaced. It is a shame that a company would send back an inaccurate level (32nd of an inch in 4′). That does not meet my standards for a quality tool.
I’m curious how you’re able to measure 1/32 in. in 4 ft. with a bubble-vial level? Reading a bubble-vial is notoriously subjective. And are you testing it on a surface that is dead level–something that’s been calibrated like the steel beam and posts bolted to concrete in Stabila’s ‘lab’ and adjusted using a transit? But you should call Stabila and ask for Darrell 800-869-7460.
Stabila replaced my six foot 96 level even though I confessed up front that we had dropped and bent it. They actually couldn’t wait to replace the level and confirm my confidence in their brand, even though the damage was my fault! One of the many reasons I always stick with Stabila.
I am interested in purchasing an R beam level. Since it has three nice crisp edges, I would like to use it as a long straight edge as well as a level. Stabila advertises their vial accuracy, but I would also like to know the straightness spec on the beam. Their customer support phone rep said there was no spec. As a mfg engineer this is hard for me to believe. Do you know, or can you find out, how straight I can expect their jamber length (78″) level to be? Thanks……..Dwayne
Dwayne, I’m worried about you.
The Stabila R Beam is the straightest and strongest level I’ve ever worked with. I have an 8′ level that I use to mark lines on sheets of plywood ALL THE TIME. They’ve always been straight enough for my work. But I have no idea how many 100ths of an inch of tolerance they have, and I suspect Stabila doesn’t either. I’ve never heard ANYONE ask a question about that. They’re straight. That’s all I know. Probably straighter than anything you’ll ever need for construction work!
Did you manage to find a case that the levels could fit in ? , I have the 6ft, 4ft and 2ft and they are kept in the van most the time so I really need a case for them, however I am struggling to find one.
NO, I haven’t found one. I’ll file a complaint! :)
I was intrigued by your statement that you were one of the first carpenters in America to get your hands on a level in 2011! Stabila is a mystery. They hardly advertise. Yet, they are renowned and have products in over 80 countries. They are well-respected and a household name.
Based on your statement, and relationship with Stabila, can you tell me about how they increased their US market base? Why were they so mythical up until then?
Granted, it is 2020 and a lot has changed, but their US influence is impressive. Thanks for your insight.
I wasn’t one of the first people to get my hands on a Stabila level–their levels have been around a lot longer than me. But I was one of the first to use a R-Beam level, like the ones described in this article. When I started as a carpenter–back in the late 1970s, Stabila levels were truly mythic, there were few places where you could buy one. I remember in the early 1980s one store in Los Angeles sold Stabila levels, but they rarely had any inventory–they sold out too quickly and shipments of new levels were infrequent. At that time, carpenters truly lusted for those tools. Many still do. As for your question about how they increased their US Market base? There’s one simple answer: Mike Fraser. Mike has headed sales and marketing for Stabila in the US for about 20 years. His passion and understanding of the industry is unmatched. I have had the honor of working with him and knowing him for most of those twenty years.
I’ve had the I beam Stabila’s for 30 plus years now and they are still in great shape
I don’t see any real improvement in having an R shape or indeed having a box level at all if anything its going backwards
What’s wrong with using a level and an aluminium straight edge? you only really need a 2′ level if truth will have it and a couple of different straight edges one for casings 6′ and maybe another at 4′
I have a 600mm and 1000mm level and have never needed anything else with the exception of a laser, plumb bob and string-lines