How to make a 2 in 1 DIY spirit level | step-by-step guide

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At some point, we have to hang things on the wall.
Whether it’s a painting or a cabinet, we all want it to hang level.

To achieve the desired result, you will therefore have to use a spirit level.

You can of course buy a spirit level, but I thought it would be a cool idea to make my own DIY spirit level.

In retrospect, this was actually easier to make than originally thought.

To make a DIY spirit level you only need a few spirit level vials, some wood glue, and a few pieces of scrap wood.

The only difficulty with this project is making sure that the spirit level vials are in the correct position.

In this article, I will show you step by step how I build my 2 in 1 DIY spirit level.
As an extra, I’ll show you how to check the accuracy of your wooden spirit level.

Whether you built it yourself or not.

I got the idea, to make this homemade spirit level myself, after making 
my own version of the Kreg multi-mark and measuring tool.
At that point, I realized that the Kreg tool has a spirit level.

Because I use it to hang things up from time to time, this inspired me to make my own homemade spirit level.
I hope in turn, through this article, to inspire you too to make a homemade spirit level.

Okay, let’s go!

What is a spirit level?

A spirit level can have different names, like a bubble level or, simply, level.
It is a measuring instrument used to place surfaces parallel (spirit level), or perpendicular (perpendicular) to the earth.

Spirit levels are hand tools mainly used in construction for many applications.
Not only bricks can be installed in the right way with a spirit level, but also cabinets, door frames, and so on.
A spirit level is a one-handed tool that every DIYer should have in their workshop.

How to use a spirit level?

Once you know how a spirit level works, it’s very simple. 

If you look at the vial, you will see two markings.
If the bubble is between these two marks, the surface on which you placed the spirit level is horizontal or vertical. 

When the bell is not between the two marks, you need to lower the side where the bell is present.
You need to understand that the bell will always point to the highest side.

For best results, it is always recommended placing the level in the middle of the surface that you want to place level.

Can a spirt level loose accuracy?

The level vial contains a certain amount of liquid.
In many cases, manufacturers use ethanol for this.
The correct amount of liquid in this vial will determine the accuracy.
If the amount of this liquid decreases for any reason, the spirit level will give an inaccurate reading.
So, YES, a spirit level can lose accuracy!

Therefore, always treat the spirit level with the necessary care.
For example, do not drop it and avoid damaging the bottle, so the liquid can not reduce.

Later in this article, I will show you how you can check your level’s accuracy.

Watch the video & learn how to make a spirit level

Before you read the step-by-step instructions on how to make a spirit level, you can watch the video here to see how I build my DIY spirit level.
After watching this video, you can continue reading this step-by-step instructions, and discover all detail you need to make a DIY spirit level yourself. 

What do you need to make a spirit level?

To prepare you for building this DIY spirit level, I have made a few handy lists.

In addition to a few personal protective equipment that I use*, I also list the materials as well as the (power) tools you will need to build this DIY spirit level.

* Safety is always your own responsibility!

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How to make a spirit level?

In short, you can make a DIY spirit level by adding a spirit level vial to an elongated piece of wood that is perfectly square on each side.

By placing 1 spirit level vial horizontally and 1 spirit level vial vertically, the same DIY spirit level can be used in 2 directions.

In this step-by-step instruction, I will go more in depth on how to make a DIY spirit level.

Step 1 | Preparation

For this DIY spirit level, I used 18 mm (0.709 Inch) thick birch plywood.

For the housing of the level bubble vials, I placed the wood perpendicular to the wood of the spirit level, and that in a double layer.

This is important as it will help you know the width of the strips to cut for the base of the DIY spirit level. In my case, this was 36 mm (1.418 Inch) (2 times the thickness of the 18 mm (0.709 Inch) plywood)

If you are going to plane the base after gluing to make the edges even, you can make these strips a little wider.
If you do not have a 
planer and thicknesser, you can alternatively sand the edges until they are flat.
You have to take in mind that sanding, until you have reached the right thickness, can involve a lot of work.

To make the base of this DIY spirit level, you will need 4 layers of plywood.
The length of each piece should be about 50 cm 
(20 inches) long.

DIY spirit level a step by step guide

Step 2 | Making the base of the homemade spirit level

After sanding the strips with my orbital sander, I joined them together with wood glue.

When gluing, do not apply too much wood glue and spread it over the entire surface of the wood.

You can use an old paintbrush to spread the glue, but I always use an old bank card for this. 

This bank card distributes the glue nicely and is easy to clean, even when the wood glue has dried.

Tip:

Don’t just use any wood glue for your projects!

To find out which different types exist and for which applications they serve, check out my blog Understanding Wood Glue + 8 awesome tricks you should know. Here you will discover everything you need to know about wood glue.

DIY spirit level a step by step guide

After gluing, I clamped the strips together tightly and set them aside to dry.
To clamp these pieces, I used these clutch style bar clamps.  

While the glue on the DIY spirit level base was drying, I could continue to make the bubble level vial holders.

DIY spirit level a step by step guide

Step 3 | The bubble level vial holder

These holders will serve to keep the spirit level vials in place.
The advantage of making these holders, is that they can be adjusted when placing the spirit level vials.
That way, it is easier to achieve an accurate spirit level.

To make these holders, I needed 4 disks in total.
Each holder consists of 2 discs.
I cut out these 4 discs with a 40 mm (1.575 Inch) hole saw on my drill press.

After gluing the 2 discs together with wood glue, I put these discs over a piece of threaded rod and clamped them between two nuts.

That way I could fix the discs in the drill press and sand them down to the diameter I needed.

DIY spirit level a step by step guide

By turning the drill press and holding sandpaper against it, I was able to sand the holders to 38 mm (1.496 Inch).
That 38 mm is equal to the hole in the DIY spirit level where they have to fit later.

Tip:

If you want to know more about how to determine the right sandpaper for your project, be sure to check out my blog: The perfect sandpaper grit guide for woodworking.

Everything you need to know about sandpaper can be found in this article. It will no doubt give you a better understanding of the proper use of sandpaper.

There is also a FREE downloadable guide available to help you determine the right sandpaper grit.

Highly recommended.

DIY spirit level a step by step guide

Once the diameter of the holder was correct, I could drill a hole right through the holder.

To be able to drill the hole nicely in the center of the holder, I clamped the holder in my homemade 
drill press vise.

As a result, I was not only sure of the correctness of the hole, but it was now also possible to drill safely.

The drill press runs at high speeds, and it can happen that the drill gets a grip on the workpiece.
The smaller the workpiece, the more likely you will not be able to stop it. This can lead to injuries.

To drill that hole, I used a drill with a diameter of 8 mm (0.315 Inch), which corresponded perfectly to the diameter of the spirit level bottles that had to fit in here.

DIY spirit level a step by step guide

After I drilled the right-angled hole through the holder, it was now time to hollow out the center of the holder.

I clamped the holder in the drill press vise again.
This time in a horizontal position.

With a 22 mm (0.866 Inch) Forstner drill, I now drilled out the center of the holder.

Here’s a handy trick I used to do this:

A Forstner drill has a small center point at the bottom.
This tip ensures that the drill can make a hole at the desired location without sliding.

Since I had drilled the discs with a hole saw, these discs had a hole in the center because of the center drill of the hole saw.
So there was no wood in the center of the disks to insert the tip of the Forstner drill.

That’s why I put a dowel in this hole.

As a result, the Forstner drill will have a better grip, resulting in a nice and clean drill hole.

DIY spirit level a step by step guide

Now I was able to insert the bubble level vials into the drilled hole.
I secure the spirit level vials in place with epoxy glue.

DIY spirit level a step by step guide

Tip:

There is more than just one type of epoxy glue!

Discover all you need to know about epoxy glue to understand which type of epoxy glue you need for your projects. 

Check out my in-depth article “How and when to use epoxy glue? | The N°1 clear guide”, and always use the right type of epoxy glue from now on.

Step 4 | Finishing the base

While the epoxy glue was drying, I was able to continue with the base of the DIY spirit level.

The wood glue had hardened, and I was able to remove the clamps.

To make the sides even, and bring them to the definitive width of the DIY spirit level, I flattened them with the planer/thicknesser.

DIY spirit level a step by step guide

Then I was able to drill the 2 holes in the DIY spirit level base for the bubble level vial holders.
I did this with a 38 mm hole drill, and a smaller hole that I can use to store the homemade spirit level.

DIY spirit level a step by step guide

Step 5 | Assembling

After finishing the edges with a 45-degree chamfer bit in my router, I was able to place the holders into the DIY spirit level.
To do this, I used wood glue.

DIY spirit level a step by step guide

When installing these bubbles in your DIY spirit level, do this on a surface that you are sure is level.

If you’re not entirely sure about this, later in this article, I’ll show you a trick to check your homemade spirit level’s correctness. 

DIY spirit level a step by step guide

Step 6 | Installing the rubber caps

To protect the ends of the DIY spirit level from impact, I applied a rubber cap on each end.

After pre-drilling holes and making a countersunk hole in the rubber, I attached these caps to the ends with contact glue.

Then, to hold the rubber caps firmly in place, I fitted 2 screws per end.

By doing this, the DIY spirit level was now ready.

DIY spirit level a step by step guide

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How to check a spirit level for accuracy?

Here’s a trick you can use to check your homemade spirit level for accuracy. 

You can use the same technique to check the accuracy of the purchased spirit levels in your workshop as well.

You better do this test regularly.
Like that you always have a spirit level that works 100%. 
If you notice a slight deviation, please stop using this spirit level.

Here are the steps you need to take to check a spirit level for accuracy:

Step 1: Place the spirit level against a wall and make sure the bubble is perfectly in the middle of the vial.

Step 2: Make a control line at the top (or at the bottom) of the spirit level.
I did it on the top of the DIY spirit level, because this works much easier.

Step 3: Mark a control point above the center of the bubble. 

DIY spirit level a step by step guide

Step 4: Now flip over the spirit level, align it over your control line, and move it until the bubble is under the control point. 

Step 5: Check if the bubble is in the exact same place. 

Now you know your DIY spirit level is ready to use.

DIY spirit level a step by step guide

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