The world of power tools is one of dust, debris, wattage and aggression. Pieces of timber are violated with blades and drills. Metal is sheared and shaped. Stone is hammered and broken. But out of this destruction comes new life…
We charge, we grip, we push, we grind and always, always, we expect no resistance. And as our power tools become more and more amped up, we expect no resistance, faster.
However, once the dust has settled, once the debris has been cleared, once the wood and the metal and the stone have been reformed to our liking, we take a step back and we start to look for the straight lines. Because when we start to create out of the chaos, we need straight lines.
Straight lines make our new world possible, allowing us to plan and reshape and build. And that’s when we need tools that are silent. Passive. Level headed. Inherently wise in their straightness. We need tools that will stand at a distance and show us the way to go. We need tools with the ability to keep their head and shine their light upon the straight path we need to follow.
We need cross line lasers.
In this article we’re going to look at 4 5 options for you to consider. We’ll look at their features and what makes them unique in their own right and why you should have at least one of them in your shopping cart.
The 4 cross line lasers in question are:
In this updated guide we will also consider:
Dewalt’s DW008K 2 way self-levelling cross line laser, which is the direct replacement for the DeWalt DW087K.
In the days of yore a straight line was only made possible through a spirit level, a piece of string and a bit of chalk. Perhaps you remember those days; chalking up the string, lining up the level, and with a snap of the tautened twine you’d be left with a straight line across your work area.
It started to get complicated, however, when you had to transfer that line to the opposite side of the room…
Before you knew it, all whole morning had disappeared in a haze of chalk dust.
That’s why we now buy cross line lasers, and chalky fingers are a thing of the past.
But, as with all things, not all cross line lasers are created equal. So let’s look at some of the features you can expect to find and why these features matter.
There are a number of key features that are essential – and non-essential – to our cross line lasers.
First off, is the laser itself. The laser doesn’t provide you with the level, we’ll come to that in a moment, but rather the laser provides you with the light, a highly concentrated beam of light. Because we’re dealing with cross line lasers, we would expect a horizontal beam of light and a vertical beam of light.
Because it’s a laser, the beam of light will be bright and easy to see, even in bright conditions. And our 4 cross line lasers all do a good job in various lighting conditions.
The Leica also has a “pulse” function (watch our demo here). This acts as an energy-saving mode, but it also allows you to locate the lines using a detector. Detectors emit audible signals to let you know the precise position of the laser line. Even in extremely bright conditions (outdoors, 12 noon on a sunny, summer afternoon for example), the laser line will be detectable.
The PLS180 boasts a range of 200 feet when used with their PLS SLD detector, which can be purchased as a kit. Watch a video of it in action here. Obviously, the addition of the PLS SLD laser detector does impact the price, making it the most expensive – when purchased together – of our 4 cross line lasers.
Comparably, Makita have arrived at the cross-line laser party with their SK102Z which will provide you with a range of 15m, just under 50 feet. When used with their optional receiver this range is increased to 30m. And like the Leica, it has a pulse mode.
The next element we need to carefully consider is accuracy.
There’s absolutely no point in having a really bright, easy to detect laser line if it isn’t accurate. We’d be as well getting out the string and chalk.
The PLS180E claims accuracy of 1/4″. That may not seem particularly great; 6mm accuracy? We could do better with a spirit level and a piece of string. But that level of accuracy is offered at a distance of 100 feet. So, in real terms, the PLS180E is an incredibly accurate cross line laser; at a distance of 100 feet away it’s going to be no more than 6mm out.
Zooming in a bit, how do the other cross line lasers fare in the accuracy stakes?
Bosch claim that the GLL 2-50 will be accurate to within 3mm. However, when used with the LR2 receiver you get an even deeper level of accuracy. The LR2 won’t respond with a fix on the laser line until the result is to within 1 millimeter.
DeWalt’s offering reports accuracy of 0.3mm per metre. Again, how does this represent on the job site? Well, if you’re ten metres away from the work surface, the DW088K will be accurate up to 3mm, with Makita’s SK102Z offering similar accuracy.
In short, all of our cross line lasers give us roughly the same level of accuracy. However, that can be boosted by the optional laser detectors.
What provides the accuracy of the laser beam is the spirit level within the device. And what we need to spirit level to do is to level itself!
This is important if we’re working on uneven ground, or can’t be sure that the job site is 100% flat (which it’s unlikely to be).
Each of our cross line lasers is roughly the same in this area, reporting 4° of accuracy. The DW087K and the GLL 2-50 have a built-in warning system if they aren’t able to give you that level of accuracy, allowing you to readjust the laser in situ.
Along with them, Leica have been quite crafty, allowing you to turn the self-levelling feature off and lock the laser line at any angle you desire. This is helpful if you’re intentionally working outside of the 90° angle range.
We don’t really want to have to treat our cross line lasers with kid gloves. But we also need to bear in mind that lasers are sensitive devices. They don’t like being bashed around or treated like we treat our hammer drills.
In the real world, though, we have little time for precious little tools who must be handled ever so delicately, tools who won’t perform when we want them to if we’re not being gentle enough.
We’re here to create new things, not placate the fragility of the laser gods.
Thankfully, our cross line lasers have a feature that’s a must, and should surely rank highly when you’re compiling your own shortlist; magnetic dampening.
What this means is that when you turn the cross line laser on it’s going to quickly fix its hair, make sure its lipstick isn’t smudged and will be ready to get to work within 4 seconds.
Bosch and PLS make a big deal of this, with PLS in particular making a marketing feature of their device’s magnetic dampening.
Thankfully, too, each of our cross line lasers offers a degree of protection from our brutish clumsiness. Leica and Makita offer a casing that’s IP54 rated, making the Lino L2 splash and dust proof. DeWalt have encased their laser and level in a manly black and yellow rubber shrine that, they claim, will “help maintain calibration under jobsite conditions”.
We all like our little extras, don’t we? Those little bits n pieces the manufactures drop into the box to sweeten the deal. While these extras aren’t absolutely essential to the jobs we’ll be putting our cross line laser through, they could tip the balance in favour of one laser over another.
We want to be able to mount our cross line laser, so to that end we’ll need some form of wall mount bracket, magnetic or otherwise.
The DeWalt DW088 K comes with a wall bracket that attached to the magnets on the rear of the device. So, you can magnetically attached the laser to a metal stud, or clip or otherwise fashion the bracket to the wall. It’s also useable in tripod and comes with a heavy duty carry case.
The Lino L2 has an ingenious little multi-function tripod. Screw it into the bottom of the laser and you can stand it upright or, using the magnets, fix it to a metal wall stud. It also has fixes for 1/4″ and 5/8″ tripod threads. Our package also comes with the CLR290 ceiling pole, a target plate and a carry pouch.
Pacific Laser Systems package the PLS180E with the PLS SLD detector, a wall bracket a pouch and a carry case.
Our Bosch package for the GLL 2-50 is fairly comprehensive and includes a heavy duty carry case for the cross line laser itself, but is accompanied by BM1 professional wall mount. This wall mount is great, it has retractable tripod legs, strong magnets, and can be screwed onto a wall.
The final consideration to keep in mind when selecting a cross line laser is looks.
Yes, this is trite and perhaps inconsequential. And it certainly has no bearing on how well the cross line laser will perform; see above to help you make your choice!
However, jobsite envy is a powerful tool in our arsenal, and having tools that not only do the job extremely well (see above…) and will hugely increase our speed and accuracy (see above…) is important. But for some of us, having tools that look good too is important.
Many are influenced by the tools they already own. So, for example, if you own several blue Bosch tools, you’ll feel right at home – and no doubt instinctively attracted to – the GLL 2-50 with it’s efficient blue, black and red detailing.
DeWalt have their flagship black and yellow colours on display, but these are married to a clinical, efficient and robust-looking housing. If you want a tool that looks like you could drive your car over (don’t!), then the DW087K is for you.
The PLS180E has a ridiculously minimalist and functional appearance, married to exceptional laser optics and performance. While it probably won’t be winning any beauty pageants, if you like your tools understated yet aggressively efficient, then pick up a PLS180E. It comes packaged with the laser detector, and this is reflected in its price.
Makita are predictably minimalist and practical in their presentation of the SK102Z, with their flagship blue colours matched with soft black rubberised casing and a distinctive cross shaped window for the laser.
But if you really want to stand out from the crowd on the job site, if you want a cross line laser that looks as if you picked it up on your last excursion in Doc Brown’s Delorian, you have to seriously consider Leica’s Lino L2.
Wearing a design that looks as if Stanley Kubrick left it behind after filming 2001: A Space Odessey, the Lino L2 is downright futuristic. And it’s great at getting the job done, too.
3 of our cross line lasers sit at the sub-£190 mark, with the PLS180E coming in a shade under £300 with the detector, or just under £200 without. Budget is obviously key, so choose wisely.
Hopefully this guide has helped you make a choice, but as always at Toolstop we’re here to help. If you have questions you want to ask about cross line laser, or indeed any power tools, then simply Skypetoolstop1 or email firstname.lastname@example.org