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Dumpy levels and auto levels have been used on construction sites for years. But is an auto level really the best option for every job? Are there advantages and disadvantages of using an auto level and when is it better to use a laser level instead? We’ve set our sights on figuring out if the humble auto level is all it’s cracked up to be.

 How does a Dumpy Level work? 

Dumpy levels are optical measuring devices that are used for accurate measurements in the same horizontal plane via a precise telescope and bubble level. They can be either manual or automatic in their setup, although both require careful adjustment on the tripod to ensure the instrument is level before use.

This is done by coarse adjustment of the tripod legs and fine adjustment of the three levelling screws on the instrument. Auto levels have an internal compensator mechanism (fancy term for a swinging prism) that abolishes any remaining variation automatically.

Once level, the user looks through the telescope to focus the instrument on a staff or measuring rod that is held by a second person standing where the measurement is needed. 

The telescope lens has crosshairs and stadia marks – the crosshairs are used to get the level point on the measuring staff and the stadia marks are used for range finding. The user must manually calculate the height and distance from target using the measurements recorded through the level.

 Pros of Dumpy Levels 

A well maintained and serviced dumpy level offers extremely accurate measurements in the horizontal plane. Let’s take a look at additional advantages of owning and working with an auto level.

Dumpy levels are accurate

Once calibrated and setup correctly, dumpy levels are very accurate at recording measurements in the horizontal plane.

No adjustment needed for staff reading required in auto-level

Actual readings are seen from the eyepiece

Bubbles can be adjusted from all sides and angles

○This can be done with any three (3) screws available.

Auto levels have an internal compensator mechanism.

This mechanism will automatically adjust the line of sight wherever needed

Dumpy levels are cost effective and easy to operate

Cons of Dumpy Levels 

Whilst the accuracy of dumpy levels is undisputed, there are some definite downsides and limitations to their use. Let’s look deeper.

Vertical angles cannot be measured

○ An auto-level can only measure on a horizontal plane and horizontal angles are also not very accurate.

Two-person operation

Dumpy levels require two people to operate them – one to look through the lens and the other to hold the staff or measuring rod

Dumpy levels require good maths

A good understanding of working with ratios and calculating offsets is required to use dumpy levels – as with all manual calculations, they’re only as good as the person making them!

They require good light conditions to be useable

You can’t operate a dumpy or auto level at dusk or poorly lit areas

Without proper maintenance and setup, dumpy levels can become inaccurate and render a device unusable.

Make sure to always keep your dumpy levels calibrated and book it in for regular services.

Dumpy levels are less versatile than laser levels

Dumpy levels and auto levels cannot be used with machine receivers in earthmoving applications. They can also only be used to measure one point at a time, whereas rotating laser levels can be used by multiple users on the construction site at one time

For All Your Dumpy Level Equipment Needs Pick aLine Lasers 

aLine Lasers has the dumpy levels and laser levelling equipment you need to get your project levelled and underway. Give the team at aLine Lasers a call today on 1800 702 797  to find out more about how a quality approved and powerful laser tool will benefit your business and future projects.
Don’t forget to explore the full range of aLine Lasers within our online products.

Dumpy levels for sale
Dumpy Levels for sale

Pros and Cons of Dumpy Levels


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Campbellfield, VIC 3061


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