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What Is a Torpedo Level?

Michele M. Howard

Every well-stocked toolbox should contain a torpedo level. You most often use this particular spirit level, a smaller cousin of the carpenter’s level, when you are working in tight, cramped quarters and need to measure for true horizontal or vertical.

A torpedo level on a studio background.

The basic model works well for simply tasks, such hanging a picture, but if you need a reading over a long distance or a precise angle measurement, switch to a model with enhanced features.

Standard Design

The rectangular body of a torpedo level, typically made of aluminum or plastic, features slightly tapered ends. Its length can vary between 6 and 10 inches. Most contain two to three vials or spirit tubes. These vials contain a clear liquid and an air bubble, and have two parallel lines drawn around their center. Torpedo levels with only two tubes are used to determine true horizontal or vertical -- level or plumb. A level with a third tube set on a 45-degree diagonal is used to check for a 45-degree angle.

Design Upgrades

A magnetized top and bottom edge on high-end torpedo levels allows for a hands-free reading on metal surfaces, which can come in handy when you work with pipes. Another upgrade includes a laser beam, which allows you to take a reading over a long plane. Some laser designs also have a digital display, which shows you the exact angle measurement.