On The Level: Keson and SOLA: Introducing New Products and More Innovations

Words: Todd Fredrick

Jude Nosek

There is nothing permanent except change. –Heraclitus (450 BC).

In 2005 I interviewed a marine biologist about how he and his co-workers used fiberglass tape measures to conduct their surveys. Sometimes these surveys took place on the land adjacent to the sea, sometimes in the tidal pools, sometimes in the sea itself. A common technique is to lay out a grid 100 x 100 meters. Then, by counting the population of a certain crab or urchin in each quadrant of that grid, a marine biologist can take a detailed sample and extrapolate a very good estimate of the number of species in that area and perhaps in the region as a whole. 

He told me of a survey that did not go quite how he hoped. Toward the end of a long day, with the tide washing in, he clung to a rock within the last grid of his site, desperately trying to finish his count of crustaceans. He was at an impasse. He could not safely extend his head around the edge of the rock to record what was on the other side. One of his students saw that he struggled and sloshed her way over to offer assistance. The biologist explained what he was trying to do and suggested that the student hold on to his jacket as he leaned out and around the rock to see the final section to complete his count. She looked at him like he was nuts for risking his safety. Instead of following his suggestion, she grabbed his hand, swung her arm and hand around the ledge, and swung back after a few seconds. In her hand, she held her phone on which she had taken a video of the “unreachable, uncountable” area. The experienced biologist had a phone with a camera and video but never considered this option. The biology student was using readily available technology in a way a veteran could not think of. 

Today, I suspect they would both sit comfortably on the beach and fly a drone around that corner to complete the count. Here are some of the current innovations and coming to the level market. 

The Focus Vial

Arguably the most looked at point on any job site is the ½-inch span “between the rings” of the vial on a level. It’s that space and the bubble’s location in that space that determines if your job is done or if you need to tweak things a little more. 

In 2011 SOLA invented the Focus Vial technology and stopped using ring vials in our premium levels. The reason was simple: Over 80% of professional-level users we surveyed preferred the SOLA FOCUS vial. SOLA FOCUS vials provide a 4x higher contrast than ring vials. This allows an easier, faster reading and more precise measuring. 

The Focus Vial also magnifies the bubble and the unique green edges, enabling you to see the bubble’s location more quickly and accurately. We have certainly heard (and made) a few jokes about how the vial helps those of us with “tired” (i.e., old-ish) eyes. The truth is these vials are easier for everyone to use. 

These vials have been impacting the N. American market in the past few years. 

Pads for masons (and for anyone who would like to move that brick “just a hair to the right!”)

When the bricks or blocks aren’t in perfect alignment, masons use various techniques to adjust them. Most opt for a gentle coaxing, a simple, repetitive tap usually delivered with a closed fist, often with a trowel clenched in it. Some masons tap the material to be adjusted, and some tap the tool measuring its levelness and alignment. Well, tap all you want! We certainly have been surprised by some of the choices we’ve seen, but we try not to judge. 

SOLA’s mason pads will protect your trowel blade, your trowel handle, and even your hand as you tap your materials into the perfect position. Molded out of the same material as our protective end caps, our mason pads enable you to nudge your blocks, brick, and stone into perfect alignment while protecting your tools, your hands, and your level. Our detachable pads will stay on as long as you want them to stay on. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you’d rather not have the pad, you can pry the pad over an edge on the level and peel it off. Reattaching it is a snap. The permanent shape of the pad is designed to adhere to SOLA and Keson levels.  

Digital levels with Bluetooth® and an app enable you to record, store and share data.

Perhaps the biggest change to digital levels is apps and wireless technology. Some inclinometers use gravity to convey the orientation of a surface. There are spirit levels that have a digital readout and the traditional bubble.  Now SOLA digital spirit levels sync with your phone. The digital readouts give you fast, accurate data on a screen that works in very low/no light conditions. When such a level syncs with an app on your phone or tablet, you don’t even have to be in the same room (and in some cases on the same floor) as the level to see what the reading is. What’s more, you can capture the exact location of the level with a picture with GPS coordinates. There’s a field for notes where you can record your observations, critiques, and concerns, as well as confirm exactly what has been done. 

Some of the changes are simple adjustments to tools that make them easier to use. Some changes will allow you to work in ways that you might not consider. We are excited to see how you employ these and other innovations we, and others, will be bringing to the market!

There is a better way. Find it. –Thomas Edison. 

About SOLA-Messwerkzeuge GmbH: For 70 years, the brand SOLA has meant high precision measuring and marking tools. As market leader in premium spirit levels, the Austrian company manufactures various products, including screeding levels, folding rules, long and short tapes, squares, marking products, laser distance meters, and a customized laser program. SOLA Measuring Tools is globally present in 70 countries around the world. 75% of all products are manufactured in Goetzis, Austria, where the headquarters and production facility are located. Find out more at sola.us. 

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