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What is a Laser Plumb Bob?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A laser plumb bob is a plumb bob which is uses a laser, instead of the more traditional weighted string. Plumb bobs have been used for thousands of years in construction to show when something is straight or “plumb.” These devices can be found in the toolkits of many people who work in construction, ranging from masons to general contractors. The laser plumb bob is a popular alternative to the traditional plumb bob.

With the original plumb bob, one end of the device would be attached to a fixed point of interest, and the weighted string would be allowed to hang free. After several minutes, the string would stop moving and settle into a fixed point. The end of the weight would be directly below the top of the plumb bob, with the string creating a straight line. Plumb bobs could be used for things like installing walls, hanging doors, and so forth.

With a laser plumb bob, instead of using a weighted string, the user attaches the plumb bob to a point of interest or mounts it on a tripod, and then turns the laser on. Many laser plumb bobs can project a laser in both directions, creating a straight line with the beam of the laser and two visible points where the laser meets surfaces such as floors and ceilings. One advantage to the laser plumb bob is that it settles quickly once it is turned on; instead of having to wait several minutes, as with a traditional device, a contractor need only wait a few seconds.

Many of these devices are self leveling, to ensure that the line is truly plumb. A typical laser plumb bob comes with a case to protect the device when it is not in use so that it is not damaged by heavy impacts and other accidents, and it may include a mounting tripod which is designed to make it easier to use. The cost of this handy construction tool can vary, depending on the model, with costs generally declining as these tools become more common.

For those who are curious about what this device has to do with plumbing, the term “plumb bob” and “plumbing” both come from the same Latin root, a word meaning “lead.” Historically, plumbing was made from lead, until people realized that lead pipes made them sick, and plumb bobs were historically weighted with lead, a heavy metal which did excellent duty as a weight.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AboutMechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By John57 — On Jan 12, 2012

I know many people love using a laser plumb bob when it comes to accurate leveling. Maybe I am old school, but I prefer to use the old fashioned weighted string.

The few times I have used the laser, I felt like I was wasting time because it seemed to take too long to level. I was working on multiple locations and I was getting impatient waiting for it.

I also didn't think it was as accurate as it needed to be. Maybe it was the operator and not the device, but I find myself sticking with the way I learned years ago.

My son asked to borrow my laser plumb bob awhile back, and I told him if he liked using it, he could go ahead and keep it.

By myharley — On Jan 11, 2012

The first time I used a laser leveler was when I was installing a wallpaper border around a large area. This border was between the top and bottom of the wall and went around my entire living room and dining room.

I didn't even know my husband had this handy gadget until he saw me struggling with a pencil and ruler. I don't know how long it would have taken me to get the job done the right way the way I was trying to do it.

The laser was so easy to use, and with great accuracy it showed exactly where to line up the wallpaper. I am afraid if it had been left up to me, I would have had a pretty crooked and slanted wallpaper design.

By golf07 — On Jan 10, 2012

I have used a Stanley laser plumb bob for a few years now. It would be hard for me to go back to the traditional way of making sure things are level.

We are in the process of remodeling our home, and this tool has saved me a lot of time and frustration. I have found it be very accurate and it has saved me many trips up and down the ladder.

In one area we had sloping ceilings where I was installing some overhead lights. This laser plumb was a lifesaver for me.

One thing is to always make sure you have spare batteries on hand. Mine takes three batteries, and once when I needed to replace them, I only had two on hand.

Making a trip to the store wasn't on my agenda for that day, but I found myself somehow finding the time anyway.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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