Johnson Level sent us their fastest growing level for a review. By “fastest growing”, I don’t necessarily mean market share. I’m talking literally here. Johnson has a new line of levels made out of bamboo (which, by the way, is technically a grass and grows insanely fast). We checked out the 24″ version of the 1601 Eco-Tech series bamboo levels, and they also make a four foot version.
The Johnson Eco-Tech Bamboo level features solid block acrylic vials which Johnson assures us will never fog, leak, or implode into a space-time warping black hole. Actually, they didn’t really mention the black hole, so I guess that means it’s a chance you’re going to have to take. The vials and surrounds provide very good visibility. The center vial also features a top view window which is handy if you’re working on a low surface and getting a view of the vial from the side isn’t convenient. It’s especially handy for floor work, unless you prefer to wallow around on the ground trying to get a good view of the vial.
The level has a solid feel thanks to the dense laminated bamboo in the frame. Bamboo is known for its strength, so it makes sense for a level material. Far more desirable than a balsa wood level, that’s for sure. Johnson went all out with rounding two handle holes right through the bamboo. The cutouts are so beautifully rounded, you won’t be able to resist holding them. You’ll be tempted to curl them and say things like, “Who’s coming to the gun show?”
Using a natural material like bamboo also presents some design challenges, and some potential for more variation in materials. One thing we weren’t excited to see with this particular level was slight unevenness in the top and bottom surface. Sandwiched between carefully aligned sections of aluminum, we found the bamboo was anywhere from slightly recessed to just proud of the aluminum. We’re talking well under a 1/16″ here, but when it comes to levels the top and bottom surface really should be dead-on flat.
Our only other gripe was with the sticker that came with the the 1601-2400. Don’t get me wrong, the sticker was attractive, informative, and created remarkably little packaging waste. The problem was trying to remove the sticker was a bit like trying to collect lawn clippings, one grass blade at a time. I am far too obsessive to leave sticker scraps and residue on my tools, so I wasn’t about to quit before all the sticker was removed. By the time I finally accomplished this feat, I was driven temporarily insane.
If you’re looking for absolute, down to the micron precision from your level, this may not be your ideal choice based on the top and bottom edge variations. But if you’re looking for a solid, durable and dare I say “eco-chic” level, the Johnson Level Eco-Tech Bamboo level is a solid option worth considering. You can find the Johnson Eco-Tech line of levels at select retailers.