Johnson Level sent us this unit sometime ago for review however once it was here we realized we don’t have that many opportunities where a rotary laser is really necessary. When the Idea Foundry made its move last month to a space 4 times the size however instantly there were plenty of jobs, so we left it there for the built out for everyone to use. See some of the picutres in this photo album.
Out of the Box
Right out of the box the Johnson Rotary Laser Self-Leveling 40-6532 ($689, Amazon) comes with just about everything you will need to get started including the rotary laser with rechargeable battery kit, C battery converter, detector w/clamp 40-6715, remote 40-6735, glasses & case. You may however also want a tripod & measuring rod, especially for outdoor use. The unit is very easy to use with 5 basic buttons on the front power, dot/line mode, rotary mode and 2 up & down which either control speed in rotary mode or move the target in the line/dot mode. A lock on the side will secure the self leveling pendulum for transport of for use in vertical mode. An annoying beep makes sure you have it secure before you go moving it around without the lock which will prolongs the lasers life and accuracy. When use in vertical mode there is another nob below the control panel on the front as well as a bubble level which allows for manual leveling in vertical, plenty accurate for framing walls.
The specs on this unit are really pretty impressive for the price, 2000 ft range for exterior use and accurate to 1/8” per 100’ are very good numbers. The construction is solid with nice rubberized protection in the event of an unexpected drop, well laid out high quality weatherproof case and other features make it seem like there was a good balance of what your dollar is getting you.
In practice we had a few interior projects to test this unit out on including raising an interior ceiling (but eventually got scrapped due to ductwork issues), framing a few dozen studios as well as a few other odd jobs where it came in handy. It definitely came through with flying colors for the ceiling raising project we did a lot of measurements to see how everything would work and since it was above the current ceiling and dark it was very simple to see the line 360 as far away as 100’. Eventually this project got vetoed but perhaps this saved us from taking on a project that would have taken significant time and dollars away from other important projects and there is definitely a value there. For framing walls this unit was also pretty handy but less essential. While framing studio walls in the middle of an open space it is very important to level multiple walls simultaneously but in the end the walls leveled with a bubble level were just as accurate and possible just as fast.
We did not have a chance to use this unit outdoors for any fun projects like deck building or grading where the rotary laser truly shines. For interior work the new wave of 360 degree line lasers are becoming much more popular, like the Johnson Quad Line 40-6662 ($569, Amazon) or the Bosch Three Axis Gll3-80 ($495, Ohio Power Tool). These new line lasers provide several advantages for interior work with a lot more reference points to work from. Of course they lack the long range of the rotary so outdoor work is limited.
In the way of self leveling rotary lasers we though the Johnson 40-6532 offered a very nice mix of features for the price. For serious surveying this would not be the best laser as there are no slope or grade settings. For the mass majority of landscape grading and general purpose construction however this would be a very good option. We liked the quality feel and appreciated the simplicity of the controls. Check out the video below for more on how a similar Johnson Rotary Laser operates outdoor for grading.