Hammerhead Compact Laser Level Review
Hammerhead Compact Laser Level Review
Updated: September 11, 2017
The Hammerhead compact laser level is a great affordable option for home use and general DIY projects. All the functionality of a high-end laser level in a simple package.
At a Glance:
$ Low Range
Read our full review below for full technical specifications, pros and cons, and recommended applications for this model.
Full Product Review
Hammerhead Compact Laser Level Review
Hammerhead seems to have hit a home run with their series of low-cost laser levels. These tools offer most of the basic functionality you'll find on any high-end laser level - all provided at a serious discount. What's the catch? So far, there doesn't seem to be one. The functionality is there, people love them, and they come with a 3-year limited warranty that looks a lot like the warranties provided by the big name tool companies. Hammerhead has a few different laser levels available, but this review is focused on the HLCL01 Hammerhead Compact Self-Leveling Cross-Line Laser with Clamp.
This Hammerhead compact laser level is powered by a pair of standard AA batteries, and the laser diode puts out as much power and range as you'll find in many of the leading cross-line laser levels on the market today. It's a Class II laser, which means it is safe for general use and public use (always follow basic laser safety guidelines). According to Hammerhead, the laser will operate for 15 hours continuously with brand new batteries. Of course, that time will fluctuate depending upon the quality and age of the batteries you use - but 15 hours is a nice operating time, and it's not too hard to find a set of AA batteries if you should ever run out while working on a project.
The body of the Hammerhead compact laser level is made of molded plastic. It has not earned any IP ratings, and so is potentially susceptible to problems from dust and moisture. Be very careful about using the laser around water or other liquids - if you get it wet, you might lose it. Also be extremely careful not to ever drop the laser or otherwise subject it to any impact. A few of the beefier lasers on the market can withstand a light drop - but you might be out of luck if you drop this one. Take good care of the laser - keep it clean and dry, and don't drop it - and you'll be very happy with its performance over the long term.
NOTE: The Hammerhead compact laser level comes with a soft carrying bag. If you look at more expensive lasers, you'll see that most of them come in a hard, padded, carrying case. There's a reason for that - the self-leveling mechanism on a laser level is a delicate device, and must be protected. Find a hard case to use for your laser, or just take extra-special care to make sure it doesn't get bumped around. You'll be rewarded with a long-life of reliable use.
The listed operating range is 30 feet, and there isn't a compatible receiver or sensor to extend that range. 30 feet should be plenty for most household projects, and the range can be effectively increased by moving the laser. Several people have asked whether this model is good for outdoor use, and our answer is... well... sort of. The key will be to always keep the laser in close proximity to the target - well under the 30 feet that you'll get indoors. Red laser recognition glasses will help - but in bright daylight you'll really need to move the laser up close to the project for good visibility.
There are a few different Hammerhead laser levels that are labeled as a "Compact Laser Level." This review is specifically discussing Hammerhead model #HLCL01, which is often described as "Compact Self-Leveling Cross Line Laser with Clamp."
Be careful not to confuse this with model #HLCL02, "Compact Self-Leveling Cross Line Laser with Tripod Stand." While the specifications for the two models are very similar, there are some key differences:
- The tripod stand on HLCL02 is integrated into the laser body, making its dimensions considerably larger than HLCL01.
- The tripod stand on HLCL02 cannot be removed - it is integrated into the laser's body. The clamp on HLCL01 can be removed entirely - it is a separate piece.
- HLCL02 requires 1 AA battery, HLCL01 requires 2 AA batteries
The best choice for you will depend upon your intended use for the laser. We prefer the HLCL01 because of its increased mounting flexibility. The mounting clamp is actually pretty cool! The HLCL01 also accepts a standard 1/4" mounting thread, so it can be mounted on a standard tripod, monopod, or ceiling mount (the HLCL02 cannot).
The interface is smooth and simple - just the way we like it! There is one sliding switch, and one button. The sliding on/off switch controls the self-leveling mechanism - when "on" it will attempt to self-level, when "off" it will not. The laser mode button on top of the unit controls the laser projection. Press once for a horizontal line only, press twice for a vertical line only, press three times for cross-line projection, and press four times to turn the laser off again. By leaving the sliding switch in the off position and turning on the laser mode button - you can use the laser without the self-leveling feature to project custom slopes and angles. Operation is somewhat intuitive and most users get the hang of it very quickly. Overall, we feel like the Hammerhead compact laser level does a good job of incorporating lots of functionality with a simple user interface.
We saved the best for last on this one. The clamp that comes with this HLCL01 Hammerhead compact laser level is great! We've reviewed many complicated mounting tools over the years - but this one is much simpler and more adaptable than almost anything else we've seen. The spring-loaded clamp easily grabs on to ladders, pipes, conduit, bannisters, lamp posts, and just about anything else. Attached to the clamp is a 2-way swivel that allows you to get the laser in almost any position. On the other end of the swivel, there's a standard 1/4-inch threaded mount with a twist lock. It's intuitive and oh-so-flexible. We think every laser level should come with a clamp like this one.
Items Included in Package
While there aren't any manufacturer accessories for the Hammerhead compact laser level, there are a few optional items that may improve your experience. The first thing we would suggest is a pair of red laser recognition glasses, and maybe a laser card - to make the line more visible in bright daylight conditions. And if you're working on ceilings, cabinetry, or painting lines - you might benefit from some alternative mounting options in addition to the included clamp. A 1/4" threaded tripod will allow you to move the laser around the room without needing to re-calibrate the level. And a 1/4" threaded monopod would be useful for jobs where you're moving fast to make rough marks and measurements.
The biggest market for the Hammerhead compact laser level is with homeowners and DIY enthusiasts, although these laser have also become popular with professional handymen and contractors. A few applications where this laser would be helpful include hanging artwork, wallpaper, framing doors and windows, installing pipes and conduit, mounting fixtures, drop ceilings, painting, laying tile and flooring, and doing custom closet and cabinetry work. You can use this laser for outdoor applications like landscaping and decking - but you'll need to keep the laser relatively close to its target.
Pros & Cons
The Hammerhead compact laser level provides a great entry point for homeowners and DIY'ers who have been shy of the high price tags associated with high-end cross-line laser levels. At this price, there's really no reason not to jump in and give it a try. Many people have already been converted when they realized how much faster and easier their home projects become with the Hammerhead compact laser level.
Because there's no hard carrying case and the enclosure is not IP-rated; this laser probably isn't the best choice for contractors working in harsh environments. This one needs to be protected from dust, kept clean, and never allowed to come in contact with moisture of any kind. If you work on tough job sites, save up for something with more protection.
The range of the Hammerhead compact laser level is on par with more expensive laser levels, and it's relatively convenient to keep a few extra AA batteries on hand for backup power. Probably the only time you'll run into any issues with the range is if you use the laser outdoors in bright direct sunlight. Even then, you can manage by moving the laser up close to its target.
Overall, we love this laser and think it's a great alternative for homeowners.
We give the Hammerhead compact laser level 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.
Product Specifications - Hammerhead Compact Laser Level
Cross Line (2 Lines)
± 1/4 inch at 30 feet
Laser Diode Specifications
2 AA Batteries
32° F / 0° C ~ 104° F / 40° C
2.2 x 3 x 3.4 inches
1.6 pounds (package)
Limited 3 Year Warranty