How to Use a Laser Level without a Tripod
I’ve had some people write in to ask how to use a laser level without a tripod. This might seem like a simple question to you, but there are people out there using laser levels for a huge spectrum of different uses and applications. For some of them, a tripod has never been necessary before. And for many of them, they really only need a tripod for one specific job. These people would prefer to find some work-around to avoid spending the extra money on a tripod that they’re probably never going to use again. If you’re someone who does drop ceiling installation for a living, then you probably don’t leave home without your tripod and a magnetic mounting bracket. But if you’re someone who normally does tile work, you might not even own a tripod. Most of the questions I’ve heard from people wondering how to use a laser level without a tripod are homeowners and DIY enthusiasts. They typically use their laser levels for carpentry and odd jobs around the house. A few of them have run into a job where a tripod would be helpful, they’ve reach out to ask me about alternatives. So let’s take a quick look at some jobs where a tripod comes in especially handy, and talk about some alternatives that might work for you:
When People Use a Laser Level
There are people out there using laser levels for pretty much any purpose you can imagine. If you’re a concrete guy, you might think that the primary purpose for a laser level is to build molds. If you’re a cabinetry guy, you’re probably 100% certain that the primary purpose for a laser level is squaring lines and corners. But the reality is that laser levels have thousands of odd uses you’ve never heard of. Since I built this site I’ve gotten several questions from people who use their laser levels for painting murals, sewing sunscreens, and cutting vinyl flooring for trailers. The other day I got an odd question from a guy who builds custom salt water aquariums. And did you know that laser levels are used as a guide by people who do commercial calligraphy? That’s right. As you can see, there are about a million different uses for laser levels. So while a tripod seems like an afterthought to a ceiling guy, it’s not uncommon for someone else to wonder how to use a laser level without a tripod.
Situations When a Tripod Come in Handy
One application where tripods are indispensable is when you’re working on a job where you need to change heights frequently. With a tripod, you can keep the laser in a static position in terms of its distance from the target – while changing the height whenever you need to. A good example is when you’re working on custom shelves or a closet installation. In both cases, you need to level at multiple heights. And, the faster you can switch between those heights – the better. A tripod makes the switching process fast, easy, and accurate. You just crank the handle a few times in either direction and you’re all set to start working on the next shelf. Tripods are also useful for the opposite situation, when you need to keep a static height while moving the laser around a room. If the floor is relatively level, the laser line remains constant even if you pick the tripod up and move it several feet down the wall. Examples of this would be a drop ceiling installation, or painting a horizontal line on a wall.
How to Use a Laser Level without a Tripod – 5 Alternatives
If you find yourself in any of the situations we discussed above, but you don’t own a tripod – this is when you start to wonder how to use a laser level without a tripod. Luckily, there are several good alternatives. Some are facepalm simple. Others are… shall we say… a little more creative! Here are some of the most commons solutions I’ve come across for how to use a laser level without a tripod:
Alternative #5 – Use a Ladder
A ladder is pretty good for both of the tripod use cases we discussed: when you want constant height but changing position, and when you want constant position but changing height. Other than being a bit cumbersome to move around, the biggest problem with a ladder is that your height options are somewhat limited by the height of the steps. You can get around this by stacking spacers like boards, books, and paper underneath the laser level. In this way, you can achieve the exact height you need.
Pro Tip: Tape it Down!
Alternative #4 – Use a Magnetic Mounting Bracket
While a good tripod can run you upwards of $50, you can pick up a magnetic wall mount for about half the cost. Whether or not a magnetic mount solves your problem will depend at least partially on your surroundings. If you’re in a room with many metal surfaces, then you’re golden. But if there are no metal surfaces to be found, this won’t be of much help. A great compromise is to use a magnetic mount in conjunction with a metal ladder. This setup is just as flexible as an actual tripod, even if it is a bit more difficult to move around the job site.
Alternative #3 – Use a Mounting Clamp
You’ll need to be a little resourceful to make this option work, but not nearly as resourceful as you’ll need to be for the last option. To use a mounting clamp to position your laser level, you’ll first need to locate an appropriate clamp. I’ve seen various clamps that will work for this purpose. Some are designed for use with cameras, others are for halogen work lamps, and still others are for cell phones or tablets. The clamp you select should have these features: 1) a spring-mounted clamp that can grab onto edges, 2) a compatible mounting thread, and 3) a weight rating that will support your laser level. A few laser levels come standard with their own mounting clamps.
Alternative #2 – Use a Camera Tripod
Several people I’ve spoken to did not have a laser level tripod, and did not want to spend the money on a new one. But when I asked if they might have a camera tripod already, they responded along the lines of, “Oh yeah! Why didn’t I think of that?” Most laser levels have threaded mounting holes that accept a 1/4″-20 or a 5/8″-11 mounting screw. Good news! 1/4″-20 is also the standard size for camera tripods and some video recorder tripods. So, if you do have a camera tripod laying around, definitely give it a try. You might answer your own question about how to use a laser level without a tripod, with only a minor facepalm. If you don’t have one – chances are your local thrift store does.
Alternative #1 – Make Your Own
Hey, you are a do-it-yourselfer, right? Get creative, and come up with a custom solution that lets you position your laser wherever you want to put it. Check out the guy in the video below… How’s that for getting creative? If you decide to go this route and set up your own mounting solution, there are two pointers I can share with you. First, keep an eye on the flexibility of the solution you’re working on. Before you start building, do a theoretical walk-through of a few different projects to prove that your solution is flexible enough to deal with the different requirements. Second… tape it down! Seriously, laser levels are expensive and they really can’t handle a drop from height. Be very careful to properly secure your laser so that it never, ever falls off of your custom mounting setup.
A Few Affordable Tripods to Consider
Another thing to keep in mind is that tripod prices have come down significantly over the past few years, so you might not even need to learn how to use a laser level without a tripod. You might be able to find a good solution that fits within your budget, and Amazon will get it shipped out to you in just a few days. Here are a few affordable laser level tripods that I like, all under $50 at the time of this writing. Hopefully you’ll see something here that meets your needs:
- Johnson Level & Tool 40-6880: 24-65 inches, 1/4″-20 mounting thread with 5/8″-11 adapter – Check Price
- Bosch BT 150: 22-61 inches, 1/4″-20 mounting thread – Check Price
- Dewalt DW0737: 38-60 inches, 5/8″-11 mounting thread – Check Price
I hope this article helped you consider your alternatives for how to use a laser level without a tripod. Feel free to get in touch if you have questions that aren’t covered here. And if you think you have a unique use for your laser level – drop me a line to let me know what it is. I love hearing about all the creative uses people find for their laser levels.