DeWalt DW087K* Specs
Power: 3 AA batteries
Battery life: 20 hours
Self-leveling range: up to 5 degrees
Accuracy level: +/- 1/8" over 30'
Accuracy plumb: +/- 1/4" over 30'
Size (L x W x H): 4 3/8" x 2 3/8" x 4
Weight (with batteries): 1.2 pounds
Street price: $200
DeWalt Industrial Tool Co.
*Includes kit box, batteries, and wall bracket
Submit your own Review
As a cabinetmaker, I'm used to building things square, but when
I go on site to install cabinets and trim, I also have to get
them level and plumb. Square is pretty easy, but extending
accurate plumb and level lines around the room is
time-consuming when all you have to work with is a spirit
For years now I've been seeing all kinds of laser levels hit
the market at different price points. I never could justify the
cost of a big rotating laser level, and I didn't know enough
about small self-leveling line lasers to feel comfortable
buying one. But all that changed last fall, when I received a
DeWalt DW087 LaserChalkLine to review.
The tool came in DeWalt's standard black-and-yellow plastic
case. When I opened it up, I was pleased to find that the
interior was molded so that the level and wall mounting bracket
won't bounce around inside. The level is very compact —
small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It has a
magnetic, built-in swiveling bracket that hangs from a nail or
screw in the wall; the magnets are strong enough to hang the
tool from a steel stud or a metal drywall corner bead, or from
the steel face of the wall bracket that comes with the
Modes of Operation
Although I looked at the owner's manual, I didn't really need
to, because the controls are so simple they are
self-explanatory. On the side of the tool are two on/off
buttons; press the left one and the device projects a
horizontal (level) beam that is visible as a red line wherever
it hits something. Press it again and the beam turns off. The
right button, which works the same way, controls a vertical
(plumb) beam. You can turn on the beams separately or use them
Two on/off buttons control the DW087, one for level lines
and the other for plumb. In this photo, the horizontal beam is
on and the magnets are holding the unit to the wall bracket,
which hangs from a nail in the wall.
The LaserChalkLine is self-leveling and will project a steady
beam as long as it's oriented to within 5 degrees of plumb and
level. If the device can't level itself, it continues to
project the beam but flashes to let you know it's not level. If
you bump or move the tool while it's on, it takes only a second
for the pendulum inside to stop swinging and for the beam to
come to rest.
Level layout. The day after I
received the DW087 I had an installation job, so I brought it
to the job site and used it to create level layout lines for
wall-mounted cabinets. I found the floor's high spot and,
measuring up from there, marked the wall where the top of the
base cabinets would be. Next, I went to the other side of the
room and used a screw to hang the laser's wall bracket from the
wall at about the same elevation as the mark for the top of the
cabinets. Then I used the magnets on the swivel to hang the
laser from the bracket and turned on the level beam. It was
clearly visible on the opposite wall, but slightly below the
Fortunately, the steel plate on the bracket is tall enough that
you can raise or lower the laser on it without moving the
bracket. I slid the laser up until the beam hit the layout
mark. At first I worried about the magnetic connection —
that bumping the laser would move it off the mark — but
the magnets are very strong; in fact, it takes some effort to
move the laser on the bracket.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that even though it was a
sunny day and the blinds were open, the laser line was easy to
see. I installed all the base cabinets to the line and then,
just to be sure everything was okay, I put my 8-foot level
across the cabinets. The bubble said they were dead on.
After making a mark where the uppers would go, I moved the
level higher up the wall and used it to project a level line
for the cleat. Doing this with a laser was faster and easier
than doing it with a level.
Plumb layout. Since the cabinet boxes
were square and set to a level line, I knew the sides were
plumb. Still, I wanted to check out the plumb function of the
device, so I aimed the vertical beam at the edge of the
cabinet. Sure enough, the red line aligned perfectly with the
From that point on, I started using the laser to set head
casings, wainscoting, and just about anything else I could find
an excuse to apply it to. An electrician friend of mine took it
to a commercial job; he stuck it to a metal stud at switch-box
height and set all his boxes without ever having to pull out a
DW087 vs. PLS2
I loaned the LaserChalkLine to a carpenter I know who has a
PLS2 (see "Pacific Laser Systems PLS2," Toolbox,
04/05), a popular laser that came out a year or two before the
According to him, the lasers are similar in many ways. For
example, both project plumb and level lines that are bright
enough to see indoors but not outdoors in strong sunlight. Too
much ambient light washes out the beams.
But there are differences, too, he said. The PLS2 is smaller
and comes in a belt pouch, making it easier to keep with you
all the time. Though twice as heavy and half again as large,
the DeWalt is not so big that you can't stick it in a nail
pouch or hook the built-in swivel over your belt, as you would
with a tape measure's clip.
Wide-angle beams. The most important
difference, however, is that the beams fan out from the DeWalt
device at a wider angle than they do from the PLS2. Wide-angle
beams make it possible to use a line level in very tight
If you butt the DeWalt to a wall and turn the plumb beam on,
it'll project a faint line up the wall. But the line will be
clearly visible on the ceiling above, for about 2 feet out from
the corner. If you pull it 6 inches away from the wall, the
beam will be clearly visible all the way up and about 3 feet
out onto the ceiling. The PLS2, by contrast, won't project a
beam to the top of an 8-foot wall unless it's a good 6 feet
away from the wall.
The DeWalt's horizontal beam, too, fans out wider than the
PLS2's, but the difference is not that great. If you put the
PLS model 2 feet off the wall and turn on the level beam, it'll
project a horizontal line about 6 feet long across the wall. Do
the same with the DeWalt and the projected line will be a
little over 8 feet long.
This laser is about 6 inches off the wall with the plumb
beam on. The vertical line is visible all the way up the wall
and about 2 feet out onto the ceiling above.
Not only can the wall bracket that comes with this tool be hung
from a nail or screwed to the wall — it can also be
clipped onto the edge of a suspended ceiling track or any other
thin material, thanks to a built-in spring clamp.
Accuracy. According to DeWalt, the
LaserChalkLine can level with an accuracy of plus or minus 1/8
inch over 30 feet. It's less accurate for plumbing: plus or
minus 1/4 inch in 30 feet. That's fine for the size of room I
work in, but you would not want to use the tool if you needed
to project much longer lines with a high degree of
The largest room I used it in was 30 feet across; I set a long
run of wainscot paneling. When the work was done, I checked the
panels with a spirit level. The bubble was right between the
Durability. Although I didn't have
this tool long enough to determine how long it lasts, it struck
me as very well-made. Toward the end of the trial, I
intentionally dropped it several times onto wood and concrete
surfaces from about 5 feet up. That's not how I normally treat
tools, and I hated doing it, but I needed to find out what
would happen if there was an accident. The laser worked just
fine after the drop test; it was just as accurate as
At the end of the trial period, the only question left was how
I had ever gotten along without the LaserChalkLine. It did
exactly what I needed it to do without any extra bells and
whistles to get in the way.
If you need a level that is compact, simple, and affordable,
you should consider this tool. I'll definitely be purchasing
one in the very near future for my toolbox.
James Snow owns Snow's Custom Cabinetry in
Bosch 14.4-Volt Impactor
Cordless Impact Driverby Marc Shapiro
Bosch 14.4-Volt Impactor, Model 23614
Weight: 4.0 pounds (including battery)
Maximum torque: 1,150 inch-pounds
Impact rate: 0-3,200 blows per minute
Width: 6 1/2 inches
Bosch Tool Corp.
Submit your own Review
I like to think that I keep up with building trends and new
tools, so I was surprised to find a whole new category of power
tools that I was completely unaware of: cordless impact
drivers. While they look a little like conventional cordless
drill/drivers, these tools aren't for drilling. They're
designed solely for driving screws and tightening bolts.
Like their larger cousin, the impact wrench, impact drivers use
a rapidly rotating hammer and anvil inside the gearbox. The
force created by the spinning hammer striking the anvil
explains how a relatively low-voltage impact driver can produce
more torque than an 18-volt cordless drill. That force is also
what gives impact drivers their distinctive rat-a-tat
To see if a cordless impact driver was any better at driving
screws than my cordless drill, I recently tested Bosch's
14.4-volt Impactor for JLC. Like other cordless impact
drivers, this tool doesn't start impacting immediately; the
impacting starts when increased resistance makes it
When I first got the Bosch, I hustled out to my shop and ran a
few 3-inch screws into some framing lumber. They went in
nicely, but not noticeably better than they would have with my
cordless drill; the biggest difference was the racket the Bosch
At this point, I wasn't so sure I'd like my new tool. However,
first impressions can be misleading, so I decided to use it on
an upcoming deck project. I figured that driving hundreds of
deck screws would be an ideal way of putting it to the
The Impactor features a unique horseshoe-shaped belt clip
(top) that attaches to either side of the tool. Made from
reinforced plastic, it slides into its housing when unneeded. A
yellow LED mounted above the battery (bottom) illuminates the
driver bit and fastener for better visibility in dark closets
The 14.4-volt Impactor is a very compact unit, just 6 1/2
inches from the collet to the rear end. It weighs only 4 pounds
and, in terms of power, ranks about midway in a line that
includes 9.6-, 12-, and 18-volt models.
Its collet accepts 1/4-inch hex-shank bits, which is typical
for impact drivers designed for general use. The collet works
smoothly; it releases and accepts bits with a sliding ring, and
holds them securely while allowing fast changes from one type
The tool has a metal gear case and produces a maximum torque of
Well-balanced and comfortable to use, the Impactor boasts some
really nice features. One of my favorites is a spring-loaded
belt clip that pops up when a pair of buttons are squeezed.
When you don't need it, the clip — which mounts on either
side of the tool — can be left tucked into its
Another nifty feature is the LED light located just above the
battery; it shines a beam directly on the bit and
Other perks are a bit-holder at the rear of the tool and a nice
The kit model I tested came with two batteries and a plastic
case with extra compartments for bits and fasteners.
Tests and Results
My deck design included a double 2x8 girder supported on 6x6
posts and triple joists around the perimeter. These built-up
beams, I reasoned, would provide a real test of the Impactor's
strength and stamina.
When the tool drove in the 2 1/2-inch square-drive screws for
my girder, I was struck by how easily it did so and by how much
control the impact action gave me. The added control means that
you can set or countersink screws exactly where you want them.
In my case, I wanted to bury the heads, and the tool did so
At only 6 1/2 inches wide, the Impactor fits in spaces too
small for conventional cordless driver/drills. And with 1,150
inch-pounds of available torque, it can drive 5-inch fasteners
into southern yellow pine without predrilling.
My next test was with 3-inch screws and the triple joists.
Again, driving the screws was effortless and comfortable, and I
could depend on the tool to drive them all the way. I was even
beginning to get used to the impact sound; there was a certain
comfort in knowing that the extra power had kicked in.
Perhaps the most revealing test was with the 5-inch LedgerLok
screws commonly used — as the name suggests — for
attaching deck ledgers. I needed them for some tricky corners
and joist intersections. Once more, the Impactor drove the
fasteners home without pilot holes or splitting. What was
amazing was how it applied so much torque to the bolt yet very
little to my wrist and arm.
When I tried using my cordless drill for the same task, it
completely stalled, with the LedgerLok halfway in.
I'm a fairly critical guy and hold my tools to a high standard,
so I generally have at least one complaint with any new tool.
But in this case, I have none. Zero. Zilch. In fact, the
Impactor has become one of my favorite power tools.
With a case and two 2.0 amp-hour batteries, it sells for
Marc Shapiro is a general contractor; he owns
Quality Woodwork Construction in Alexandria, Va.
Mega Bulb for Mini Light.
Believe it or not, the Mini MagLite just got even better,
thanks to TerraLux's after-market accessories. The neatest item
is the MiniStar 2, a replacement LED bulb that purportedly
lasts for 100,000 hours; compared with MagLite's conventional
incandescent bulbs, it increases battery life by six times and
brightness by 10. Friends in the hvac business tell me the
bulbs are well worth the $30 price. TerraLux, 866/498-1564,
to upgrade the flashlight that came with your cordless combo
kit? Check out the 18-volt DC527 (shown) and the 12- to
14.4-volt DC528 from DeWalt. These fluorescent work lights
boast rotating and telescoping hooks that hang from 2-by stock,
overmolded lens caps for durability, and a preheat function
that prevents the bulb from blackening. DeWalt claims the
18-volt version ($49) will burn for 3 1/2 hours on a full
charge and the 12/14.4-volt model ($45) for 2 3/4 hours.
Neither price includes a battery pack. DeWalt, 800/433-9258,
Just because the sun
goes down doesn't mean you have to stop working outside. The
Bull Dog P14000W Power Tower produces 110,000 lumens —
enough to brighten 109,000 square feet of outdoor space. A
heat-dissipating cast-aluminum housing and a tempered-glass
lens protect the 1,000-watt metal halide bulb. Height adjusts
from 7 to 12 1/2 feet by means of a manual winch with an
automatic brake. The light costs about $1,900. Warner,
Don't let its small
stature fool you: The 1-hp variable-speed Colt palm router from
Bosch is much more than a laminate trimmer. This little tool
can mortise hinges, profile edges, and perform many other
common job-site tasks without breaking a sweat. The newest
version of the router, the Installers Kit Model PR20EVSNK
($265), includes fixed, tilting, and offset bases; edge and
roller guides; and a plastic case. Its variable-speed motor
adjusts from 16,000 to 35,000 rpm and features soft-start
circuitry. Bosch Tools, 877/267-2499,
Bulletproof Bit Storage.
hundreds of dollars' worth of router bits in a cardboard carton
or makeshift container when you can buy the MTM Case-Gard R100
for less than $12? Originally designed to hold high-caliber
ammunition for sport shooters, this polypropylene box makes a
great router-bit case. The holes are perfectly sized for
1/2-inch bits; with a little help from short pieces of vinyl
hose, they'll accommodate 1/4-inch bits, too. The R100 is
available from sporting-goods and firearms dealers or online
from the manufacturer. MTM Case-Gard, 800/543-0548,
Primo Plunge Base.
the Micro Fence Portable Three-Axis Mill is a beautiful tool.
The precision plunge-router base has a three-position depth
stop, a four-position LED work light, dust-collection hoods,
and micrometer-style adjustments. Optional accessories include
a high-quality edge guide, a circle jig, and an ellipse jig.
The tool accepts trim-router motors from Bosch, DeWalt, and
Porter-Cable, and rotary tools from RotoZip, Dremel, and
Proxxon. It sells for about $400. Micro Fence, 800/480-6427,