The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a 183-foot tall structure in Pisa, Italy, that draws millions of people from around the globe every year. You’re probably thinking, “Uh, yeah, everyone knows the Leaning Tower of Pisa!” What you may not know is that the tower once leaned at a frightening 5.5-degree angle, but after receiving a bit of a facelift, the tower now only leans at a slightly less frightening 3.9-degree angle.
Everyone can take away two important life lessons from the history of this tower’s construction. Aside from some serious procrastination taking place during the project—it took 199 years to complete—the tower was built on a small, unstable foundation that began to erode once the second floor was completed. Construction was halted, the soil eventually settled, and construction resumed with everything still tilted (no reason to start over!).
What are the life lessons? Don’t take 200 years to complete your next project, and don’t start a project without all the proper tools and engineering in place to ensure it goes smoothly. Pisa might make a hefty profit off all those Leaning-Tower-tourist dollars, but it’s unlikely that any mistakes in your next construction project will somehow eventually end up with the same outcome (one can dream, though).
Pipe dreams aside, good craftsmen always strap on their toolbelts
and make sure they’re achieving symmetry in their projects (unless those projects are government funded), and we know you’re a good craftsman who’s ready to pump up their tool box
or tool bag
with all the right tools for any job!
Or maybe you just need a chalk line because you already know how important symmetry is. And since now you know more than you probably ever wanted to know about the Leaning Tower of Pisa, why not see what other bits of knowledge you can pick up about chalk lines—like their price, features, and how they’re made?
Chalk boxes are pretty inexpensive tools that can be bought for as low as $8. If you want extras, like a chalk line plus chalk, you’ll pay around $15. And if you want a grand-daddy chalk line, prepare to shell out up to $30 (and then enjoy all the envious looks your awesome chalk box will get at work).
Ultimately, the price you decide to pay will likely be based on a number of decisions, like whether you need the chalk line every day or for just a few DIY projects. The length of line you need will also factor in to the overall price (a 30-foot line chalk box will cost less than a 110-foot line chalk box, for example) as will the line’s thickness.
You can also find cheap chalk lines that are less than $8, and for one-time projects, they might do. But because chalk boxes tend to be inexpensive anyway, it’s better to pay a few more dollars up front so you don’t have to replace a poor-quality chalk line later. Since this type of tool definitely falls into the “don’t need it until you need it” category, it’s much more convenient to open your toolbox to find a working chalk line than one that’s unusable because it sat for so long (string degrades. Gears rust in humid places. You know how it goes!).
Luckily, chalk box features are pretty straight forward, and once you know what types of things to look out for as you shop around for a chalk line, you’ll start to get a better idea of what it is you ultimately need for your project.
The most important features to look for are…
- Material:Most are composed of ABS, which is thick plastic, and elastomer, a rubber covering that fits over the plastic to better protect it. Mercifully, the gears are almost always made of metal.
- Chalk capacity:How much chalk can a chalk box hold? Not to be confused with wood chucks.
- Line length:This is probably the most important feature because you can only create a chalk line as long as the line will go. If you have a piece of wood that’s 50 feet, but a 30-foot chalk line, you will cry (or just exchange it for a longer one).
- Line width:Some lines are thick, some are super thin. This feature will ultimately depend on how thick and noticeable you need the line to be.
- Metal Hook:A lot of the hooks are different, so be sure to look closely at them. Some have sharpened, but flat, edges that dig right in, and others have sharp, pointy edges perfect for accidentally poking yourself.
- Gear ratio:This is just a fancy way of talking about how quickly and smoothly the line will unwind and rewind. The higher the ratio (3:1, 5:1, 6:1 etc…), the smoother/quicker winding and unwinding will be.
Now let’s talk about design…
Construction and Design
Chalk lines are small tools, but they do come in ‘giant’ sizes and ‘compact’ sizes. Typically, the smaller the chalk line, the shorter the line and the smaller the overall chalk capacity. But the opposite isn’t necessarily true—a large chalk line may only have a 100-foot line, but it has a big handle on it so that a gloved hand can still grasp it securely.
The gear ratio is something else you’ll want to pay attention to. Previously, we said that the higher the gear ratio, the quicker and smoother the line will unwind and rewind. If you’re using a manual crank, the gear ratio may not matter as much. But if you’re going for one that’s automatic, a higher gear ratio will make things much simpler (don’t have to worry about jams or a line that’s very slowly rewinding).
Since gears are almost always made of metal, try to avoid storing your chalk box in a humid area. Over time—probably years—the humidity will cause the gears to rust. If you really aren’t using your chalk line that much, you should consider storing it inside your house to protect the metal interior.
Performance and Ease of Use
Chalk capacity ranges a good bit between chalk lines, but generally, the larger the actual chalk box, the more chalk it’ll be able to hold. For some reason, not every manufacturer likes to list how much chalk their chalk box can hold, but for a normal sized tool, the amount is usually between 2-5 ounces. Bigger ones can hold a pound of chalk or more, which, for the infrequent user, will outlast their life.
Of course you can replace the chalk if you run out. You can also replace the line if it starts to fray, break, or if you used a stronger chalk on it previously that’s not sufficient for your next project (the chalks have different strengths, but they’re usually numbered 1-4, so it’s easy to tell how weak or strong a chalk is). If you do anticipate having to replace your line a lot—you just LOVE using that chalk box—try to go for one that’s designed with easy access to the string.
Similarly, if you’re using a very thick line, a chalk box that completely opens up will probably be easier to work with than one where you have to essentially feed the string through. It may go without saying, but if you end up using a super thick line with a super strong chalk, you’ll want to swap out the entire line for any projects that don’t require such boldly visible, and difficult to remove, lines.
To choose the best chalk box, it’s good practice to decide what you’ll be using it for most. A one-time project? Every day at work? Across multiple construction sites? Or is it just something you want to have on hand for later? Once you’ve determined what you need it for, you’re that much closer to choosing the perfect one!
Since its inception in 1924, Milwaukee Tools has become an internationally recognized brand through its consistent production of well-made tools, which are designed to help you save time on your next projects. This company’s focus is on customers who work in tool-heavy industries, like construction and design. By concentrating on consumers who use tools every day, the brand is able to get feedback on the durability of their products, how well made they are, and what can be done differently to make these products more efficient.
Milwaukee’s 48-22-3982 Bold Line Reel Kit is a top-quality chalk line built for sustained performance. The line’s planetary gear system, which is often used in power tools, is meant for long-lasting use. Its StripGuard clutch, an exclusive feature of this line, works with the planetary system to ensure your gears are durable and won’t wear out with use, even if you’re using it every day. Because Milwaukee Tools understands that conditions at every job site are different, this chalk line includes a thick braided line that’s abrasive-resistant, which means straighter and clearer lines every time you need them.
In 1922, Raymond Dewalt, the founder of Dewalt, created the first woodworking machine. Two years later, Dewalt founded his company, and their first ever product was an electric woodworking machine (the “WonderWorker”). Now, nearly a century later, Dewalt has become an internationally recognized brand with customers from all walks of life. Whether you’re an avid DIYer, a construction or woodworker, or you just love tools, Dewalt is a name that won’t disappoint.
The Compact Chalk Reel Kit by Dewalt is a small reel that can be used as a correction or secondary reel. It has a 30-foot braided line, and its 3:1 gear ratio and clutch design give you fast, no-nonsense rewinds. The belt clip on the reel means you can conveniently store it on your toolbelt or even in your pocket. No longer will you have to pause in your project to find where you set your chalk reel!
It also features a sharp metal hook for concrete and steel projects, and its plastic housing is more rugged and durable than it looks. Because Dewalt knows you want to get started right away, the kit comes with a 4-ounce bottle of blue chalk. Once your reel arrives at your door, you’ll be ready to work!
Now that you’re all finished reading, have you decided which chalk line you’d like? Or maybe our favorites weren’t necessarily your favorites, and you’re still looking. If so, why not check out other chalk lines made by our selected brands? We select these companies because of their reputable behavior in business, which is just a fancy way of saying they treat their customers swell.