Milwaukee REDSTICK Box Level Review

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Milwaukee REDSTICK Levels

Box beam levels have a rectangular, box-like shape and are considered the heavier duty level when compared to I-beam levels. In contrast, I-beam levels are shaped in the form of an “I,” use less material to make, are lighter, and not as strong as a box level.

If you were to cut the box level in half, you would see an extruded aluminum rectangular cross-section, generally hollow in the middle. The key to a box level’s strength is it’s shape. A rectangular tube provides significantly more torsional rigidity, and ultimately greater flexural strength.

Better constructed box levels are made from high grade aluminum, and have distinct features over I-beam levels, these features are:

Level and flatness testing station – jig

  • Rigid Frame – The rectangular construction provides a very torsional resistant structural shape compared to an “I” shape. It is more difficult to twist and bend, and the aluminum frame has a memory, allowing it to return its shape.
  • Solid Acrylic Block Vials – All one-piece, solid acrylic vials [mono-block system] resist impact and accurate to 0.5mm/m in all level positions.
  • Hand Grips – A quality level will have larger opening for hands grips and these grips will be screwed into the frame, rather than glued. Screws are a sign of a better constructed level.  The negative to hand grips are that the aluminum that is cut out weakens the frame. It’s a tradeoff.
  • Rubber End Caps – Rubber, impact absorbing end caps will transfer vibration and help absorb impact damage.

Milwaukee REDSTICK Box Level Review

We recently took a look at the Milwaukee REDSTICK Box Levels. A few years back, Milwaukee acquired Empire Levels with the plans of expanding their hand tool offering. Empire produces mid to high quality levels. Milwaukee decided to design their new REDSTICK  to compete in the premium level arena, and more specifically, with the Stabila 196 model. For many years, Stabila has set the bar with their high end, extremely accurate levels. We recently reviewed the Stabila 196 level in our Best Construction Level Head 2 Head – check that out for our full thoughts on the Stabila.

Here’s our thoughts on the new Milwaukee REDSTICK.

Milwaukee REDSTICK Box Level

Fit And Finish of Levels

The first impression of any tool that we test is usually the fit, finish and quality of the materials used in the tool. The REDSTICK has a stout, heavy duty feel. The fit and finish of the REDSTICK is beautiful, it has the sharp red Milwaukee color coupled with shiny, bright milled working edges.

One side of the level vials has over molded, non-slip grips [located around the vial]  to prevent marring milled surfaces and hold the level to the wall and prevent sliding.

Flatness of Milled Faces

We evaluated the flatness of the milled surface on the REDSTICK levels. To do this we placed a machined straight edge on each level and checked for gaps between the two surfaces using feeler gauges. All of the level contact surfaces were very flat.

The largest gap between the milled face and a level was 1/100th of an inch. The bottom line is all of these levels come with a very flat surface to start with.

High-Vis Vial Fluid

One of the key features of a good level is the visibility and readability of the vials.  The REDSTICK has excellent visibility – it’s probably it’s BEST trait.

Level manufacturers will tell you that their recipe for vial juice is a combination of mineral spirits, alcohol, and proprietary fluids all designed to create a visible bubble and fluid that is resistant to UV degradation, temperature deviations and particulate controls. Color of the vial juice is another matter. There are a lot of theories on vial fluid color; blue, green or yellow. For example, Empire uses a bluish vial juice. The bluish color is easy for the eye to decipher and see the edge of the bubble meniscus.  It also does not have a lot of color change when used indoors or outdoors.

Milwaukee chose a high-visibility color similar to and mimicking the ANSI 107-2010 standard for High-Vis safety clothing.  They felt it is easier to see in all light conditions and really highlights the bubble meniscus.

After using several levels in our Head-2-Head testing, over the past several months, we feel the yellow/green color is preferable in most low light conditions.

About the author

Rob Robillard

Robert Robillard is also the Editor of Tool Box Buzz and the editor of the blog, A Concord Carpenter and principal of a carpentry and renovation business located in Concord, Massachusetts. As a carpenter and web editor, Rob is a recognized leader in tool and how-to information for building professionals. He is the carpenter correspondence for and writes a Q&A column, in the Sunday Boston Globe, called "Ask the Carpenter."He hosts the Concord Carpenter Cable TV Show,, offering the do-it-yourself audience in Boston’s Metro West region expert advice on home repairs and maintenance. Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review - Video Channel, where we post all of our tool reviews and video editorials. Rob enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate on best practices in the remodeling industry. The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob

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