Great suggestion. Thanks. I'm going to get one. I can't see buying a tool, especially an expensive one, that is limited to one use unless it were truly necessary for some reason.
This type of level would be just the thing to have when hanging a show, also. I like to align prints precisely, but the kind of alignment may change from show to show. For one example, if I wanted to align the tops of all the frames, I would set the tripod at that level, and then, rotating it, I'd know where to place prints all around the room. Of course, where to put the hanger is another story!
Years ago I found a trigger mounted laser site for air pistols. It has a flat base so it can stand up. It also has set screws so you can aim the thing. Works great and cost less than $20. Just keep spinning it and adjust it until the reflected spot doesn't move. Then when it is perpendicular to the mirror the return spot will hit the exit pupil of the laser.
Come to think of it, any el cheapo laser pointer will do the job. Just have to mount it vertically and get it aligned first...
Yes any el cheapo lase pointer will work. I prefer one that was designed to project a beam as a level/plumb reference, had about 790 billion different uses (oooppppps sorry thats that bailout) and was quick--takes less than 30 seconds to arrive a plumb/level. I too was going to go the el cheapo route until my numb brain remembered the laser level I have in its case under the stairs.
Get a Peak 10X grain focuser with long mirror option and you can check grain right into the corners. A level to make the neg stage parallel to the base and then level out the lens stage.
Check grain left/right and front/rear with the Peak and if not sharply defined, change focus up and down to detirmine where shims or adjustments need to be made.
If you get sharp grain with lesn wide open, that is all that is necessary unless you are projecting a trapezoid which means the neg stage is not parrallel to the base.
Now you get a focus magnifier to use on every print. This is all I have ever used and I can adjust to get sharp grain corner to corner.
When I first got a Peak 10X Grain Focuser, that’s when I realised that my Enlarger was not correctly aligned.
The trouble is, the Peak doesn't tell you where the misalignment comes from.
So I ended up buying a Parallel Laser Alignment Tool from Fred Newmans store
I found both my Enlarger Head and Lens Platform to be very slightly out in several planes.
To get the alignment close in one position of the head wasn't too bad, to get it close over the entire range of travel of the column and repeatedly so, was a much longer job.
Any Laser will do but getting it exactly perpendicular to your base board will require some skill
And another point, with the admittedly expensive enlarger laser alignment tool, its way way faster to just pop it on the baseboard/easel and take a reading. You tend to use it more often and consistently when its very easy to do. I start every printing session with it, and most of the time I don't need to do anything but my darkrooms tight and sometimes I bonk the head on my head. Its very quick, and even tho it was expensive at the time after 10 or so years I'm very glad I have it and would get it again if it broke. I know, I did the same thing, did different techniques, laser pointers, bubble levels until I finally just did it and got it. As a test, when I got it, after I really figured out how to work it, I aligned everything the old way I'd been doing it, then did the laser, and while I was sorta kinda close it wasn't right on. After I did the laser, I checked with my old way and the adjustments made were within that methods zone of tolerances, it didn't show I did anything to it, but the laser is just so much more precise. Also works great for copy work.
That is why I said use a level to get the lens stage parallel to the base as the first step. Admittedlya lazer might be better, however the errors introduced by a negative carrier differences and different heights of the head pulling the column forward differing amounts exceed any additional accuracy gained by lazering the neg stage to perfection. Check it out, every carrier is different. Every head height is different.
As long as you are projecting a rectangle instead of a trapezoid, you are sufficiently good.