Well I received both the laser module and the Black & Decker level in the same shipment. Being of the more engineering mindset, I went for the module first. I grabbed a few AAA battery holders and some alligator clips and it powered up just fine. The laser is pretty crisp and gives a very good line. On black felt surfaces, the red laser is absorbed quite a bit (as one would expect) but it still seems playable, especially on our gaming surfaces. After playing with it for a few minutes, I opened up the Black & Decker level. The laser just just as bright (if not slightly more) but has a brighter section towards the center of the beam. My only two complaints about the line level is the unit is pretty big and the switch is in a weird position. It’s also an on/off switch instead of a momentary switch, but that’s not quite a complaint… more of a personal preference, I would say.
After a few minutes of messing around, I started to wonder how I could use that laser module and what I could mount it in. I spent probably an hour or so looking for pen lasers that are either cheap or sell assemblies that I can put my own module in. I didn’t find anything good. So I headed down to the basement to see what parts I could come up with or anything I could re-use to get a proof of concept going. Then I found it. A 4 AAA battery holder. Bingo!
The laser module run on up to 5V DC. 3 AAA batteries would yield about 4.5V DC, which is what I had been using for testing. The 4th spot in the holder would house the laser module and the momentary switch. Once again, I got out my alligator clips and batteries and tested my theory. The battery holder has leads which need to be tied together. The laser leads would then be clipped to the posts for the 4th battery. If you’re doing this at home, check the voltage with a digital meter BEFORE hooking up your laser! Worked like a champ for me!
I ended up drilling out both ends of the 4th battery slot. The prototyping process only took about an hour. I ended up leaving the leads on the laser long, in case I wanted to change something, so the laser is slightly angled right now.
After this turning out so well, I decided to open up the Black & Decker level to see what its laser module looks like. Come to find out, it’s very difficult to remove. I guess they don’t want that little laser to move around at all… makes sense. Anyway, after around an hour of working at it, the laser module was finally free. This model uses a standard laser and has a lens fit over the end to produce the line… with probably produces the darker section in the center. After buying another 4 AAA battery holder, I went ahead and mounted this one too. Especially since the Black & Decker case was pretty much ruined. From start to finish, it took about 30 minutes to get the laser mounted, soldered, and working. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of this one’s final product. I also don’t have any pictures of the process. At some point in the next few weeks, I think I’ll try to post some in-depth pictures of how to build one.