What Is A Dumpy Level?
A dumpy level is an older-style instrument that requires skilled use to set accurately. The instrument requires to be set level in each quadrant, to ensure it is accurate through a full 360° traverse. Some dumpy levels will have a bubble level ensuring an accurate level.
A variation on the dumpy and one that was often used by surveyors, where greater accuracy and error checking was required, is a tilting level. This instrument allows the telescope to be effectively flipped through 180°, without rotating the head. The telescope is hinged to one side of the instrument's axis; flipping it involves lifting to the other side of the central axis (thereby inverting the telescope). This action effectively cancels out any errors introduced by poor setup procedure or errors in the instrument's adjustment. As an example, the identical effect can be had with a standard builder's level by rotating it through 180° and comparing the difference between spirit level bubble positions.
An automatic level, self-levelling level or builder's auto level, includes an internal compensator mechanism that, when set close to level, automatically removes any remaining variation from level. This reduces the need to set the instrument truly level, as with a dumpy or tilting level. Self-levelling instruments are the preferred instrument on building sites, construction and surveying due to ease of use and rapid setup time.