Here are a couple of inlaid levels.

The first is kind of homemade from a Disston 18" level that was chipped up.

I made it into a large torpedo and designed, then made, then let the brasses in.

I was younger then and innocent of what it would take to make an inlaid level.
This one has no separate inlay. I made the cutouts in the
brass and when the wood was cut to fit, both inside the brass and outside. A "double inlay" if you will. 
It sure would have been easier and probably much cleaner to cut the
whole field down and add thin inlaid pieces of matching wood into the
brass after it was laid in, like the Scottish pattern levels are made.
 I'd never seen one of the fancy levels close up when I made this. But
I wanted one something awful. One day I'll get back to it and add the
protective end pieces. Hope you like it anyway.


 This second one was a damaged Scottish level I got cheap and made new brasses for.

Both the end brasses and their inlays were missing with nothing to go by except the cuts in the wood where they once lived.  The original brass stock was about .050. I had none. But I had some .063 (1/16") so that's what I used.

 I made a pattern out of sheet plastic for the inlay. I worked on that until it looked pleasing enough. My first idea was to use the pattern to stamp onto the brass, like a rubber stamp only using 1/2 dry sticky acrylic paint for the ink. I glued some more plastic to the pattern to beef it up and also make a handle for this. I tried about 4 kinds of paint. Never did get a perfect impression. I ended up just using a tiny dab of super glue to hold the pattern in the right spot and carefully tracing around it with a very small marker. You know, the art supply size, super dinky.   

 Getting the 2 pieces to appear identical, even for the outline was too hard to do separately (I tried), so the next thing I did was glue them together with a piece of polished paper in-between (color catalog page and 5 min epox). Then I could file them both together and get a lot closer to a real pair. The "U" shape where they meet up with the wood was simply not going to happen gracefully unless I used a large enough file to just let the file shape the work. So that's what I did. A honkin big round file cut this delicate part pretty perfectly round. Then a small flat file rounded out the corners the opposite way. When separated you couldn't tell one from the other.  At first I thought I could engrave away the "hole" for the inlay and tried that. This is not recommended. 1/16" of brass is pretty deep to cut. I drilled some holes, roughed out with jewelers saw and got out the needle files. As I was filing, I made a conscious effort to file the back side deeper. Kind of like an overall dovetail. I figured this would lock in the inlay and I believe it has. It also has the added bonus of being able to
press the inlay in further at the assembly for a tighter fit if you do the inlay that way too, only the opposite of course.  I thought the brasses would be the hardest part and felt relieved when they were finished.  Ahhhhh, Wrong!  The wood is only something over 1/32 of an inch finished out. Even rosewood gets pretty fragile in this size. Especially when you consider there is no way to orient the grain for best strength. You got little bits sticking out here and there everyplace.
  I guess I won't tell how I prepared the stock for the inlay. But it did involve jointing and filing a blade with a 2" outer diameter. The brasses were used as the stencil for transferring the pattern to the
wood. Once again I ended up with the glue and the tiny marker. My paint kept seeping under and blurring the line so I gave up. This time I would -just- file the line away instead of creeping up to the edge of it.   Pressing the little inlays in was done with a vice and a piece of cork against the front side. The inlays could be pressed in further to take up any slop this way. I'd made the stock a little thicker that the finished dimension. And there was some slop, bifocals or no! A flat bastard cleaned up the back in the end followed by sandpaper on a block.
  I had intentionally left the brasses overlong. When it came time for assembly all was scrubbed with acetone and steel wool, then epoxy was smeared. I put a piece of metal against the overhang and placed the whole affair in my face vice which thankfully opened far enough. [I guess a bar clamp would have worked but I already was wishing I had an extra hand or two.]  Then I could really reel on it to force a near perfect fit. It's an old knife maker's trick.
A couple of clamps went on the topside to hold it down so it couldn't squirm and then the screw was turned!! Next day, when the glue had cured, it was regular coarse draw filing and then finer files  There were still a few micro voids. I mixed up some fine dust and epoxy and packed them tight. After that was cut back down it was finished on down to coarse scary sharp techniques.  Last was uh,,,, I'll just say, the "B" word. Can you guess?   Ok, we're grown ups here, it was buffed with a cotton wheel with med aluminum oxide polishing compound. I'd used rosewood for the inlays, but it wasn't the perfectly black color the rest of the level was. I tried a number of stains and dyes looking for the color, and guess what worked? Blue magic marker was a
perfect match. Not my first guess. Go figure.
   yours,  Scott


How to Replace Broken Level Vials

Carefully take a nail and dig the old plaster from around the broken vial. Keep digging until it comes free.

Get some plaster and mix it thick in a bowl or can. Relax,  it'll take some time to set up.
 While you wait, you can clean the level and vial.
  When the plaster just starts to get stiff, push it in where the vial goes and add the vial on top smushing it in
  Put the level on any horizontal surface. Note the position of the bubble. Pick up the level and swap ends then put it back in the same place. If the bubble comes back to the same place (mirror image), the level is true . It probably won't on your first shot at it, so keep doing it as the plaster sets making small adjustments to get it just right until at last it solidifies.
  The surface doesn't need to be level. It's the fact that the bubble returns to the equivalent part of the vial that lets you know the level is right. Try it with a good level first if in doubt.

yours, Scott