Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
I use the levercraft tool and was an immediate believer just due to how quick and easy it is. When I am done with real full depth wdt I gently rake the top to pretty it up a bit. You can use simpler tools though and I did for years. Some gentle side tapping and a less gentle down tap before tamping can smooth and level the surface. And in fact I still do that anyway even with levercraft tool.
Exactly what Nate42 said. Early on when I first started using the LeverCraft tool, I experimented with using a distribution leveling tool and personally found that it created more channeling. I found that after a few good deep swirls, I bring it up to the surface and perform a gentle "groom" to level. One or two gentle down taps and I'm ready to tamp. I grind using a MFlat and trust me if your puck prep isn't super good...you will know it in an instant.
Bob "hello darkness my old friend..I've come to drink you once again"