Tool Time: Simple Products with Plenty to Offer
From hand tools to handy products, this year's offerings for mason contractors and their crews look quite promising. Although some of the designs seem quite basic to some degree, the forethought and research behind them have created tools that will successfully help you to add time and money back into your bottom line, while also cutting down on fatigue and possible injury among your masons, mason tenders and laborers.
Increasing Mortar Boardlife
Our first handy new product is the patent-pending Gatorback Mortarboard, of Lakeville, Minn. While mortarboards have been rather overlooked in the past, this innovative product offers masons and contractors a lot of timesaving features.
The Gatorback is made out of a durable, injection-molded material that is non-absorbent and resistant to temperature variations. The mortarboard won't suck the moisture out of your mortar like a wooden mortarboard or cook the water out like a steel mortarboard in hotter temperatures. With an added concave working surface, the Gatorback reduces retempering and is touted to increase mortar boardlife by as much as 20 to 25 minutes.
"If you're retempering mortar, you run the risk of changing the color, as well as the strength and consistency of the mortar. Basically, each time you add more water, you're diluting the power of the cement and pigment in the mix," says Brian Carney, of Gatorback Mortarboards. "The key for masons to achieve higher rates of production is to make sure that they have an optimal mortar mix with excellent boardlife."
The board also features a clever handle that allows several boards to be carried at once.
"It allows people to carry the board in a little more ergonomically correct fashion, as opposed to in front of their body," says Carney. "Now tenders can carry multiple boards at their side at one time ? up to four boards in each hand."
The handle can also serve other purposes. You can slide multiple Gatorbacks onto the forks of a telehandler and raise them up to your crewmembers on scaffolding, as well as run a chain through the handle to lock them to the scaffolds for theft prevention.
Having worked as a tender himself, Carney says that the need for this product was obvious.
"It's all about cutting down on retempering time and making your masons and mason tenders more efficient. Tenders will tell you: the worst thing you have to do is go shake up the mud. It's totally counterproductive. Every time the masons have to stop and wait for mortar, obviously, production stops on the wall."
For more information, visit www.gatorback.net.
A Chip off the Old Block
For stonemasons, Rhino Tools ? made by Rael Inc. of Clackamas, Ore. ? has introduced a new 2-1/4 pound, double-ended, two-sided carbide-tipped hammer. Unlike standard stone hammers that suffer from recoil and essentially "bounce" off of the stone, carbide-tipped hammers require less effort to use.
"Carbide reacts so much differently to stone," says David Rael, President of Rael Inc. "You have to give it a couple of initial taps but then the carbide ? for some reason it doesn't have the same recoil ? imbeds itself into the stone once you start striking it. So the end result is you are swinging the hammer up to 50% less, which reduces fatigue, reduces wear on the tool, and reduces bruising to the stone."
Carbide can be a tricky material in the wrong hands, but treated correctly it can be an advantageous investment.
"With carbide you always need to have even pressure on the carbide bit or it can fracture. You never want to use one edge of the carbide blade or tip it on its edge and use a corner of it because it can fracture the carbide," says Rael.
However, Rael says that he has never had a single hammer fail due to carbide fracturing. Also, when carbide tools are used properly, they can go years without needing to be sharpened.
"Once you put a carbide tool in their hands, they can't believe how much better and easier it is to use them," explains Rael. "It's a matter of convincing them to try it and educating them on how to use the tool properly."
For more information, visit www.rhinotools.com.
Bon Tool Company of Gibsonia, Pa., has introduced a new stainless steel jointer for finishing work.
"By working with metal alloys over the years, we came up with a stainless steel trowel that proved to be successful," says John Wight, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Bon Tool. "So we carried this forward into the stainless steel jointer, which is already being well-received."
The stainless steel jointer comes in five different sizes, ranging from 3/8" to 1", with each side of the jointer having a different measurement.
Wight explains that the main difference is in the materials. Carbon steel jointers can rust, and they are often plated, which eventually wears off, or hardened, which is only on the surface of the jointer. Stainless steel provides a longer lasting and harder jointer that will never rust.
For more information, visit www.bontool.com.
Kraft Tool Co.? of Shawnee, Kan., has introduced the new patent-pending Rule of ThumbTM masons rule.
"The Rule of Thumb is a 25' masons' rule that is basically a four-in-one tape measure," explains Tanya Pringle, Marketing Coordinator for Kraft Tool. "This tape can measure three types of brick ? modular, standard and oversized. There is also a new layout feature for general construction."
This durable product has a steel blade with a locking feature, a ribbed protective rubber casing and a belt clip for easy access.
"A brick mason would have to buy several tapes to measure different types of brick, but this tape covers all measuring applications," says Pringle.
For more information, visit www.krafttool.com.
The Bricklayers Arching Tool (B.A.T.), made by Knerr Masonry, LTD, of Wapakoneta, Ohio, will nearly bring an end to cutting Styrofoam or plywood for arch building on your job site forever.
"At one time, every mason has thought that there has got to be something faster to build an arch besides what's currently on the market," says Jacoby Knerr, Owner of Knerr Masonry. "The first thing on our minds is how can we be more efficient with our time without losing good craftsmanship. Minimizing movement is key, and that's where my tool comes in."
With a durable aluminum design that can last a lifetime, the B.A.T. can be set up in eight minutes by a first-time user and in three minutes by a pro. After it's in place, laying a masonry arch is a snap ? and for most applications, without shims!
"Using the B.A.T. eliminates the forethought of building an arch," explains Knerr. "Have the tender send up the tool and three minutes later you're running the arch. Just try it once and you'll be hooked ? it's so easy. My crew completely loves it."
For more information, visit www.bricklayersarchingtool.com.
Baltimore Toolworks, Inc., of Baltimore, Md., has reinvented an old favorite with its Hard Cap chisels. With a larger striking cap placed on the head, these chisels minimize shock and vibration, reduce the chances of striking your hand with the hammer, and eliminate flying fragments from the chisel itself.
"What we've developed with this higher-tech polymer material is a chisel that doesn't vibrate, doesn't pass the shock onto the holding hand of the tool, and it also reduces the shock to the hand swinging the hammer," explains Downie McCarty, President of Baltimore Toolworks. "Noise is reduced up to 80%, and there's a much bigger target to hit, so people feel more comfortable, and they can hit harder because their confidence factor goes up. They recognize they've got some protection there."
For more information, visit www.hardcap.com.
Marshalltown of Marshalltown, Iowa, has added a twist ? a 180-degree twist, that is ? with its new Direct Pressure Tuckpointer.
"Basically, the handle is spun around 180 degrees so that your hand is directly above the blade, which gives you an ergonomic style and relieves some of the tension on your arms," says John Strawn, Product Manager for Marshalltown.
Available in eight different sizes, the Direct Pressure Tuckpointer is forged from one piece of carbon steel and has a DuraSoft? handle for comfort. Used almost the same way you would use a standard tuckpointer, the ergonomic style of this product relieves masons of the pressure and pain they might feel from their hands all the way to their shoulders using a traditional tuckpointer.
"What we're finding with the tuckpointer is that the guys were complaining about sore arms. They would tuckpoint for a while and then switch to something else to give themselves a break," Strawn says. "With this product, you put pressure on the wall, and you really don't feel it up through your arm. All of your effort goes directly through the handle."
For more information, visit www.marshalltown.com.
Get a Grip
Another item that relieves strain to hands, arms and shoulders is the new product from Eagle Grip Handles, Inc., of Grass Valley, Calif. The Double Eagle is a two-piece handle that snaps over the existing handle of any five-gallon bucket, giving the user a larger diameter surface to hold.
"It is a more physically capable grip for carrying the five-gallon paint buckets," says Robert Bunyard, President and CEO of Eagle Grip Handles, Inc. "It contours to the shape of the hand. In doing so, it engages the grip force of your hand, arm and shoulder muscles. The lifting of the bucket and weight is whole-body engaging."
Bunyard came up with the idea as a 20-year-old when he worked as a tender for his father's tile contractor business. After dealing with traditional handles that would crack, break and cause more discomfort as the day progressed, he realized that an ergonomic, larger diameter, sturdy handle would be the only way to go.
"I believe that, durability-wise, it's a tank," Bunyard says. "If you hit it with a sledgehammer, I don't think it will hold up, but under normal, heavy-duty use, it'll do the job."
For more information, visit www.eaglegrip.us.
About the Author
Jennie Farnsworth is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and editor. She is a former editor of Masonry magazine.