Cutting Through the Competition
In the world of construction, the main selling point for most tools is their quickness and power. You really can't pass a tool advertisement or new product release without hearing about RPM, horsepower, amp, volts, torque and more. The more power you have and the faster you can get on with the job the better, right? Then it should be especially hard to imagine the new up-and-comer in the world of saws not having a single switch, toggle, battery or power plug.
This exception to the rule is produced by Danish Tool Productions, better known to Masonry readers as Danish Tool Shop, which was founded in Denmark in 1989. The family of Niels Mostrup, Owner of Danish Tool Productions, started out in the circular blade business, but after receiving numerous requests from different people and groups, including the British army, for a stronger straight blade, they began making tungsten carbide tipped blades.
"We started out with one reciprocating saw blade, and then we've added more blades for different applications or for different types of masonry," says Mostrup.
"They said we should expect to sell maybe 5,000 blades per year," he recalls. "We have five million people here in Denmark, and we sell between 30,000 and 35,000 reciprocating saw blades in Denmark alone just for cutting in masonry. That's not too bad."
The creation of the first Danish Tool handsaw was a natural next step for the company. Although this type of tool hasn't been the first choice for U.S. masons in the past, handsaws are very popular with European masons.
"Here in the northern part of Europe, the reciprocating saw is fairly common, but when you get further south in Europe, they're more into the handsaws," explains Mostrup.
"Now it seems the ones who are most interested in the handsaws are Americans," he continues. "In the past year, we have been very surprised about how people chose to buy the handsaws rather than the reciprocating saw blades."
A Saw for Every Occasion
Like many other types of tools, there's a different handsaw for different types of masonry.
"If you go to your regular tool retailer and look at the handsaws for cutting wood, you have five, six, sometimes 10 different saws for cutting wood," Mostrup explains. "It's basically the same for cutting masonry because we have the light building blocks, we have the bricks and harder building blocks, and the terra cotta."
Picking the right saw for the type of material being cut not only makes the worker's job easier, but it also gives the saw a longer life.
"You have a building material that you call masonry, but within that range you have many different types. It's a little difficult sometimes to talk to people and get them to understand that a brick is not just a brick," says Mostrup. "We feel that people should be able to get what's best for that type of masonry they are working with."
To that end, Danish Tool offers four different handsaws ? which are specified by color ? specifically made for masonry:
Black ? for softer masonry units, like CMU and AAC;
Pink ? a good all-around blade for bricks;
Gray ? for the harder bricks and other units; and
Orange ? for cutting both wood and harder masonry.
All of the blades offer long-lasting, self-sharpening tungsten carbide tipped teeth. Also, the teeth are placed onto the handsaw using a special "roof-tooth" design, developed to extend the life of the saw while reducing the force needed to cut the masonry unit.
"On the first part of the black saw blade, we have a fine tooth setting that is easier to start out with, and then down by the handle, we have a much rougher tooth setting," he says.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Obviously, if you are going to be cutting brick or block all day long, this isn't the most advantageous tool for your crew to be using. Cutting a brick with a handsaw can take up to 30 seconds per unit and will eventually wear the user out. There are certainly several advantages that make this saw something special to keep around.
First off, sometimes you just don't always have easy access to power on every work site, or you can't get the power where you need it. Not a problem with this tool.
This also leads you to think of the easy portability of the handsaws. Sometimes the bulky table saw or heavy handheld cutoffs are just plain overkill. Need a smooth finish on a brick and your crew is five stories up in the air? Grab the saw out of the toolbox. They're even light enough to wear on a tool belt for easy access.
Finally, just as U.S. construction companies are dealing with silicosis and potential OSHA regulations concerning dust, Denmark has had their own fair share of legislation.
"Compared to, for instance, any table or cutoff saws, there's the whole dust issue, which we have had here in Denmark," explains Mostrup. "It has been an issue here since five or 10 years ago, when the work health authority came up with new work rules. This has helped us a lot in promoting our tools."
Mostrup says that, while diamond blades grind through materials causing fine particles of dust to become airborne, the tungsten carbide tipped blades actually cut through the units.
"With a diamond grinder-type blade, you have dust all over and you have to clean up forever afterwards," says Mostrup. "With a handsaw or reciprocating saw, you're not grinding out the stones ? you're cutting them - so you get much bigger dust particles. It'll save you a lot of cleaning work, and also it's much healthier. You don't breathe in all kinds of sawdust like you would, for instance, with the diamond blade."
No matter how the U.S. OSHA regulation pans out, that's good news for everyone.
So the next time you have the need for a clean cut without some of the hassles of table and cutoff saws, keep the ease, reliability and safety of a handsaw in mind.
About the Author
Jennie Farnsworth is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and editor. She is a former editor of Masonry magazine.