Tools for the Hardscaping Season
Better-designed, more versatile tools make hardscaping work safer and easier
By Brett Martin
Some tools, like the new line of chisels from Baltimore Toolworks in Baltimore called Hard Cap Safety Tools, offer improved safety along with a new design for increased performance.
"The design of Hard Cap was focused on how to make a safer struck tool. People pound on these for hours every day. You end up with a mushroom on the tool itself. If you get a glancing blow, the chips come off at ballistic speeds," says Harry "Downie" McCarty, who helped design the tools and is a third-generation owner of the company. "Sometimes these chips find their way into people's eyes, which is why we wear safety glasses. Hard Cap was intended to mitigate the mushrooming heads that eventually lead to spawling and chips flying around."
Hard Cap tools transfer the energy from a hammer blow down the shaft of the chisel, no matter where it's hit.
"You get an increase of 15 percent in production, because the person using the chisel has more confidence and can hit harder, and more energy goes down the shaft," McCarty says.
Reduced Vibration, Increased ComfortAs masonry contractors know, the less a tool vibrates, the more comfortable it is to use. Vibration, even in chisels, can eventually lead to debilitating injuries. That's why some manufacturers are offering hardscaping tools with almost no vibration.
Hard Cap tools have a polymer cap and a cushioned grip that reduces shock to users by 90 percent, McCarty says. The company went through about 25 polymers before finding one that would absorb shock, yet be tough enough to withstand hammer blows and resist oil and grease.
"It's an extraordinarily tough tool," he says.
Barre, Vt.-based Trow & Holden Co. Inc. has a new tool called the Chisel Whizard that holds a chisel for the user. Rubber loops on the Chisel Whizard's wooden handle firmly grip the chisel and hold it in place.
"It's a better way to hold a chisel," says Norm Akley, company president. "It keeps your hand out of the way and eliminates shock and vibration. You're a lot less likely to hit yourself, and you can strike a lot harder."
The company started working to reduce vibration in its pneumatic tools, then the efforts trickled down to its hand tools, Akley says. "All of the new tools, including the Chisel Whizard, were conceived as part of our effort to reduce vibration and shock to the hand."
Hard Cap tools are also designed for safety. McCarty says the chisels' striking surface heads are enlarged two-and-one-half times to make them easy for masons to hit, and the polymer cap cuts noise by 80 percent.
"The pinging noise of the hammer on a chisel is a sharp noise," McCarty said. "The sound frequency of steel on steel has been shown to be injurious to the human ear. We put a barrier between the metal of the chisel and the metal of the hammer. That interface really does a lot of good things."
Material Moving, Handling and CuttingLifting, carrying, hauling and sawing materials have always been — and will always be — part of the hardscaping business. But never before has it been so easy. Manufacturers have designed products that handle the heavy lifting and have simplified cutting pavers.
Honeoye, N.Y.-based Stone Construction Equipment Inc. has a 16-cubic-foot mortar buggy called the Stone Mud Buggy SB 1600, which lets masons easily move hardscaping materials, such as pavers and sand, up to 2,500 pounds. Operators can ride or walk behind the machine, which is powered by a 13-horsepower engine.
"The Buggy features an easy-to-clean, heavy-duty polyethylene tub that has been designed and contoured to control splash," says Kathryn Reissig, marketing services manager for Stone Construction Equipment. "The 6.5-inch discharge height allows the operator to easily dump the tub over forms and other obstacles."
Operator controls are ergonomically designed and centrally located within easy reach, she says. A forward and reverse lever controls the machine direction, while a second lever provides precise, controlled dumping.
"The Lift Jockey LJS2000 can be used by landscapers to move shrubs, trees, landscape timbers and other materials," Reissig says. "It is easy to operate and does not require a forklift-certified operator."
John Wight, VP of sales and marketing for the Bon Tool Co. in Gibsonia, Pa., says his company's Brick Buster makes cutting pavers easy and cost effective, eliminating the need for a saw. The portable splitter can cut bricks and pavers at any angle with its 10-inch-wide blade.
The blade, which cuts to a depth of 3-3/8 inches to handle almost any paver thickness, leaves a rough cut edge for a natural look so masons don't have to use a bush hammer, he says.
Versatility Makes Masons Lives EasierManufacturers have made hardscaping tools more versatile. Trow & Holden is now offering a small hammer with carbide on both ends for shaping any type of stone. The Stinger has a point on one end and a chisel blade on the other for quick and easy pointing, chiseling and splitting, Akley says.
"It's small," he says. "A lot of masons tend to think they need a big tool because they can get more work done that way, but that's not necessarily the case."
The company's new Rock Pick hammers also have carbide tipped blades, along with a bushing head or a trimming head. Akley says the idea for the hammers came from a customer.
"The benefit of the Rock Pick, like a lot of our tools, is these are the things masons have been asking us for," he says. "Hopefully, they will make masons lives easier."
Bon Tool's new hammer, called the Dead Blow Hammer, is entirely coated with a rubber shell so it won't damage or leave marks on masonry pavers. The 11-inch-long hammer can do more than tap pavers into place, Wight says.
"The longer handle gives it more leverage," he says. "It's used to align and level pavers."
Kraft Tool Co. in Shawnee, Kan., is offering its new Buckeye Straightedge for the first time in its 2008 catalog. The tool is used for striking off and leveling concrete, sand and other materials, says Steve Cook, sales and marketing manager for the company.
Available in six sizes ranging from four to 12 feet, the Buckeye Straightedge features a top reading, spring-loaded level vial that's adjustable to help masons get a particular grade, such as a one-inch slope over a 12-foot section, Cook says. The straightedge is made of aluminum with a tapered wood handle.
"Wood is a lot easier to work with," he says. "It's more comfortable to hold and more forgiving on the hands. It's really smooth, and the wood doesn't get hot or cold."
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About the Author
Brett Martin is a freelance writer located in Shakopee, Minn. with several years of construction and writing experience.