Tools of the Trade
An inside look at the eclectic range of bricklayer’s tools hitting the market
By Brett Martin
This year’s new bricklaying tools focus on comfort, ergonomics and simplicity. Tool companies have designed innovative new tools, improved existing tools, and are offering accessories to better serve masonry contractors.
Trow & Holden, Inc. in Barre, Vt., unveiled new accessories for its pneumatic tool line this summer, says Norm Akley, company president. The line currently includes carving tools, chisel holders and comfortable grips. The new accessories feature handles that reduce vibration while letting the user maintain superb control.
“We manufacture a line of pneumatic tools for restoration and repair work,” Akley says. “Our new vibration-eliminating handles will retrofit any of our pneumatic tools. The handles are ergonomically designed to improve both comfort and performance.”
New Tools for Brick Joints
“When you’re filling brick joints, you use the grout bag to push the mortar or grout into the joint,” says Steve Cook, sales and marketing manager for Kraft Tool. “It’s easy to use and is ideal for stone, tile, brick and restoration projects. You can use each bag several times, and dispose with no clean up.”
The company’s new variable-width convex jointer is made with extra-hard, tempered steel.
“The more tempered and hardened the steel, the longer a jointer lasts on the job,” Cook says, pointing out that the jointer legs are tapered, allowing masonry contactors to adjust the pressure necessary for a smooth joint. “You’re able to use the jointer in different size joints and various size working areas.”
Comfortable, Simple Hammers and Chisels
“Any time you’re laying down masonry for a flat surface, this hammer would be great,” says John Wight, VP of sales and marketing for Bon Tool. “The wider face gives you a larger surface when you’re pounding pavers or a retaining wall.”
Wight says the hammer is perfect for setting brick pavers and retaining wall block, since it can deliver a heavy blow without harming the surface.
Mason contractors can also expect more comfortable chisels. Trow & Holden is expanding its Comfort Grip hand chisel line. A contoured handle on the chisels gives users a better grip so they can deliver a more powerful blow.
“We currently offer the Comfort Grip on three chisels and are looking to add more,” Akley says.
Akley is also seeing a resurgence in his wedge and shim sets, which are available to fit holes from 3/8-inch to two inches in diameter.
“These are new in the sense that people are finding that they are a simple and cost-effective way to split stone,” he says. “This is the simplest tool out there, and it’s still very effective.”
Better Designed MortarboardGATORBACK in Lakeville, Minn., offers mortarboards and mortarpans made with water-resistant polymers, so they don’t absorb moisture from the mortar.
“One of the benefits of our mortarboards is that when the temperature increases in the middle of the summer, the mortar will not dehydrate,” says Shelly Carney, company VP. “With 1/2-inch plywood, you’re basically putting mortar on top of an absorbent sponge.”
The mortarboards and mortarpans also increase the workability of mortar in cold temperatures, Carney says.
“When you have a wet board in the winter, it freezes. When you put mortar on it, that rapidly changes the temperature of the mortar,” she says. “Our boards don’t freeze or change the mortar temperature, which is critical to the product’s performance.”
Many customers who bought GATORBACK’s first mortarboards five years ago are still using them, Carney says, noting that the company has made improvements to make the material more flexible, durable and ergonomic.
“We added a rubber element, so they’re able to withstand more abuse, especially during the winter,” she explains. “Our mortarboards are easily four to five times longer lasting than a wood or metal pan. The durability and longevity are something we can offer with our boards; this is something contractors will never get from plywood boards.”
The company’s newer mortarpan, which is six inches deep, allows masonry contractors to carry and then scoop out mortar.
“It has handles in both sides, so it’s easy to carry, even when it’s full. The design and the fact that it won’t absorb moisture help masons set up quickly and go to work,” Carney says. “The mortarpan is also great for small repair jobs. You can mix the mortar in the pan, and you’re ready to go.”
New Twist on Existing Tools
“It’s a heavier line, which many masons prefer because it doesn’t stretch. You get a precision line,” Cook says of the 216-pound test line. “It’s a bonded, braded line. That’s the strongest way to make mason’s line. A special process makes the line abrasive resistant for long wear.”
The company is also offering a heavy-duty acid brush with a stainless steel scraper. “It’s a cleaning tool,” Cook says. “Masons can use it to scrape and clean newly laid masonry with hard-to-remove stains and mortar.”
The blade is great for scraping off mortar, Cook says. “This special brush with acid-resistant binding is a mix of palmyra and tampico fibers made for tough scrubbing with excellent liquid holding characteristics.”
Moving, Storing and Carrying ToolsNew products from Kraft Tool make it easier for mason contractors to bring their tools to the jobsite and to carry a trowel while working. The company’s new tool bag features a double layer of nylon with a reinforced bottom and six pockets inside and another six pockets outside the bag.
“Traditionally, the mason will use a canvas bag,” Cook says. “This new bag has many more tool carrying features and is easy to clean.”
Kraft Tool’s new leather trowel pouch fits over a masonry contractor’s belt to conveniently hold a small trowel.
“Every mason will carry a small margin or pointing trowel,” Cook says. “This pouch is made of leather, put together with rivets, to hold a trowel. This keeps the mason from having to carry the trowel in his pocket.”
About the Author
Brett Martin is a freelance writer located in Shakopee, Minn. with several years of construction and writing experience.