One of the most exciting aspects of masonry is seeing the new hand tools and other products that hit the market each year. Some have a high "wow" factor because they look impressive; some save mason contractors time and money, while others simply do it all.
And this year's new masonry tools are no exception, covering everything from anchor bending and running straight lines, to hauling grout and protective gear.
Anchor Bending Made Easy
The impetus for masonry tools is as varied as the tools themselves, but something many share is that they evolved from an existing tool. In the case of the Split-Tailer, it started as a tool not even marketed to masons.
"It was a tool designed specifically for tin knockers the sheet metal guys," said Matt Redabaugh, special projects coordinator for the International Masonry Institute (IMI) in Annapolis, Md. While manning IMI's booth to promote union masonry at the StonExpo in Atlanta several years ago, he noticed masons were drawn to a tool displayed at his booth.
"The tool, which cuts, punches, bends and twists metal straps, had for years been sold under the name of 'Bohn-Combi,' but was now called a Strap-Master and manufactured by a company called Shaw Aero Development Corporation," Redabaugh said. He contacted company representatives to relate the masons' interest and opened their eyes to a new market.
"Out of this contact, I started the development of the Split-Tailer, which came about through my defining the various shortcomings of the Strap-Master within the stone industry and how Shaw Aero could possibly address our needs more effectively," he said.
Distributed by Eastern Marble and Granite, the tool ($825) bends the split-tail to complete the field fabrication of a typical stone anchor.
"One of the biggest problems in stonemasonry is when an anchor can't be used in it's specified location, and then the mason has to fabricate them on the job," Redabaugh said. "To create split-tails on the job site, you're creating a lot of bloody knuckles and a lot of swearing."
The Split-Tailer makes the task so easy a child could do it. Literally, kids have bent stainless steel anchors to prove how simple it is.
"As with any tool, the tool's job is to make our projects more efficient, more productive and more safe," Redabaugh said. "I think it meets all of those criteria."
For more information, visit www.easternmarble.com.
Bigger and Cheaper than the Original
It's not often that a company upgrades a best-selling tool to make it bigger and better, yet less expensive, but that's exactly what Quickpoint Inc. of Concord, Mass., did with its Quickpoint mortar gun.
"It's basically the tool of the industry," said Joel Aronie, company vice president. "Would you go back to nailing by hand? That's the same as going back to pointing without this tool."
Quickpoint is up to five times faster than conventional pointing methods, he said, adding that over the last 16 years, the company sold 30,000 of the old units.
"We just upgraded it to make it better," Aronie said. "We've made it a nice tool at a better price."
Improvements to the tool include a plastic hopper that holds three quarts of mortar (rather than two), changing the color from orange to blue, and dropping the price from $469 to $325. Like its predecessor, the newly designed Quickpoint offers four steel nozzle sizes and a vibrator auger feed.
For more information, visit www.quikpoint.com.
Haul More Grout, Slash Labor Costs
Labor is typically the biggest expense on masonry jobs, so tools capable of cutting that cost often pay for themselves. Grout Grunt, a dual-handled plastic scoop, falls into that category; it quickly and efficiently scoops and pours mixed grout.
"The purpose of the Grout Grunt is to ease the grouting procedure. With this, you can increase the amount of grout you get into the wall with less labor," said Steven Agazzi, principle for the Livonia, Mich.-based company. His father, Giovanni Agazzi, a bricklayer for more than 30 years, invented and designed the tool.
Best used by two people in rotation, it can empty a standard mortar tub of 9 cu. ft. in fewer than 5 minutes. "You can scoop faster and transfer three to four times as much grout," Agazzi added.
The Grout Grunt ($35) weighs less than three pounds and washes clean with water.
For more information, visit www.groutgrunt.com.
Hand Point Fit for a Mason
Trow & Holden's ergonomically designed Carbide Comfort Grip Hand Point provides a superior hold, allowing masons to hit it more accurately and with more power, said Norm Akley, president of the Barre, Vt.-based company.
"This particular tool has a contour handle that provides a better grip for more powerful blows," he said. "Comfort is first. They're more comfortable, so you can hold them with less shock."
The 1-3/8" round hand point ($65) is also easier to sharpen because of its shape, Akley said. "You just follow the contour of the point to sharpen." It is also available with a chisel point.
For more information, visit www.trowandholden.com.
Back-friendly Tool Belt
Weighing in at only six ounces, the ergonomically designed Toolster utility tool belt ($40) can be worn all day without causing fatigue. The belt holds common hand tools, and the fabric medical-grade Neoprene and SBR Uloop, with 100-percent nylon on the inside keeps tools close to the body to eliminate a bulky fit and reduce lower back stress.
"Ninety-nine percent of tool belts put weight on the back," said Stuart Lyle, president and CEO of Toolster Belts Inc. in San Diego. "Ours distributes the weight from the lower back to the hips, buttocks and thighs, so the major muscle groups support the weight." In fact, it actually strengthens lower back muscles, he said.
The belt, which fastens with Velcro, wraps around the waist and one leg. It contains removable pouches for easy customization and a secure front pocket for valuables.
Lyle invented the belt following an injury that made it nearly impossible for him to wear a traditional tool belt. "I designed the Toolster after a bad fall that left me with back and shoulder injuries," he said. "It's important for people who carry tools to be able to do so without damaging their bodies, or in my case, slowing the healing process."
For more information, visit www.toolsterbelts.com.
Never Lose Another Tape
With a Magtite V2 magnetic tape holster clipped to a mason's belt, the accompanying tape measure won't be going anywhere until the mason is ready. Three magnetic "hooks" on the tape and holster have a holding power of 40 lbs. Or, the mason can simply give the tape a slight downward turn for the patented "twist and release" system to let go of the tape. When finished, the tape snaps right back onto the holder.
"The biggest thing with tapes is that clipping them to your pants is a pain in the neck," said Bob Cumings, president and owner of Prazi USA in Plymouth, Mass. "The nice thing about this is its ease of use. And it won't rip up your pants."
With its magnetic back, the tape will also grip steel surfaces for quick and easy storage when a mason's hands are full. The clip and tape system ($20-$25) also includes a pencil holder.
For more information, visit www.praziusa.com.
Holdin' the Line
When 30-year masonry veteran Wally Bertschinger of Bertschinger Masonry LLC teamed up with Wayne H. Fjerstad, a 30-year engineering veteran, the Rochester, Minn., pair developed an innovative tool for running straight lines of mason's string.
"A lot of us have made tools. A lot of them were cumbersome and crude, but they work," Bertschinger said. "This tool is very simple. What makes it unique is it's not cumbersome. You can carry several in your pocket. It's light and easy to carry."
The LineHolder (about $1 each) is placed on blocks or bricks for a straight line. It will work for inside corners, 45-degree corners, "T" intersections and block changes. It will also work on any brick or block with a hole.
"It performs in applications where traditional methods of holding a mason's line will not work," Fjerstad said. "It's simple and has no parts to break or lose."
"Most masons who have used it say it's a tool they prefer," Bertschinger said. His cousin, a mason for 34 years, said the tool is overdue. "He said to me, 'Sure, I'm getting ready to retire and you finally come up with a tool that works.'"
For more information, visit www.thelineholder.com.
Lay Perfect Brick and Block
The newly developed, stainless steel Brikmat reinforces masonry while offering a plethora of benefits, including allowing a greater number of courses to be built in a single lift, no compression of the mortar joints or bleeding of the mortar onto the wall, and uniformity of joints.
"Brikmat is a very easy product to use," said Kevin Hewson, managing director for Brikmat UK Ltd., in Willington, County Durham, United Kingdom. "First, level and plumb your first course, lay the Brikmat onto the wall, lay your mortar, and press the brick or block down firmly until it comes to rest onto the Brikmat."
The Brikmat has been tested to heights of up to 10 courses of heavy, dense concrete blocks, without the loss of the mortar bed or "bleeding" onto the masonry, Hewson said.
"The heavier the masonry, the better the results," he explained. "This has massive benefits to the bricklayer, and regardless of his or her experience, if they are using Brikmat, they will get the same visual appearance."
He said the product ($38 per box) stabilizes masonry, increases productivity, allows a greater number of courses to be built with decorative and heavy materials, and provides an "excellent visual appearance."
For more information, visit www.brikmat.co.uk.
Keep it Clean
Until someone develops tools that clean themselves, the job still falls to masons. But at least they have tool wipes from Cortec Corporation to make the job easier. Corwipe 500 ($10 for 25 wipes) are designed to remove light rust, grease, oil and dust, while leaving behind a thin film of corrosive inhibitors.
"The main objective of our tool wipes is to protect against rust," said John Wiermaa, technical sales representative for the St. Paul, Minn.-based company. "You have to clean the rust away every time you use a tool."
The 5" x 5", non-woven fabric wipes are non-hazardous and difficult to tear, even with the toughest of rubbing. With more and more masonry tools going stainless steel, Wiermaa still sees a market for his product.
For more information, visit www.cortecvci.com.
Tough, Motorized and Four Times the Capacity
The Joe Built motorized wheelbarrow ($3,900) hauls up to 11 cu. ft. and 1,200 lbs., giving it four times the capacity of standard wheelbarrows. The three-speed transmission, plus reverse, makes operation effortless, while disc brakes allow it to stop on a dime. Commercial-grade casters in the rear stabilize the load.
"We've been selling quite a few for hauling to areas where you can't get a truck," said David Strand, president of Joe Built in East Troy, Wis. "Ours does well on a 30-degree incline and can haul better than one-third of a yard."
The Joe Built also dumps the load, eliminating the need for manual unloading. "It's very easy to tip 1,200 pounds," Strand said. "Ours has a powerful two-stroke engine, so you can tip the wheelbarrow."
The 300-gauge polyethylene tub keeps material from sticking and allows for easy clean up. At the end of the job, contractors can load the 200-lb. machine into the back of a pickup and take it to the next site.
For more information, visit www.joebuiltwheelbarrow.com.
Upgrade to Tougher Bags
Masons looking to upgrade their canvas tool bags for heavy duty 1000D nylon bags with reinforced points of wear, water-resistant bottoms and multiple pocket configurations need look no further than the soft-sided tool bags from Irwin Industrial Tool Company.
"We offer a wide variety of size and pocket configurations to suit the needs of most professional users," said Scott Brannan, marketing communications manager, accessories, for the company in Huntersville, N.C. "A mason, like any other professional, wants to safely store his tools in a bag that will provide protection from the elements and the rough environment of an active job site."
The company offers four tool bags ($8 to $40) that are lightweight, yet durable enough to handle a full load of tools. The 22-inch organizer has a steel reinforced frame and is large enough to hold a two-foot level and power tools. The Soft Pro Tray Tool Organizer and the Job Tote Tool Organizer feature vertical storage in multiple pockets that make each tool visible.
For more information, visit www.irwin.com.
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