Tools, Gadgets & Other Handy Stuff

Here are a few items that you might find handy from time to time.  They include actual masonry tools, homemade devices and whatever the members have found or come up with to help make their lives a little easier and their crafting more productive and/or fun.

Rebar Hicky
This is a manual rebar bending tool.  A great addition to any shop where built up concrete or Hypertufa work is taking place.  Use it on bar up to a half-inch or even 5/8ths if you can supply enough grunt.  The triangle shaped head has 3 heavy posts for grabbing and bending on one side…on the other is a single post that can be inserted into a hole on a worktop to steady it & provide extra leverage.  Can usually be found in the Masonry Department of most Big Box home improvement stores for around twenty bucks.

Wire Twisters
Used in conjunction with either soft iron wire or pre-fabbed “wire-ties” to fasten rebar together as well as for attaching lath & other support material.  Also found in most Big Box Masonry Departments.  The handle rotates so you can twist wire much quicker than with a pair of standard pliers or Vise-Grips.

NOTE: Personally, I have never used soft iron tying wire in any of my work. My research long ago concluded that many of the issues associated with rusting rebar in historic work…began with the tie wire. It is extremely soft and highly corrosive and appears to “kick start” oxidation within the cementitious, ultimately leading to cracking and spalling. Instead, I have always used stainless steel “safety wire”. It is commonly employed to secure nuts & bolts in critical applications such as aircraft, racing vehicles and any such situation where the loss of a nut or bolt could result in a dangerous failure. It is commonly available in one pound spools and there are even special “safety wire pliers” made to spin the wire tight. They can be found from about $8.00 a pair…to around $90.00. And yes…the high priced ones made by Milbar are actually worth it. I have a pair from my motorcycle racing days that are easily 45+ years old and still work great. The cheap ones I found to be pretty much worthless.

Drill Mounted Mixing Blade or “Mud Paddle”
For smaller batches of lighter & wetter mixes, a heavy duty, 1/2 inch drill with a “mud-mixer” blade can often get the job done.  This attachment is really made for use with sheetrock “mud”, so don’t expect it to shine when applied to heavy or dry concrete formulations.  Once again, check your local Big Box store, this time wherever the sheetrock supplies might be.

Dust Guard for a Small Mixer
If you own a small mixer, you are probably familiar with the clouds of dust it spits out while “dry mixing”.   A piece of “Coroplast” (corrugated plastic) cut to fit and attached with a few mini-clamps will let you breathe a lot easier.

Hot Wire Styrofoam Cutter Plans
Below is a quick sketch of a Hot Wire Styrofoam Cutter I made & used years ago.  The size can be adapted from a small table-top unit to one that will handle very large blocks of foam.  Because it cuts by melting, there are no “crumbs” or dust to contend with.  However, be aware that melting Styrofoam produces styrene gas and work only in a well-ventilated area.  Preferably with a small fan moving the fumes away.

The train transformer will heat the wire with a very low current that can be adjusted just as you would adjust the speed of the model train.  When the wire is pulled taut, this rig will make very clean & accurate cuts in nearly all types of rigid foam.  Very handy for creating molds, forms, and lightweight armatures.