I was going to be spending the day down and around Milwaukee last week for other business, so about a week before I made the trek south, I gave a call to the nice folks at Pave Tech / School for Advanced Segmental Paving and asked if they had any cool hardscape tools they could show me or demo for me.

Block Splitter

Hello?  This is Pave Tech, right?  Of course they had some awesome hardscape tools to give show me.

So I got up early for the trip, because there was lots of snow from the day before, and it was cold. Very cold.

But this was Pave Tech.  Seller of some of the coolest hardscaping tools on the planet.  No way I’m not making the drive down to their Franksville, WI distribution center and paver installation school, no matter how cold or snowy.

After spending an hour to get to the shop, shovel my way to our retaining wall block inventory and throw some SRW’s into the back of the truck, I was ready to go.

Once to Franksville I was given a warm welcome by Glenn Wrobleski, the Probst Equipment Division Manager, who’s responsibilities include testing their new hardscape tool offerings.  And for one day in December, showing those tools to me.

PaverWASHER

In advance of my visit I told Glenn I had particular interest in seeing their PaverWASHER, a gas-powered pressure washing unit designed to make that pre-sealer cleaning of your client’s patio a lot quicker and a lot more uniform.  Or if you need to revitalize the look of a client’s patio, this might be the machine for you.

It was of interest for me because, for those of you who’ve debated saw-cutting pavers with me on this site, you know I prefer to cut dry.  We just gear up for the dust and let it fly.  To me, the other option, allowing the silt from the saws to penetrate the pores of the pavers and staining them is just not acceptable.  But more and more we’re being required to, either because of neighbor complaints to us or even to the municipalities where we work, who in turn pay our job sites a visit.   And even where we aren’t being compelled to cut wet, we get the occasional rainfall during cutting that has the same effect, forcing us to pressure wash the pavers to get them clean.

Pave Tech’s PaverWASHER uses the GX160 Honda (5.5 hp) to drive the pressure washing, so you know you’ll have a reliable machine.  The body of the unit is designed to contain the spray, keeping the mess to a minimum.  In the demonstration Glenn did for me, it did an excellent job preventing water from getting beyond a few inches outside of the washing unit.  And given we were inside a warehouse, I was pleasantly surprised with how quiet the machine was.

If part of your product mix is cleaning and sealing/resealing paver patios, this tool might increase your crew’s output.

Some Old Favorites

I’ve been a purchaser of Pave Tech tools for about a decade and a user of their tools even longer.  Here are a few of the tools I think should be standard issue in every hardscaper’s toolbox:
PaverADJUSTER

You snap a chalk line or you can snap five.  It just doesn’t matter.  You lay your pavers and you still end up drifting off your line or putting some wobbles and bends into the run of seams across your paver patio.  A narrow, flat-edged shovel sometimes works, but what you really need?  The PaverADJUSTER.  The thin but extremely strong tooth can wedge itself between even the tightest joints, and then you can just pry those pavers back into square.  That shovel will bend and flex if you’re trying to move too many pavers at once, but not this tough tool.

PaverEXTRACTOR

Have you ever had to destroy an installed paver just to be able to remove the ones around it?  Or maybe to replace a cracked paver, or replace a few stained pavers?  The PaverEXTRACTOR is just awesome.  We had a local manufacturer that used to make their hollandstone pavers without any spacer nubs.  If we ever had a problem with a paver, it was a major operation getting the thing out, and we usually ended up having to trash 3 or 4 pavers just to get to that one.  With the paver extractor, removing those stubborn pavers is worlds easier.  A few hammer blows to sink the teeth into the joint on opposite ends of the paver, squeeze the handles together, then wiggle back and forth as you lift.  Cake.

And now, if you need to move a larger area of running bonded pavers at once, Pave Tech offers the PaverADJUSTER MAX, with 4 teeth to move many more pavers at a time.

PaverSQUARE

I attended a couple years’ worth of engineering school, so I can appreciate the details that go into accurate measurements.  But I defy you to tell me you were able to employ Pythagoras’ theorem and successfully map out a 3-4-5 or 6-8-10 triangle to within a quarter inch on a job site, using nothing more than a tape measure.

Can’t be done.

But perfect perpendicular lines don’t have to be hard.  They can be really, really easy.  Press the spring button in the middle of the PaverSQUARE, open it up, lock the three sides in place and voila!  Perfect 90 degree and 45 degree angles.  No fuss, no muss.  Go check behind the seat of each of your hardscape production trucks.  If there isn’t a PaverSQUARE back there, you aren’t installing your pavers as square as they can be.

SlabGRABBER

This was the first Pave Tech tool I ever purchased.  Versa-Lok has a very nice Versa-Lifter, and we use it, but if you need to lift anything that doesn’t have holes, or those holes aren’t spaced exactly the same as a standard Versa-Lok block, you’re outta luck.

And if you’re like me, you may look at the metal pieces at each end of this tool and say “no way that thing doesn’t let a block slip loose every once in awhile.”  The first year I owned it I thought the same thing.  I still carried block as far away from my toes as I could, just in case.  But here I am, 11 or 12 years later, and I can honestly say that not a single block has ever fallen out of the grip of our SlabGRABBERs.  Not once.  That doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen to anyone, but that’s a lot of time for block to have the chance to slide out on us.  So yeah, it’s a pretty awesome tool.  Makes setting a first course of block either on sand or crushed aggregate very easy.  No fingers getting stuck under a block and messing up the base prep.  Just lower the block exactly where you want it, set it down and walk away.  Makes stacking subsequent courses easier, too.

Some Tools Steve Jones, President of Pave Tech, Should Send Me For Free

Here’s a few things I don’t have but would really like to try (Steve?  You reading this?)

ScreedBOARD PRO

We have a few magnesium screed boards and we like them quite a bit, but man are they big.  The length isn’t so much a problem, 8′ and 10′ respectively, but they’re as thick as unfinished 2×4’s.  Maybe bigger.  Which when on your knees, trying to pull 30 pounds of crushed stone or sand?  Hard on the hands.  Pave Tech’s alloy screed boards are 1″x4″, making them a lot easier to handle.  Plus they come in 4, 6 and 8 foot lengths.  I’d probably still keep a few straight pieces of lumber in our trucks so I could notch out for the odd obstacle when screeding, or using the notched wood as a guide on a retaining wall cap block, but having dedicated 4, 6 and 8 foot alloy screed boards would cut down on our lumber usage.  And given their size, it’s make screeding a little easier, which is always a good thing.

ScreedGUIDz

Speaking of screed guides, this one has the potential to eliminate the need for those pieces of notched lumber at our shop I just mentioned.  Just clamp the ScreedGUIDz to your screed board (metal or wood, no need to modify the board), then set the height for the guide.  You can screed off a curb, retaining wall, pretty much anything.  I can’t tell from the specs but it appears that you can adjust the guide so that the bottom of the board contacting the base prep and the curb or other structure you’re using as a guide can have a difference in elevation of up to 12″.

QuickDRAW

For those of you who install your edge restraint first, or who sometimes find yourself installing pavers with a soldier course against a structure (foundation, seat wall, etc), the QuickDRAW  can mark the lines for your soldier course much faster than the old “move the paver, mark a line, move the paver, mark a line” method.

BoulderGRAB and RockCLAMP

Two similar tools designed to lift and place big rocks.  Each weighs about 200 pounds and allows you the freedom from having to strap each boulder, and then fight to remove the strap once the boulder is in place, not to mention replacing the straps after they’ve been torn by rough-edged boulders.  BoulderGRAB has a higher lifting capacity (3,300 pounds), but RockCLAMP was designed to lift stone that has irregular sides, and they offer a few different pad/gripper materials for the arms, to ensure a tight hold on the materials you’re moving.  Steve?  I really want one of these.  Really, really.
Gems

Ok, you caught me.  These aren’t tools at all.  They’re in-pavement, low voltage lights.

Now wait just a minute.  If you’re like me, someone who’s seen a dozen different brands of paver lights, almost all of them not living up to the hype, you’re skeptical and thinking I’m wasting your time.  But humor me.  Answer this one question:

Would you like to use a paver light that you could cut to shape?

Yeah, I thought that’d get your attention.

These lights are completely solid.  All the way through.  It’s a two-piece design, resin bottom and polycarbonate resin top fused together (fancy talk for 2-piece, dense, hard plastic materials that feel like a brick when you hold them in your hand) with LEDs embedded into the resin.  The opacity of the polycarbonate resin diffuses the light to give a very nice glow. And it’s an LED – in the same family as the new generation of Christmas lights that are supposed to last forever.  So no more callbacks for extra bulbs.

These are NOT like the 2 oz hollandstone lights whose lenses buckle and the voids fill with water after the first year.  These are solid lights.  Solid enough that you can modify them if you need to.  Just be careful to note where the LEDs are in the light before you cut.

BFH 9000

Actually, I just renamed it.  Steve and the staff at Pave Tech call it the Simplex 80, but I think it needs a name that better describes what this hammer looks and feels like in your hands.  Have you ever seen a tool and just fell in love with it?  So much so that reason went right out the window?  That’s what happened with me and the Simplex 80.  I saw the 19″ hardwood handle, the heft of the hammer, the non-marring white nylon head on one side and the softer black rubber head on the other and I had to have it.  I grabbed one, swung it a few times at a mafia block, then held it to the light to take in it’s power and beauty much like King Arthur must have held Excalibur.

I looked at Glenn, my guide from Pave Tech.  Glenn looked at me, a little nervous.  I said “Glenn?  I need this hammer.  I’m taking this hammer.  Tell Steve he can bill me if he wants to, but I’m taking this hammer.”

And while this picture isn’t really a testament to the power of this hammer, but it IS an example of what can happen when a hardscaper spends a day trying unsuccessfully to wrangle CSS code for a website.  Oh, baby, did that feel good.

I could go on and on about all the really fantastic tools Pave Tech brings to the hardscape industry.  Tools that don’t puff out their chests about being “professional grade.” They just keep on working, year after year, in some of the harshest conditions I’ve been able to throw at them.

I know I’ve probably already exceeded your attention span, so instead of writing anymore, I’ll just tell you to go over to PaveTech.com and look around at all the tools they have.  Tell them Jeff from Ground Trades Xchange sent you (I’ve always wanted to say that).

Actually, tell them to tell Steve that I sent you.  Because then I might get some of those tools I said I wanted under my Christmas tree this year.  Because otherwise?  Pave Tech paid nothing for this review, other than the hammer I “borrowed” and the trade of two of their baseball caps for two of mine.

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