Words: Joanne M. Anderson
Just like your truck and your chain saw, your mortar mixer operates at peak performance with routine cleaning and maintenance. Manufacturers even design mixers with clean-up and maintenance in mind, understanding well that your time on the job is as valuable as your time before and after the actual working hours. In fact, it is wise on your part to factor in time on every project to check equipment at the beginning and clean it at end of the day’s use. Some mixer manufacturers suggest thoroughly cleaning the inside of a mortar mixer in the middle of the day as well.
Simple troughs with or without wheels are fairly simple to clean, given that mortar is water-soluble. If too much mortar was made for the job, it needs to be scraped out and toted off the job site. Then rinsing out the trough with a few buckets of water or a hose is sufficient. The trough can air-dry overnight and is ready for use the next day or for the next project.
Hand-held mixers which are attached to drills are still used, but the Collomix.us website cautions against using drills:
A power drill can certainly be adequate for mixing small volumes of mainly liquid materials at a low rpm, but when materials with higher viscosity or large mixing volumes have to be mixed, a power drill should not be your first choice. Because a power drill is designed to drill in short bursts and not mix for long periods of time, they tend to overheat quickly and burnout. Also, when using a power drill, the mixing time will increase with a higher physical strain on the user.
Collomix promotes its hand-held mixing drills and paddle mixers as “designed for heavy loads generated during mixing. The drive elements supply enough power and sufficient cooling for the motor even under the heaviest of loads, and the special gear units guarantee a long life and optimum performance.” As with all mortar mixing tools, clean them as soon as they are no longer needed that day. Collomix even sells cleaning buckets. Caring for the Xo6 model, for example, involves removing the mixing tool from the coupling, cleaning it, and greasing appropriate places outlined in the owner’s manual. Ventilation slits must be clean and clear all the time for any equipment to run well, and on/off switches should be checked for moving smoothly.
Things get a little more complicated with an electric or hydraulic mixer, but what a dream machine for the stonemason. “Mixers are a wonderful labor-saving machine,” states David Conroy of Stone Age Masonry in southwest Virginia. “And with the Honda engines, they have become so much more reliable than the old mixers used to be. So, thank you, Honda.”
“When I started out 35 years ago, we mixed in a mortar box with a hoe,” Conroy continues. “That was one hot and hard job. When we had one bag mixed and shoveled into a wheelbarrow, it was time to start over again. I was so glad to get my first gas-powered mixer. But I had to work on it all the time, so my next mixer had a Honda engine.”
EZG Manufacturing, in the tiny village of Malta, Ohio, population under 700 in the 2010 census, has designed several mortar mixers dubbed Mud Hog Mixing Stations.
Our products are known across the industry as the leading equipment for quality, performance, and safety. Our Mud Hog Mixing Stations are the premier standard for grout, mortar, and concrete workhorse mixers, delivery, and support systems. Distributed internationally, EZG Mud Hog mixers are designed with a range of capabilities and options to make your job easier. [ezgmfg.com]
Daily maintenance on these and other motorized mortar mixers involves checking the oil and greasing all the grease fittings. EZG Manufacturing recommends cleaning the mixer mid-day, so there’s no buildup of material on the blades or seals. Mortar mixers require a keen eye for leaks, welds, and bolts, as well, repairing leaks and welds and tightening bolts. Paddle shaft seals and paddle rubbers should be monitored for tightness and wear or damage.
Thad Skinner, sales manager for EZG Manufacturing, stresses greasing the fittings after every use. “Once a day at the end of the day is ideal,” he says. “Greasing the fittings allows the grease to push water out of the shaft seals, and you want to get all the water out.” He also cautions on getting the drum completely clean. “Any buildup hardens over time, causing excessive wear on the paddle rubbers. Clean everything with water and be sure the mixer dumps 100%. There should not be any water left in the drum.”
The Imer USA’s Workman 350 II Multimixer has its gearbox sealed for life, and “all other components on the mixer, which engage or move back and forth should be lubricated with a light aerosol type lubricant on a weekly basis. WD-40 works well for this application.” Their owner manual refers to checking and tightening the two belts, keeping the engine pulley and drive pulley properly aligned, cleaning and repacking the wheel bearings, and following instructions in the Honda manual for engine maintenance.
Possibly the most important step in mortar mixer maintenance is having every person operating and cleaning the equipment read the owner’s manual from cover to cover. Or a supervisor can do that and have a training session on all the particulars of the model mixer being used and where to find grease, lubricant, water, buckets, hoses, etc.
Once Conroy had his mixer with the Honda engine, it ran well for years with his just changing the oil and air filter. “Once in a while, I put in a spark plug,” he relates. “The pull cords have to be replaced when they break, so I always keep a spare spark plug and pull cords in the truck.” The most important thing for Conroy is knowing your equipment and greasing it often. “After 35 years as a stonemason, I’ve found that most masons and just about all site foremen are also small engine mechanics. With gas saws, mixers, forklifts and equipment it takes to get jobs done in a timely manner, you almost have to be a mechanic, too. Most masons carry extra mason and mechanic’s tools in their trucks. My simple advice is to keep your equipment well-greased and have a spare pull cord handy.”
Joanne M. Anderson is a freelance writer based in Virginia. www.jmawriter.com