I am going to do quite a bit of rock, flagstone, and mortar decorative work.
In some cases, this will be just stacking flagstone, and mortaring
inbetween. In others, it will be sticking flagstone on to block. But in
any case, using a lot of mortar to make decorative rock work.
I need a mixer. What size would you suggest. I know that I don't want to
make a huge amount at one time, as I am only one person. I would be working
with a helper, but wouldn't be cranking it out like doing block walls.
What capacity, and would you suggest an electric or gas motor mixer?
I got the 3.5 cu/ft one from Harbor Frieght at one of their sidewalk sales.
It had the motor missing.. Cost me $50 and I found a 1/3 hp motor for a few
The motor is a little on the weak side with a full load, but I just poured a
240 sq/ft slab with it over a 4 day period. That worked out to be about 30
batches all by myself (and a wheel borrow).
There are some smaller mixer that would do the jobs your are describing but
for future jobs you might need something larger and these mixer are good for
the average job.
All you need is a 5-gallon polyethylene bucket and an egg-beater on a
sturdy slow-geared electric drill like the Milwaukee 0300-20.
Mortar must be mixed with a paddle, not a drum. The concrete drum
mixers others are suggesting are OK for concrete, but they do a poor job
mixing plaster or mortar. Drum mixers need aggregate in the mix to turn
over the mix properly. If you attempt to mix mortar in them you will
get a product full of dry lumps, which will yield a poor finish and
If you want to mix big batches of mortar (but you don't as you say you
will work alone or with a helper at a slow pace) then you need a mixer
with rubber-edged paddles. These are big and cost $1000s.
The bucket method will also save you time on a small scale since you can
mix and work from the same container (no extra time/effort to transfer)
and have much less to clean up at the end of the day. You might even
use old buckets you can discard, and just give the paddle a quick rinse
and let it build up old mix. If you have a drum mixer, you'll spend
hours cleaning and oiling it.
If you need big batches (more than 1/2 or a full bag at a time), you can
"hybridize", using a drum mixer first to do most of the work, then
finish the mixing in buckets to get the lumps out.
Gas would be more powerful but electric works fine in small batches.
You can find 3.5 cubic foot models in a number of box stores, or order
online from Harbor Freight.
FWIW, mortar, especially from a DIY'er is often best mixed in small
batches. You would need a helper mixing and moving mortar and stone
to use a full mixer load before it hardened up enough to be
unworkable. I have a 3.5 cubic foot model and for small slabs or the
like it's wonderful. Stucco too. But I can't lay block fast enough
to use that much mortar, let alone flagstone facing or paving.
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