Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Outfit Your Crew With the Tools for the Project

(This article from the November 2008 issue of AsphaltPro magazine is referenced in the current June/July article titled "Pave Like it Affects Your Pay". It has been edited considerably to fit a blog format. Contact the home office for a subscription to AsphaltPro or for back issues, at 573-499-1830.)

by John Ball
When it comes to top quality paving practices, having the right equipment for the job is essential for success. As the project manager or foreman, you want to make sure the members of your crew have the tools they need to perform well. Here are some of the basic items your team needs to make the paving shift go smoothly.

Putty Knife
Don't underestimate how important the average putty knife is. Make sure the members of your team each have one that is about 3 inches wide. It's go to be stiff. It can't be flexible because you're going to be cleaning the lute, the shovel, the endgate, etc. The two people who'll use the putty knife the most are the lute and shovel guys. These laborers do all the raking and make sure the asphalt is smooth. We don't use diesel fuel to keep tools clean any longer. Instead, get them hot by dipping them in the asphalt; pull them out and scrape them off quickly with the putty knife.

Four-foot Level
The four-foot level is used to check the slope. Metal four-foot levels dont work very well because they heat up and warp. Instead, use a wooden four-foot level. A good one will range from $50 to $80 and will last a long time. Use it in conjunction with the 12-foot straight edge. First, put the 12-foot straight edge down parallel with the transverse joint to determine if you have any deterioration, if the extensions are lined up properly, etc. Place the four-foot level on top of the straight edge to read the slope. Paving crews also use a smart level, which is a battery-operated level made of plastic and metal. it's important to also use this device with the 12-foot straight edge to avoid constant contact with the hot mat.

Measuring Wheel
One of the most important aspects of managing a project is watching your yield. A measuring wheel measures out each load, telling you where you are. It's a necessary tool for the guy on the paver, especially the guy running the screed. He needs to know how many tons are coming in, but he also needs to know the placement. How far is the load going? What is his yield?

Ball of String and Paint
For marking after measuring with the measuring wheel, I recommend something as simple as a ball of string and paint. And I don't mean just a can of paint; I mean a marking stick to ensure the crew member marks a straight line. Be sure the string you choose is nylon string with about a quarter of an inch thickness.

30-foot Wheel Tape
Even with a measuring wheel to help a crew stay on the mark, a 30-foot wheel tape-or measuring tape-is important as well. We use the 30-foot tape because it enables us to go across two mats.

Four-foot Wooden Folding Ruler
The four-foot wooden folding ruler is much like a carpenter's ruler. I always recommend the Lukins Model #1066-D. This one is thicker than other brands and won't break as easily. It features inches on one side, hundredths and tenths on the other side. If I want 2 percent slope, I can actually read the slope on the engineer's side.

Release Agent
Back in the old days, we used to have a 5-gallon pail of diesel for regular cleaning. Crew members used to dip the shovel, lutes and rakes in there. Now we use a biodegradable solution in spray containers. The 5-gallon pail has been replaced with a 3-gallon sprayer.

The project manager is responsible for thousands of details before the project even begins, but making sure crew members have the right tools to take care of details on the project goes a long way toward getting the job done right.

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