When concrete contractors need rebar cut or bent, they have three choices. They can have a fabricator pre-cut or pre-bend the rebar to the specs. They can have their crews use manual tools to hand cut or bend it on the job. Or they can use rebar cutting and bending machines at the jobsite or in their shops. Contractors say there is no difference in quality or strength between pre-engineered and do-it-yourself machine cut or bent rebar.
The benefits of owning machines
For large jobs where the steel is detailed in the blueprints, ordering all the specified rebar from a fabricator makes sense. But for smaller jobs, owning a rebar cutter and bender will get the job done more quickly and painlessly than using hand cutting tools. "As a rule of thumb, we tell people one person with one of our machines can do the work of two people in half the time," notes Frank Olah, president of rebar tool maker Fascut Industries. This means one worker can cut or bend four times as much rebar per hour using a machine compared to doing it manually.
Homebuilder Richard Cyr of Mastercraft Construction, who has two EZE Bend cutter and bender units, gets his rebar work done at least five times faster than with manual cutting. "It saves countless hours," he points out. "It makes the job so much easier. It used to be the guys who had to cut and fabricate the rebar, it was the worst job on site. Now everybody likes to do it."
Smaller rebar cutters and benders weighing under 200 lbs. can be lifted and carried by two workers for easy transport to the jobsite. Larger machines can weigh about 400 lbs., so a skid steer is needed to move them. These big machines are more often used in a shop. Smaller machines can handle up to #6 rebar, while larger ones can handle up to #8 rebar. Contractors who own both sizes usually take the small machine to the jobsite, using the larger machine indoors on bad weather days to pre-cut and pre-bend rebar for upcoming jobs.
Another benefit of using a machine is its ease in making numerous identically bent pieces. For example, when contractors need a large number of stirrups, or the square shapes used in concrete columns to hold vertical rebar, each stirrup must have accurate bends in the right places. It is difficult to get every bend the same with hand bending. "With a bending machine, you can set up a reference to put the bar against to get the same dimension of bend every time," says Olah.
Saving time and money
If rebar cutting and bending machines were not available, the main option for even medium sized jobs would be ordering prepared rebar from a fabricator. Contractors say this has two problems. "It would be more costly," says Mike Cuttle of The Jasper Company, where they use Multiquip rebar machines. "We would have to wait two to three days depending on the quantity. You can get your numbers in the field better and your quantity with your own machine, so this way you can be sure you have enough rebar." Otherwise, he says he would usually order extra rebar from the fabricator to be sure of having everything needed for the job.
The ability to make custom rebar is valued by Ian Giesler of ICF Builders. "Since most of our projects involve custom work, the EZE Bend system allows us to have near instant custom bent and cut reinforcing by ordering straight lengths of rebar and fabricating it on site on demand," he says. "We can use this system either in a 'fabrication set up mode,' where a person cuts and bends reinforcing as it is called out, as well as use the portability of it to bend tie-in dowels that were set in previously cast-in-place concrete walls into floor slabs. Without these machines, we would have a slower productivity on site and our cost of purchasing prefabricated materials would be higher. Using prefab materials can lead to delays caused by changes in design or improper detailing of reinforcing."