For a long while I think it was assumed that a certain orange-coloured cement mixer had cornered the market. But as you know, I am very much in favour of competition, since it most often leads to lower consumer prices and better tools.
This new mixer from Draper was the result of many requests from Draper dealers about adding a Draper-branded product to the competition. As experts on sourcing, Draper went about finding a suitable machine, and the 160-litre mixer is the result – also an orange colour, I might add.
There is a special logic to this mixer that sets it apart from others – the 160 litre capacity means that it can use one 25kg bag of cement per mix – making it much easier for users to get a consistent mix, as there is no need to split a bag of cement and then have to estimate how much has been used for the next mix. A full load of sand/aggregate mixture, cement and water is roughly 90 litres, so with an actual mixing capacity of 110 litres, there is more than enough space in the drum for adequate mixing without spilling out or overloading it. By being able to use a full bag this saves time in mixing, whereas many of the similar sized competitors' machines are unable to take the full bag.
I must admit when I saw the cardboard box that it arrived in I thought that there was no way that a whole cement mixer was inside. However, I was wrong – it contained all the bits for a very satisfyingly well-built machine – all I needed was to put them all together. Self-assembly is the price we pay for value for money items, whether in IKEA or in a tool shop.
I know that some people just ignore instruction booklets, and I have been guilty of this myself, but in this case it would be very good advice to familiarise yourself with the parts and the sequence of assembly – ten minutes on that will save a lot of pointless mistakes later on. Not least because there are certain lengths of bolts that can only be used in certain places.
The other thing is, that although single-handed building of the mixer is possible, it really helps to have a second person to lift the heavy bits and occasionally hold a spanner in some of the awkward places.
The drum – a key part of the mixer, is strongly made from pressed steel and comes in two parts that have to be bolted together. This is actually easier than it first looks because the rubber gasket has small rubber “pins” on it to help locate it on the drum. These are then sacrificed when the bolts are pushed through and tightened up.
Assembling the tubular steel tall stand is also a case of putting the right bolts in the right place, but it results in a sturdy stand that has no trouble in supporting a fully loaded machine.
The frame that supports the motor and drum assembly is also made from sturdy steel tubing and it has wheels that are big enough to cope with rough ground on sites. Finally, the tilt bracket is a solidly welded construction that is used to tilt the whole machine when used on the tall stand. On my machine it took a tiny bit of customising with a hammer to fit the slots, but the pin hinges and safety pin fitted perfectly.
I liked the idea of keeping the motor completely enshrouded in its own plastic and, I guess, largely waterproof, housing. It is simply lined up with the drive shaft and bolted into place onto the frame with no electrics to connect other than a standard UK plug. When running, the motor is amazingly quiet and there wasn’t much noise from the drive gear on the drum either. I guess that might change when the inevitable dust gets onto it, but there is a protective shield over it and it can be cleaned easily.
As I have mentioned before, the wheels are a full 230mm in diameter and 50mm wide, and make the mixer easy to move. With solid rubber tyres there is no danger of a puncture.
Getting the mixer onto the tall stand can be done by one person if it is empty and also if the ground surface is not too slippery. The instructions provide an illustration of how to do it safely and the height off the ground is good even for loading some of the bigger barrows we see on sites nowadays.
The freezing weather has not been conducive to mixing and laying concrete so I had to choose my time carefully. I am in what seems to be an interminable process of building myself a shed, so I decided to dig and fill a few of the inevitable foundation piles I am going to need for it. When the warmer weather comes, I will finish the rest, since my clay soil is either sodden or frozen at the moment. However, whatever I learn from doing these few piles can be applied at a later date.
The instructions say that you should put half the required water into the drum first, followed by the aggregate, the cement, the remaining water and then the sand. Since I only needed small quantities, I bought bags of ready mixed concrete and added these to the drum that had some water in it. This was then followed by the rest of the water, and after a few minutes I had a perfectly smooth mixture of concrete ready to pour. This I did by simply using the wheels to manoeuvre the mixer to the hole and then tipping the required amount into it. Really, not difficult as the fulcrum seems to have been well calculated for relatively easy tipping.
My biggest bugbear with mixers is cleaning them afterwards. Try as you might, there always seems to be a small amount of cement mixture trapped behind the paddles that gets bigger after each use - hence the rather battered drums that you see on some mixing machines – the lump hammer solution to drum cleaning. Therefore I prefer plastic drums – they stick less and don’t respond so badly to lump hammer-cleaning methods.
However, the Draper with its relatively new paintwork and smooth drum interior was fairly easy to clean with a jet nozzle on an ordinary hose – but it does use a lot of water to do a thorough clean, as any jobbing builder will confirm, whatever machine you use.
I am hoping that I can hold onto this mixer until early spring because it made the job of mixing concrete VERY easy. I found that it handled well and was very quiet in use. The drum is big enough to do a solid lot of concrete so that even a concrete base for a decent-sized shed could be done in a day. Certainly a useful addition to the Draper catalogue.