Last week Ron Holzhauer, Masonry Construction's executive editor and I were two of more than 150,000 attendees at CONEXPO-CON/AGG, the US's tri-annual equipment showcase. The trade fair's focus is primarily on mining, heavy equipment, and aggregate production. There were literally thousands of dozers, cranes, processing plants, and backhoes displayed in every corner of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

As I prepared for the show, I read through a pre-show attendee list. I noticed that only a few mason contractors had signed up. Most attendees were general contractors, miners, producers, and equipment dealers.

With this in mind, Ron and I knew what we had to do. It was our responsibility to give all of you who stayed on the jobsite a thorough review of the event. We packed a pair of our most comfortable shoes, a tube of sun block, and a Masonry Construction ball cap. We mapped out a walking plan that required us to cover tens of miles of aisles of the products, tools, and equipment. And we made plans to drink plenty of refreshing liquids.

I'm happy to report that we accomplished all of our goals. We visited hundreds of booths, and gathered appropriate news and product items. I avoided sun stroke while walking in the warm spring environment. And we consumed plenty of liquid. All on your behalf.

Over the next few weeks we plan to post our findings on this web site. Even so, I thought I'd pique your interest with three cool items I found at the show.

I think every mason will find measuring progress on a wall is easy with the DISTO D3. According to the Leica engineers who let me measure a mock-up construction site in their booth, the pocket-sized device can measure distances of up to 325 ft within 1/16" —in spite of nearby obstructions. But what I found more interesting was the computer-like ability to determine angles quickly and precisely.

The engineer showed me how to calculate areas, volumes, and wall dimensions. I liked the way you can save a reading, as the unit has a time delay release with enough memory for up to 20 measurements. I found it easy to use. I aimed the instrument directly at the target point, such as a corner. The instrument detects the end piece automatically, which helps avoid expensive measuring errors. The instrument's built-in tilt sensor quickly and simply determines tilts up to + 0r - 45 degrees. The tilt sensor can also provide the user with true horizontal distances.

And there's a feature every foreman will love. You can make measurements in the dark without any problem.

You can find more information on Leica Geosystem's DISTO D3 on their web site at

I did more than enjoy the sun as I walked through the convention center's silver lot. I discovered a 90-year-old German manufacturer who has finally brought lithium battery technology to our trade's toughest tasks - grasping heavy, sharp-edged masonry elements. WIMAG's Alpha Levator enables a mason to easily pick up any smooth surface element. In their booth, I picked up a segmental retaining wall unit, a solid stone block, and a paving slab. The hand-held device weighs about 5 pounds. And according to Gerd Gressbach, the manufacturer's managing director, the unit can safely handle items weighing up to about 25 pounds. The unit comes in a carrying case.

The unit is a little noisy, but if I had a number of items to place, I'd endure the noise. The ergonomic grip provided less wear and tear on my hand than trying to grasp the paving slab's sharp and abrasive corner. While I only used the unit for about 15 minutes, Gressbach tells me the battery lasts for about 2 hours. Most contractors purchase a second battery for a quick change-out.

The manufacturer doesn' have a North American representative yet. You have to go to their web site at

Prior to the show, I had a special invite from Caterpillar to test operate some of the equipment at a special site: the Las Vegas Speedway. One of the things I drove was the new TH255 super compact telehandler. Scott Cooper, one of Cat's product specialists, told me that Cat engineers have targeted this powerful unit (rated load capacity of 5,500 pounds) for work sites with a small footprint. I think it fits well for a mason contractor who specializes in residential work or small two-story commercial projects, as the telehandler's lift height is 18 ft 4 in. and it has a capacity of 1,850 pounds at maximum reach.

It may also be a time-saving investment. The unit comes equipped with a universal skid steer coupler. Masons can attach a wide variety of work tools including forks, hooks, buckets, augers, and brooms.

While it is compact, I had no trouble fitting into the operator's seat. The door is wide enough to fit easily and safely. I didn' feel cramped. And I had a pretty good view of the working area from the comfortable suspension seat.

The telehandler was also easy to operate. The turning radius is 126 in. (3.2 meters). It has three steering modes - circle, two-wheel, and crab. With the hydrostatic drive system, I found the unit to drive like a pick-up.

Mechanics will also find the unit work friendly. There's a side-mounted engine that's easy to inspect by lifting the clamshell hood and swinging a side panel that opens the way to the engine and service points. The TH255 is powered by a Cat C4.4 diesel engine.

While the TH255 is manufactured by JLG, Cat engineers have placed their mark on the unit. All the hydraulic hoses are made by Cat. They have upgraded the cooling system and added some extra guarding.

For more information about the TH255 super compact telehandler, visit the Cat website at

Rick Yelton
Editor in Chief

By the way, Ron and I weren't the only masonry industry folks at the show. In a double win for our industry, the Associated General Contractors of America announced that Fred Kinateder Masonry, Inc., Waukesha, Wis., and Seedorf Masonry of Strawberry Point, Iowa, were the first-place winners of the association's Construction Safety and Excellence Awards in the two specialty contractor categories. Their honor is a great reflection of the work you all do. You can read more about this in the news item posted on our web page.