I recently went through the exhaustive process of researching portable cement mixers for the slipform stone house I’m building. Through my research and now the experience of mixing several hundred batches of concrete and mortar in my little mixer, I have come up with a few points to share in this regard.
Cost was a major factor for me when choosing my little mixer. The marginal difference between the little orange poly mixer I bought and the next better metal-drummed machine was more than twice the cost of the one I bought – we’re talking like a thousand bucks versus the four hundred I spent. There are definitely some features and functions I’d like to see in my mixer, but at the time, it simply wasn’t worth the cash outlay to me. Looking back on the expense of the project as a whole, and the number of hours I’ve spent loading and unloading my mixer by hand, I think it would have been worth it to me to go big with this critical purchase. That said, my little mixer has been a solid workhouse from day one, and has more than earned its place as one of the single best tool purchases I’ve ever made.
Gas or Electric?
The job you’re doing will have a lot to do with your choice in this regard. Electric mixers are nice. They’re relatively quiet and they produce no exhaust fumes that you’re forced to work in. The downside is that they’re only useful where you have access to power. At a remote site, you’re out of luck. My little Kushlan mixer is electric, but my house site has no electricity nearby. I do, however, have a good generator at the site which runs my mixer without missing a beat. A gas mixer might have been a better choice for me, as they are extremely portable and ready for use just about anywhere. If you see a great deal on a mixer that’s powered in a way you don’t care for – get it anyway. They’re all gears and motors, and any mixer can be retrofit to any motor.
Wheelbarrow Style or Not?
There’s a whole new generation of poly wheelbarrow-style mixers on the market that are inexpensive, portable, and effective. They have relatively few parts and are easily repaired as they wear down. The minute I loaded my poly mixer into the back of my pickup without help, I was sold. That said, these wheelbarrow-style mixers lack the requisite height needed in order to dump them, single-handed, into a wheelbarrow or even into buckets. A person working alone is left lifting the mixer itself onto a raised platform, dumping into low-profile masonry tubs, or else manually unloading the concrete from the mixer, shovel-full by shovel-full. I don’t love this. With a larger mixer, you sacrifice portability for ease of use. If the ability to dump directly into a wheelbarrow is important to you, one of these lower-profile mixers may not be a good choice.
For my slipform stone project, my little electric mixer seems to have been a fine, affordable choice, but when choosing a portable mixer, there are a lot of features and options to consider. Think about how you will be using your mixer, and what features will be important to you, before you make a choice. You can often find the perfect machine for your needs at considerable savings if you buy used, so don’t be overly intimidated by retail pricing when making your choice.