Asphalt work requires an entire set of specialized skills and tools. In order to keep roads, driveways, and parking lots safe, attractive, and lasting, asphalt crews have to have what they need to do their jobs well. One of those most important pieces of asphalt equipment is the paving lute. In terms of asphalt work, a lute is a long, metal instrument rather like a rake, used to smooth out the surface of the asphalt after it’s poured. The lute is often a straight edge on one side and a serrated edge on the other, and the sides are used alternatively to spread and smooth the asphalt while it’s still malleable.
Lutes are simple tools, but it takes some know-how to discern which lute is best for which job, and how to use them right once you’ve chosen. Here are 5 tips for how to choose a lute for asphalt work.
1. Aluminum is fine, but magnesium is better. Although lutes have traditionally been made out of aluminum, some companies have recently gone to making them from magnesium. Magnesium is a slightly heavier, more durable, and somewhat more expensive choice for a paving lute, but most people now think that it’s worth the extra investment. Magensium lutes won’t turn your ands black over long periods of use like aluminum lutes will, and they seem to last longer and break less than their counterparts do.
2. Handle length is important. Your crew should really have several paving lutes of different lengths to choose from. Your skilled lute men won’t all be the same height, and will need lutes of different lengths. Also, different projects will require different reaches-that is, the distance a lute man has to reach across the pavement in order to smooth it properly. Some will require longer, some shorter, handle lengths on the lutes.
3. Handle weight matters. Lute men have to smooth out thick, viscous material made from rocks and rubber. They do this through repetitive casting of the lute and drawing it back, an action that works the muscles of the shoulders, arms, and back. A heavy handle can cause more strain on the lute man than is necessary. However, a heavier handle might be exactly what you need for certain types of surface material, especially if it’s very thick or requires a very long reach. You should stock several weights of handle and head for your lutes.
4. Width. For broad expanses of paving, a wider head on the lute will get more smoothing done in less time. However, for corners or tight areas of parking lots or driveways, a smaller lute with a narrower head might be the more appropriate tool.
5. Flexibility. Paving lutes often get twisted, turned, and pulled during asphalt work, with great amounts of pressure put on them due to the sticky nature of the asphalt. A flexible but strong lute can bend with the pressure so that it doesn’t break, yet still be solid enough to push against resistant material.
For such a simple, straightforward tool, a lute used for asphalt work has to be well-made, strong, and fitted for the job it does. If you have a seal coating business or asphalt crew, it’s a good idea to have several good lutes on hand, so your lute men always have what they need to get the job done.