Slip Industries' straightedge

For more than a decade, concrete contractors seeking sturdy, dependable finishing tools for everyday use or that special tool to complete a one-of-a-kind project have turned to Slip Industries of Manheim, Pa. The small family-owned business, run by Charyl Dommel and her son Sam, was started in 1989 by Charyl's father, Charles Herr.

Mr. Herr is the mastermind behind most of the tools that Slip Industries sells. Prior to launching the company, he spent 34 years on the road selling construction equipment to contractors. Through his dealings with contractors and their employees, "he saw the need for certain tools that weren't being made," says Charyl.

One day, Mr. Herr was at a concrete contractor's office when one of the finishers came in with cuts across his hands from using a 2x4-inch magnesium straightedge with sharp edges. That led to the invention of one of Mr. Herr's first and still most popular finishing tools: A 1 1/2 x 3 1/2-inch aluminum straightedge with kerfed edges that won't dig into the user's hands. Not only is the tool more comfortable to grasp, it will last for many years.

That's because Slip Industries makes most of its tools from high-grade aluminum or stainless steel. The company believes that contractors will get more bang for their buck by purchasing a quality finishing tool that lasts rather than a cheaper one that needs to be replaced frequently. "A lot of contractors are still using wood 2x4s because they won't spend the money to buy a better straightedge," says Charyl. "They'll go to a lumberyard two or three days a week to get 2x4s for a job and then throw them away instead of spending once for a good aluminum straightedge and keeping it for years."

Slip Industries' straightedge is available in 4- to 20-foot lengths and duplicates the size and "feel" of a wood 2x4, but without any sharp edges. The easy-to-clean tool has welded end caps so no concrete will get inside during use. "That's one of the big advantages of our straightedge," says Charyl. "Magnesium tools often have wooden or plastic plugs in the ends that fall out and allow the concrete to enter, so the finisher constantly has to clean out the inside."

The straightedge is just one of many finishing tools Mr. Herr has devised over the years for concrete contractors and masons, often in direct response to their requests. One of the company's newest products, the Torpedo Groover, was designed for finishers who wanted a tool they could push across the slab by handle to avoid placing kneeboards on the concrete. The groover comes in 24-, 36-, and 56-inch lengths and has a welded bracket that will accommodate two different handle styles. The tool's aluminum blade cuts straight control joints 1 1/2 inches deep.

Torpedo Groover Stainless steel finishing tool

Crowned Straightedge

"We have contractors in California who like to use the Torpedo Groover on decorative patterned concrete because they don't want to walk out on the slab. Some guys are putting 30 feet of handle on our 56-inch groover and it stays straight. We weld a little aluminum nose, or flag, on the top plate of the groover at either end to make it easier for the user to follow the snap line," Charyl explains.

Slip Industries devised a stainless steel finishing tool, also guided by handle, that can be used after the groover to produce a rounded joint. It has a 12-inch-wide plate that leaves a "nice, smooth finish," says Charyl.

Custom herringbone groover

Other recent innovations from Slip Industries include a crowned straightedge and a tapered-end straightedge (1x3-inch) with hand holes. Introduced at the World of Concrete a few years ago, the crowned straightedge can be used to put slopes or swales in a slab to permit better drainage. The tool is a popular item with contractors who install driveways or sidewalks where water runoff is a concern. It is available in 6- to 20-foot lengths, with a 1/2- to 2-inch crown. The tapered straightedge with hand holes provides greater maneuverability and control for final finishing tasks. The lightweight aluminum tool is available in 6- to 12-foot lengths.

In addition to offering a diverse line of stock tools, Slip Industries can custom-machine aluminum tools for specialized applications. "Contractors often come to us with specs for special groove patterns they need to put into the concrete," says Charyl. One contractor, for example, needed to cut groves for a concrete boat ramp in a herringbone pattern. Slip Industries fabricated a custom tool that could cut the grooves at the specified angle, depth, and spacing. For another project, a contractor wanted a tool that could make shallow 1/4-inch grooves in a sidewalk outside a store entrance where black ice was a problem. The grooves provided enough traction to help prevent slip-and-fall accidents in the winter due to ice as well as a safer skid-resistant walking surface year round.

Although Mr. Herr is now semi-retired, he hasn't lost his fervor for developing finishing tools that concrete contractors can't find anywhere else. "We try to come up with something new every year. We get input from contractors at World of Concrete. They tell us what they're looking for, and then we try to make something better than what they've been using," says Charyl.

For more information:

Slip Industries
115 W. Stiegel St.
Manheim, PA 17545
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Anne Balogh writes feature articles each month for The Concrete Network ( She is a freelance writer based in Glen Ellyn, Ill., and a former editor of Concrete Construction magazine.