Metex charts the evolution of the Grindermate brick jig

Metex charts the evolution of the Grindermate brick jig

As angle grinders and rotating saws are some of the most dangerous tools in construction, having a simple jig to avoid having to hold a brick in place with a foot and running a rotating blade right next to it seems like a no-brainer. We had a chat with Grindermate’s creators, Mark Thompson and Jim Wigan, about the product’s background.

Grindermate’s creators, Mark
Thompson and Jim Wigan

Both have 20 years of industry experience, Mark as a quantity surveyor and director, and Jim from running his own building company. Jim describes how the idea for a simple brick cutting jig popped up while doing a job in 2016: We were doing a very big driveway job with a labourer who wasn’t very skilled at what he did, so it was more to do with keeping him safe he had an accident and nearly severed his toes! So, I wanted to keep my anxiety levels down as a boss. We were doing thousands of cuts, so I made a prototype wooden jig for him to use, just something so I could go to work and not worry about the labourers in the backgroundGrindermate sort of created itself from there on!”

Product development

The initial Grindermate was a simple wooden platform which Jim built himself for his labourers to use, with a single straight slot in the middle – but he soon needed to upgrade the jig: “We ran into a problem doing angled cuts as the brick wouldn’t stop moving around, so I developed it a bit more so we could cut angles on it.

To make Grindermate into a viable product which could be manufactured cost-effectively as one piece, Mark and Jim decided to see if the concept would work in plastic instead of wood. Mark and Jim had a plastic prototype made which they started rolling out on building sites for Jim’s staff to try out – and tweaked the design according to their feedback. “The concept hasn’t really changed that much from when we started, just little finishing touches. We made the platform wider to make it more stable and embossed the measuring pieces on the plastic rather than having them inserted separately, as the workers found they could see them better on the plastic that way, Mark describes.

An issue they encountered during field testing was Grindermate moving around on the ground during cutting. As the goal was to make cutting bricks and blocks safer, workers stepping on the jig to hold it still would have defeated the purpose, so Mark & Jim added the “teeth” to Grindermate’s underside.

Taking to the market

Mark‘s connections in the building industry turned out to be helpful in getting Grindermate out in front of big names, but they needed to find a middleman to sell to the large companies – which led them to Metex, as Mark describes: “We got Metex’s name from my accountant. We gave them a call and it was one of those random conversations that actually led into something tangible! We met them (Metex directors Daniel Bamford & Daniel Hopkins), presented the product to them, and they were really keen. The business was small enough for the product to be important to them, but at the same time big enough to make it happen, so that’s why we chose them to come along on this journey with us!”

L without Grindermate R with Grindermate

Jim and Metex then combined their skillsets to finalise the design. Metex director Daniel Bamford, with a background in product design and engineering, found Jim’s on-site experience important in the process: “In the final development of Grindermate, we benefited from Jim’s extensive site experience. He has led the final detail design of the product, which has been fine-tuned as a result of feedback from site. The reaction from contractors and builders merchants has been very positive and we are pleased to be promoting a product that has genuine site safety benefits.”

The two introduced add-ons such as a trough at the back of the platform to collect brick dust generated during cutting. Meanwhile, Mark pursued patents for the design and registered relevant trademarks.


Changing attitudes

Seasoned tradespeople are sometimes set in their ways and getting them to adopt new tools can be a challenge, but Jim isn’t daunted: “One thing they can’t avoid is the fact that it’s safer. I’m having work done at my house now and my labourers have been using Grindermate daily – you couldn’t take it off them now! Once you get it into their hands and they try it out, I think they can be won over.”

The safety aspect is the most important reason they believe Grindermate will take off on construction sites, as Jim can tell from his own experience: “As a boss, you’ve got an obligation to provide PPE to your staff, like steel toecap boots for example. The legal responsibility comes back to the owner if a staff member has an accident, so a lot of bosses on construction sites will hopefully encourage their staff to use Grindermate.”

Mark adds: “It’s all well and good if people say they don’t want to use it, but as a boss you’ve got a responsibility for people, to make sure that you’ve done everything you can for that person to be safe. And there’s no two ways about the fact that using Grindermate is a safer method of working.”

Future outlook

The two aren’t planning on stopping with Grindermate and there are plenty more ideas Jim would like to work on: We’ve come up with concepts for additional features. An example is dust suppression, as on site the dust often becomes an issue. Grindermate is for blocks and bricks, so we‘d like to have a version for using up on a roof to cut tiles. I’m looking forward to adapting it and going through the design process again!

For further information on Grindermate from Metex visit GRINDERMATE – A Safe & Accurate Cutting Jig – Metex Online.

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