Back in 2012, I reviewed the MAX RB397 rebar tying gun. Work was slow then, but we had landed a foundation and framing job for another builder, so I asked to review the rebar tying gun because I thought it would really help us out on the foundation. I sent the gun back after using it for a week (which was the stipulation from the rep), but never stopped pining for that tool, because I was right: it had drastically lowered the hours we spent tying rebar. When the market rebounded a couple of years later, we decided to finally buy that MAX gun. We self-perform the foundation work, framing, siding and some flatwork here at Pioneer Builders Inc. and the rebar tying gun turned out to be a very good investment for our two-person crew, especially since we ended up building a series of very steel-intensive foundations.

MAX introduced a new version of the gun earlier this year, the MAX RB441T Twintier gun, which we had the opportunity to try out recently. We also have been using Makita's 18V rebar tying gun for over a year, giving us the chance to compare the two guns and discuss why spending so much money on a tool - over $2000 - is worth it.

Makita XRT01ZK 18V LXT
This gun uses #3 wire to make 3 ties in under 1 second. You can tie 2 #5 bar or 4 #4 bar, so this is perfect for residential construction. There are two modes for tying, single or continuous. We leave it in single unless we are tying a matt of bar, then about as fast as you step on/around/between bar you can tie. The tool weighs under 6-lbs and has a belt clip.

The Makita LXT rebar tier operates off of the company's 18-volt battery platform.

One advantage of this gun is that it runs on Makita's popular 18-volt battery platform; if you have other Makita tools, the batteries are all interchangeable. With the MAX gun, we only have one battery, which doesn't work on any other tools, and takes about 45 minutes to recharge.

Rebar tyers in general can be prone to misfiring if you don’t use the right wire, or if dirt and water get into the gears. We only buy MAX wire, which we use in both the Makita and MAX guns, so a misfire is very rare. We learned the hard way not to buy the cheaper wire you can find on Amazon. Even the Makita wire that came with the gun made the motor sound like it was bogging down compared to the MAX wire, and since our local Whitecap stocks the MAX wire, we just buy that.

The Makita LXT has a plastic cover to keep moisture and dirt out of the tying mechanism.

If it gets damp at all (which happens often here in the Pacific northwest), we make sure to blow out the gears. Taking this a step further, Makita uses a transparent cover over the wire wheel to protect it from the weather and dirt. While I've heard from a few guys on Instagram that mentioned they had trouble with their gun, the Makita gun has been good to us over the last year and a half (at one point, it showed an error code and I had to send it in to get it fixed). On Amazon, the Makita gun costs 2k.

MAX RB441T Twintier Rebar Tying Gun
Max has been producing rebar tying guns since 1993, with the Twintier being the latest iteration. I was blown away at how fast and compact their new gun was when I saw it at the International Builders Show last year, and recently had the chance to use it on a basement foundation we were forming.

The MAX Twintier can tie up to #7 x #7 rebar.

The Twintier is definitely faster than previous versions of the MAX gun, and about twice as fast as the Makita (to see the difference, check out this slow-motion video, which is shot at about 5% speed at 240 frames per second).

The Twintier uses a special wire because of the “dual feeding” mechanism, so its essentially tying two wires simultaneously. And while it seems counterintuitive, the gun actually uses less wire to tie the same amount of rebar as the earlier MAX gun and the Makita gun - about 120 more ties with this gun per roll compared to the other two. I actually got irritated trying to run it out of wire, because it just kept going and going. The rolls for the Twintier cost about $8.39/roll ($0.033 per tie) and for the other guns $5.59/roll ($0.043 per tie), so it is a little less money per tie and faster. The larger jaw will tie up to a #7x#7 (7/8” x 7/8”) rebar, and will work just fine with 2 #4 x 2 #x4.

It's easy for even an inexperienced crew member to tie rebar together neatly with either the Makita or MAX rebar tying gun.

One of the big improvements that MAX made to the gun is that it is better sealed than the older RB397 that we bought in 2014, so that the wire rolls aren’t open to the elements. The tool is very light and compact, weighing just 5.6 pounds. You can buy the Twintier online for $2700.

Really Worth the Price? When our engineer makes site visits, he stresses how important it is to tie bar in a clean way, exactly per his specifications. But often, it's the lowest-paid guy who is tying the rebar (which is how I started), so I know from experience that it may not end up being the straightest or best job. A gun makes it much easier to get it right. According to MAX's promo literature, it is 5x faster to use their gun than to tie by hand, which is true for our crew because we aren’t professional iron workers. These tools are fast, and the Twintier is crazy fast.

We had a young guy working with us on the job this summer who had never been on a jobsite before, but with this tool he could tie 3x faster than me on his second day of work. Granted, I don’t tie fast compared to a lot of guys (well, most), but my point is that a starting wage earner with an expensive gun is more economical than a high dollar guy who’s still not as fast as I would be with a gun.

Sure, professional rod busters are very fast at hand tying, but it takes thousands of hours to get that way and takes a physical toll. Tying bar faster means less wear and tear on a body, so it is an investment. I know what when I get tired, quality goes down, so having rebar tied in straight lines, with the right spacing means I’m going to pass inspection, including from the engineer who comes out and pulls a tape to make sure the foundation will perform as designed. Right now, we are often one to two weeks out on inspection, so how much does it cost to fail due to sloppy rebar work? One of our rules of thumb is that each day lost on the schedule adds three days to the job. Besides all of that, when the inspectors know you do a clean job, they will be easier to deal with. They ask us how we get these clean little bows you can see in the pictures.

As a company, we view a tool like this an investment, and now that we have three guys on our crew, we'll probably buy the Twintier too. Two guys with guns can tie in an hour what it would have taken us all day to do before. Max has this study posted on their website which is a good read.