Review - Line markers

Can these new improved models take the tedium out of line marking? Sally Drury investigates.

Briteliner Arrow - image: HW
Briteliner Arrow - image: HW

Tested This Issue
Briteliner Arrow
Fleet Ki
Fleet Kombi 3
Supaturf TXE 353 & TXE 606
Pitchmark Classic-100
Rigby Taylor iGO Advance & iGO Mini
Pitchmark Eco Club & Eco Pro

The Reviewer

Trevor Hopkins, head groundsman, Farnborough Sixth-Form College, Hampshire

For many groundsmen, line marking is one of those tedious jobs that has to be done - and done all too regularly. But with the right machine for the job, the conditions and the operator, lines can be produced effortlessly and accurately.

Transfer or wheel-to-wheel markers remain hugely popular, perhaps partly because of their attractive price but also because of their simplicity. There is little to go wrong and if you look after the machine it will give you many years of service. That does not mean they are not without issues. Metal ones can rust. Some can be difficult to clean. In this test we look at two of the newest transfer markers to see what improvements have been made.

When you only want one marker to do all sizes of lines, on all types of surfaces and in all sorts of conditions, you cannot beat the spray marker. Easy to adjust to give lines of 1.5in up to 6in, capable of working on turf, hard and synthetic surfaces, and less likely to get bogged down in muddy conditions, the spray marker is seen as having advantages. Eight such markers join our test.

The test was conducted on the sports ground at Farnborough Sixth-Form College, where the excellent condition of winter games pitches and the summer cricket field bears witness to the expertise and skill of the grounds staff. Conditions on test day were warm and sunny.

Briteliner Arrow

This is transfer wheel technology for the 21st century and it solves all the issues that for years have plagued users of metal tank models.

From the SupaTurf brand, the Briteliner Arrow has a plastic body, so no rusting. There are no corners where paint can stick and solidify. When it comes to cleaning it out, this one is a dream. The tank sits on a hinge at the back so it can be tipped backwards to empty out excess paint into a tray. Mind you, it is so lightweight you could pick it up and drain it over a bucket. If you prefer to drain, there is also a drain hole.

There are no moving parts to remove - pressing down on the back axle allows the tank to be removed from the triple-coated steel framework. Then it's ready for pressure washing. The transfer wheel comes out for cleaning or transport. "I like it. It all comes apart so easily to help with maintenance," Hopkins confirms.

It even comes with an on-board round brush, sitting in the basket filter. You can use it for penalty spots or to clean inside the tank. There is also a sturdy scraper on the front wheel to stop dirt getting in the tank.

There is a lot of attention to detail on this machine. All the nuts have black plastic caps to prevent rusting. An eyelet on the side lets you attach a string for marking circles.

We especially like the strength of this user-friendly unit is. It is mounted on pneumatic wheels and has a long wheelbase so less wobble is transferred from the operator's hips as the machine is pushed along.

"The pneumatic wheels are good," says Hopkins. "They are unlikely to burn the ground. It's ideal for every level of sport. From a mobile point of view, you can throw this one on and off the lorry and the handles fold for easy transport, so one worker can go out in a van - it's great. The handles are a good height and give you options to hold high or low."

All of the parts can be replaced quickly and each machine comes with a serial number - ideal for the service records.

Line widths: 2in, 3in, 4in and 5in
Weight: 15kg
Price: £440 + VAT (4in model)
Contact: Vitax - 01530 510060

Fleet Ki

Not everyone has a shed so Fleet developed this for people who need to transport a marker in a car boot and perhaps store it in a cupboard. It shares some of the features of the Kombi 3 - same battery, pressure manifold, diaphragm pump and stainless steel arms and chassis - but its chief benefit is the way it folds down into a compact package.

Until you get used to it, it seems a bit of a Chinese puzzle to open up again. First fold out the telescopic handles and lock into a suitable position. Pull out the frame and push in the apron support. Position the deflector discs and pull out the nozzle. Actually, it's quite clever.

Like the Kombi 3, Ki will mark grass, synthetics and hard surfaces. Simply attach the bag, purge and start marking. Because it is a sealed bag, you can leave it and have tea. You should get between three and five pitches out of a bag, depending on walking speed. After use, disconnect the bag, pump through with water by pushing on the plunger then fold back down for storage.

"This one is going to appeal to the schools market - I can see the PE staff using it," says Hopkins. "There are a few little 'things' on it but it is very clever and neat. I like the nozzle tip cleaner - useful."

Line widths: 1.5-6in
Price: £342 + VAT
Tel: Fleet (Line Markers) - 01684 573535

Fleet Kombi 3

The Kombi has been upgraded. This is Mk3, but initially we wonder what has changed. It's the same stainless-steel chassis, same adjustable handlebars, same 12V diaphragm pump and the 25-litre paint tank still comes with a basket filter.

But Kombi 3 now comes with a wheeled knib-style attachment as standard, giving adjustable line widths. Perhaps more importantly it means that straight from the box the marker can be used on a variety of sports surfaces including grass, hard surfaces and synthetics.

Under the bonnet is a new lithium-ion battery with LED display so you can instantly see how much charge remains. The intelligent charge point cuts off when fully charged. A new pressure manifold system allows the level to be lowered to 18psi for quick top-up marking. Pipework is jointed, so it swivels rather than kinks, and a clean water tank at the back means everything can be rinsed through and cleaned within 10-15 seconds. Use warm water for thorough cleaning.

The knib can be pulled away from the spray position and stored on top of the bonnet for safe transport. A built-in ruler helps you to quickly check your nozzle length and adjust as needed. Another clever feature is the ability to use bagged paints by the addition of a holder or straddling the top with a saddle bag. As before, the Kombi can additionally be fitted with spray boom and hand lances.

"It's all quickly and easily adjusted and certainly gives lots of options for a mobile crew," says Hopkins. "Everything you need in one package - and it will mark from the side." Fleet now offers free upgrades for the Kombi 3 and Ki machines.

Line widths: 1.5-6in
Price: £646.95
Tel: Fleet (Line Markers) - 01684 573535

Supaturf TXE 353 & TXE 606

Retaining all the best features of the original TXE 252 and 505, these upgraded spray-markers feature improvements such as a bigger lid and larger filter for easier filling. The chassis arrangement is also new - redesigned for greater control and cleaner lines.

The tank shape remains the same so paint drains to the bottom but the sides are now domed, giving an anti-flip feature that allows the tank to be safely tipped backwards against the handlebars.

All the controls are handlebar mounted. There is a new eyelet for accurate circle marking and the liquid in the main 25-litre tank is agitated to give consistent colour. For ease of maintenance, all components are more accessible and the wash tank uses clean water to flush the filter, pump, spray lines and head.

But the biggest change, and perhaps the best, is the elimination of the front axle. This means that bumps and bounces are no longer transferred through to the nozzle from the front wheels.

"I like the simplicity of these machines - so simple that if something goes wrong you could fix them yourself quickly - and they are bulletproof," says Hopkins. "They are ideal for schools, local authority contractors and top-end clubs."

So what is the difference between the 353 and the 606? The 353 has a 7Ah battery for two hours of marking - perhaps up to six pitches. The 606 has an 18Ah battery to give five hours' marking time for overmarking up to 15 pitches.

Line widths: 1-5in
Price: £600 + VAT (353)/£770 + VAT (606)
Tel: Vitax - 01530 510060

Pitchmark Classic-100

Pitchmark supplied line markers for all the pitches in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, so we reckon the company should know a thing or two about line marking. This wheel transfer marker was designed by a turf professional, so we are expecting a lot. We are not disappointed.

Manufactured from scratch in Bristol, the Classic-100 uses high-quality materials. For instance, 2ml and 3ml steel is used throughout and the frame is triple powder-coated for durability. The one-piece tank is fully seam welded and polished. It comfortably holds 18 litres of paint - enough for two adult pitches - and has a tip-back drain hole at the rear.

The centre wheel is solid rubber on a steel shaft. Pitchmark calls it a polyroller. There should be years of life in it and, importantly, it eliminates rattle as it moves against the two steel transfer wheels. These wheels have spokes for weight reduction and the front wheel has a sturdy but adjustable scraper.

To avoid the nuisance of punctures, Pitchmark has opted to ride the machine on solid wheels. Slightly soft and very broad, they make flat contact with the ground to leave no depressions or marks. A clever detail is the shaft blocks to prevent the rotating wheels from damaging the tank.

"It looks easy to maintain. That's important," notes Hopkins. "Everything you need to work on can be easily removed with R-clips and I like the height-adjustable handlebars. No one wants to be uncomfortable when they are marking." He is also impressed with both the stability and manoeuvrability of the unit. "The wheels are wide and softish so they ride well, even over muddy ground."

While Pitchmark is targeting all levels of sports provision, Hopkins believes mobile crews might find this one a little heavy to lift in and out of vans. But he does see it being a hit with site-based grounds staff and particularly with stadia. The Classic-100 is also available in 120mm version

Line widths: 100mm
Price: £400 + VAT
Tel: Pitchmark - 01454 776666

Rigby Taylor iGO Advance & iGO Mini

If you are fed up with walking back to the shed for more paint, then take a look at these - machine and paint working in harmony.

Now in its third generation, the Advance version of the iGO is designed to provide high-pressure delivery of Impact Gold - the ready-to-use paint that comes in a plug-and-spray format. That means no pouring and no mixing. It only takes 1.1 litres of paint to overmark a standard football pitch.

Upgrades from the original iGO include more robust deflector discs, extended spray head and a lever on the handlebar to lift the head for marking staggered lines.

A solenoid has been added so the spray cuts off immediately when you stop marking. It also gives improved atomisation of the paint to give very small droplets that adhere to grass blades rather than sliding down them, although this machine can also be used on hard and synthetic surfaces. It also features a battery-condition meter and a charging point on the handle.

Designed to be lighter than other spray markers, it has a square-ish shape to increase stability and it is effortless to operate. Hopkins notices the push-fit piping. "I like the clear piping," he says. "You can instantly see if you have an air bubble."

The Advance can be used with 10-litre drums or five-litre Eco-Bags, but it can also be converted for traditional water-diluted paints by quickly dropping in the optional 18-litre paint pod. "I like it," says Hopkins. "It covers a lot of options. It's sturdy and robust - a machine for the professional market, whether mobile crews or stadia."

The iGO Mini is, as the name suggests, a smaller version. Aimed at those with just a couple of pitches to mark, it is lightweight and collapses down for transport in the boot of a car. It is study, shares most of the features of the Advance and uses paint from five-litre plug-and-spray packs.

Line widths: 1.5-6in
Price: £656.95 + VAT (Advance)/£349 + VAT (Mini) - online
Tel: Rigby Taylor - 01204 677777

Pitchmark Eco Club & Eco Pro

Handmade in the UK, the Club is a spray marker that does it all yet is simple to set up and use - and it uses just one tub of paint to mark up to six pitches.

Designed for amateur and professional clubs, this spray marker is adaptable. In the Club form it is intended for use on sites with four or five pitches and can be used with Pitchmark's ready-to-use Ecoline+, Clubline and Extreme paints.

The Pro comes with a tank, making it suitable for ready-to-use and dilutable concentrates. The machines can also be used with other concentrated or low-volume ready-to-use paints from other manufacturers - simply choose from a range of nozzles and then use on turf, hard or synthetic surfaces.

These machines are strong. You can stand on them and they do not break. The construction and materials all shout quality. The chassis is zinc coated. We are also impressed at the ease with which the spray head can be moved from centre to left or right of the machine - the head assembly simply slides out for repositioning.

There is a three-stage filter system covering the probe, the line and the nozzle. The discs follow the ground and for travel they lock in a safe position. That impresses Hopkins. "I remember when I was in a mobile team, the spray heads were always smashing off in the van," he says. "It's a great idea to be able to position them out of harm's way. It's a robust sprayer and it's got clear piping so you can see when there is a problem."

Carried on pneumatic wheels, the markers are highly manoeuvrable. Maintenance is also straightforward. There is an on-board nozzle brush and the tank has a sump to enable the probe to draw out the last drop of paint. It can be pressure washed.

Many accessories are available including LineFix sockets - a dot-to-dot system to save time measuring.

Line widths: 2-6in
Price: £635 + VAT (Club)/£735 + VAT (Pro)
Tel: Pitchmark - 01454 776666

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