Things to Know Before Buying a Plastering Trowel
The plastering trowel is one of a set of plasterers tools that the plasterer uses for his trade. It is used in conjunction with a plastering float and a plasterers hawk.
Traditionally plastering trowels have a flexible stainless steel blade attached to a base plate and a wooden or plastic handle. These are ergonomically designed to make them comfortable to use. Many plastic handled trowels have a soft grip finish making them grippy and extra comfortable.
Recent innovations have brought plastic plastering trowels on to the market. These are excellent for finishing as they are very light and flexible. They also have replaceable blades.
Plasterers trowels can range in size from 12″ to 20″. Larger trowels are great for getting lots of plaster on the walls quickly. However, they can be heavy and harder to handle, requiring some strength to use. For detailed work a smaller trowel would be preferable.
Plasterers trowels have rounded edges to prevent the sharp blade from nicking the plaster. They often come pre-worn which means the edge has been sanded and rounded. However, it may still be necessary to wear the trowel in before it is used for finishing.
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Plastering Trowels FAQs
How do I use a plastering trowel to plaster a wall?
Firstly, you should ensure all the tools you use are spotlessly clean as any trace of dirt, grit or old plaster will ruin the finish of your wall.
Protect the surrounding areas with dust sheets.
Repair any large cracks.
Clean the wall you are plastering to remove any dust or loose debris. Begin by brushing the wall with a stiff brush and then wipe down with a damp cloth.
Prepare the wall with PVA glue. Mix the PVA one part glue to four parts water and brush or roll this onto the wall.
Once the glue is tacky you can begin to plaster.
Fill a large bucket to the halfway mark with cool, clean water. Pour the plaster into the water and mix. Stir the plaster continuously until it thickens and is smooth and free of lumps. Once the stirrer can stand up on its own in the plaster you have reached the right level of consistency.
Heap plenty of the plaster onto your hawk. Slide the flat edge of the trowel under one end of the plaster and pick up enough plaster to complete a strip from floor to ceiling. Make sure the plaster is sitting in the centre of the trowel.
Hold the trowel at a slight angle to prevent it sucking the plaster back off the wall. Now, starting in the bottom corner, smear the plaster across the wall. You are aiming for a layer of about 1/2″, but you don’t need to apply it precisely at this point as you will be smoothing it down later.
Once you reach the top of the wall slide the trowel along about 2-3 inches and then bring it back down the wall. Continue this process refilling the hawk as necessary and scooping up the plaster into the trowel until the wall is covered.
Once the plaster is in place, you are ready to smooth it. If the plaster has already begun to dry you might need to spray it with clean water to wet it again. Now clear and clean your trowel and run it over the wall in all directions, applying a consistent amount of pressure. Focus on any spots where the plaster is thicker.
Once you have an even first coat you should lightly rake the wall with a notched trowel to give the next layer something to adhere to.
The final layer of plaster, called the skim coat, should be applied in the same way except you are aiming for a depth of around 2 mm.
How do you break in a plasterer’s trowel?
Opinions vary on how to break in a plastering trowel. Common methods include 20 minutes on an oilstone or sanding it with an orbital sander. Using your trowel to work with concrete will also wear it in.
What makes a good plastering trowel?
A good plastering trowel will have a strong yet flexible blade that will stand up to wear and tear and hold its shape. If you have a lot of plastering to do, then it is worth investing in a professional quality trowel. This will make the job easier and ensure you get a better finish. However, for small patching jobs, or areas where the finish is not so essential, a cheaper trowel will suffice.
Note that stainless steel blades can lose their shape over time so try and invest in the best quality possible. For example, the Marshalltown Gold Stainless Steel Permashape Trowels will hold their shape and not distort or bend.
When applying a first coat the finish is not important so most trowels will do the job. However, the finishing coat will need to be perfectly smooth and you cannot achieve this without a trowel that is perfectly flat, clean, smooth and free from nicks.
What size plastering trowel should I buy?
The size of your trowel is a key factor when considering which one to buy. Professionals tend to use a larger trowel when they have large areas to cover as they get the plaster onto the walls more quickly. However, beginners may find a larger trowel difficult to handle. It also requires some strength to apply enough pressure to apply the plaster securely to the wall and that can be difficult to achieve with a large trowel. A smaller trowel will give you better control.
You can, of course, buy more than one plastering trowel if you have a lot of work to do and have some experience. You might choose an 18″ trowel to apply the plaster to the wall and a smaller one for finishing. However, if you just want to buy one plastering trowel, a 14″ trowel provides the best balance of efficiency and ease of use.
If you are choosing a plastic trowel, then you might want to go for a slightly larger size as it is lighter in weight. Plastic bladed trowels also make working on curved surfaces easier, so this something to consider if you are plastering anything other than a flat level surface.
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