A Guide to Plastering Tools

Plastering

Plastering is an art form that has been around for centuries. When the earliest man moved out of the cave and built new homes out of sticks, he would plaster mud on the walls to help seal the openings.

The pyramids have plasterworks in them that are more than 4,000 years old. The Greeks were creating plaster artwork 500 years before Christ. Before the advent of drywall boards, plaster was placed over laths to cover walls and ceilings. One of the most interesting items of note is that the plastering tools and materials used today aren't all that much different than the ones used centuries ago.

The first thing you need to have is, well, the plaster. Traditionally, most plasters were made from some kind of lime, either from chalk, crushed oyster shells or limestone. Hair was added to the mixture to help strengthen it and keep it in place while it hardened. Fortunately, today, there are a lot of products on the market that are pre-mixed or just need water added to get them ready. About the only time you need to worry overly much about the ingredients in your plaster is if you are mixing something for repair work. You want the plaster you are using to match the plaster on the wall or ornament. It is also important to remember that plaster meant for use indoors is going to be different than what might be used on the exterior of a building, usually called stucco.

The next item you will need is a flat surface to work on. Traditionally, this surface was made from long strips of wood called laths. They are usually set slightly apart from each other so the plaster can be worked between them. The plaster that fills these spaces help to hold the material in place once it has dried. Basically, they become an anchor, which is important when the surface to be plastered is vertical or hanging from the horizontal, such as wall or ceiling. Today, though, a lot of plaster can be set on a flat board as the material has been created to cling to that surface.

The most basic set of plastering tools you need includes a hawk, a trowel and a float. The hawk is usually a flat board, about nine inches square, that has a handle set in the middle of the bottom. Brick layers use hawks, too. The plaster, or mortar, as the case may be, can be piled on this board and held in the off-hand. With the material piled on this board, it is easy to scrape it up with the trowel. The trowel is typically a flat, triangular shaped piece of metal attached to a handle at the wide end. It's used to scrape up the plaster mixture and apply it to the wall. The float, sometimes called a floating trowel, is typically a rectangular piece of metal with a handle secured to the top. This plastering tool is used to smooth over the material to create a flat surface.

Of course there are several other plastering tools you may need, depending on the exact nature of the work you are doing. For ornamental work, there are a large variety of trowel sizes available that can help to shape the plaster. There are screeds, usually similar to a float, which can be used for larger areas. You can also find a large number of scratching tools that will help you put fanciful designs into the plaster as it sets. Finally, there are many coloring agents that you can add to the plaster before or after it dries.

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