Category Archives: Plastering Tools

Hawks – plastic versus metal

69572405 - construction worker wearing worker overall with wall plastering tools renovating apartment house. plasterer renovating indoor walls and ceilings with float and plaster. construction finishing works.Hawks or hand boards, whatever you call them (and there’s certainly a North/South divide on that debate), every plasterer needs one.  They are simple in design and to the untrained eye they all look the same.  Although there’s a set shape, the differences between manufacturers run a lot deeper than just the label.

Metal hawks can be more solid feeling in the hand than a plastic one but are a little heavier.  Plastic hawks are lighter and although they may feel different to hold, they are less of a strain to hold all day.  Older plasterers who may work infrequently may find a plastic hawk easier on the hand and wrist than a metal one.  Plastic hawks are also a good investment for a novice plasterer or a DIYer, as they are cheaper than metal ones and the ridged surface helps hold the plaster on it even if it is held at a slight angle.  Getting used to holding the hawk at the right angle can take practice, so a plastic one is great for learning and not wasting too much plaster as it slips off a metal one.

The other great factor in choosing a plastic hawk over a metal one is the cost.  They are cheaper, so if they are lost or left behind on a job they can be easily and cheaply replaced, and are available from most DIY stores.  For those with sensitive ears or a particular dislike for the sound of metal on metal then a plastic hawk also eliminates the scraping sound.

Metal hawks are longer lasting than a plastic one, however, and there are some with a ridged surface to help keep the plaster from slipping off, as well as flat ones for the experienced plasterer.  Nela manufacture three sizes, giving you a choice of weight as well as surface area, and they also have concentric circular ridges, and they are a little cheaper than the Marshalltown alternative.  All in all, it is a matter of personal choice, but there are advantages to both plastic and metal hawks, it just depends what you are looking for.

Plasterboard taping tools

house under construction
Taping tools are invaluable for dry-liners and plaster-boarders, saving a lot of time when fitting plasterboard in large buildings such as factories, retail and commercial buildings as well as student halls and other places which offer accommodation on a large scale.  Applying scrim tape by hand doesn’t take a very long time for a small room, or in a house, but when this is being done on a large new build then the time, and therefore saving costs start to add up.  There is also slightly less wastage, as the tape stays firmly in the machine at all times, stopping it from getting stuck to other surfaces and being wasted.  Taping machines also cut the tape, doing away with a taping knife entirely, and they can apply tape accurately in corners, which can be a struggle for the novice plaster border.

Taping tools have a fairly long history, with the first prototype model being produced in 1945, by brothers Robert and Stan Ames in Georgia, USA.  It weighed around 45 kilos and was battery powered, and obviously quite cumbersome, a far cry indeed from today’s hand-held models.  Drywallers by trade, the brothers began experimenting with inventions for improving their job in 1939, but did not create the first automatic taping tool until 1954, after improving on their initial bulky model.  The people involved in these inventions went on to found or advise most of the plasterboard tool manufacturers we know today, including Belmont Tools, the Ames brothers’ first company.

Although Plasterers 1 Stop Shop mainly sells machine and hand plastering tools and equipment, focusing less on the plasterboard side of the trade, it is still interesting to know how these inventions came about, and how they can be useful.  You never know, this could come up in a pub quiz and as a plasterer, everyone will expect you to know the answer!

 

Plasterers stilts – what pair should I go for?

stiltsWorking at height for a long time can be a challenge in any trade, and many decorators use a work platform or trestle to provide a large working area to stand on, with easy access to the wall surface and no need to keep moving a stepladder or a small hop up every few minutes.  For plasterers, there is a much bigger requirement to be at the wall-face for long periods of time, usually two or three times over for all the preparation and coats of plaster on each wall.  Plastering ceilings is also much easier with stilts, as you can get close to the ceiling without having to keep moving work platforms and can move around very easily with no fear of slipping off a tall trestle.

It is this need to be close to the wall but still mobile, to gather more plaster to work with, that led to the development of plasterers’ stilts.  These allow you to work safely at height and still move around, give you easy access to the mix when needed.  Better still, there is no need to be moving a trestle or work platform at all, and the stilts will take up less room in the van, being a lot easier to pack in to tight spaces than a trestle.  There is also the added bonus of seasonal work as a circus performer, if the plastering work dries up!

Putz manufacture a great line of stilts, which have been tried and tested by plasterers for many years with excellent results.  There are cheaper models out there, but they don’t have the same build quality or comfort as the Putz Profi-Line, and can cause back problems due to exacerbating poor posture.  The Profi-Line are available in three sizes, relating to the height available from the stilts rather than shoe size – all the Putz Profi-Line plasterers’ stilts can be worn by any shoe size.

The medium height stilts offer five height adjustments between 38 and 58 cm and weigh 5.8 kilos each, while the large ones give heights between 45 and 75 cm through 7 steps at a weight of 6.2 kilos each.  The extra-large plasterers’ stilts go from 60 cm to 1 metre, in 9 increments and weigh in at 7 kilos each.  The choice of model depends entirely on the amount of extra height you need – very tall people may find that they can achieve a good range of heights with the medium size stilts while shorter people may need the extra large.  All the Putz Profi-Line stilts have rubber non-slip feet and fasten round the foot and calf for excellent stability.  They are also spring loaded, to make them comfortable to walk in, so you are not dragging around that extra weight and it feels like walking naturally.  Priced between £165 and £215 they are not cheap, but are great value compared to the more expensive models.

It can take a while to get used to working in and walking on stilts, but the benefit of not having to set up trestles and reducing the fall risk outweighs the short teething period you’ll need to get used to wearing stilts.  Just remember to watch out for heavy light fittings and doorways when you are on them, as there is obviously a small risk of banging your head on these.  Aside from the risk of knocking your head on a door frame plasterers’ stilts are much safer than using trestles and ladders and therefore are a good choice for health and safety or risk assessments.

SuperPROF tools – Great for tricky jobs

superprof1SuperPROF are the go to guys for specialist plastering tools.  They have been in business for many years and are based in the Netherlands, manufacturing their tools to a very high standard – you could do a lot worse than invest in their equipment.  One of their latest inventions is the Twister spatula, which is equally at home on rendering jobs or internal plastering.  There are several blade sizes available, all of which fit easily into the handle unit so they can be changed quickly, and replaced if they get lost or damaged.  The real ingenuity of the SuperPROF Twister is the handle that can be adjusted through 180° to achieve a comfortable grip in any situation.

The adjustable handle really comes in handy when smoothing renders on properties with overhanging soffits, as the blade can be easily manipulated into the space underneath when the handle is turned.  It also makes working much easier on the arms and back, as rather than moving your body and changing stance, it is easier to just adjust the spatula handle and carry on working in the same spot.  The handle moves when a button is pushed, and once the button is let go the handle locks into place, so it won’t move around while you work.  The wide blade makes this spatula an excellent alternative to a Superflex blade for flattening and smoothing, as the handle makes it easy to use in all directions.

One piece of kit that is a total game changer for finishing reveals, is the SuperPROF Multi Tool.  It does away with the need for spirit levels and rods entirely, as you can set the guide blocks in conjunction with the three levels to achieve a consistent square finish around windows, small alcoves and other tight corners.  It makes this job a lot quicker, saving so much time that over a whole house you could be saving hours of labour.  As with the Twister, the handle is adjustable so can be used by left and right handed plasterers and in a position that is most comfortable for every user.

SuperPROF also manufacture small finishing tools for tight areas, a wide range of spatulas and floats and angle tools, so if there is a particularly tricky job that you need a specialist tool for, then SuperPROF are the brand to look at first.  If they don’t make it, it probably doesn’t need to exist.

Best lights for checking finishes

halogen work lights on yellow tripod,dark backgroundWe all know plastering is an art form and one that can take a long time to get right.  Achieving that flawlessly smooth finish across a surface and around corners and curves is incredibly satisfying, but when lighting, either indoors or out, is directed across a wall there is even more pressure on the plasterer to get it exactly right.  Daylight provides very good illumination for working in and checking most wall surfaces, but it does not show up those smaller imperfections that may become glaring flaws when certain types of lighting are used – exterior lighting to enhance and show off a particularly architectural building is a good example of this, along with directional lighting used indoors to create a flow through a house.

Without the right type of lighting it can be very hard to know how the wall will look at night and under different lighting conditions and very often a plasterer will be finishing a wall before the final lighting is installed, particularly so in new builds and renovations or additions to a home, where different trades are booked in at different times.  For this reason, it is important for a plasterer to check to the best of their ability how the wall will appear when the lighting is installed and in use.

The site lighting solutions we mentioned in a previous blog are good to a certain extent, but because they provide a very flat working light they can hide imperfections that will be noticeable under different conditions.  Asking the owner or developer for the lighting plan and an idea of how the light will hit the wall is a great starting point, as you can then see where the light is coming from and how it will hit the wall in question.

Inspection lights are ideal for showing up flaws in surface plaster, and they are one item where the price varies greatly from a few pounds into the hundreds.  Whatever you spend, it is a good investment for plasterers that do a lot of domestic work, as a domestic customer is far less likely to put up with a small flaw than a in a commercial space – after all they will be spending a lot of time around your work and they want it to look perfect.  It is always worth showing the customer your work under an inspection light, partly to show off a piece of plastering you are particularly proud of, but mostly to show them the finish that will subsequently be decorated.  That way, if the decorator does not do a good job and leaves a flawed finish, the homeowner knows which trade to contact to rectify it, and that won’t be you.

Inspection lights generally use LEDs to provide a bright and easily angled light source that can be directed across a whole wall and which will reveal any problems in the finished surface.  Using one before the final skim enables you to see where there are any patches that need attention before the final finish is laid down, giving you a chance to make right anything that will not be properly covered and disguised by the final skim or decoration.  They are not only used by domestic plasterers, however, as they can be a useful tool for a site manager who is contracting day/area rate plasterers to finish a job.  By being able to inspect each person’s work they can identify who needs to re-do the work if it is of an unsatisfactory quality, and can be sure that the work that has been done is up to the standards required.  Of course, on old properties with uneven walls or with textured finish plaster these lights won’t be much use, as the finish you are looking for is not a mirror smooth one.

There’s a hole in my bucket…

plaster-bucket1If you need a new bucket the chances are you’ll opt for the same model as usual.  Perhaps the handles have a nicer grip than others, or a particular style fits really well in the van?  We all have our own reasons for liking a bucket brand, whether it is the volume, the material or just the way the trowels hang over the edge, but it is always worth looking around and find out why a different bucket might be a better option than your trusty old one.

Putz TaliaGOM buckets are made of rubber and can take a bag and a half mix in a 40 litre capacity, making it a good choice for speedy plasterers working with high volumes of plaster.  They are incredibly hardwearing and cannot be chipped or cracked due to the flexible yet sturdy material they are made of.  Some people find them a little too malleable to tap the mixer on when removing excess plaster after mixing.  The biggest benefit of flexibility is that they are easier to clean than rigid ones, as once the plaster is dry you can bend the bucket or tap it to knock the excess dried plaster off with no scrubbing and no mucky plaster water to dispose of.  The sizes currently available are a large 40 litre or a smaller 13 litre, with the smaller bucket having a single metal handle, compared to the two handles on the 40 litre size.

Although the TaliaGOM buckets look like the flexi tubs that are available at garden centres, homeware stores and just about every pound shop in the country, they are much sturdier, lasting for years at a time; whereas the cheaper ones are too flimsy for much other than carrying laundry or tidying toys away.  Too much loaded into these will cause the handles to snap without warning, so even doubled up they are no match for a purpose made plasterers bucket.  Gorilla buckets are of the same design, but are built to be stronger and longer lasting than cheaper brands.  The great thing about the Gorilla brand is that they have a wide range of sizes and depths, with shallower buckets ideal for splitting and transporting large mixes to different areas of a site and the deeper ones for mixing up.

Putz mixing tubs are also very hardwearing, as they are from the same manufacturer who really understands the needs of plasterers.  These are straighter and taller than the TaliaGOM and come in a variety of sizes from 40 to 200 litres.  The sizes over and including 75 litres have the handles on the sides, about halfway down, rather than at the top and this feature makes them easier to carry and move without risking tipping them over, especially when they are full and more prone to toppling.  The dimensions make them ideal for mixing plaster with a paddle, and they are easy to clean in the same way, i.e. with water and a quick mix with the paddle.

Refina buckets are also popular and long lasting, but some plasterers have found that more recent models aren’t as hardwearing as the originals.  Some plasterers even go for water butts (cut down if they are too big) for mixing in, as they are strong, durable and designed to be left outdoors in the elements, so when looked after and cleaned properly they will last for a very long time.  They can also be picked up quite cheaply during sales at garden centres.

Whatever your preference, if you are in the market for a new bucket it is worth checking out the competition as they may be better than your old ones. You can browse our full selection of plastering tools and sundries on our main website.