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Miscellaneous Hand Tools

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Trowels are used by plasterers, cement finishers, bricklayers and masons to handle small amounts of mortar and plaster. They should be lightweight and well-balanced.

Brick trowels are used to pick up mortar and spread it on the wall for the next course of brick, concrete block or stone. The blade (which carries the mortar), post (which joins tang to blade) and tang (where the handle is inserted) are forged in one piece, with a wooden handle driven into the tang. Width at the heel (back end of the trowel) is between 5" and 5-1/2". The most popular length is 11".

Two shapes of brick trowels have become almost standard-the Philadelphia pattern with a square heel, and the London pattern, which has a rounded heel so the mortar is carried a little farther forward on the blade. Both patterns can be used for laying block, but the Philadelphia pattern is most popular.

Pointing trowels, 5-1/2" or 6" in blade size, are used by bricklayers for pointing up their work.

Pointing and margin trowels are used for patchwork and for cleaning other tools. High quality pointing and margin trowels are forged in one piece and made about the same as a brick trowel. The length of pointing trowels may be from 4-1/2" to 7". Best sellers are the 5" and 6" lengths. Size 5" x 2" is the most popular margin trowel.

Cement trowels are used to finish the surface of the cement to the required smoothness. Troweling action helps compact the surface and adds to the quality and durability of the job. Cement trowels are narrower and longer than plastering trowels. The blade is slightly convex. Blades range in width from 3" to 4" and in length from 12" to 20". Most popular size is 14" x 4".

Plastering trowels are used to carry plaster to the wall or ceiling when two or three coats are applied. They have a lightweight flexible blade with an average size of 11" x 4-1/2". They are available with a choice of two handles, either straight or curved (called the California pattern).

Floats are made of aluminum, magnesium, wood, cork or rubber. The most popular with cement finishers are wood and magnesium. The best-selling sizes in wood are 12" x 5" and 16" x 3-1/2" while the popular magnesium float is 16" x 3-1/8". Cement floats prepare the surface for troweling, or if a float (rough) finish is desired, floating is the final operation. Plasterers and other finishers very often use a sponge-rubber float for rough finishes, so there is a good demand for this type of float. The black molded-rubber float is also used by the cement finisher.

Bull floats are used by cement finishers to float large areas of concrete. The most popular sizes are between 42" and 48" long and are 8" wide. Handle sections either 5' or 6' long can be joined together so that a finisher can reach out 15' to 20' over a slab.

Brick jointers (strikers) are used to strike joints of brick walls for finished appearance. Because it receives hard wear, the tool is heat treated. Each end is a different size-most popular combinations are 1/2" x 5/8" and 3/4" x 7/8".

Corner trowels are used to form inside and outside corners; most frequently called-for sizes are square and 1/2" radius.

Cement edgers produce a radius at the edge of a cement slab, while cement jointers are used to cut joints in concrete. Edgers have straight or curved ends-6" x 3" with curved ends. 3/8" radius is most popular. Jointers, also called groovers, are 6" long and from 2" to 4-1/2" wide. Cutting edge ranges from 3/16" to 1" deep.

Tuck pointers (joint fillers) apply new mortar between old bricks. They are usually 6-3/4" long by 1/4" to 1" wide. Quality joint filler is one piece with high shank and lift and pronounced taper for flexibility.

Hawks hold plaster before application. They are usually made of lightweight aluminum in 13"- or 13-1/2"-square sizes.


Drywall trowels have a slight concave bow in the blade which helps to feather mud and make perfect drywall joints. The tempered, flexible steel blade is securely attached to a lightweight aluminum mounting. A smoothly turned basswood handle ensures a comfortable feel. There are several sizes available; however, the most popular is 11" x 4-1/2".

Drywall corner trowels are used in applying tape to corners. A flexible one-piece blade of stainless steel eliminates tape snagging and rusting. The blade angle is set at a 103° angle, thus giving perfect 90° corners when flexed in use.

Drywall pole sanders are used for sanding drywall joints, especially ceilings and sidewalls from the floor. The swivel-type head permits sanding at any angle, and the positive locking clamps hold the sandpaper firmly. Use precut sheets or 1/2 sheets of regular sandpaper. The 4" hardwood handle has a hammerhead tip for use in resetting nails.

Drywall T-squares are used like any T-square but certain features make them a must for drywall work. One arm measures 16" for aid in locating studs. Blade measures 47-7/8" and the head is notched, which enables cutting a 48" board in one stroke while board is standing on the floor. The 2"-wide blade enables the user to cut both sides of an outlet box without moving the square.

Drywall taping knives are also used for taping drywall joints. The tempered blue steel blade bows just right for feathering, but will not take a set. Can be used in covering over nail spots and other indentations in the board.


Teflon-S coated blades are self-lubricating and will not stick as readily as non-coated blades, making cutting faster and easier. Residue buildup is held to a minimum on cutting and scraping tools. The life of a blade is increased, as the coating is rustproof.

Handtool Safety
Always wear safety goggles when using hand tools.Always wear appropriate clothing when working with hand tools.
Treat/handle all hand tool instruments with care.Be knowledgeable as to the proper hand tools to use for various jobs.
Don't use torque wrenches to pry apart components.Don't use leverage extension on a wrench handle.
Never pull on a loosely adjusted wrench. Be certain wrench fits nut tightly.Don't hammer on a wrench. Wrenches are to be used with muscle power only.
Pipe wrenches are for turning and holding. Don't use them for lifting or bending.Never expose pliers to excessive heat.
Don't hammer with pliers.Never cock or tilt an open-end wrench.
Don't bend stiff wire with pliers tip.Don't bend heavy bars on light duty vises.
Don't use pliers on round shank or handle of screwdrivers for aged turning power.Don't use sheet metal cutting snips to cut heavy wire. There are tools for this purpose.
Don't use screwdrivers to pry anything apart.Don't use a tool box, chest or cabinet as an anvil or for a similar purpose.
Don't use a screwdriver as a punch or chisel.Don't use a screwdriver to test for current.
Never use a striking or struck tool with a loose or damaged handle. Replace or secure properly.Never use any struck tool with a mushroomed, chipped or damaged head.
Never strike chisels or other hard objects with a nail hammer, as the hammer may chip and cause eye or other bodily injury.Never strike one hammer with another or with a hatchet.
Never use a hot chisel for cutting stone, concrete or cold metal.Never strike a metal object with the striking face of an axe.
The axe striking face should only be used to drive soft objects such as wood or plastic stakes.Never use a bricklayer's hammer to strike metal or other tools.
Don't use brick chisels on metal. They are strictly for masonry.Never drive one maul by striking with another maul, sledge or other striking tool.
Never use a drift pin as a punch. 
Source: Hand Tool Institute

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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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