O.K. First an apology to Sean, he asked for this a while back. I am confident he knows about every tool I am about to show, I think he just wants to see what I use on the job! Well Sean, here you go….a selection of what I use the most when I am working with mortar. Click on the pictures for a full page view.
These are the trowels…the main players. From the left :
Bucket trowel, 9″ Narrow London ProForm Handle, 9″ Narrow London Leather Handle and a 5″ Margin trowel.
The bucket trowel is made from an 11″ Narrow London trowel I picked up for $5. I would never chop a good trowel that! This shape is extremely helpful for scraping the inside of …you guessed it, buckets! I also use it like a mortar hawk when I am pointing joints.
The Narrow London is my favorite shape. Since I don’t lay brick or block ( if I do, it get’s covered with stone ) there is no need for me to shovel large amounts of mortar out of a bucket or wheelbarrow, so the 9″ has been a good size. I will say, I used a 10″ earlier last year and I will be ordering one soon. The leather handles are my favorite, but the new cushion grip is nice too. Both of these are made by W.Rose ( owned by Kraft Tool Co ) As for the margin trowel, that is used for tight spaces, like cleaning out the mixer. When I build Wood Fired Ovens, this is the trowel I use the most, since refractory mortar is mixed in small batches, and I’m using half bricks.
To go along with the trowels, the following tools are used for pointing, raking out, and finishing mortar joints. From left to right:
1/4″ tuck pointer, 3/8″ tuck pointer, 1/2″ tuck pointer, 5/8″ tuck pointer, modified 1/2″ tuck pointer, antique pointing trowel, modern pointing trowel. All the tuck pointers are made by Marshalltown.
I would say pretty close to 100% of all the mortared stonework I do is made to look like dry stone…that is to say, there is no mortar showing. I do have other types of jointers and slickers but they rarely are used because of the latter reason. Tuck pointers have the ability to push mortar into deep recessed joints that occur with stonework. They are also handy for raking the joint back, to create a shadow effect. The larger tuck pointers are used for this purpose because they can scrape the sides of the joint clean, were as the smaller sizes are better for packing the joint ( tucking). I use the 1/4″-3/8″ tools the most for that reason. The modified tuck pointer is nice for vertical (head) joints or short straighter joints (cut stone) I don’t use the pointing trowel for actual pointing, but it is used when I’m parging the backs of stone when space is tight. The small pointing trowel is something I picked up in upstate NY at an antique shop. It is made of very spring steel, and I just liked the look of it. Turns out, it produced the most desired finish on a very large veneer project I contracted a few years later. Having done a mock-up of the stonework, I was asked to finish the joints a certain way…but none of the ones that were done with modern tools were working for the designer. I took out the little pointing trowel, then struck a few of the newly pointed joints and…Voila! They loved it, and an old tool was put to work again. I keep it with me even though it doesn’t get used, but hey……you never know if a big project will come along that needs that special finish!
And there you have it Sean. These are just a the basics of what I use the most when I’m building with mortar. For everyone else, there is a staggering amount of variety in mortar tools, all with a special purpose…and way too much for one post. But you don’t need much to get the jobs done…keep things simple, and always have an eye open for antique tools. You never know when you might need one!