Please note

Because of the lack of published trowel and masonry tool histories, the information here is based on other sources that may be less reliable and certainly are incomplete. These include eBay and tools that I purchase myself that are the starting points for my research. I will write what I know as I learn it. If what you read here interests you, please check back often and look for revisions and corrections. Scanned catalogs are either mine or by Rose Antique Tools and used with permission, and are on Google Docs as pdf files. A few are links to other websites. Your photos and information are welcome. Please click on any picture to enlarge it. Comments are welcome, but any with links will be deleted as possible spam.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Putty Knives and Related Tools

A variety of knives have a purpose similar to trowels, to spread building materials. The list below includes most of them, taken from Red Devil's 1951 catalog and other sources. Similar knives have been used by druggists, printers, artists, and cooks. The manufacturing process is similar to trowels, beginning with a steel bar which is hot forged into a blade and tang, tempered, ground to final shape, polished, and a wood or synthetic handle attached.    

Bent knife
Burn-off knife
Drywall finishing knife
Drywall knife
Joint knife
Putty chisel
Putty knife
Putty spreader
Spachtling knife (from German spachteln, to spread with a spatula)
Spackling knife
Wall scraper

The best quality older knives will have one or more of these features:

Through-tang  construction (tang extends completely through handle)
Wood handle, usually a tropical wood like Brazilian rosewood or Nicaraguan cocobolo
Solid brass rivets
Bolster, which may be forged with the blade or separate, like white alloy or pewter
High carbon steel blade, taper ground for flexibility if required
Non-sparking brass blade

Clean an old knife as recommended for a trowel:

Scrape paint, tar, glue, etc. off the blade.
Wax the wood handle to protect it.
Remove rust from the blade with 400 grit wet sandpaper and water, sanding with the original grind (probably across the blade).
Avoid using steel wool or coarse sandpaper on the blade because they scratch too much.
For brass blades, don’t use sandpaper coarser than 600 grit.
Sharpen (optional) by hand with a mill file or whetstone, not a grinder.
If the handle is a dense tropical wood, clean with extra fine steel wool and mineral spirits.
Polish brass rivets or a brass blade with metal polish.
Apply paste wax on the entire knife.

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