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.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

About Wood and Plastic Trowel Handles

Disston gumwood handle, from 1923 catalog
Trowel handles can be made from wood or plastic. Wood handles are turned on a lathe from hardwoods like beech, maple, hickory, ash, and gumwood. Woods are chosen for their resistance to checking, splintering, and splitting. Top quality and ceremonial trowels may have wood handles wrapped with leather or mahogany or other tropical wood. Possible factory finishes for trowel handles include shellac, lacquer, and urethane, depending on the trowel's age.

W. Rose Tenite handle
One way to identify older trowels is by the amount of work needed to turn the handle. Earlier trowels may have a distinctive shape and one or more decorative rings. Later trowels have smooth handles with a simple profile. Some mid-20th century American trowels had the maker's name stamped in the handle (Rose) or ferrule (Disston).

Plastic trowel handles have been made for at least 50 years. Tenite is an Eastman trademark* for cellulose acetate butyrate, which dates to 1938. Goldblatt, Marshalltown, and W. Rose have all used cellulose acetate butyrate for brick trowel handles. Alcohol and petroleum solvents will degrade cellulose acetate butyrate.

Other composite handles use plastic and synthetic rubber, including a red acrylic Marshalltown handle.

Major US trowel manufacturers sell replacement wood and plastic handles.
W. Rose Handle Styles

W. Rose foundry molding trowel handle
Marshalltown 19P10, red acrylic handle 












*Quote from Eastman: “Tenite cellulosic plastics are noted for their good balance of properties - toughness, hardness, strength, surface gloss, clarity, and a warm feel. Tenite cellulosic plastics are available in natural, clear, selected ambers or smoke transparents and black translucent.”

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