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.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Filling Knives and Putty Knives in the United Kingdom

Buck & Hickman, Ltd. 1958 catalogue
The filling knife has a flexible blade to apply plaster, mastic, or a paste as a filler. The traditional filling knife, as made since the 19th century, has a forged steel blade that is ground to a taper, and a bolster that is integral with the blade or pewter, and a hardwood handle.

The clipt point putty knife, for glazing windows, has one curved side and the other has an angled straight edge. It is made the same way as the filling knife, with less of a taper grind.

It is likely that many cutlery makers in Sheffield and elsewhere made filling and putty knives, including R. Mather & Son and Clarkson & Co.  Footprint Tools still makes traditional wood-handled filling knives and putty knives in Sheffield.

Filling knives, Clarkson & Co. (second from right)
Filling knife, clipt point putty knife by Harris 
Filling knife by H. & S.L., Sheffield

History of Marriott or Marriot Foundry Moulding Tools

James Marriot square trowel, photo by Steve Roche
The family who spelled their name as Marriott and Marriot were makers of foundry moulding tools in Sheffield, UK. The earliest reference found is to Frederick Marriott, a moulders tool maker of 210 Park Hill Lane. He was injured in the Great Sheffield Flood and awarded compensation 27 April 1865. The next references are in White's Sheffield & District Directory of 1871, with F. Marriott, masons' tool maker, and James Marriott, blacksmith, both on Blonk St., Sheffield.
White's Directory of Sheffield & Rotherham, 1911
In 1905 and 1911, White's Directory of Sheffield & Rotherham recorded James Marriott, moulders' tool maker, of 18 Joiner Street, Sheffield. In 1925, Sheffield & Rotherham Kelly's Directory has John Marriott, moulders' tool manufacturer, still at 18 Joiner Street, with Francis E. Fretwell as proprietor.

I have not been able to find a history of the firm on Grace's Guide or elsewhere on the internet. The few tools I located are clearly stamped J. or JAMES MARRIOT SHEFFIELD. Thank you to Steve Roche for the photographs of his Marriot square trowel.

James Marriot heart and square

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Stucco and Plaster Texturing Tools

The pamphlet, Plaster's Manual, covers a variety of tools for creating textures in portland cement stucco and portland cement plaster. There are additional pictures in the booklet, which is undated but a printer's code suggests 1948. 
Plasterer's Manual by Portland Cement Association

Ontario Knife Co.

Ontario Knife Co. putty knife
Ontario Knife Company of Ontario, New York, made a line of good quality putty knives and scrapers. Ontario is best known for their other knives and cutlery, including the Old Hickory and Tru-Edge brands. Ontario Knife Co. is still in business, and their company history is on their website.

Ontario Knife Co., undated New York City hardware catalog 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Drywall and Plasterboard Tools

Sackett Plaster Board ad, 1907
The product that we know today as wallboard, plasterboard, or gypsum board originated in 1888 in Rochester, Kent, United Kingdom. It was one of many attempts in the UK, United States, Canada, and elsewhere to manufacture an interior wall finish that was cheaper and faster than plaster on wood lath. This material came to be called wallboard or wall-board. Many of these wallboard products were wood-based, which we do not cover on this site. The other wallboard products were gypsum plaster-based, and were originally intended to substitute for lath as a base for a finish coat of plaster. These were called plasterboard or plaster board.

The best-known early plasterboard in the United States was Sackett Board, developed by Augustine Sackett and Fred Kane in 1891. As patented in 1894, it was multiple, very thin layers of plaster of Paris between felt paper. Sackett organized Sackett Plaster Board Co., with offices in New York City. Sackett refined the design to 3 layers of gypsum plaster between 4 layers of felt paper, cut into 32 by 36 inch boards. By 1907, United States Gypsum Co., which owned gypsum mines and plaster manufacturers, controlled Sackett's company. U.S. Gypsum continued to produce Sackett Board for at least 10 more years.

World War I plasterboard from USA
The use of plasterboard grew rapidly and evolved in its first 2 decades. It began to be installed without a plaster coat, as a direct replacement for the wood-based wallboard. This was due in part to the greater fire resistance of plasterboard, either with or without a plaster finish coat. The large number of military barracks, offices, and other facilities needed for World War I served to popularize plasterboard as a safe and fast wall material. The photo shows a piece of what may be Sackett Board from 1917 worker housing for a DuPont munitions plant in Sandston, Virginia.

Plaster wallboard manufacturers also began selling joint fillers. U.S. Gypsum's Sheetrock trademark, first used 28 Aug. 1917, was a plaster wallboard sold with a joint filler. In 1920, Ontario Gypsum Co. of Paris, Canada, advertised its Gyproc wallboard and joint filler.

In the United Kingdom, most builders used a full coat of plaster, and it continued to be called plasterboard. In the US, boards made for this purpose were called gypsum lath or rock lath.

Brades lath hatchet, UK
Plasterboard was installed with the same tool as wood lath, the lath hatchet. It was used to chop wood lath to length as well as to nail it to the studs. With plasterboard, the blade was used to score the material so it would break cleanly, and for nailing. The YouTube video Gypsum Lath and Plaster shows plasterboard being installed with a lath hatchet, followed by 2 coats of plaster. This high quality 18-minute color film dates to the early 1950s, and shows the correct and incorrect way to install and finish the product.

Specialized drywall hatchets and hammers became popular in the US immediately after World War II. One representative manufacturer, Wallboard Tool Co., was founded in 1946 in California. This link is for The Wal-Board Tool Story, their 1953 catalog in brochure format.

Before the development of drywall trowels, plaster on plasterboard and drywall compound were applied with putty knives and plastering trowels. These tools are covered elsewhere on this site.

Wal-Board  hammer, 1953
Lath hatchets, USA, 1906