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.

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


  1. The history of where and when plasterboard originated was a little fascinating. I just don't get why it has to have so many names. It's always cool to learn how things have evolved through time, especially the tools that were used.

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  3. It was glade to read about wood plaster board in this post.This could be really better option for home decoration for longer period. There are lots top gypsum plaster manufacturer which is also used for decoration. and will compete well with wooden plastering.Thanks lot for sharing the informative post.