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How to Choose a Masonry Trowel

Ask This Old House mason Mark McCullough explains the purposes and uses for different types of trowels.

How to Choose a Masonry Trowel:

1. Mark breaks down trowels into a few categories and explains their differences.
2. Brick-laying trowels are used for building walls and are designed to hold more mortar to speed up production. They generally fall under two categories:
a. London trowel: has a narrower heel and is used for laying brick.
b. Philadelphia trowel: has a wider heel and is used for concrete blocks.
3. Masonry trowels are used for specialty repair jobs on a wide variety of masonry structures and smaller jobs, typically inside a house.
a. Pointing trowel: used for small spaces, like replacing a singular brick.
b. Gauging trowel: used to get around pipes and other tight, round areas.
c. Margin trowel: comes in a variety of edges, but good for stuffing mortar into crevices.
4. Finishing trowels are used for smoothing out materials like cement, plaster, etc.
a. Pool trowel: used for smoothing the curved edges of a swimming pool.
b. Margin finishing trowel: same use as the masonry trowel, but larger. Good for pouring a concrete floor, etc.
c. Duckbill trowel: has a long, curved edge that will allow for smoothing out materials tucked in tight spaces.
d. Magnesium float: pulls water to the surface of the cement to allow for a smooth, glossy finish.


Mark demonstrated a variety of masonry trowels, which were all manufactured by The Bon Tool Company.