What Is a Finishing Trowel?

Misty Amber Brighton

A finishing trowel is a tool used to smooth mortar or plaster. The tool has a very flat blade to which a curved handle is attached. This blade is normally rectangular with very pointed corners and edges that are somewhat sharp. It is used by placing the blade firmly against the surface to be smoothed, then moving the trowel in a straight line.

Trowels are often used to plaster ceilings.
Trowels are often used to plaster ceilings.

Most of the time, a finishing trowel has an aluminum or steel blade. The handle of this tool may be either plastic or metal, and is typically attached by a metal bar containing rivets or screws. This helps keep the handle firmly attached even when a worker is using the device on very thick material.

Finishing trowel.
Finishing trowel.

The blade of a finishing trowel is very flat on all sides. All corners and edges of this section are very straight and even. Although this tool is not designed for cutting, the edges of the blade can sometimes be very sharp. People should take care not to come in contact with them while they are working.

Most models have a handle that is slightly curved on the top. The bottom of the handle is attached to the metal bar on top of the blade. This section of the handle may be straight or slightly angled. There could be a padded section on either side of the top portion of the handle for added comfort.

A finishing trowel can come in many different sizes. The standard width is around 10 inches (25.4 cm), with a length varying between 30 and 50 inches (76.2 to 127 cm). A small trowel might be only 7.5 inches (19.05 cm) wide with a length of around 30.5 inches (77.47 cm). This type may be useful when finishing small surfaces or for reaching into tight areas.

To use a finishing trowel, a worker should first grip the tool firmly while holding the blade flat against the surface to be smoothed. She can then work in either a back-and-forth motion or straight up and down. When the blade becomes caked with material, it can either be wiped off with a damp cloth or sprayed clean. After the work is complete, there should be no grooves or streaks in the mortar or plaster and the material should be vertically even. If imperfections remain, the user can smooth the product again as long as the material has not had a chance to harden.

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