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A trowel is a small hand tool used for digging, applying, smoothing, or moving small amounts of viscous or particulate material. Common varieties include the masonry trowel, garden trowel, and float trowel.
A power trowel is a much larger gasoline or electrically powered walk-behind device with rotating paddles used to finish concrete floors.
Numerous forms of trowel are used in masonry, concrete, and drywall construction, as well as applying adhesives such as those used in tiling and laying synthetic flooring. Masonry trowels are traditionally made of forged carbon steel, but some newer versions are made of cast stainless steel, which has longer wear and is rust-free. These include:
- Bricklayer's trowel has an elongated triangular-shaped flat metal blade, used by masons for leveling, spreading, and shaping cement, plaster, and mortar.
- Pointing trowel, a scaled-down version of a bricklayer's trowel, for small jobs and repair work.
- Tuck pointing trowel is long and thin, designed for packing mortar between bricks.
- Float trowel or finishing trowel is usually rectangular, used to smooth, level, or texture the top layer of hardening concrete. A flooring trowel has one rectangular end and one pointed end, made to fit corners. A grout float is used for applying and working grout into gaps in floor and wall tile.
- Gauging trowel has a rounded tip, used to mix measured proportions of the different ingredients for quick set plaster.
- Pool trowel is a flat-bladed tool with rounded ends used to apply coatings to concrete, especially on swimming pool decks.
- Margin trowel is a small rectangular bladed tool used to move, apply, and smooth small amounts of masonry or adhesive material.
- Notched trowel is a rectangular shaped tool with regularly spaced notches along one or more sides used to apply adhesive when adhering tile, or laying synthetic floor surfaces.
Other forms of trowel include:
- Garden trowel, a tool with a pointed, scoop-shaped metal blade and wooden, metal, or plastic handle. It is used for breaking up earth, digging small holes, especially for planting and weeding, mixing in fertilizer or other additives, and transferring plants to pots.
- Cathole trowel is used for burying personal waste in the backcountry. They are often made of lighter weight materials than gardening trowels to make them easier to carry. Also, they may have features such as ruled sides to measure for proper cathole depth or jagged edges for cutting through roots or frozen soil. Some cathole trowels are also designed to fold-up or collapse into a smaller size for easier storage. Others allow for items such as toilet paper to be stored inside the handle.
- In archaeology brick or pointing trowels (usually 4" or 5" steel trowels) are used to scratch the strata in an excavation and allow the colours of the soil to be clear, so that the different strata can be identified, processed and excavated. In the United States, there are several preferred brands of pointing trowels, including the Marshalltown trowel; while in the British Isles the WHS 4" pointing trowel is the traditional tool.
- Taping knife, a drywall tool with a wide blade for spreading joint compound
- Putty knife, a generally smaller and variously shaped tool used in a variety of applications
- Palette knife, a smaller but similarly shaped tool used in oil painting
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