Being a tradie bricklayer (or apprentice!), you already know the battle to find the best trowel for laying bricks, stone and blocks. There are a few key factors you need to understand before you can get the best performance from a masonry trowel.
You might not have sat down and considered the different specifications and features in each different bricklaying trowel, but you know what you like when you use it and it really can make one better than the other trowels.
You must look for comfort, flexibility, durability, and balance. This article is meant to serve you as a guide and is designed to help you select the correct bricklaying trowel shape, size, handle, and accessories to consider before purchasing a particular trowel.
What Styles (shape) of Brickies Trowels Are There?
What’s the difference?
Philadelphia Brick Trowel
The Philadelphia's heel angle is flatter, which means there is more room for mud, which is why bricklayers prefer it for blocks. More mud for your money.
But what about normal bricks? Wouldn't it make sense and isn’t it always better to be bigger so that you can move the mud faster? Not if you want to be doing this for the long term. Think marathon, not a sprint. You could do your wrist some serious damage by constantly overloading it unnecessarily.
London Brick Trowel
The blade of the London trowel pattern has a curved edge for cutting bricks, a skill that takes practice to perfect; the other edge of the blade is straight to collect mortar.
The acute angle of the London heel forces the mud to load further forward onto the trowel, making it ideal for bricklaying.
Which bricklaying trowel style is best for you? Here are the facts:
- The shape of the trowels depends on the type of work you are doing.
- There are three different types and shapes of trowels made by the most popular brands.
- One of these styles is the Philadelphia trowel, which is often used for blockwork.
- Standard brickwork can be best completed with the Narrow London trowel.
- In contrast, the Wide London trowel works best on brick and block.
When it comes to finding the best brickies trowel, it's a personal preference as to what you like and what you can use.
Does size really matter?
In a word, yes (but you already knew that didn’t you?). Yes, of course how you use it matters, we’ve all had that conversation, but the size is a big issue (just ask your... never mind).
As with the style of your trowel, the size of the masonry trowel you choose will vary depending on the specific job you are doing. Really, you will need to choose the size depending on your level of comfort.
The sizes can vary between 9 and 13 inches but usually, 11 to 12 inches are the most commonly used. The longer bricklaying trowels tend to weigh a bit more and can cause injury, so it's probably better to look for control and comfort in a middle-of-the-road-size trowel that isn't too heavy.
The size of a trowel makes a big difference in working weight. The larger ones are heavier due to their size and the fact that they can hold more mortar. However, larger does not always mean higher productivity.
Some brickies are more productive with a larger trowel while others can be more productive with a smaller trowel, as a smaller length and width reduce effort over time. Less hand and wrist fatigue mean you can work at a more constant pace, for longer periods of time, and with less risk of injury.
Therefore, even with larger hands, the larger trowel may not be the best option.
What is the Best Brick Trowel Brand?
Now you’re just trying to start a fight! Or at least you would be if you asked that question too loudly around some after-work beers.
Some will tell you it’s the Tyzack Range, while others would drop you on your head if you said anything other than a Marshalltown!
So what’s the spin? Let’s have a look at a few of the main players and their position in the field.
Marshalltown is known often as the ‘go to’ brand, as a premium bricklaying trowel.
Size Selection: 9 – 13 inches (most common is 12 inches)
Country of Manufacture: USA
Made from high carbon steel and comes with the choice of Soft-Grip, Leather, Plastic, or Wood Handles.
Summary: These guys know what they’re doing.
All of the Marshalltown tools are created with excellent craftsmanship. The company, founded in 1905, began simply as a trowel company and over time developed into one of the world's leading manufacturers of masonry tools. Marshalltown tools are made in the United States and designed for professionals and homeowners alike and are built like a brick dunny.
Trowel blades work best when they're made out of a single sheet of metal and in this case, specially formulated carbon steel. Using a single piece of metal ensures a uniform hardness so that the blade won’t crack or weaken. This is how the Keystone Brick trowel is made.
Size Selection: 9 – 13 inch
Country of Manufacture: Made exclusively in the USA
Offers all the range of handles from Plastic to Soft-Grip.
Summary: A good, solid, hand-polished and well-made bricklaying trowel. Not a bad choice.
Again, the blade is made from a formulated carbon steel and the hand polishing is specifically done to resist sliding and keep the mortar centred on the blade.
Size Selection: 9 – 13 inch
Country of Manufacture: USA
“W. Rose™ was established in 1798, by William Rose in Blockley Township Pennsylvania. Originally a blacksmith shop making cavalry sabres and many officer swords for the United States Army. In 1864, he began specializing in edged tools, knives and trowels.” Source.
Summary: This is another brand that has done the miles and knows a thing or two about making really great tools.
The handles come in all the variations: Soft-Grip, Leather, Plastic, or Wood Handles.
Ox Tools was established in 1974 in Perth, Australia. They offer both the London and the Philadelphia shape brickies trowels but add a DuraGrip handle. The handle has a finger guard for added comfort and better handling. The end of the handle has been made harder to allow for tapping in bricks.
Size Selection: 11 – 12 inch
Country of Manufacture: Australia
Summary: With a solid forged steel blade, these trowels are well balanced and their flexibility is great. Good Aussie tools.
First started manufacture in 1837, the Tyzack brickies trowel has stood the test of time and is rightly labelled a premium brick trowel.
Size Selection: 11 – 12 inch
Country of Manufacture: United Kingdom
Summary: The blade is forged steel from a single piece, you can choose from the London, Philadelphia, or a Broad blade. The handle has a high lift giving you that extra bit of knuckle clearance and the blade is hardened and tempered to give the correct balance of flexibility and rigidity.
Which brick trowel handle is the best?
Well, you’ll be pleased to know that there are not too many choices for handles, really. But they can make a big difference to your comfort level and once you choose one, you’ll know if it’s for you or not.
Brick trowel handles are available in materials such as wood, leather, Soft Grip, and plastic handles.
Let’s have a look at some of the main types and their differences.
Much nicer handles, have a bit of a more vintage look and are comfortable, but unfortunately, they don't generally last too long
They are the most common grip these days and are often given a fancy brand name. The most comfortable grip and almost a must-have when wearing gloves. It wears out relatively quickly, but these handles will still be what I would recommend
Not very common. They have excellent durability but don’t always look the most professional and can be slippery when wet.
A traditional style of handle. It has really good wear, but not the most comfortable and can crack when wet.
Softer handle materials like leather require less force and can help reduce vibration and cold. However, leather can absorb sweat, which can make the trowel heavier and more difficult to manipulate or "spin". Choose a material that matches the way you use the handle in your work.
As you would know, trowel handles have tapered handles with various grip sizes and your choice of handle can increase or decrease the comfort factor during use and a better fitting handle can make it easier for completing more exact tasks. So, choose according to your grip.
The Magnet Master magnetic trowel holder is an ingenious idea and handy accessory that gives the bricklayer a place to hold his trowel when laying walls.
Save time and stress!
When laying bricks on walls, especially blocks, brickies tend to put the trowel back on the board or anywhere in the work area and lose a lot of time looking for the trowel or screaming at the apprentice to find it!
This is where the Magnet Master magnetic trowel holder is used, which enables you to hold or stick your trowel to the magnet like glue so that the trowel is not misplaced and is always at hand.
You can hold the trowel to your waist like a gun in an old western movie.
The Magnet Master magnetic trowel holder offers you an ideal place to have your pallet close at hand as it fits through your belt and if you get the combo it comes with a leather belt that has several adjustable notches.
Made in the UK, it easily fits a 12-inch trowel and three different belt size options. Simply attach it to your belt and you have a simple magnetic holder for your trowel.
Well, there you have it. Hopefully, now you have a much better idea of what trowels are available; whether you should be using the London or the Philadelphia shape trowel; What kind of handles are available, and which one will suit your style of laying bricks.
Maybe you thought a bricklaying trowel was just a bit of metal and a handle, but there's a lot more to it than that.
Oddly enough, this is indeed one of the most carefully crafted precision tools in the building world, and a good one is something to be cherished and becomes a highly protected part of your equipment.
A bricklaying trowel should have two main properties: a perfectly shaped blade and a nice, ergonomic handle. They are available in different sizes and bricklayers have their own personal favourites.
A trowel is a personal item. Some people prefer the largest over the smallest, some prefer the London pattern to the Philadelphia pattern, and some have their own favourite brands.
So, it’s difficult to choose one...
If you’re looking for a high-quality brick trowel for a professional or near-professional job, ignore any of the multipacks, they’re too cheap to be true. You won't get a quality forged steel blade for ten bucks or less.
For the highest quality, we cannot deviate from the Marshalltown range. These are really the best in the business when it comes to quality. They are made to a very high standard and will serve you very well over the years. You pay for the quality, but it's worth it.
So stop by our shop here again and buy yourself a bricklaying trowel that will last!
Who Are Technique Tools?
Technique Tools are one of Australia’s premier bricklaying tools suppliers. We exclusively supply tools for brickwork and the best products for bricklayers. We deliver across Australia and have a physical store in Melbourne. So, if you’re looking for bricklaying tools in Perth, W.A., or you want a Marshalltown London trowel in Adelaide, S.A., we only supply high-quality and reliable products to help make life easier for the tradies building the backbone of Australia: Bricklayers.