Tools for spreading joint compound fall into two general categories: trowels, which look like concrete-smoothing tools with a handle parallel to the blade, and knives, which have a handle at a right angle to the blade. A curved blade drywall trowel slightly crowns the compound, a helpful feature when you're concealing butt joints. But for the majority of other applications, most people find that knives are more versatile and easier to handle. A basic set consists of three knives with blades that are 4 or 6 inches, 8 or 10 inches, and 12 or 14 inches. Plastic is the least expensive blade material, but most pros don't use them for anything but scooping compound out of a bucket. Blued steel is widely used, but stainless steel is much more rust resistant. Top-of-the-line drywall tools sometimes have cushioned grips that make them more comfortable to use.
Some people like inside and outside corner tools, feeling that they speed up the work. But others find them difficult to control and opt for working each side of the corner separately with a straight knife. You'll even find an adjustable-angle inside tool that adapts to a wide range of off angles.
If you're using ready-mixed drywall compound, buy a hand mudmasher to make sure that moisture is evenly distributed throughout the bucket. For mixing setting-type compound, you'll need a 1/2-inch variable-speed drill and a mixer. Professionals may discuss the fine points of the various mixer designs, but virtually any style will meet the requirements of the do-it-yourself worker.
If you apply paper drywall tape, consider a belt-hung dispenser. Some have a built-in folder that helps you tape inside corners faster. A mesh tape dispenser is like a tape gun with a trigger-activated cutter; it also has a flip-down roller for inside corners. If you work with composite tapes, consider a metal folder to save your fingers from abrasion. The Banjo® taper holds paper drywall tape in one compartment and joint compound in the other. The tool applies compound to the tape, speeding the embedding process on big jobs. On small jobs, however, the time required to clean the tool can outweigh the time saved.
Some people like to hold joint compound on a hawk (especially when working with a trowel), but a mud pan is generally a more popular choice. Plastic trays are inexpensive, but cleaning the removable metal strip can be an annoyance. Trays with angular corners are tougher to clean than round-bottom models. The most common mud pan length handles up to 12-inch knives. Look for the longer pan if you buy a 14-inch drywall knife.
- Artistic Drywall Styles & Elements
- Drywall Materials & Supplies
- Framing Basics for Walls & Ceilings
- Drywall Measuring & Cutting
- Basic Drywall Hanging: How to Hang Drywall
- Drywall Taping, Joint Compounds & Sanding
- Advanced Drywall Techniques
- Decorative & Special Drywall Finishes
- How to Repair Drywall: Patching & Repairing Walls and Ceilings