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What is the Best Trowel for Bricklaying?

Estimated Reading Time: 7 min

Brick Trowels are essential tools for laying brick, but knowing which option is the best fit for your project can be a challenge. We break down crucial points to make this decision easy.

Every mason worth their weight in mortar has a Brick Trowel in their tool bag. It’s an essential bricklaying tool. Without it, bricks can’t be laid, and no walls can be built. The problem is knowing which trowel is best for the job. Several factors play into this decision. You’ll need to consider the trowel’s construction, including its size, pattern, and handle material. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to find the best Brick Trowel for laying brick, block, or stone.

Construction

A Brick Trowel can make or break a successful bricklaying application. Knowing the parts of a quality Brick Trowel and their uses can help you make a better decision when it comes time to invest in great bricklaying tools.

Brick trowel parts breakdown

Blade

The blade acts as your work surface. It is taper ground and polished to cleanly and effortlessly carry mortar from a mortarboard to your structure.

Quality Brick Trowel blades are forged from a single piece of high carbon steel since this promotes durability, flexibility, and improved comfort. The alternative to single-forged trowels would be to weld two pieces of steel together, but this can create a weak point in the neck and heel of the trowel. Not only will welding remove a trowel’s flexibility, but it can also lead to the trowel snapping after repeated use.

If a Brick Trowel doesn’t state that it’s forged from a single piece of steel, then it isn’t worth it. Save your money and invest elsewhere.

Handle

Handles play an important role in comfort when laying brick. There are five common handle materials, and we will discuss those options in more detail later. Most handles feature a rubberized hammering end that can help split bricks or adjust them into a level finish with the help of mason’s line.

Tang

The tang is an extension of the blade, like a tail. It is situated in the center of the handle and held secure with a ferrule.

Ferrule

Quality masonry trowels often have what is known as a ferrule. This metal band sits at the base of a wooden handle to add strength while helping to prevent it from splitting.

Neck

The neck (also known as shank) of a Brick Trowel extends from the tang and provides lift, or a height differential, between the blade and the handle. This helps provide optimal balance for a better feel.

Heel

The heel, or the back portion of the blade, is where most of the mortar is carried. The shape of the heel varies depending on blade pattern, which we discuss in the next section.

Toe

“Toe” is an industry term for the tip of a Brick Trowel blade.

Pattern

“Pattern” is an industry term used to describe the shape of a Brick Trowel’s blade. There are two main patterns of Brick Trowel shown here—London (left) and Philadelphia (right).

brick trowel pattern comparison

There are some variations in these patterns (MARSHALLTOWN, for example, offers a Narrow or Wide London pattern Brick Trowel to suit personal tastes), but their technical distinctions are better suited for the pros.

London

London Brick Trowels typically have a narrow blade profile. This pattern also features a rounded heel which shapes the blade so that the mortar is carried a little farther forward on the blade, making it ideal for brickwork.

Philadelphia

Philadelphia Brick Trowels have a wider blade profile designed to hold more mortar. This makes it easier to lay larger building materials like block and stone, which require more mortar than brick.

It is important to note that pattern, like size and handle material, are suggestions. Certain patterns are better suited for certain tasks, but there is crossover. Many masons in the UK, for example, prefer to use a Philadelphia pattern Brick Trowel for bricklaying while those in the USA swear by the London pattern.

There is no right or wrong pattern, so use this information as a guideline.

To help you decide on the best trowel pattern for your project, we’ve also included some “key take-aways” at the end of this post. We list our suggestions for the best brick trowel for beginners, for bricklaying, and for concrete block or stone.

Size

brick trowel size comparison

Brick Trowels are available in sizes ranging from 9” – 13” in length by 4¼” – 6” wide. Size, like pattern, is another aspect of Brick Trowels that varies by application.

Smaller trowels between the 9” to 10½” range are a bit easier to work with for DIYers and apprentices. The smaller blade carries less mortar, which gives you more control. This is crucial when you begin learning the masonry trade because it will help you make fewer, more manageable mistakes.

Trowels larger than 11” are better suited for journeymen and masonry professionals. The blades are larger to carry more mortar, which speeds up the bricklaying process. However, this excess mortar can be unwieldy, resulting in messy or uneven applications if you aren’t a proficient bricklayer.

What is the best Brick Trowel for beginners?

We recommend that beginners stick to smaller London trowels, like the 10” MARSHALLTOWN London Brick Trowel. The London pattern is perfect for brickwork, and the smaller 10” size scoops less mortar to make it easier to keep your work clean and tidy if you’re new to bricklaying. For block or stonework, switch to a Philadelphia style Brick Trowel of the same size.

Handle

Comfort is a key component in your choice of trowel, and handle material plays a huge role in the trowel’s comfort level and ease of use. Thankfully, you have a few options to choose from when it comes to handle material. Each comes with its own benefits.

brick trowel handle materials

Wood

The traditional option. Wooden handled tools have been used by stonemasons for nearly as long as masonry has existed (almost 12,000 years). They wear nicely, but some users can find them uncomfortable to use for long periods. Wooden handles are also susceptible to moisture damage, which can lead to splitting.

Plastic

Plastic handles are a modern age alternative to wooden handles. They are crack-resistant, easy to clean and easy to grip. But, just like wooden handles, they can be uncomfortable to use for long periods.

Leather

Leather, while popular among masons, is the most expensive of the available handle materials. Leather handles provide a comfortable non-slip grip ideal for working in wet weather or working with sweaty hands on a hot day.

Soft Grip

By far the most popular handle for Brick Trowels. Soft grip handles are durable, wear nicely, are comfortable to hold, and they help to prevent muscle fatigue, allowing you to work longer.

Cork

Cork handles were introduced in recent years as an alternative to soft grip handles. They have a textured, tacky feel that provides a more comfortable and improved grip to help prevent blisters even in wet conditions. However, cork handles do come at a premium price compared to other handle options.

What is the best Brick Trowel handle for beginners?

We strongly recommend a soft grip Brick Trowel like the MARSHALLTOWN DuraSoft® Brick Trowel for beginners. Soft grip trowels are lightweight, durable, and comfortable to hold for long periods. They’re also a happy medium between quality, comfort, and affordability.

Key Take-Aways

When looking for the best Brick Trowel for your next project, use this quick guide to make sure you get the right masonry tool for the job.

1. Construction

  • Only invest in trowels forged from a single piece of quality steel

2. Pattern

  • Philadelphia – concrete block, stone, and brickwork
  • London – brickwork

3. Size

  • Smaller trowels under 10” ideal for beginners
  • Trowels larger than 11” are better suited for professionals

4. Handle

  • Soft grip Brick Trowels are the most popular among masons

Once you get a handle on Brick Trowels and masonry work, experiment with your tools to find the combination of assets that works best for you.

 

Best Brick Trowel for Beginners

  • Pattern: London
  • Size: 10"
  • Handle: Soft Grip

Best Brick Trowel for Bricklaying

  • Pattern: London
  • Size: 11”
  • Handle: Soft Grip

Best Brick Trowel for Concrete Cinder Blocks and Stone

  • Pattern: Philadelphia
  • Size: 12”
  • Handle: Soft Grip

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