Drywall Trowel vs Taping Knife

Hawk and trowel or a taping knife and mud pan, which is the superior method? If you visit any online forum, you will see contractors discussing which is the exemplary method. In this blog post, we will be taking a brief look back at the history of both trowels and taping knives, weighing their positives and negatives and coming to the ultimate conclusion.

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Drywall Trowel and Taping Knife: Brief Origin

Believe it or not, drywall trowels first started as a tool for plaster. They were initially called plaster trowels, and plasterers used them to apply plaster to a lathe board rather than a drywall sheet. It wasn’t until 1894 that the creation of the first iteration of what would become drywall trowels appeared. Plasterers that went into the stucco trades brought the trowels with them. 

Meanwhile, painters that moved into the drywall business used their own putty knives and made the blade larger for drywall taping. While the origin of these painting/drywall tools is not well documented, these are the common hearsay origins of their origins.

The Advantages of Using a Drywall Trowel

One of the most significant advantages of using a drywall trowel is that it takes less effort to use. When you are applying a coat of mud using a trowel, you are pushing the joint compound along the wall working with directional force, making it easier to work a coat.

Another advantage of working with the force of the drywall trowel is that you will have an even coating while pushing. If you are using a knife, it will fizzle out towards the end, meaning you will need to go over the thinned-out part of the mud before continuing. 

Since drywall tapers started using trowels, some changes have been made to make a specific trowel for drywall. Drywall trowels have both a straight edge and a curved edge on the other side. The straight edge is used for skim coating, while the curved edge is for seams. You could say tapers and drywallers innovated the original concept of a standard trowel and made it more versatile.

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The Disadvantages of Using a Drywall Trowel

Not every job during a drywall finish requires a large amount of drywall joint compound. In the more minor detailed spots, having a 12-inch trowel is detrimental to the task at hand. For example, suppose you are using a trowel to finish a corner. In that case, you can easily knuckle the corner itself, causing damage to that or the opposite corner. 

Another major disadvantage of using a drywall trowel is its significantly longer learning curve than a drywall knife. For starters, getting used to using a hawk to carry your mud with you and getting the drywall mud off and on the trowel where you want it can be a difficult skill to master. However, drywall trowels are considered the fastest option between the two once learned.

The Advantages of Using a Taping Knife

One of the most notable advantages of using a drywall taping knife is that it is easier to use overall. If you are starting out, it is recommended to start with a taping knife and then work your way up to a trowel. Advanced techniques, such as feathering an edge, are much more manageable using a taping knife instead of a drywall trowel. 

Taping knives are also the preferred tool when precision jobs are required. Using a taping knife for applying tape requires less mud and a faster clean-up than using a trowel for taping. Another great use of a taping knife is for cornering. Taping knives can quickly get into tighter corners and coat corners more accessible than a trowel.

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The Disadvantages of Using a Taping Knife

Most of the disadvantages of using a taping knife revolve around the mud application volume across bigger jobs. Using an expansive or sizeable taping knife may help with the volume issue, but drywall trowels will always hold significantly more mud than a taping knife ever can. Once you are done mastering a trowel, you will also have more control over where the mud is placed on the trowel, while it is more challenging to get the mud placed where you want on your taping knife. 

Taping knives also have an issue with the application process itself. When using a taping knife for coating, you drag the mud across the wall rather than pushing it, and this drag requires more force to pull the mud across the surface. Using a taping knife requires more power, energy, and effort.

Drywall Trowel vs Taping Knife Conclusion

Who reigns supreme when it comes to drywall trowels vs taping knives? The answer may be obvious, but both tools have a place in your arsenal as a taper. A drywall trowel is a perfect tool to get the bigger jobs done for general applications quickly. Meanwhile, smaller drywall taping knives can offer precision that trowels cannot provide unless in the hands of an experienced taper. 

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