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Plasterwork is one of the most ancient of handicrafts employed in building, early evidence shows dwellings of primitive man erected with sticks and plastered with mud. Soon a more lasting and sightly material was found and employed to take the place of mud and slime, and that perfection in the compounding of plastering materials was approached at a very remote period is made evident by the fact that some of the earliest plastering which has remained undisturbed excels in its scientific composition that which we use at the present day.
In today’s modern world, plastering has not changed much at all, although comparatively fewer tools and materials are used. For many years the materials of the workman were trowels, floats, hammers, screeds, a hawk, scratching tools, Stanley knives, laths, lath nails, lime, sand, hair, plaster of Paris and a variety of cements together with various ingredients to form coloring washes.
While most tools have remained as they were over the centuries, it is interesting to note that since acrylic based materials have been introduced in recent years, trowels, traditionally steel are now available in a polycarbonate material which allows the use of certain types of acrylic based materials to be applied without staining the finished material. Floats, traditionally made of timber, ideally straight-grained knot free yellow pine, are often finished with a sponge layer or expanded polystyrene.
Plaster is applied in successive coats or layers on walls or lathing and gains its name from the number of these coats. One coat work is the coarsest and cheapest class of plastering and is limited to inferior buildings, such as outhouses, where merely a rough coating is required to keep out the weather and draughts. This is described as render on brickwork, and lath and lay or lath and plaster one coat on studding.
The two coat work is often used in factories or warehouses and the less important rooms of residences. The first coat is a coarse stuff finished fair with the darby float and scoured. A thin coat of setting stuff is then laid on, and trowelled and brushed smooth. Two coat work is described as render and set on walls, and lath, plaster and set, or lath, lay and set on laths.
Three coat work is usually specified for all good work. It consists, as its name implies of three layers of material, and is described as render, float and set on walls and lath, plaster, float and set, or lath, lay, float and set, on lathwork. This makes a strong, straight, sanitary coating for walls and ceilings.