Japanese Trowels

The tools that we use for working with earth are numerous, and range from plastic yogurt lids to highly refined, hand forged works of art. Years ago we were introduced to the world of Japanese trowels and haven’t done a plaster job without our (now extensive) set. Recently, we had the opportunity to visit Japan (read about our adventures here and more about our trowels here) and connected with a natural building colleague, Kyle Holzhueter. Originally from Wisconsin USA, he has been living in Japan for 12 years and is now immersed in the world of Japanese natural building and traditional plasters. We are very lucky to have Kyle for a friend, who is an amazing insight into this secluded world.

Visit Kyle’s website, Japanese Plastering, here to view pricing and to order, for more information about Japanese trowels, their history, and usage (all prices include insured international express shipping).

These trowels have been hand forged with earthen plasters in mind. By purchasing these tools, know that you’ve chosen to support a long standing tradition and craft.

Below we’ve included our top trowel choices, and some things to consider when making your choice, but there are many to choose from, and what will work for you will depend on a few factors including types of plasters you’re going to be working with, size of project, and budget. We’ve highlighted what we think are essentials.

For Base Coat Plasters: Use this trowel when applying hick plasters with lots of body. Ours are very straw-rich and ideal for filling out straw bale walls, and this trowel moves material around like no other! Having a trowel that helps you move material fast while being easy on your body is important if you’re undertaking a big project.

Essential: Premier Hanyaki Application Trowel A101, 240mm.

For Mid Coat Plasters: Use this trowel for mid coat plasters which don’t have as much body as a base coat plaster, and are applied more thinly as well. These plasters are usually made with native clays and coarse sands going over a base coat earthen plaster; coarser than a finish plaster. Edging trowels are nice to have for both base coat and mid coat plasters, as they allow you to really push plaster into tight areas and edges of walls where plaster shrinkage happens (it is critical for all natural buildings, and especially straw bale buildings, that these edges are sealed in to prevent air infiltration).

Essential: Premier Honyaki Application Trowel A151 180mm.

Nice to Have: Honyaki Yanageba Trowel 120mm, Honyaki Kimerguri Trowel, 105mm.

For Finish Plasters: Use thin stainless trowels when applying refined clay plasters to create beautiful, interior finishes. If you are working with a light coloured plaster, and don’t want to see the burnish marks that can be left behind with a steel trowel, consider using one of the polycarbonate trowels. Generally, a 0.3mm thickness is most forgiving (good for beginner plasterers) and the 0.5mm trowels are better for achieving a flatter plasters as the increased thickness pushes material around more evenly.

Essential: Stainless Steel Namikeshi Trowel A601 0.3mm tick, 210mm – 240mm long.

Nice to Have: Honyaki Square Trowel with pointed tip B211 0.5mm thick, 240mm long.

Nice to Have: Polycarbon Namikeshi Trowel (A621 is clear, A631 is orange)

Visit Kyle’s website, Japanese Plastering, here to view pricing and to order, for more information about Japanese trowels, their history, and usage (all prices there include insured international express shipping, orders usually arrive within 1-2 weeks).