Use and Care of your Japanese Trowels
Use and Care of your Japanese Hawk


Use and Care of your Japanese Trowels

Basically these trowels are either made from carbon steel or stainless steel. Different steels and heat-treating methods are used for hardness and finish. The carbon steels are highly prone to rust. Some stainless steel can rust, just less. Plastic, wood or the flexible stainless trowels wear and will need replacing. Long term even the carbon steel trowels will wear.

Some wear on the edges is expected, sort of like breaking in the trowel to produce a tapered edge even to the point of being razor sharp. Having a variety of trowels with different degrees of edge wear come in handy.

A few trowels are shipped with a clear protective coating. This coating will quickly wear off after use. In a hurry, use 320 or finer sand paper.

We recommend not using your trowel on a metal hawk: steel, magnesium or aluminum. We call these types American hawks and are primarily designed for conventional cement and sand based plasters or stuccos.

Instead we recommend purchasing or fabricating a Japanese style wooden hawk. The wood is softer and protects the edge of the trowel. Earth and lime plasters stick to this surface better and the handle design is much more ergonomic for the hand and arm. In a pinch just adhere a thin plywood top on your American hawk. Like some trowels the wood hawks do wear and will need to be replaced.

Professional Japanese plasterers have been trained; their trowel’s handle is always clean and dry. A dry handle allows for much better control. Occasionally clean your trowel during a job. Have a clean bucket of water with a sponge or brush and dry with a terry cloth trowel. In some cases the trowel is designed to be able to stand upright on its bottom and handle and thus helps drain.

Be careful, if not completely dry water can run down and form a puddle, which in no time can rust this bottom edge. Just be aware and wipe dry if necessary. Surface rust can be worked with an abrasive scrub pad and an anti rust spray or oil. Small nicks can be removed with a file or sand paper and a wooded block.

At the end of the day make sure your trowel is thoroughly dry. At the end of a job or if you are going to store your trowels for a while it is a good idea to spray or rub on a rust preventative. Camellia Oil is one of the best or use cooking oil. Petroleum based antirust sprays work too.

A good idea is to create a toolbox that separates the trowels from banging around during transporting. Old sox’s or rags can be wrapped around your tools and helps retain the oil or spray.

Aside from the range of shapes and sizes or the choice of materials one of the best features of these trowels is the smaller more comfortable handle. You still might find it more comfortable to shape the handle a bit to fit your hand.

If you have further questions or concerns please phone or email and we will try and help.


Use and care of your Japanese Style Wooden Hawk

Our hawks are made to order here in our shop from 6mm 5 Ply Okoume Lloyds BS-1088 plywood. Adhesive is System Three’s T-88 Structural Epoxy. The rails and handle are clear grain knot free Redwood. The handle has a secondary attachment with two Silicon Bronze screws.
These materials are commonly used in the boat building industry for their water resistance.

Our Hawks come lightly sanded and unfinished. Each time you use it is recommended to dampen the top with water. After use clean with water and let dry. Do not leave or soak in water.

Being that the top is plywood, expect to see wear. Wearing does add a level of texture or grip. Hawks are considered a disposable item and eventually will need to be replaced. To extend the life you can glue on another layer of plywood.

Some plasterers modify their handle for a custom ergonomic fit by whittling, filing and or sanding. We use ours as made.