Yes, it’s hard to believe but this month we hit the four-year anniversary of the Plaster Man column. I must say that it’s been very enjoyable making so many excellent friends through this column. I had an idea at the start that we were on to something that was going to grow but I had no idea that the scope of this column would take on such international proportions. I’m grateful for everyone behind Walls & Ceilings that keeps putting together such a top-notch high-quality magazine. The entire staff makes it a great experience all the way around to be a part of the writing team.

This column is meant to promote the plastering trade—both the materials/techniques and especially the people who breathe life into it. I received this letter from one such person and I wanted to include it.

“My name is John Cuevas. I am a licensed plastering contractor in Phoenix. I was really glad to hear that there are people who enjoy plastering as much as me. The name of my company is Decorative Interior Plastering Inc. I have been in the trade for 20 years now. I have had my own company three years now.”

I thank John for writing and wish him continued success. I lived in Payson, Ariz., when I was about 10 years old, about an hour from Phoenix. I remember seeing stucco being applied at that time on a few homes.

I also wanted to give an honorable mention to a gentleman who has become a very good friend over the past few years. He’s done quite a bit to promote the plastering trade in the St. Louis area. His name is Gary Zide, the senior staff vice president for the St. Louis Home Builders Association. This past spring, he brought me in to do seminars for the public on the advantages of plastering. I’m demonstrating how to repair large and small holes, as well as hairline cracks, and why plaster works the best in these applications. I was able to share the stage with Dean and Robin from “Hometime.” It was such a well-attended series of seminars that I have been invited back to repeat this seminar at the Spring Home Builders’ Show, in March 2004.

I mentioned last month that we’d be visiting England this time together. I’ve had several conversations via e-mail with plasterers and others interested in plastering in different parts of England. One gentleman, Ed from Liverpool, has asked some interesting questions and also shared some insight on the wages that plasterers make in his area of the world.

“Could you please answer the following questions? I am trying to learn the plastering trade at the age of 34 and I want to find out a couple things:

• What is the difference between a straight edge and a feather edge? They look similar but what are the main differences?

• What sizes of straight edge and feather edge should a plasterer carry in his tool kit?

• Should I pay the extra and buy metal alloy or do you think home made wooden tools are as effective?”


A straight edge has one straight side and is usually used for browning work. With a feather edge, the width tapers in on both sides. It’s used to straighten finish for smooth coat, and for precision angle work.

A 4-foot straight edge is always nice to use, especially for repair work and for tight areas, say repairs to a wall around a tub. The six-foot is also nice to have on hand, and in talking with plasterers over the past few weeks, it seems they all are of the opinion that a sampling of three or four sizes is always nice to have on hand so that you’re equipped for any and all projects.

In my opinion, it’s nice to use the metal alloy. Wood has a tendency to get out of square after awhile and in precision work, this is not a good thing! I’ve used a small cedar shake that’s been sanded down and rounded on the edge (I’m using it to cut back the brown coat to get the corner ready for the finish coat).

I wrote the above reply back to Ed, with a question as to what the plastering wages are like in England. Here is his reply:

“Thanks for getting back to me regarding my questions. The wages for plasterers has gone through the roof in England. The housing market is at an all-time high. Plasterers on site can earn £1,200 for a five-and-a-half-day week. If you were self-employed working on a private customer’s property, you could command £300 per day in London and £200 to £250 for the rest of the country (London is much more expensive to live). Nobody is going into the building trades now. Plasterers are becoming very rare, when you think that a plasterer with ambition can earn £50,000 to £60,000 a year, it kind of makes you think, ‘Why get a degree?’ But then again, it takes all kinds and who can deprive them of a good living, they work hard enough!”

I guess this just backs up the point that there is a large door of activity open to those who want to get into the plastering trade—either here in the states or abroad in other countries.

One more letter from Jeff:

“I am repairing a hole in a ceiling. There is a pattern that is circular and repeats. I think it was made with a crowsfoot. Someone insists that it was made with a round texture brush but I can’t seem to get the same pattern. It is a circle about 8 to 10 inches across with ridges going from the center out.

“Is there a place on the net or a book that shows pictures of texture patterns and the tools or methods used to create them?”

Crowsfoot texture has a raised texture that is either left as is, with variances from very rough to very fine texture, or it is knocked down with a trowel or knife after setting for a short time. I personally have also used a horsehair brush that is about 14 inches long with a thin wooden handle. The hair is about 3 inches long and it’s ideal for pre-floating the sand finish on a ceiling. I have also used it to finish out a ceiling with, making extra large swirls with it. Sponges are the most commonly used tools to swirl with. Recently, a major hump-back type sponge manufacturer stopped making them; a light orange sponge, so most have gone over to a larger celled sponge that I’ve found just doesn’t do the trick. They have a tendency to break apart rather quickly. 3M has a great rectangle sponge that is about 10 inches long and is ideal for making swirls with. There are also yellow rectangular shaped sponges that are more lightweight than the 3M type that also work very well. As far as books on the subject, I couldn’t recommend any that covers this subject. Hope this helps!

I am gearing up for a visit to Miami in August, where I will visit with Firenze. I am going down to learn more about the company’s Rivesto Marmorino. It’s a lime and marble product that is put over smooth painted walls and is an all natural, genuine marble finish coat. From what I’ve seen from their videos and information they sent me, this product is going to create quite a wave of its own in this country. Apparently, it’s been used for hundreds of years in Italy, the country its imported from. I’m sure I’ll be testing this product out and will get back to you on what I find out. From what I gather, it could very well be a financial goldmine for those who get into it. If you’ve been using such a product, let me know.

My November workshop still has space if you’re thinking about learning veneer coat, resurfacing and plaster repair techniques, as well as how to make your business more profitable. Plaster is a “large door leading to much activity” and it’s going to continue to expand as time goes by.

Again, send a letter to me about your plastering company or to be interviewed for an upcoming column. Contact me through my Web site I always welcome your thoughts, questions and comments! Until next time, Ride the White Wave!