In this column, I wanted to take a look back, giving those of you who could not attend the workshop that took place in November and also opportunities that 2004 holds.

The workshop

It was back in 2000 that I held my first national workshop. That was a nice event but I must say that the group that came together November 2003 is going to go down as one of the best. Attendees came from Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington state, as well as one from London. The group consisted of plasterers, contractors, drywall finishers and painters. As in 2000, Jeff and Dawn Hacker, of Hacker Plastering, helped me with putting on the program and I thank them for this.

The question is always a tough one: What do you teach and how do you go about it? Trying to teach what I've learned through the past 20 years is a tough assignment.

In 2000, I simply had three days of lectures and demonstrations that I put on for the group. For this group, I planned on a three-day program: two days of hands-on and one day of classroom for training in marketing. I started out with training the group using guidebooks and covering the basics (i.e., what plaster is, how it works, what goes wrong and how to fix it). This instruction was held in half of the room. We moved on to actual demonstrations of the techniques we had discussed. But then we got down to the part everyone enjoyed the most-the hands-on work.

For this, we built each attendee a workstation, which was two 4-feet-by-6-feet sheets of plaster board that formed an inside corner (see the units in several of the pictures). These units covered the other half of the room. I must tell you that the hotel staff was quite nervous hosting a plaster workshop, especially when I told them all we were going to teach. But they were impressed with how neat we kept everything, including covering the entire room with rubberized canvas drops. Those who attended pitched in to make sure everything was kept spotless. In the end, the hotel ended up inviting us back.

Robin's boot camp

With the hands-on segment, we covered the following: repair work, resurfacing and veneer coat plastering techniques. For the repairs, we started out with a hole cut in the board, with backers and a piece of board put in the hole.

Everyone then had the opportunity of using lime and moulding to see how these materials could be used for crack and hole repairs. The first day ended with a discussion of how to form different textures with lime and moulding, and aging techniques. We also had quite a bit of Q&A discussion, which is always the best part of any workshop.

The second day got the group involved with embedding mesh into basecoat; right over the work they had done the previous day. We also covered how to use basecoat for filling deep holes, as well as finishing techniques using lime, sand and keenes cement. This was for resurfacing older walls and ceilings that have become cracked, and also covered work that would be done on additions and for new homes, as well. Personally, I was impressed with how well everyone did, both with using a hawk and trowel, as well as using the materials. By the end of the second day, a lot of the mystery surrounding plastering was gone. Though I think the group would have been happy to have plastered several more days, the overall opinion is that what was learned was worthwhile and enjoyable.

The third day was filled with tips on how to market a plaster repair business. It's one thing to learn the secrets of plastering-it's quite another to learn how to estimate the work so that one gets the most from the work that is done. This is what we concentrated on the third day. A lot of questions were asked, and I think they were ready to get back home and hit the ground running with what they learned.

A look ahead

As I had mentioned in my October column, I have been looking closer at Venetian plasters. The response from many readers shows me that there is clearly a lot of interest in this type of plaster. Many have been thinking about adding this plaster on to what they offer their clients. The timing turned out to be just right for me to add a fourth day on to my workshop that included Venetian plaster. I flew in two instructors from Miami who taught an all-day workshop. This too was a hands-on class and we were able to train about 30 people how to apply these fine plasters. The demand for training is so great that I am planning on flying into Miami and filming some "how-to" videos specifically on Venetian plaster. This will help many more learn this fine art.

I want to thank The Forest Group, Marshalltown, DeWalt, Trim-Tex, Spraytex, Rodenhouse Inc., National Gypsum, Graymont Dolime, Red Tail Texture Gun, Perma-Glass Mesh and Zipwall for their sponsorship of this workshop, as well as the fine prizes they donated for the attendees. It made this workshop that much more informative and enjoyable.

For the past year, I have had "Ride the White Wave!" as my plastering slogan and it was at this November workshop that I unveiled the new slogan that is being added for 2004: "Plaster On!" I showed the new T-shirts and caps that are designed to help everyone involved in plastering take pride in this fine trade. You can see pictures of these at I plan on having these items as giveaway prizes through this column coming up this year. Simply send your name and address to or send it in to Plaster Man in care of this magazine and you'll be entered.

Next month, I'll share several letters that have been sent in. I've heard from many long-time plasterers who are willing to be interviewed for this column and I look forward to sharing this knowledge in articles this year.

Until next time, "Ride the White Wave!" and "Plaster On!"