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Learning Objective: Upon completing this section, you should be able to identify the basic masonry tools and equipment.

Masonry involves the use of a wide selection of tools and equipment. A set of basic mason’s tools, including trowels, a chisel, hammer, and a jointer, is shown in figure 8-1.


A trowel (figure 8-1) is used to pick up mortar from the board, throw mortar on the unit, spread the

mortar, and tap the unit down into the bed. A common trowel is usually triangular, ranging in size up to about 11 inches long and from 4 to 8 inches wide. Generally, short, wide trowels are best because they do not put too much strain on the wrist. Trowels used to point and strike joints are smaller, ranging from 3 to 6 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. We will talk more about pointing and striking joints later in the chapter.


A chisel (figure 8-1) is used to cut masonry units into parts. A typical chisel is 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches wide.


A mason’s hammer (figure 8-1) has a square face on one end and a long chisel on the other. The hammer weighs from 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds. You use it to split and rough-break masonry units.

Figure 8-1.-Basic mason’s tools.

As its name implies, you use a jointer (figure 8- 1) to make various mortar joints. There are several different types of jointer—rounded, flat, or pointed—depending on the shape of the mortar joint you want.


You use the square (figure 8-2, view 1) to measure right angles and to lay out corners. Squares are usually made of metal and come in various sizes.

The mason’s level (figure 8-2, view 2) is used to establish “plumb” and “level” lines. A plumb line is absolutely vertical. A level line is absolutely hori­zontal. The level may be constructed of seasoned hardwood, various metals, or a combination of both. They are made as lightweight as possible without sacrificing strength to withstand fairly rough treatment. Levels may be equipped with single or double vials. Double-vial levels are preferred since they can be used either horizontally or vertically.

Figure 8-2.-Square, mason’s level, and straightedge.

Levels are shaped similar to rulers and have vials enclosed in glass. Inside each vial is a bubble of air suspended in either alcohol or oil. When a bubble is located exactly between the two center marks on the vial, the object is either level or plumb, depending on the position in which the mason is using the level. In a level, alcohol is the more suitable since oil is more affected by heat and cold. The term “spirit level” indicates that alcohol is used in the vials. The vials are usually embedded in plaster or plastic so that they remain secure and true. Shorter levels are made for jobs where a longer level will not fit. The most popular of these are 24 and 18 inches long.

In a level constructed of wood, you should occasionally rub a small amount of linseed oil into the wood with a clean cloth. This treatment also stops mortar from sticking to the level. Do not use motor oil as this eventually rots the wed.


A straightedge (figure 8-2, view 3) can be any length up to 16 feet. Thickness can be from 1 1/8 inches to 1 1/2 inches, and the middle portion of the top edge from 6 to 10 inches wide. The middle portion of the top edge must be parallel to the bottom edge. You use a straightedge to extend a level to plumb or level distances longer than the level length.


Other mason’s tools and equipment include shovels, mortar hoes, wheelbarrows, chalk lines, plumb bobs, and a 200-foot ball of good-quality mason’s line. Be sure to keep wheelbarrows and mortar tools clean; hardened mortar is difficult to remove. Clean all tools and equipment thoroughly at the end of each day or when the job is finished.

A mortar mixing machine (figure 8-3) is used for mixing large quantities of mortar. The mixer consists primarily of a metal drum containing mixing blades mounted on a chassis equipped with wheels for towing the machine from one job site to another. The mixer is powered by either an electric motor or a gasoline engine. After mixing, the mortar is discharged into a mortar box or wheelbarrow, usually by tilting the mixer drum. As with any machine, refer to the manufacturer’s operator and maintenance manuals for proper operation. Be sure to follow safety requirements related to mixer operations.

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015