Traditionally, plasterers made their own hawks from a wooden handle attached to a piece of wood.
Plastic plasterer’s hawks
Today, many plasterer’s hawks are made from polyurethane foam; a rigid, yet lightweight and stable material which is also hard-wearing. These properties make it ideal for tools and – in addition – it is cheap and easy for manufacturers to mould.
These rigid foam polyurethane boards are usually cream and moulded as one piece, including the handle, but other colours and designs are now on the market, sometimes with separately-moulded plastic handles.
Metal plasterer’s hawks
The plate of a metal plasterer’s hawk is usually “hard-rolled” aluminium alloy (alloy meaning that the aluminium is blended with a lesser amount of another metal or non-metal substance). The hard-rolling process – where metal is mechanically-pressed at room temperature – will have given the aluminium plate increased strength and rigidity, relative to its weight.
Magnesium plasterer’s hawks
A significantly more expensive hawk, which some professionals feel is worth the outlay, is a magnesium version. The material used makes them up to 30% lighter and users report that magnesium plates are extremely hard-wearing and don’t bend, as aluminium versions sometimes can.
The handles of plastic boards are always plastic. The handles of aluminium and magnesium hawks can also be plastic too, although more expensive versions have a special kind of rigid foam which moulds to the grip. Some metal hawks have more traditional wooden handles, though. These have a firm, solid feel, which many users prefer to plastic.
Which to choose?
All hawks do the same job and there is no real difference in how they perform. There may be a slight variation in weight, depending on size and materials, but the main difference is in how durable they are. Metal and magnesium hawks tend to far outlive plastic hawks, but if you only have the occasional bit of plastering to do, a plastic hawk should be quite adequate.